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Saturday, April 28, 2007

When I'm 64

There are three major forces pushing and pulling on the shape of most of my days right now. Thankfully, most of this will all pass relatively soon. We're still settling into our new home here in Scarborough; we went to an auction looking for good deals on furniture this morning. I'm still toiling away at my book on Franklin Furnace and I'm hoping to have a revised version to hand on to my prospective publisher. Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to go spend a few days in Helsinki at the end of next week. These three aspects modulate everything and anything I can think about right now.

Thankfully, my weekly podcast can be a haven away from from such life forces, and in some way that holds true for episode 64. This week's podcast opens with the title track from Limestone Kick's 1996 album Y. I like to include the occasional blast from the past on Mużika Mod Ieħor. One of the reason's I pick to play Limestone Kick is to remember previous work by two band members who have now moved on to a very different style of music. Guitarist Jo "Sapi" Sapiano and percussionist Peter Paul Galea are now in Tribali. They will be appearing with a number of other World-Music-type acts at the upcoming Earth Garden Festival next week. More about that in a minute.

I really miss some of the Maltese bands that are no longer together. Particle Blue would definitely top that list. All things must pass, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who mourns Claire Tonna's departure from Particle Blue. Listen to the track Modele that I've selected to play and you'll hopefully see why I'm so enamored with this dissolved act.

As I'm not one to wallow in nostalgia, the next track is from 2007. It comes from Mathematikal, who have appeared on a previous edition of this podcast. I'm sure that people who follow the local alternative music scene in Malta remember Jon and Jay from Hidden Sun. They're been very active recording new material in recent months. This is Plonk is one of the tracks they've recorded and it's probably as far away from the sound of Hidden Sun as you can get.

During my recent visit to Malta, Etnika's percussionist Jason Fabri gave me an unreleased recording of the band playing in Köln, Germany, last year. From that show I've selected the song Rummiena, featuring among other elements the celestial voice of Julie Pomorski, a delightful mandolin intervention by Andrew Alamango, and the masterly tuba of my old friend Paul Borg. This is contemporary Maltese folk music at its best. Etnika will be appearing along with Tribali, Nafra, Renzo Spiteri and others at the Earth Garden on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 May from 7pm at the National Park in Ta' Qali. It should be a very enjoyable evening. Pity I can't be there but I will be producing another Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast next weekend before I scoot off to Helsinki.

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, April 22, 2007

Back to Black

Things are now back to normal, sort of. Normal is a funny word but it's also how I feel now that I've finally shaken off my recent visit to Malta almost completely. Just in time for my upcoming trip to Finland. More about that in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile it's back to another edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter Luke Caruana, better known as Carra, has a new album coming out on Monday called Be Yourself. The bluesy title track opens this week's podcast. Be Yourself sounds like an adequate follow-up to his debut EP Travelling Solo, released last year. A track from that EP appeared on an earlier podcast last November, when I was marking the one year anniversary of this series.

I haven't done a catching-up podcast in a while. There's been at least one band whose music I've been wanting to include for several months. That band is Momento Nostri and their album Decimation at the Gates: The Battle of Santa Margerita sounds like a very interesting concept album based on the 1565 Ottoman siege on Malta with a Metal and Medieval aura. I haven't actually heard the whole album because I don't know that it's available, but the band has a fairly informative website about the project. Interestingly, actor Manuel Cauchi does the narration on the one track I play on this week's podcast. I'd really love to hear more of this.

The same goes for another band that sounds quite delightful but hasn't really clearly released an album. Breathe is a symphonic rock combo a la early 1970s Pink Floyd. The track Lost in Thought could very well be a discarded Floyd outtake but it also shows that this band has a keen ear for this style of music. Pleasant listening indeed, if you're into this sort of sound.

Since the Music Festival at Simon's Pub in Sliema is now in its 9th year, I felt it was most appropriate to include a mention for it on this week's podcast. The 2007 event takes place between Friday 27th and Sunday 29th April and promises a stellar line-up that's almost a who's who of the Maltese rock scene. German band Age of Orange are also scheduled to play at Simon's Pub this weekend, so I've chosen one of their songs, Caught in Thoughts, to end this week's podcast.

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, April 14, 2007

Run Run Run

I was amazed to see hundreds of orienteers invade Scarborough this morning, partly because it was an incredibly foggy day and partly because I always think of this place as a quiet town before the summer season starts. In some way, their presence fits in well with the sense of being all over the place that I always feel whenever I return from traveling outside Scarborough.

This week's podcast reflects this mood. It opens with Liver Daily House, a track off Frenzy Mono's Unorthodox CD, followed by Temple of Apollo from Joe "Pexja" Vella. These two tracks tie up with my most recent blog entry about my music-related adventures during last week's trip to Malta. The same goes for the third track; a song called Where is your god by newcomers Skimmed.

To break away from post-travel disorientation and ward off any bouts of nostalgia I close this week's podcast with Say Now, a new track from UK-based band Shockleader. Drummer Ryan Abela returns to Malta with his band mates to perform at Luxol and Rookies next weekend.

The coming week is a trying one for me. Getting back into the swing of work after a break is not a feeling I like until I'm over the "are we there yet?" hump. If I find the time I may blog a little bit about getting back in the groove...but that's a big if. I'll probably still be chasing my tale for a few more weeks, possibly even a couple of 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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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sunshine of Your Love

The visit to Malta is over. In recent years, my trips to Malta are always peppered with all sorts of music events. The most recent visit is no exception and featured a broad range of encounters with musicians and all sorts of gigs, including a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the National Orchestra at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

It was good to see Frenzy Mono at the Coconut Grove in Paceville on the first night of this visit. It's been a while since I saw a retro hard rock band without a bass player. I thoroughly enjoyed their cover of Deep Purple's Pictures of Home and some of their original numbers are not bad at all. I was dismayed to discover that unbeknown to me Fire were playing at the Hard Rock Cafe on the same night. I found out about this a few minutes after their show ended, from someone who was heading home after just spending a good part of the previous hour hearing them.

The next couple of days it seemed like I was in for a few more disappointments because I didn't manage to get to any gigs, even though I had planned to attend one of the numerous Saturday night gigs. I may be wrong, but it seems like people in Malta still take Good Friday and the previous Friday seriously enough not to organise any live rock gigs. Strangely, though, I have a feeling that I may be wrong on both counts.

Between producing my most recent podcast and enjoying the company of Mario Frendo, who played me a couple of well-made recordings by Nafra (which I'm hoping to include in an upcoming edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor) I missed out an infernal struggle to make it to as many of the following gigs: KDZ's bash in front of Tigulio featuring Muzzle, Salt, Klinsmann Coleiro, and Ozzylino, Sixth Simfoni Live at Luxol with Mindstate; NV Unplugged at St James' Cavallier; and Skimmed with the Areola Treat at Naasha. I actually arrived at Naasha at about 1:00am but the gig seemed long over and there was no one I cared to have a drink with there by then...except someone I think is Brikkuni's front man. I tentatively glanced in his direction but I was either too tired/timid and/or he was too drunk/aloof to care to meet me. A great way to end one of the oddest evenings in many years.

In some way I made up for this a little bit the following day by attending the KSU Students' Festival at the University of Malta's fabulous Temi Zammit Hall with my old buddy Winston Degiorgio. Before I say anything about the Students' Festival I should publicly declare that any time spent with Winston is always a joy. His joie de vivre is contagious, especially to anyone who has known him for more than two decades. Without any hint of nostalgia I must also admit that some previous editions of the KSU fest I attended were more entertaining than this year's event. Still, this year's bunch managed to pull what was probably the best organised students' festival I've ever attended. Slick audio-visuals and stage management made the evening rather pleasant in spite of the fact that at times it felt like one of those dreadful secondary school prize days.

For me, the highlight of the KSU evening was watching Drive open part two of the show. They're a fresh young band which I featured on a recent edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. I wanted to go meet them backstage after the show. Apparently they're planning to visit the UK this summer, which is an excellent way to see about getting them on the bill at this year's Beached. Going backstage didn't feel right, not least because it was close to midnight by the end of the show, meaning that Winston and I needed to see about getting a bite to eat before going to bed. Surprisingly we made it to the legendary Sunrise in Tal-Ibraġġ where we shared a bottle of nice red wine over pizza.

Since most of my visit coincided with Holy Week and Easter it's quite surprising that I managed to squeeze in so many music-related activities into it. Perhaps this feeling is hugely inflected by my overtly catholic upbringing in Malta in the 1970s. Whatever it is, I didn't feel uncomfortable watching the entire Good Friday procession standing in St. Ursuline Street in Valletta. The funeral marches sounded divine, but the evening was crowned with a chance encounter with Antoine Bonnici Soler who was there to see the procession with Godwin Lucas. As we started chatting following the end of the procession, we were joined by clarinet maestro Freddie Mizzi. It seems like listening to musicians play or talk is indeed one of the few things I really look forward to the most on my visits to Malta.

I had actually already met Godwin Lucas the previous evening at BJs where Winston and I went for a couple of hours after spending some time at the Scream Daisy gig at Ryan's Irish Pub. The audio at the Daisy's gig was muddled, the bar far too smokey for my taste, and the choice of beer ridiculously restricted during the show. I must be getting old or something. For different reasons, BJs is not actually my cup of tea either, but at least there I could have decent conversations with some old friends I hadn't seen in years including my former band mate Mark Attard, Paul Giordimaina, Joe Carr and BJ's manager Philip Fenech, of course. Strangely it felt good to be there in the lull of the storm that is the annual live music marathon.

Just for the record, other music-related encounters during this visit included a Sliema seafront meeting with the delightful Merga, a couple of trips to my favourite watering hole on Manoel Island with the amazing Grimaud, a lovely gift from Olivia Lewis during a 3-minute surprise meeting, a quick chat with Melchior Sultana before sitting down with Clare Agius for an TV interview, and a soothing cup of lemon tea with some figola at Jason Fabri's Sliema home where he updated me on what Etnika has been doing in recent years. You can expect some of that on an upcoming podcast too. I should also mention that during this visit I managed to see a Xtruppaw rehearsal, an experience I now treasure as much as the time I visited them during a recording session for their debut album last year.

I see that this blog entry has turning into a longer post than I had planned, but what do you expect when you don't blog for more than a week! It's so true that "life is what happens when you're busy making plans."

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