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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghost Dance

This should become my Halloween tradition quite soon: I first posted these photos in 2004 and again in 2005, but I thought it would be a good idea to re-blog them today along with the original text:

Happy Halloween!

My father sent me these two pictures of a tomato he just cut up for some traditional Maltese ħobz biż-żejt. He just couldn't resist saying Happy Halloween with this. So, a Happy Halloween to you too. Boo!

Now, go BOO!

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: This post is not to be considered as an endorsement of Halloween, which is the second most commercial festivity after Christmas.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Clock

Anyone who follows this blog on a fairly regular basis knows that I'm simply too busy to put as much time as I'd like to into writing here. If I didn't have a weekly music podcast to blog about, I have a feeling that I wouldn't post at least one blog post a week. So, if for no other reason, I podcast to keep my blog active.

Whenever I sit down to produce my weekly podcast, one of the first things I do is write down the number for that particular episode. I frequently surprise myself by the ever-growing count. This week it's number 88.

As it happens, this week's podcast contains a relatively laid back selection. It's as if there was a chill-out theme guiding me as I was putting it together. To dispel any such thoughts I'll just say that I actually replaced one of the songs with a more upbeat track at the last minute.

Sasha Vella's Melody sets the tone perfectly. I only discovered Sasha's songs very recently. They're quite beautiful. It's also quite refreshing to hear a Maltese singer deliver vocal interpretations that are not feeding from an obvious palette. She has released 4 songs on MySpace and on Sellaband, which she sees as her possible ticket to a future recording in a professional recording studio. Her demo recordings are remarkable and I hope she keeps producing more of them until she gets to record in a sophisticated studio.

About a year ago
I played a track from David Agius, a Maltese-Australian musician based in Sydney. He has recorded and released more tracks since then. At first I was tempted to include his haunting ballad When I Get Old but eventually I picked Can't Help It, which demonstrates the best qualities of this singing guitarist, who plays all the instruments heard on his songs.

From time to time I discover a Maltese CD release I missed simply because it was not publicized on the Internet well enough when it first came out. One such CD is Clifford Borg's Drifted, which ironically has a very strong online presence. It's quite a good recording of piano music made on the Manoel Theatre's Steinway grand, with the occasional sparse string arrangement. The title track appears on this week's podcast as one of two instrumental selections.

The second instrumental track comes from Mario Sammut who first appeared on my radar in connection with the amazing Mantra Fest held at the Garden of Rest in Belt is-Sebħ a couple of months ago. He has recently released a live recording of his performance from that event. You can hear Urn as the closing sound on this week's podcast. This is the sort of chill-out music that everyone should hear from time to time to realign their chakras.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Autumn Leaves

The autumnal turning leaves in the UK don't seem as pretty as those reddish bursts I had become accustomed to in the States. They're beautiful in their own way here. They also need to be picked and cleared from the pavements or wherever they fall. I spent most of the afternoon today picking up dead leaves that fell from the huge tree at the top of my organic garden, just a couple of yards away from my vegetable patch.

There are still plenty of leaves on the tree. They won't be there much longer. Clearing the leaves that have already fallen at this point seems necessary, otherwise there'll probably be more than are manageable in one afternoon session. As an activity, this is probably as far away from my weekly podcast as I can get on a Saturday afternoon. It's great to be away from activities that require cerebral engagement to one degree or other. In the garden I feel very in touch with nature. It's very peaceful and I always feel better after spending even just a couple of hours pottering about.

On to the 87th podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series, which opens with a new single from The Characters. One in a Million shows this popular band in top form. It appears that they're on their way to releasing a new album sometime next year. Nothing has been revealed about that yet, but all the tell-tale signs are there.

Paul Abela is one of the most prolific Maltese pop song writers. I think he's also one of the most underrated musicians. Listening to tracks from Tristan B's debut album Fallen Angel, you can most certainly sense his prowess, especially if you pay particular attention to the song structures and the instrumental bits between the singing. Life is a Beat has a particularly North African tinge and I've selected to play it on this week's podcast to highlight the point I'm trying to make here. Manuel Balzan, or Tristan B as he is known, is a pop singer in the pin-up mode. Unlike many other wannabes he is blessed with the a crop of original songs written by a great composer. It appears that they're building a pan-European marketing strategy for years to come, but only time can tell if this is just another case of pearls for swine.

Since we're in a pop gear today, I thought it most appropriate to include a song by Thea Saliba. The CD album from this former JESC performer is called About You. I must admit that I haven't heard the whole record by I'm chose to include Bring it Up a song written by Billy J, after hearing it on his YouTube page. It feels good to see that there are relatively intense performers in the local pop scene. There's nothing I hate more than bad pop. Thea certainly does not fall within that category and is actually an excellent example of a decent pop performer.

Aside from the mainstream tunes on today's podcast, I wanted to include something from the trenches. The MMI series is possibly the only regular source to listen to Maltese music and musicians that are absent from radio playlists for one reason or another. Wayne Camilleri has just made to demo recordings. He has released these instrumental tracks on ReverbNation. I expect to see them on his MySpace page sometime soon too. Meanwhile you can hear It's All Okay as the closing track on 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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Atoms for Peace

I'm nursing a bad cold. I feel like this is something that happens to me every autumn. It must have something to do with the change in the weather. At least I have the new Radiohead album to console me, along with several get well soon wishes on Facebook.

The cold has also meant that this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast was delayed by several hours into Sunday morning rather than appearing at the customary time on Saturday evening. I honestly don't think that anyone really cares. After all, it's not like it has a global impact like Al Gore's work to raise awareness on climate change. I think he deserves the Nobel Prize; at least he gets to stay in the headlines and impress his message further, for better or for worse.

The 86th edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor features five tracks that stylistically blend together quite nicely. The opening track comes from a DJ duo called Tanishia. Their remix of Everything But the Girl's classic hit Missing is as good as any I've ever heard. Naturally, it helps that I love Tracey Thorn's voice and she's regularly appearing on my iPod playlist with her new album Out of the Woods. Just for the record: I'm not saying all this because she's a University of Hull alumna.

Apparently, Crimean rapper Dimal has made Malta his new stomping ground. His presence undoubtedly serves as a source of enrichment to the emerging Maltese rap scene. While it's clearly not everyone's cup of tea, it's good to see that other non-obvious elements are infused into this genre as it continues to grip more and more young fans across the Maltese islands. Listen to Dimal's My Game closely and you may see what I'm on about.

Frank Cachia and Edwin Balzan are the dynamic Duo Blank who have released an EP entitled Constitution. Playing the original track on my podcast means it is now on the list of nominations for the 2007 MMI Top Picks. The list of nominations keeps getting longer and longer, but within a few more weeks you'll be able to vote on it, just like last year.

Another addition to the list of nominations has to be Baresine's mini-album Island Pearl; if that's what it's called and it has actually been released. Get Up is the most obvious recent track from this singer but I like Selfish, which I've included on this week's podcast. I find it hard to nominate titles of songs I only hear online when there's clearly a broader effort behind them. Still, perhaps it's better than nothing.

Following up on last week's inclusion of Danjeli's brilliant Kakofonija, one of two new release from Pinkpube, this week's podcast comes to a close with an excepert from a tune called Stop by Dot. His new 3-track collection is called Aleagramma and just like Kakofonija is available as a free download from Pinkpube's website.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Over the Rainbow

Radiohead released their seventh studio album today. That in itself is a remarkable thing but this is not just another album release from an established rock band. In Rainbows has been released as a pay-what-you-will unprotected download only; the CD release comes later. As if that's not enough of a refreshing change in itself, the invitation to pay whatever includes the possibility of actually (legally!) getting a free download. No strings attached.

This is the most daring move ever to eliminate all the middlemen in the music industry. This is not some unknown act trying their luck on MySpace. This is Radiohead: an influential band the likes of which only come around once every decade or so. I don't just mean in terms of popularity but also innovative creativity in rock; think Beatles (60s), Pink Floyd (70s), U2 (80s)...Radiohead are undoubtedly next in this lineage.

I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to publicly point out that I'm quite a fan of this band. They originally hooked me with the amazing Creep, their first single back in the early '90s. By the time they released their 3rd album OK Computer in the summer of 1997 they had simply swooped me off my feet.

I've just finished downloading In Rainbows so I haven't really heard it yet. I know I'll like it...and not just because I want to like it.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Into the Night

I'm slowly recovering from an incredibly hectic first week of lectures and tutorials. A new academic year at the university always feels like there's more work to do than there are hours of the day to do it in. Thankfully, from previous experience, I know that this too shall pass.

My weekly music podcast is always a delight to produce. I truly hope that my listeners enjoy it as much as I do. The 85th edition has all new tracks from four acts that have appeared previously in the series. It's good to get new releases from established singers and musicians, particularly because most of them show signs of maturity over time.

NV has not only just released a new single entitled Out of Love but she has also (finally!) launched her MySpace page. I like the new song. It's the sort of thing we've come to expect from this singer and it's great that she doesn't disappoint with this new recording.

Following up on their fantastic Jack the Ripper, The Rifffs have released a new song called Monday Morning. I'm sure this brings them closer to releasing their much awaited debut album. Still, with such a great following on MySpace and at their live gigs, perhaps a CD album is no longer a necessary priority for what is arguably the most popular reformed Maltese rock band ever.

Kristina Casolani too has released a new single. The song is called Leaving and it comes along with an announcement that her album Uninvited is due out in mid-2008. The latest single features Sixth Simfoni's David Leguesse, whose voice contrasts quite nicely with Kristina's. This is their second collaboration since he also appeared a her second single Bad Vibe. Maltese RnB doesn't get better than this.

If you follow my Mużika Mod Ieħor series regularly you probably already know that I'm in the process of collecting nominations for the 2007 listeners' pick of Maltese music releases. While there are a couple of albums released earlier this year that I like enough to consider as my personal top picks for the year, Danjeli's new album Kakofonija now tops my personal chart for 2007, ahead of any other album by a mile. Pinkpube has published to new releases after a (not too) lengthy hiatus. One is an EP by Dot. (to be featured soon on MMI) and the Kakofonija album from Danjeli. I've picked the track Iż-Żufjett to play of this week's podcast but every track on Kakofonija is simply wonderful. I know I'll be playing more tracks from it in the coming weeks, months and years. The entire album is available as a free download from the PinkPube website.

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, October 02, 2007


Yesterday I started teaching a new module called Psychology of Internet Behaviour to 3rd year students in the various Digital Media programmes at the School of Arts and New Media on the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus. One of the topics I'm exploring with the students is Internet addiction. I don't believe there's such a thing as Internet addiction in as much as there's no such thing as addiction to social interaction or entertainment or knowledge sharing. We'll see what the students make of this in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, through Sabine Cassar Alpert's blog I came across this:

78%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Go figure!

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