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Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got

About 19 years ago I met Fijian broadcaster Apakuki Coka in London. We were both BBC trainees. He was a very impressive character who was about 15 years older than me. In my typical Maltese manner, I used to tease him by saying that one day soon he would be the head of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. Some years later he became Fiji's top radio man, but we lost touch soon after and I never heard of him again.

Strangely enough, this afternoon I googled him. I honestly don't know what got into me. I was quite shocked when I discovered that Kuki died in July 2002 from a heart attack at the age of 51.

I'm only bringing this up on my blog because I can't think of a better place to do so. I emailed my old roommate Angelo Fernando, who was also a BBC trainee with us in London back in 1988 and is now settled in Arizona. I wonder if he knew about this. I don't think he did. He probably would have told me, just like I told him a few minutes ago. I apologize for this public moment of grief, but I really didn't know how else to start processing Kuki's premature passing...especially since he's been dead for almost five years already.

I always feel strange whenever people I know die. I guess it's inevitable. I feel even more strange when acquaintances I haven't seen for many year pass away, especially when they pass on before they can enjoy most of their lives. I don't want to get all morbid on you, so I'll leave it here for today, if that's OK with you.

Saturdays are podcasting days for me. So, if it wasn't for this, today I would just be blogging about the latest edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. This week it's number 56 in the series and features material I found through MySpace in the last few weeks.

Kristina Casolani is someone I had heard of before but her name never clicked in my head as someone to include on my podcast. This changed the instant I heard her songs on her MySpace page. She's just finished recording an album, which I presume will be released sometime soon. I've picked to play a song she performed on TV as a guest at one of the Song for Europe contests about four years ago, Wanna B Me. I don't think English-language pop music from Malta can ever be better than this.

I'm also pleased to discover Explicit through their MySpace page. Their song Games features an outro, which I believe is quite a rarity these days. I'm looking forward for more from this band. Stephanie Chetcuti is an excellent rock singer and I'm wondering if she moonlights as a singer away from the band like Stillborn's Diane Castillo.

Speaking of Stillborn, their former bass player, Jean Paul Galea has released a couple of solo home-recording on his new MySpace page. I really like the track Return, which I've included on this week's podcast. He is currently looking for new collaborators and I don't hesitate to say that if I lived in Malta I'd be exploring at least one jam session with him. Alas, I'll leave that privilege to those who can catch up with him more often that I would from this self-imposed exile I chose for myself all those years ago.

To close up this week's podcast I've chosen to play a song by one of the bands that debuted on my radar during last October's Battle of the Bands. They're a raw trio called Cable35 and if their song It's Over is a sign of things to come I'll certainly be looking out for more recordings from this band in the coming months.

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.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007


Several weeks ago, while browsing on MySpace, I came across a Maltese musician I had never heard of before: Cordin Sky. That's the name he uses for his solo recording project. Through his MySpace page I discovered that he is also involved in several other music projects, including several bands and a small independent record label called Hospital Home Records. His real name is Mario Cordina and he now lives in Szczecin, Poland. By virtue of his current location, he is now one of the ever-growing number of Maltese musicians based outside Malta.

This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features music from five recording acts with Hospital Home Records. Mario Cordina is involved in each of these projects in one way or another. The opening song comes from the Polish ska band Skambomambo, which is fronted by Mario singing in English. The song I've selected is called Made in Polska and, if nothing else, it highlights what a perfectly named country for this genre of music Poland really is.
Mario Cordina
Mario regularly infuses Maltese elements into his work with Hospital Home Records. One of the more prolific projects he is involved in is called Ambulanza. This Polish band's brand of raw funk sounds quite contemporary with just the right amount of retro grooves. Superstar is one of several songs from this band available on MySpace, and you can also hear it on this week's podcast.

Szczecin (pronounced shta-chin) is in the North West of Poland, close to the Baltic Sea. This makes it quite close to Germany, so it comes as no great surprise that Mario also collaborates with German musicians from Berlin and Bremen. This particular group records as Doctors Space Lab offering a celestially themed brand of electronica, which should go down well with all sorts of star-gazers. Listen to Moonride and you'll see what I'm on about.

This is not the first time that I've put together a whole podcast stringing together different songs from different acts connected by the same musician/s. One obvious example is the podcast about the genealogy of Xtruppaw. In this week's podcast, the common denominator is Mario Cordina, who is now based in Poland. Among the various projects he is involved with he is also the producer for a young Polish singer called Mila Maj. I believe that Mario brings a remarkable sensibility to Mila Maj's songs. Crystal is the one I've picked to play, but every other song I've heard from Mila Maj clearly bears Mario's mark.

It's probably most fitting to end this week's podcast by playing something from Cordin Sky, which is Mario Cordina's solo project. He clearly has other collaborators on Cordin Sky, but by his own admissions this is where and how he works out new ideas before they're unleashed into the wider Hospital Home Records family. If For the People is anything to go by, it's a good way to see how much of himself Mario Cordina is putting into his new-found musical career in Poland. I'm looking forward to hearing more new stuff from him and his collaborators over the coming months. Once you hear this podcast, I believe so will you.

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.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Desecration Smile

Is it just me or is this year really rolling along like road traffic before the invention of speed cameras? I know that part of the reason I perceive time to be passing faster than usual is because I'm very busy. Nothing really new there. The ability to choose what keeps me busy is a daily struggle, which, to me, is as colossal as the eternal battle between good and evil.

One thing I find to be most positive in my weekly routine is the production of my podcasting series Mużika Mod Ieħor. Among the many benefits I derive from this podcast is the sense that it's a weekly touchstone where I take stock of the week gone by and the week ahead. As expected, some weeks are better than others.

This week's podcast is one of those house-keeping editions I spoke about a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to play another track from the new album by Winter Moods for several weeks, so this week I start with what I believe is one of the best songs on Ordinary Men. Hang On to Your Smile shows how the band has matured over the last twenty odd years they've been around, even if the line-up has changed a number of times over the years.

If only some of the bands that were active when Winter Moods started out were still around. William Mangion's attempt to recapture the opportunity to represent Malta at the Eurovision last week reminded me of one of the best bands to ever appear in Malta. Getting Closer released one album before they split up. It was one of the first Maltese CDs and although it first appeared in 1991, to my ears it sounds as fresh now as it did back then. Ever Changing Moods remains one of my favourite albums of all time by a Maltese band. I've selected to play Coming Home from this CD and while listening to it again as I prepared for this week's recording I realized why one of the best things that ever happened to Anna Nicole Smith was that she died before turning 40. I know that this won't make much sense to most of my readers, but rest assured that it makes a lot of sense to me.

It's always a delight to feature new recordings on my podcast. A few days ago I received an advance copy of what is probably the first Maltese CD album for 2007, unless you count last week's Malta Song for Europe compilation. ...Only The Beginning by Different Strings is a one-man-band project by Chris Mallia. It's a contemporary of progressive rock without too much pomp. This debut album will be officially released on Sunday, 18 February at Baystreet in St George's Bay.

Before that, there's another launch. It's carnival weekend next weekend, so once again the Gran Ballo in aid of the YMCA Homeless Shelter is a good place to be on Saturday night if you're up for a carnival ball and have nothing better to do. This year the event will be MC'ed by Casanova, played Carlos Debattista. For this occasion, Glenn Cachia has written a celebratory song called Casanova Vivo, which is performed by Sin Sensation. This song brings this week's podcast to an appropriate close until next week's appointment. I have a special show all planned out...and I promise it'll have nothing to do with carnival.

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.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

At Last

Sitting in the huge Eurovision press center at the Olympic Arena in Athens last May, Olivia Lewis' boyfriend handed me his mobile phone and said, ", say hello." I did, and I added that I was sorry she wasn't right there with us in Greece.

This sort of situation will not repeat itself if I make it to Helsinki this year, simply because Olivia will be representing Malta at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest.

Yes, she finally did it! While many may feel that it's about time too, my feeling is that this is a really good time for Olivia to sing Malta's Eurovision entry. Last year's dismal result needs to be followed by the sort of performance package that Vertigo has. I'd be very surprised if it doesn't make it through the May 10 semi-final to the May 12 final in Finland.

I would not like to put any unnecessary pressure on Olivia and her team towards any result in May, but I am confident that Olivia's team has the right amount of experience to provide the appropriate delivery expected by Eurovision fans.

Please join me in wishing Olivia and her team all the best towards Malta's entry at this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

I said most of what I wanted to say about Vertigo in yesterday's podcast, so if you haven't heard it yet and/or read yesterday's blog entry just check it out.

You may also want to take a look at other blogs writing about Olivia's winning song: Jelly, MaltaGirl, Andre, Athena, Chig, and Grego The Schlager Boys are a must read; they are avid Eurovision fans.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


It's that time of the year again. Malta is poised to select the singer who will represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest. Looking at the regular fare on my weekly podcast, it's understandable that my continued interest in all this may seem slightly displaced.

Last year I started what I hope will soon become an annual tradition: an alternative look at some of the songs competing in the Malta Song for Europe festival. The songs I select appear mostly for their musical merit rather than hype or popularity. They are usually also songs I would consider playing anyway on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. To drive the point home I recorded my podcast before the final televoting session, so not only was I oblivious about who won the contest this year but I also made it a point to not let this drive the selections I've picked.

All but one of the singers featured in this week's podcast have already appeared on previous editions of my weekly podcast. Tarcisio Barbara managed to garner some attention from the local rock fans, mostly because he's been identified as a rough pop rock singer since he moved on from being a rock musician with bands such as VHF back in the 1980s. I am not surprised that he didn't make it beyond the semi-final voting but I'm very pleased that his song is included on the CD featuring all sixteen songs that made it to Ta' Qali this year.

In terms of musical merit, the one song that I've been playing over and over is All About a Life. Written by Paul Giordimaina with lyrics by his long-time partner Fleur Balzan, this song has given Gozitan singer Pamela another chance to show what an outstanding singer she is. The live performance of this song is even better than the excellent recording you can hear on my podcast. It was good to see Nadina Axisa and Fiona Cauchi singing backing with Pamela. Beautiful is the best word I can think of to describe everything about this song.

I was pleased to see Konrad Pule' return to the Malta Song for Europe with his band Scar. The fact that they made it to the final six shows that there are either enough people in Malta who can appreciate a slightly alternative style of music within the sugary pop that dominates at such events, or the song contest has finally gathered a whole bunch of unlikely new followers. Either way, I think it's good news all around.

There's quite a bit of new blood on the local Eurovision scene. Most of it is far from different from the wallpaper sounds we've come to expect as an essential characteristic of this whole shindig. Klinsmann Coleiro is undoubtedly this year's darling in this category. He has almost everything it takes to be a huge pop star...and yet he lacks that something beyond the obvious which can turn him into an all-round sensation. Mark Spiteri Lucas and Rita Pace have written a very catch pop ditty for him, which suit him fine as a first outing into the bright limelight. I have a feeling we'll be hearing more from this young dude in the coming years. My personal wish is that he matures into an alternative pop idol, but I realize that I may be hoping for pigs to fly. Then again, stranger things are known to happen.

Going beyond the music into the whole effort to present a performance package that makes sense within the broader scheme of all things Eurovision, it's as clear as day that this year's winner is Olivia Lewis. Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg have put together a thoughtfully crafted song that given a masterful studio production can become a major international hit in some of the Eurovision countries that matter for anyone who cares about any of this. As she has shown in previous years, this is the best that Olivia can now it's time for the people to realize this and send her and Vertigo to Helsinki for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest.

I'll be writing about the winning song tomorrow morning, so please look out for that post on my blog later. Meanwhile, feel free to comment about what I had to say about the songs I've selected and please don't hold back if you disagree with me.

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.