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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Waiting on the World to Change

We're in the middle of moving house this weekend so I had to prepare my podcast earlier. We're still staying in Scarborough, of course, so there's nothing much to blog about regarding the move itself.

As expected by my regular readers/listeners, this blog entry is meant mostly to accompany this week's podcast, which is number 52 in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. It's an eclectic mix of old, new, known and unknown material. It should also serve as an excellent contrast to next week's podcast, which will be about the Malta Song for Europe.

This weekend the Beangrowers are in Ireland, playing four gigs before the London launch of their new single from their album Dance Dance Baby, I Like You, on Tuesday 30 January. The Beanies never fail to impress me with their touring successes and their Oxford Street single launch at the Metro is quite something for a Maltese band. If that's not enough, I'm certainly mighty pleased that they're now also working on their fourth album.

A few weeks ago I played a track by guitarist Demis Fenech. I also mentioned that he played with a band called Sidereal. Demis is an excellent guitarist and you can hear this clearly on his solo tracks, but you can really appreciate his brilliance when he plays with a live band. On this week's podcast you can hear Sidereal's live recording of their song Born Again.

From time to time I delve back in time and space away from what falls on my computer desktop and search for new and/or unusual material to include on my podcast. Recently I came across Dave Goodman's website, which includes some tracks by Mandala Malta, one of the last projects he was involved in before his sad and early death. Maltese lovers of so-called world music probably know that before Tribali's stellar debut last year, Mandala was the best (if not only) exponent of this type of music. For clear but necessarily obvious reasons, I chose to play Toni Tagħna from Mandala Malta's 2003 album Music From A Lighthouse.

Some time ago I used the word extreme to describe a recording by Brikkuni. In a comment on this blog, 'Ereżija' thought I meant that Brikkuni's music was extreme, and I although I clarified what my point I kept thinking I should play something that is truly extreme. Dark, ambient, and industrial are all perfectly valid terms to describe the music of Sky of Yuggoth. This is another project by Joseph Mercieca, who previously appeared on Mużika Mod Ieħor with more Ethnic Percussive Psy-Trance under the guise of MJ.5. The track I've selected is called Transmissions and you can hear the whole thing and more through his MySpace site.

I think that this is a rather wonderful place to leave the podcast before next week's Malta Song for Europe. The contrast is even more extreme than anything I could pick to scratch the itch I just mentioned.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On the Radio

As I revealed in my previous blog entry, Christine and I were invited for a chat with BBC Radio York's Jerry Scott last Friday. I've managed to put together an MP3 from most of the interview. The sound quality is patchy in a couple of places and the recording ends a few seconds before the broadcast interview actually came to a close. The recording was made by chance on an old PC I managed to get my hands on just minutes before the interview. Still, you can get a very good idea of what went on in the hour or so we spent in the BBC studio here in Scarborough.

I'd like to publicly thank Jerry again for inviting us to his radio show. It nice to feel welcome in a place we have now decided to call home for the foreseeable future.

To hear the recording just click here for the MP3 I made, or use the button below. If you would like to download the file, please note that it's 14.8 Mb and the duration of the recording is approximately 50 minutes.

click here to listen

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Think I See the Light

Mużika Mod Ieħor has been discovered by the BBC. No, there are no plans for the world-famous British public broadcaster to start giving airtime to obscure Maltese music. On Friday night, Christine and I were invited for a late night chat with Jerry Scott on BBC Radio York, following an article about our move to Scarborough in Hightide magazine. Among the many topics we spoke about during Jerry's show, we also spoke about my podcast and why I do it. I plan to upload a few snippets from this interview in a few days, as soon as I find a spare hour or so to pick out the good bits.

It now feels that 2007 is really underway, even thought I still meet people who think it's still appropriate to say Happy New Year; not that there's anything wrong with that. There's good reason to celebrate the new for as long as possible. This week's podcast focuses on new material that has just been released or is planned for recording this year.

Ivan Filletti is working on a new album. So I thought it was appropriate to play a track from his 2005 CD Somedays, especially because I've never included anything from it on my podcast before. Listing to Filletti, especially the single Cold Heart, I realized that for the 10 years or so before I started this podcasting series I had grown fairly out of touch with the music scene in Malta. This explains why I had never heard of Thomas Hedley even though he has been quite active since the mid-1990s, if not earlier.

Thomas Hedley has now started his own MySpace page, which feature two new tracks he has recorded. As far as I'm concerned these are the first Maltese internet releases for 2007. Strangely enough they're dated 2008, but perhaps there's some hidden reason for that. Listen to Do It Right Now, the song I chose for this week's podcast and you'll see why I believe that this musician should be doing more than singing in hotels for his living. Then again, that's the reality of being a professional musician in Malta.

Manwel Tabone presented his Reggae Club on Radio Malta 2 for about 16 years. There's an entry in my blog about the time Manwel's programme was taken off the air by a very short-sighted public broadcasting corporation. But good things always find a way to resurface, even if they do so under seemingly very different guises. Manwel T, as he now calls himself, is slowly establishing himself as a reggae dub remix artiste. His personal website features a number of remixes he has done since the demise of Reggae Club. While he has worked with various reggae musicians who are not Maltese, I've chosen to play his remix of a Mind's Eye Dub track, Selassie I Dub. In many ways, it sure beats spinning records on a radio station that fewer and fewer people listen to every day.

Speaking of radio, you can now also catch Mużika Mod Ieħor on Central FM a few days after it appears online. Check out their schedule on the web if you live within their catchment area (Central is a community radio station broadcasting from Attard) or listen to their live stream.

Although I opened today's commentary about the 51st podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series by lamenting the brown-out in my appreciation of the Maltese music scene I managed to keep abreast of the general going-ons in the Maltese islands, mostly through the MaltaMedia news service, which has been online since 1999. It was through MaltaMedia news that I heard all the latest development at the Archbishop's curia in Malta. So it should come as no surprise to my regular listeners that I've included one of the two new songs by Fr Karm Debattista celebrating Malta's new archbishop. The songs have been released as a CD but I'm very please to see that Fr Karm has also released them through his MySpace pace. Kun Tagħhom ir-Ragħaj is the one I've picked for the podcast. This is effectively the first Maltese CD single release for 2007. I would be very grateful if anyone would contact me to correct this impression, if I'm wrong.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Half Way Up The Hindukush

Since this week's podcast is the 50th in the series I thought I should do something different with it. Modesty apart, I'd say that 50 podcasts in any series is an impressive number. It's not really a significant anniversary edition, but 50 is half way through to 100, which should certainly be cause for celebration. These round numbers seem like something significant for some reason. Have you seen today's entry at Wired Temples?

There are two special elements in the 50th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. The first is that it I've chosen to only play music by singers and musicians who have never appeared on the series before. The other element is the availability of an enhanced edition of this podcast, following last week's debut release in that format.

If I were in Malta this weekend I would have most certainly attended Pinkpube's Headplug at Liquid in Tal-Ballal. Pinkpube is one of Malta's most underrated sources of new music. Perhaps they like it that way and this is why they've been so prolific in the year and a half they've been around. From their one year celebratory release One I've pick the track Trying The Knife by Danjeli. Other PinkPube artists have appeared on Mużika Mod Ieħor podcasts but this is the first time I've included anything by Danjeli.

MySpace is a great force for music distribution. I clearly don't need to reiterate that to people like Colin Zammit Lupi, who delights his many fans with a number of songs on his MySpace page, showing that he has a checkered CV outside his new life as a supporting performer in major West End shows like Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Like his brother Aidan, he has now dropped the Lupi part of his last name but remains one of the most delightful performers of his generation. It's quite a pity that he's not a household name in Malta. Perhaps this will happen once he manages to acquire more fans abroad than he could ever dream of having in his home country. Listen to his song I'd Love You Anyway and I'm sure you'll agree that Colin is an unassuming star.

I'm delighted whenever I discover another musician with Maltese connections who is virtually unknown in Malta. Michael Azzopardi was born in Sydney into a family of musicians who emigrated to Australia several decades ago. He is a jazz pianist and you can hear him play a tune called Ten Seconds Later with his quartet. If you know of any other performers of Maltese descent I haven't already included in my podcast, please contact me. I'm sure there are others I haven't heard of and I'd love to include them on a future edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Country is not a genre embraced by many Maltese musicians. Andre Camilleri is a name that should immediately come to mind for regular listeners of my podcast. In Malta the one name that's possibly becoming synonymous with Country music is Marty Rivers. He recently surfaced on MySpace so it's about time we heard one of his songs on Mużika Mod Ieħor too. Out of the Blue is my personal selection and it shows that away from American cliches and other cringe-worthy aspects Marty can deliver pleasant material for any music lover.

I'm somewhat surprised with the return of the enhanced version of Mużika Mod Ieħor this week because I've received no feedback about it yet. It's about half an hour worth of extra work for me to produce it. Feedback or no feedback I still find it rewarding. I thought I would just create it for special editions, such as last week's Listeners' Pick for 2006 or this week's 50th podcast. I may keep producing it regularly anyway, but I'd still like to hear from you if you download it.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The news of the day is that Morrissey could represent the UK in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this being announced on the BBC this afternoon.

This is big news for various reasons:

  • It's Morrissey! That's enough in itself. For those who know the former Smiths singer beyond what they hear on the radio, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't know Morrissey, no explanation is possible. If you really want to understand, try reading a biography of Sandie Shaw or watch the video for You Have Killed Me below.

  • The BBC is, and has always been, behind the Eurovision selection for the UK. Their interest in the song contest has never been on the scale we know in Malta, but for one reason or another the UK has won the Eurovision Song Contest several times.

  • Most recently, the UK has not been performing too well at the Eurovision. When I say performing, I mean that in the broadest sense. The songs were pretty lame (wow!) and the hype around them was even lamer.

  • It seems that Lordi's 2006 win (still considered a one-off event by many Eurovision "experts") is being taken quite seriously by some Eurovision organizers. It seems to me that this does not apply for the Maltese entry. I mean, have you heard the 2007 Malta Song for Europe finalists?

  • Morrissey is a heavy weight artist who can bring attention back to the UK entry, even if some other country comes up with a better scheme for attracting votes.
  • There are other reasons. I'm sure you, my gentile readers, can see why this announcement is big news...even if Morrissey doesn't makes it to Finland in May. So let's have them as comments on this post. Just click this link and away you go. Let the circus begin!


    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    More Than Words

    In yesterday's post about my most recent edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor I promised that I'd be back with an enhanced version of the podcast. I've decided to do this mostly because this week's podcast is quite a special one, since it features the music you voted as your top picks of all the releases from 2006.

    The enhanced version of the podcast can only be enjoyed fully through any player that support M4A files. The most popular applications for this format are iTunes and the iPod. The audio is the same as the MP3 version. The main enhancement comes in the form of chapters, similar to the ones you get on a CD for skipping from one track to another. Each chapter has an image associated with it and links to related websites. This enables the podcast audience to enjoy the podcast as a multimedia experience rather than a simple audio file.

    My plan is to start releasing an enhanced version of the podcast every week. I like the format better than ordinary MP3s because I can see something on my iPod when I'm listening to the enhanced podcast and it's quite convenient to get the related links right there in iTunes when I'm listening on my computer.

    If you have access to iTunes and/or an iPod do give it a try and please let me know what you think. Your comments will make my taking the extra time to produced the enhanced version of the podcast even more worthwhile.

    The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. Both versions are available through the same feed for now.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    You Oughta Know

    By the 6th day of the new year I'm usually ready to embark on what's ahead and move on from reminiscing about the previous year. One way to do that is bring you a podcast featuring the Listeners' Picks from Maltese music released in 2006.

    The songs selected to top each of the four categories are but a sample of the excellent releases from last year. I've already written about how remarkable I believe things were in this area in 2006. I would not have been surprised if you, my podcast listeners, had voted for 4 different tracks as your top picks for 2006. In some cases the voting was very close.

    Chasing Pandora's Feel the Rain EP (Tickety-boo Records) was selected as your favourite single. It was closely followed by Scream Daisy's What They Say/Happy Families, while Larissa's Brand New Start fared quite well too. I was slightly surprised that the comeback single from The Rifffs, Life of Crime, didn't manage to achieve a higher placing in the poll. I am not surprised to see X-Tend's Conclusion at the bottom of the list in the singles/EPs category but I do believe that they deserved a better placing. Perhaps this result has something to do with the generational dynamic related to all things digital.

    8 Ugly came out at the top of the Internet releases list. Their Head in the Clouds is a delightful song and I know that a growing number of listeners are discovering this no frills band and its melodic sounds. MySpace is a great way to get music online, but it's not the only source. Chris D'Alfonso's Blueprints, voted in second place, was released on iTunes. Particle Blue's Electro Synth Heroes is available through the Peeled Tracks website, and there are other sources too. Pinkpube is Malta's only net-based label, so it's not surprising that their 10times10: A Pinkpube Compilation Volume 1 (Pinkpube), received a substantial amount of votes. I expect this category to be larger by the end of this year as more musicians explore the benefits associated with Internet releases.

    Ignite, Fire's debut CD, was voted the top album for 2006. Is-CD tal-iXtuppaw (Reciprocal Records) came in second with just a handful of votes less than Ignite. I was convinced that Xtruppaw would win the poll in this category, mostly because I strongly believe that their debut album is a true masterpiece. This is not to disregard Fire or their album, of course. They clearly have a great following in Malta and their recent successful appearances at the Battle of the Bands and the Krokus concert at the Old Power Station in Floriana have endeared them to all headbangers and lovers of classic rock. I've chosen to play Home and Dry from Ignite on this week's podcast, mostly because it's written by Joe Mizzi, who was one of the mightiest Maltese rock singers in the 1980s, fronting bands like Stratkast and High 'n Dry.

    I'm disappointed to see Subculture's A Lifetime of Disappointments at the bottom of the albums poll because it's a much better collection of songs than that. Still, someone has to be last on the list, even when the list doesn't really have any losers on it. Kemik-Al's The Dark Journal (Butterfly Records), Tribali's debut album (Tickety-boo Records) and Winter Moods' Ordinary Men were among the top vote earners in the albums category. This poll is not about my personal picks but you can say that to some degree my choice of nominations flavors the whole process. We'll see what this year brings...but I'm pretty sure we'll find a number of releases to admire and rave about before this time next year.

    Krokus are the listeners' top pick in the overseas-based Maltese artists category. Marc Storace is undoubtedly the closest thing to a rock star Malta has ever produced. Their Hellraiser album is a collection of solid metal in the mold of an age when rock monsters ruled the earth. I'm very pleased to see Sandro Zerafa in the runner-up position in this category for 2006. I believe that if Krokus hadn't released a new album in 2006, this category would have been won by one of the numerous overseas-based Maltese artists who deserve more adulation than they currently enjoy on the local scene. In some cases I'm not sure they'd be happy with that but these things have a life of their own and there are surprising twists around ever corner. I hope to see this category enhanced in 2007.

    Speaking of enhancements, this edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is a special edition in that it presents the results of the Listeners' Picks from 2006. This has made me want to make it even more special by presenting it in an enhanced version. I'll be working on that over the next day and I'll post some more information about it as soon as it is available.

    The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.