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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Easter Parade

I'm in Malta right now. I had hoped to record this week's podcast before I left Scarborough, but there was too much to do and so I made it here today. This is the first time I've made a podcast in Malta.

The technical quality on the sound of my voice is quite a giveaway. Rather than the warm sound I usually get from one of the microphones I have at home I used the iTalk plug-in on my iPod to record my voice this week. Desperate times require desperate measures...or something like that.

This may be the first year in many that I'm not sticking to the ritual of listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on Good Friday. I forgot to bring the CD with me to Malta. Perhaps one of the radio stations will do the decent thing of playing it for me. We'll see. In any case, I didn't want to miss the opportunity of producing an Easter podcast this year, especially since I now have my own copy of Ikun Li Trid Int, and I've managed to dub the entire rock mass by Tony Grimaud from 1984.

Before getting to those goodies I chose to play a couple of tracks by contemporary Maltese singers who clearly fit into the Christian genre. The first of these is Chris D'Alfonso who recently announced that he's working on a new album to follow-up on the success of his debut release Blueprints. From that album you can hear the title track on this week's podcast.

Someone else who is working on new material in a similar vein is Robert Galea. I completely spaced out on his 2006 CD Closer, and I must admit that it is entirely my loss. Although the idea of a seminarian from Malta who currently resides in Australia is hardly the way to entice me to listen to someone's music, Galea's stuff is quite appealing and nicely crafted. To show how far this delightful musician has come I've picked something pre-Closer. A song in Maltese called Libbisna bil-Qawwa, which is an excellent way to introduce more Maltese language material on this week's podcast.

I can now finally play a couple of tracks from Ikun li Trid Int. I've selected a song called Karriera, sung by composer Manwel Mifsud as a duet with Merga. Sammy Bartolo sang the part of Jesus and you can here is beautiful smooth baritone voice on the track It-Tielet Waqgħa. I would like to thank my good friend Mario Axiaq for helping me sort out my own copy of Ikun Li Trid Int. It is one of the most treasured recordings in my possession. You can rest assured that I'll play at least one more song from it this time next year.

The same goes for Grimaud's rock mass. This week's podcast comes to a close with the final song from that glorious religious event/rock concert. I believe the track I called Just a Little Love. Since I'm in Malta I'm hoping to meet Grimaud with a CD dub from the cassette I've treasured for years, which podcast listeners have heard me play from on a previous, non-Easter related edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. Perhaps he'll grant me a full interview. That could make a good podcast for a future date, if all goes well.

This week's podcast, which is number 61 in the series, will probably have to hold until I return to Scarborough after Easter. This means that there will not be a new podcast until the weekend after Easter. I plan to blog anyway before then, so I'll refrain from wishing you a happy easter until then.

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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Monday, March 26, 2007

When Will I Be Famous?

This past weekend Olivia Lewis launched her personal blog about her participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. I'm chuffed that she has cited this blog as a source of inspiration to join the blogosphere.

This gives me some time to pause and think about the state of the Maltese blogosphere, which has swollen well beyond what it was just one year ago when most bloggers knew each other and followed each other's blogs regularly.

Unlike other pundits I'm not too concerned by what people say or don't say in their blogs. The medium is the message. Just the fact that people have blogs is noteworthy in itself. People have the power to say what they want and potentially be heard by people who would otherwise not have access to their thoughts. That's the most interesting thing about blogging as far as I'm concerned.

Back to Olivia Lewis: I enjoyed reading the interview she gave to the Schlagerboys, which they published on the same day that she launched her blog. I was hoping she would mention it on her own blog so that more people can cherish the contagious zeal of the Shalgerboys. At the same time I can see that Olivia is eager to post entries that would not appear elsewhere. Her blog will be the place to visit if you want to know what's going through her mind as she prepares to sing her heart out in Helsinki this May.

It appears that Olivia's blog could feature a daily entry. I'm sure her numerous fans would appreciate that very much. Perhaps it's also a good way to gather new fans, especially ones who could vote for her at the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final on May 10.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Run for Cover

This time next week I'll be in Malta. I'm looking forward to listening to lots of live music and meeting old friends. In light of this, I've produced a podcast highlighting bands who are gigging these days and which I'd gladly see live during my visit. Sadly I will not be able to see every act I'd like to see, but I'm sure I'll catch enough to get a sense of the current scene.

The Monitors are a new band that sounds like a great live band. They just launched their MySpace page and I don't know much about them except that the singer is none other than Ozzylino, who has already been featured on a previous edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. Their debut release on MySpace is called Fade Away and I pray that this is the last thing they do any time soon. Perhaps I'll manage to catch them at Fat Harry's, which seems to be a place they've already appeared live.

Another new band I planning to see is called Drive. They will be appearing at the KSU Students' Festival on Saturday 31st March and Sunday 1st April. In Your Eyes is the title of their debut song on MySpace. Two new bands in a row is very encouraging for my upcoming visit and I have a feeling that there are other goodies in store at the KSU Students' Festival. I hope to be there next weekend.

Stoned Joker are also a relatively new band. They formed out of the ashes of Sourmash last summer and they too are currently gigging around Malta. They're playing at Big Mama's in St. Paul's Bay tomorrow, and since their next gig is not scheduled until the last few days of April I shall not be able to see them live. You can hear their song Alone, which has similarly just been released through the MySpace page they established last month.

One other band I was quite keen to see live is by no means a new band. In fact they're possibly the oldest band that's still around from the late 1970s scene that gave rise to the now legendary Tigne years. Abstrass, led as ever by Erich il-Punk, has been around since about 1979. In recent years the band has been kept alive with the help of Ray il-Baħri and Ray il-Ħamiemu, who are also the guitarist and drummer of other bands like Subculture and X-Vandals. All three bands are appearing in an extraordinary gig at Naasha's in San Gwann tonight. This is one event I truly wish I could attend...if only they were doing it next weekend. Ah well, we'll have to make do with listening to Under Pressure, a track from Abstrass' 2005 album Hard To Understand.

As soon as I finished recording this week's podcast I realized that it's an excellent way to warm up for the upcoming visit. I'm hoping to have time to blog during my stay in Malta but I've prepared a special Easter podcast too, since I'll probably have a one-week break from the podcast after next week, just to gather enough material to continue the series once I return to Scarborough.

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, March 17, 2007

Guitar Man

It's been a good week. It felt good as soon as it started. Highlights included the DVD release of Pan's Labyrinth and a very fruitful visit to the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus by Ian Forrester and Matthew Cashmore of BBC Backstage. Both the film and BBC Backstage deserve a blog entry of their own, and I hope I can write about them in the coming days.

Meanwhile I'm here to announce the contents of the 59th podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. This week's episode features instrumental music by four Maltese guitarists. I had never heard of the first three before this year but the fourth is someone whose work I've known for about twenty years. Robert Longo, Joe "il-Pejxa" Vella, and Charlie "Paletti" Muscat immediately come to mind as other guitarists whose music I've played on previous editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor. There are several others, of course, such as Sandro Zerafa, Jean Paul Galea, Demis Fenech, and Antonio Olivari.

This time I've turned my attention to Marc Galea and Jean Pierre Zammit, who are both guitar teachers. According to his website, Marc is working on an album and Jean Pierre is about to release a 3-track CD very soon. The tracks I've chosen to play from their repertoire are called My Journey and Wipe Every Tear respectively. They both demonstrate solid control of their rock guitar techniques without too much showing off, which sometimes accompanies similar work by lesser guitarists.

Unlike Galea and Zammit, Franco Tartaglia has chosen MySpace to distribute his recordings. His experimental work is quite interesting, even if it's one notch less sophisticated that that of the other two guitarists. Tartaglia has the potential to become one of Malta's more unusual guitar players pushing towards developing a unique style. Meanwhile, as you can hear in the track In Memoria he is honing his skills on establish formats with a minor twist.

While listening to Franco Tartaglia's music I thought it would be most appropriate to close this week's podcast with something from a Maltese musician who has been playing guitar since before any of the other performers featured in today's show were born. Manuel Casha left Kalkara for Australia many years ago. Back in the 1960s and 1070s he played in various pop bands before turning his attention to traditional Maltese folk music. To my way of thinking, he belongs to the first generation of Maltese rock guitarists, even if he is now more comfortable with Il-Budaj than with The Beatles. His album Neon was originally released on cassette in 1992 and remixed for CD in 2001. From it you can hear Fil-Bitħa tal-Granmastri (In the Grandmasters' Courtyard) as the final track on this week's podcast.

Now I'm off to watch Britain select its entry for this year's Eurovision Song Contest on BBC One. I don't think I'll be blogging about that because the songs shortlisted for the final selection are quite ordinary, with one exception. Sadly there's no sign of Morrissey, but if Big Brovaz win, this year's UK entry will be noteworthy, otherwise it'll most probably be just another forgettable year for this country. Incidentally, I'm quite amused by Terry Wogan's less than subtle suggestions that the British public should vote for Malta come the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

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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Monday, March 12, 2007

Till Victory

From this morning's New York Times:

Ain’t It Strange?

Published: March 12, 2007

ON a cold morning in 1955, walking to Sunday school, I was drawn to the voice of Little Richard wailing “Tutti Frutti” from the interior of a local boy’s makeshift clubhouse. So powerful was the connection that I let go of my mother’s hand.

Rock ’n’ roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the Rolling Stones made their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Rock ’n’ roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from South Jersey to freedom in 1967.

Rock ’n’ roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied state of grace.

My late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroit’s MC5, was a part of the brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the complexities of existence.

Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counseled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognized for my efforts and though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed — gracefully — in his name.

Today I will join R.E.M., the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?

I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him — the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honors. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock ’n’ roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.

Because its members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The Internet is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure. Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented.

Human history abounds with idealistic movements that rise, then fall in disarray. The children of light. The journey to the East. The summer of love. The season of grunge. But just as we seem to repeat our follies, we also abide.

Rock ’n’ roll drew me from my mother’s hand and led me to experience. In the end it was my neighbors who put everything in perspective. An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta. A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street: “Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us.”

I just smiled, and I noticed I was proud. One for the neighborhood. My parents. My band. One for Fred. And anybody else who wants to come along.

Patti Smith is a poet and performer.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

You Know I'm No Good

This morning I took a group of students in my free elective Film and the Moving Image module to the National Media Museum in Bradford. I had never been to the museum before but I knew it had a long-standing reputation as a photography museum and the site of one of Britain's IMAX theatres. As it turns out it was indeed a great way to spend a Saturday away from the regular Scarborough routine.

The IMAX film I chose for us to watch is a new one called Deep Sea 3D. It has remarkable underwater cinematography, a full-blown Hollywood score by Danny Elfman, as well as narration by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. As anyone who has ever experienced a 3D show at an IMAX will tell you, being there is beyond words.

The 13th Bradford Film Festival started yesterday and this was the main reasons why I planned this museum visit for today. I must admit that I had hoped for things to be better organised with the festival and that I would be able to select from a rich programme of screenings and events. As things turned out I had to settle for a new Romanian film called A Roof Overhead, which has an intriguing story of two depressed women who are released early from a psychiatric hospital due to financial difficulties at the institution. It sounds like a comedy and that's exactly what it is, especially when the two end up on in the remote Danube delta living in an ancestral home without a roof. The film is well-made, the acting is fine and the narrative is handled nicely. However, the end is quite anti-climatic and it leaves you with a feeling that the filmmakers just needed to end the film, perhaps because just like the mental asylum they had run out of money. After all money is a major element of the plot in the whole story.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you're probably thinking: so if he spent all day in Bradford today (a Saturday) whatever happened to this week's podcast. Fear not, I prepared my podcast earlier in the week, so by the time we got back to Scarborough I only had to put on some minor finishing touches to. While this blog entry may appear to be about a field trip for my students and whatnot it's also here to announce the latest edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

I had a hankering for something with Maltese lyrics recently, partly because I haven't played too many songs in our native language. Podcast number 58 opens with a song called Inti Ħabib from Mystic Dimensions . This is an unexpected source for a song in Maltese and the style is unlike any other we've heard before where the singing is in Maltese. Mystic Diversions is an Italy-based trio, which you may recall includes Maltese musician Aidan Zammit. I'm pleased to be playing Aidan's music again on my podcast but I'm even happier to hear him sing in Maltese on this Mediterranean escapade.

Maltese musicans who live abroad appear regularly on Mużika Mod Ieħor. They're all over the world and some of them are quite prolific. Andre Camilleri fits this description perfectly and is no stranger to regular listeners of my podcast. His recently renamed band, The Broken Hearts, has just released what I believe is the first Maltese-Austalian CD album for 2007. It's called One Fine Day and from it I've selected to play Cut All the Weed.

X-18 is looking for a drummer. So I figured it's time to play some of his music on my podcast. I should have played something by X-18 ages ago. After all, one of the first four releases from Pinkpube back in August 2005 (when I first started podcasting) was by X-18. From that debut Pinkpube release I bring you Unknown Masterminds Yet to Be Discovered.

Since I'm lamenting acts I should have brought you earlier on in the podcasting series, I'm closing this week's show with a song by The New Harmonics. Inside is an enjoyable song that shows a steady hand in its treatment by Boriz Cezek and company. I'm not sure why I hadn't played anything by The New Harmonics before but at least I can drop it now that I've actually done it.

I really appreciate feedback from my podcast listeners. I especially like to receive recommendations or requests for particular musicians or songs. You can either contact me directly or leave a comment right here on the blog.

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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Thursday, March 08, 2007

No More

I just got back from a short trip to London. I went for the official launch of an amazing book by Steve Dixon called Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation. It's a very ambitious publication, but from the bits and pieces I've read up to now it looks like an excellent book. I'll probably write another blog entry about it after I read the whole thing. It's a big book, so it may take me a while to read it from cover to cover.

As I was on the road I didn't have time to check my email so I only found out that Jean Baudrillard died two days ago just a few hours ago. He is one contemporary philosopher who changed my perception of the world we live in. Two of his most important media theory works (Simulations and America) are sitting on my desk right now as I think it's a fitting tribute to this great man to read some of his writings tonight. I wonder what he had to say about his own death. I don't mean that the way it sounds. What I mean to say is it would be interesting to read his thoughts as he approached death, a la Timothy Leary and his Design for Dying.

As if all this wasn't enough, John Inman's death is all over the news today. He marked my psyche as a child growing up in Malta; in a very different way from Baudrillard years later in New York. Still, I believe that Baudrillard would have certainly had something to say about that if asked.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007


Saturday night is rarely this special. How often do you see a total lunar eclipse on a clear winter night? It was spectacular and eerily beautiful. The reddish hue that engulfed the moon late this evening is one of the most fantastic natural phenomena I've ever witnessed. Did you see it? What did you think?

lunar eclipse

My personal build-up to the eclipse consisted of producing my weekly podcast. Not exactly the first thing I would have chosen to do before the eclipse, were it not a Saturday night.

Mużika Mod Ieħor has not featured much heavy music this year, so this week's edition makes up for that. If you're not into metal and other such sounds, fear not, it's not full on mayhem. The opening song comes from BNI's 2006 album On and On. Play Dead has a somewhat dark title but it is one of their lighter tracks. It's more ska and reggae than punk. A welcome variation for those who appreciate that raw power this band is backed up with a passion for great melody.

The much-anticipated return of Norm Rejection will take place on Friday, March 9 at Poxx Bar in Paceville. They've been gone for about six years and they've been sorely missed by fans of heavy rock in Malta. Their song Malta Not for Sale from 2000 remains on of my personal top 5 Maltese songs ever recorded. To mark this reunion by Norm Rejection I've chosen to play the wonderful Straight Jacket from their second album 0002. This is clearly not an ordinary band.

If you're looking for extreme metal, few Maltese bands are more hardcore than Loathe. The band is about to embark the Enemies Of Mediocrity Tour, which has them playing alongside non-Maltese metal bands like Allergen, Subliminal Fear, and Seven Years Dead. The tour takes them to a number of English towns, which are not too far away from where I live. The shows start on Friday, March 9 in Chesterfield, and continues on in Barnsley, Wakefield, Sheffield, Doncaster, Lancaster, Manchester, ending in Birmingham on March 23. If you've never heard Loathe you can catch Hell to Burn, a track off their 2005 album Up Close and Personal, on this week's edition of my podcast.

Since this we're keeping it heavy, I think it's most appropriate to end this edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor with a band new recording by a young new death metal band from Malta called Thy Legion. I think the reference is military, but somehow I have a feeling that one of the band members used to attend Legion of Mary meetings until not too long ago. I could be wrong, of course. Thy Legion have recently completed recording six tracks for their upcoming CD release Proclaimer of Chaos. The one I've selected as the closing track for this week's podcast is called Domain of Eternity. Metal doesn't get much harder than this.

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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