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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Don't Stop Now

It's been a very productive week and this weekend I'm cherishing the brain space I've managed to free up by attending SecondFest. I'm typing this between sets from Slim Girl Fat and Tony Moore on Chillout Island. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I should add that all this is happening in Second Life. I'll be blogging more about my adventures in Second Life in the coming weeks. There's a already a lot I'd like to say but I don't have enough time to say it just yet.

This weekend I'm using some of my free time to bring you the 72nd edition in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Following last week's rerun of the special edition dedicated to Frans il-Budaj, this week's podcast features four brand new tracks, which are bound to be on the 2007 listeners' picks poll.

The Bubble is a new song from Ambulanza. As you may recall, this is one of Mario Cordina various projects from his base in Poland. Just in case you missed my earlier mention of Mario on MMI, check out the podcast I did all about his bands and other music projects last February. Ambulanza have a new album called The Drug and you can hear some of the tracks from this new recording on their two MySpace pages.

I'm very pleased to finally hear a recording from the new band Shilloo's Tree. They recently recorded a couple of original tracks and I've included Waiting for Your Smile of them on my podcast this week. If this is what they sound like on their debut recording we can expect more great tracks from this band in the coming months and years. I haven't seen them live but I have a feeling they're a good live band too.

Another new band from Malta is called Club Murder. This one fuses hardcore metal with hip-hop in a way that's quite unusual for a Maltese band. This evening they're playing a live gig at Poxx Bar with Eurythuria and Inner Link. It's undoubtedly a splendid evening for metal fans and you can sample it through my podcast with the song Preserved in Pain.

To close off this week's podcast I'm playing an instrumental track from ipconfig who I discovered on MySpace this week. The track is called Lag and other that there's another one from the same person on ipconfig's MySpace I know nothing else. This happens every now and then, and I must I've come to enjoy the sense of mystery that comes with such encounters.

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, June 23, 2007

Icky Thump

Whenever I start making peace with the fact that Malta is not the center of the universe, something happens to upset the balance. This time it's the news that there were 12 reported sightings of Madeleine McCann in Malta this week.

I would have been much happier if the week had moved along smoothly, bringing along with it the beginning of summer, the end of main business in my academic year, and the first anniversary since Frans Baldacchino il-Budaj passed away. Today's rerun of my special podcast in memory of Il-Budaj was planned weeks ago. Maltese-Australian musician Manuel Casha has even released a new CD to mark the first anniversary since Frans il-Budaj died. I played a track from that new release in last week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

In any case, Mużika Mod Ieħor will be back with episode number 72 next week. Meanwhile I'll keep myself entertained with short bursts of the mind-numbing offerings on Big Brother and otherwise occupied with work on finishing my Franklin Furnace book, which I plan to take to the publishers within the next 4 weeks or so.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Drain You


Saturday, June 16, 2007


It's been raining quite heavily for the past couple of days. Britain is fairly notorious for rainy weather but even by UK standards what we've seen this week is quite extreme. I gather that this is similar to the great soaking Rome saw on the canonization weekend earlier this month, which moved on to Malta a day or so later.

Usually I don't care so much about the weather but since I've added gardening to my pastimes it's natural that I get concerned...especially when the rain damages (even ever so slightly) my horticultural efforts. This is where having more than one pastime comes in handy. Some pastimes, however, aren't considered a hobby, and for me one such activity that's not easy to define as such is my weekly podcast. This week's edition is the 71st in the series and it give me the opportunity to play four brand new tracks, all of which will undoubtedly make it to the end of year listeners' pick for 2007.

The Rifffs have recorded a couple of new tracks at Farmhouse Studios in Siggiewi and will be releasing Jack the Ripper as their next single this summer. It's a very energetic track that showcases the band in full force. I sense a possible theme for their elusive debut album but I doubt that this is what's been delaying the date of this much awaited release. We can only continue to hope but I'm sure the album is an inevitable reality (hopefully) later this year.

Christabelle Borg was born a whole decade after The Rifffs released their first single. She is only 15 but judging from Tonight her new single - recorded in America in January with a Malta released in April - she's on her way to make her mark on the local music scene...if not beyond. R&B has always been an elusive genre for Maltese musicians. This is understandable when you consider that it is quintessentially an American style. So when Christabelle's songs sound authentic mainly because of the heavy American input on them. This is not to ignore the fact that she has been beautifully coached on how to sing in a way that goes beyond the ordinary and mediocre, an approach that usually sounds the death knell for most other Maltese pop idol wannabes.

When it rains it pours. Another new release this month comes from Chemical Orphan. Following up on carnival's Casanova the next song is tied in with the UN's World Refugee Day on June 20. What If It Was You? is a provocative song and one that made me uncomfortable the first time I heard it. I believe the same will happen to other people, possibly for different reasons too. You can hear it on this week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor and make up your own mind about it.

Straying away from new releases for a moment, I'd like to thank Brussels-based Maltese blogger Gybexi for pointing out the online availability of the 1977 album This is Joe Cutajar. Listening to any of the tracks on this album you can easily see how far the Maltese recording scene has come. This was one of the first recordings made at Smash Studio in Fgura. The songs are composed by Ray Agius whose more recent High Alert appeared on last week's podcast. This week I've picked Dak Kien Żmien sung by Joe Cutajar, featuring an instrumental phrase that always reminds me of the Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin.

Back to new releases, I can't fail to point out the release of Tifkira a new CD in Australia by Manuel Casha commemorating the first anniversary from the death of Frans Baldacchino il-Budaj. To mark this anniversary, next week's podcast will be a repeat of my tribute to Frans il-Budaj, which was originally published in the weekend after the singer's passing. This series continues with new releases and other material the following weekend when I'll bring you the 72nd edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

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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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pastime Paradise

I've just heard some sad news on the radio. David Hatch has died at the age of 68. There are some remarkable people who never really become household names even though they help many become household names during their career. I think it's fair to say that David was one such person. This is to say nothing of his relatively recent knighthood.

It was a thrill to meet him in 1988 when I was a trainee at the BBC. You can see me here in a photo taken in his Broadcasting House office as he presented me with my certificate at the end of my training course. He was Managing Director of BBC Radio at the time and had previously served as Head of Light Entertainment as well as Controller of Radio 2 and Radio 4. I have a feeling he was deep in management hell at that time. He left the BBC about 10 years ago and worked for the National Consumer Council before he retired.
Toni Sant receiving a certificate from David Hatch at the end of a BBC Radio Training course in 1988
Judging from my hairstyle I wasn't too bothered that I was experiencing a potentially historical moment in my professional life. However, I remember that that I was aware that I was in the presence of an empire's fading glory.

David Hatch left an indelible impression on me throughout my broadcasting career and also delighted many radio listeners through his contributions as producer of I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and Just a Minute.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Midnight Rider

I usually try to have my weekly podcast available for download before midnight on Saturday. Sometime I cut it quite close but this week I've somehow managed to get it done earlier than I have in recent weeks. Perhaps it's because it's Ġuze' Stagno and Gabriella Cilia wedding night today.

The 70th edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series has a healthy blend of rock styles. Jean Claude Vancell is a young singer-songwriter who contacted me through MySpace a few days ago. I must admit that I was quite happy to hear from him because I had never heard of him before and his music really deserves better exposure. I sometime forget how overbearing mainstream media can be, so I'm sure that Far Away, which Vancell has released as a single, is not receiving the airtime it deserves.

Oddly enough, the same could be said for the second song on this week's podcast, High Alert! As a Ray Agius composition sung by Claudia Faniello you'd think it would have been played to death on Maltese radio stations, especially since it was her debut song at the Malta Song for Europe in 2006. Surprisingly this is a great pop rock song. It is a much better song than I Do and I wonder how it would have done at last year's Eurovision Song Contest, but I really don't want to go there again. Listen to it closely and see if, like me, you think that this is the sort of song that would work well on the playlist of any one of the many classic rock bands like Frenzy Mono, Fire, and White Crimson.

This is actually a natural way to segue into playing a live recording from White Crimson of their song Julia. I've been wanting to include something by this band for several months, but their recordings are very elusive. So I was very pleased when I discovered this live recording through a YouTube video from a recent TV show. I'm really looking forward to hearing studio recordings from White Crimson because even though their songs are very derivative I can hear a clear attempt at finding a band trying to find its own voice and style.

As my regular podcast listeners know, I love to take it to the max whenever I can. The return of Lithomancy after a two-year hiatus gives me the perfect opportunity to do this. On Friday the 13th of July they will be appearing with old-school thrashers X-Vandals at Remedy. I'll probably bring this up again closer to the date but I can never pass up the chance to mention Xtruppaw, especially seeing that the drummer and bassist in Lithomancy are no other than Dino and Rex from that greatest Maltese band ever.

Incidentally, from this week I've started using the Internet Archive a repository for the MP3 files of the podcast. This has multiple advantages for me but I'd like to hear from any listeners who experience anything different in how they access my podcasts.

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, June 07, 2007

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Still in confessional mode: I watch Big Brother on Channel 4 whenever it's on. I wouldn't really mind telling you that at all if this round was not as lame as it's turning out to be. What's with the producers? Have they really lost their sense of drama?

Why didn't we get an eviction on the day that Ziggy came into the house? The house was so ripe for that sort of thing. "You wanna bloke? Give up one of the females in the house!" Still, all is not lost, yet. They can still do this to bring in the next guy. That's unless they've really lost the plot and plan to leave Ziggy as the only Y chromosome presence in the house.

I'm not done yet. I have another bone to pick. Why did we only get two eviction nominations? "Pick two girls" is so timid and boring. How about, "pick the two you like most and the two you like least." That way we get some real drama...if we're lucky, even a major crisis.

So I end with a note to Endemol (on the off off chance they're reading this!): I'm available for consultation on how to make the show really interesting beyond the die-hard fans.

Well, actually, before I get off my soap box, here's a final shout out, for now: evict Shabnam, please!

From an official Channel 4 statement released today, after a true-to-form incident in the house:

"In the wake of Celebrity Big Brother we must consider the potential offence to viewers regardless of Emily's intentions and her housemates' response. The word nigger is clearly racially offensive and there was no justification for its use. We have removed Emily from the house to once again make it clear to all housemates and the viewers at home that such behaviour won't be tolerated."

Now that's reality TV!

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Soul Kitchen

The beginning of June is always a time to celebrate the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since this year happens to be the 40th anniversary, there's more of a public to do about it than most other years. Although I was too young to appreciate that monumental moment in music when it was originally released, Sgt. Pepper has played a very significant part in my life since my early teenage years. This should be less surprising than if I said that The Doors debut album (also released 40 years ago) was as important...even if in some ways it certainly is.

While it's safe to say that my childhood was saturated with religious indoctrination, I was never a member of the Society of Christian Doctrine (better known as M.U.S.E.U.M.). I bring this up since this weekend, the society's founder Dun Ġorg Preca is being raised to sainthood by the Vatican. For most Maltese people this is more significant that any Beatles anniversary.

I suppose it's all about continuity in the end, even if all things must pass some day. My soul salad ends here for today but I must confess that continuity was on my mind throughout most of this week's podcast. This is clearly evident in the opening track. Following from last week's podcast, where I ended with Corazon's winning song from this year's L-Għanja tal-Poplu, I thought it would be good to play something from the man who recommended I feature that song on my series.

Antonio Olivari has recorded a remarkable album called Dark Ages. I believe this album has not been released but you can hear a few tracks from it through his MySpace page and one called Renaissance on the 69th edition of my podcast. This one evokes Ennio Morricone to my ears, even if it's not so overtly derivative. Quite nice, anyway.

Instrumental music dominates this edition of my podcast, even if it's not an exclusively lyric free episode. Brian Vassallo is an instrumentalist whose work I'm including on this series of the first time. He has a considerable amount of recordings available, some of which can be accessed through his MySpace page too. I selected Are We Alone?, which I feel goes quite well after Olivari's track.

I've mentioned MySpace several times in relation to Mużika Mod Ieħor and today I'm even willing to admit that it is how the series keeps going regularly after about 18 months of weekly podcasts.

ON the last podcast in 2006 I played a new song by Ozzylino and said that he seemed to be working on a new album. That album is now complete and it will be released on 07/07/07. He has also adopted a new stagename: Jewls Verse. I've selected Say You Want Me as a pre-release track to include on my podcast but I may even play another cut from this album once it is released. It's bound to be one of the best Maltese albums released in 2007.

Back to an instrumental track to close off this week's appointment. Several Maltese musicians are now active abroad and few are more involved in their own scene than South Central, a duo of electro-remixers based in the south of England. This month they're playing gigs in London and going up as far north as Scotland and close to me as Hull and Doncaster. Crystaling is one of the tracks they've released this year. It's also where I'll leave things until next 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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