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Monday, December 31, 2007

See Saw

2007 is history. If you've followed this blog for more than a year you probably already know that I at the end of every eyar I take stock of the previous 12 months. This all started in 2004 and went on with slight variations the following year and last year. I've come to see it as a way to have a quck look at all (or most of) my blog entries in one go.

So now, for the fourt consecutive year here's a partial, most subjective, list of blog entries from the year gone by, in random order. This list is only meant to mark the highs and lows in my year, as chronicled on my blog throughout 2007:


  • Interview on BBC Radio York

  • World's first enhanced Maltese podcasts

  • Results of the 1st annual MMI Listeners' Picks + MMI podcast: 50th & 75th

  • Oliva Lewis wins the 2007 Malta Song for Europe

  • Easter in Malta

  • Visiting the National Media Museum with my students.

  • Lunar Eclipse + Eklissi Perpetwi

  • Pierre J. Mejlak's Riħ Isfel

  • Second Life - YouTube - Twitter - Facebook

  • Visiting Helsinki and the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest debacle

  • Post-Eurovision comments for Malta Today

  • The Simpsons Movie

  • Conferences: SL in London + SL-related in Salford

  • Discovering Drive + Dean Saviour

  • Patti Smith, Radiohead's In Rainbows + Danjeli's Kakofonija on my iPod

  • Taking the 2nd annual MMI Listeners' Picks poll to Facebook

  • Morrissey is not the UK Eurovision entry

  • RIP: Apakuki Coka - Jean Baudrillard - David Hatch - Bergman+Antonioni - Tony Wilson - Marcel Marceau - Karlheinz Stockhousen

  • My friend Ġorġ Mifsud-Chircop is dead

  • Olivia Lewis' drean turns into a nightmare

  • Big Brother (not the celebrity version)

  • 10th anniversary from Diana's death

  • Summer bummer

  • Radio Malta sinks to further low

  • Xtruppaw return on the scene with a football anthem

    In putting these two lists together I realized that there were a number of things in 2007 I'd have liked to blog about properly but didn't find the time or the muse to do so. At least most of them get a mention here and there, in unrelated posts. Here are the main ones (in random order): Frank Camilleri and Mario Frendo visit Scarborough, Pan's Labyrinth, Amy Winehouse, moving house, transliteracy, 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Steve Dixon's Digital Performance book, support for the Burmese monks, attending academic conferences in Birmingham + Leeds, the joys of organic gardening, Yoko Ono's Yes I'm a Witch, and Joni Mitchell's Shine.

    One thing I (very oddly!) didn't blog about was my interview with Clare Agius for her Mhux għall-Kulħadd on TV series. It's available on YouTube, of course. Perhaps that's why I forgot to blog about it.

    Anyway, many thanks for reading my blog and listening to my podcasts in 2007 and a special thanks if you contributed to all that in any way...I wish you a very happy new year!

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  • Saturday, December 29, 2007

    Total Eclipse of the Heart

    If for nothing else, I like the Christmas holidays because I get to find the time to do some of the things I can't do when I'm simply too busy. One of those things is non-academic reading.

    One of the things I've been reading recently is Achille Mizzi's new book of poetry entitled Eklissi Perpetwi. He is one of the modern Maltese poets I've admired for many years. I first discovered his work along with others in the anthology Linji Ġodda as a teenager in the early 1980s. I remember the poem Enigma Variations very well, mostly because of its wonderful musical allusions. His collection Il-Kantiku tad-Demm had just been published so it was quite easy to find more of his poems to read. Eventually other books of his poems were published and I was hooked. I was particularly mesmerized by Tango, which became one of my favourite poems of all time, especially after setting it to music for a literary evening in his honour at the University of Malta about 20 years ago.
    Achille Mizzi - Eklissi Perpetwi
    Whenever I come across any new poems by Achille Mizzi, I immediately look for the musical qualities in them, and I'm never disappointed. Some allusions are subtle, but, as if to reward me and those like me, there's also direct references. In the new collection we get Kitarra and Toccata e Fuga in Re. For the more astute observer there's also Qanpiena, Ritmi, and even Asperges.

    I've always believed that Achille Mizzi is like an unassuming bespectacled superhero who transforms himself into his alter ego through his poetry. Eklissi Perpetwi is clearly written by a mature poet. In reading poems like Amnesija, Rebbieħa 2003, Turment, and Lil Binti fil-Milja Tagħha, among others, I see more than a glimpse of the man behind the poet. He's been at it for so long it now seems that the poems are more inseparable from his everyday thoughts than ever. To me, this is what he means by the title of this new book: it's as if his poetic mode is so innate that it now casts an eternal shade on his thoughts.

    If you've never read any of Achille Mizzi's poetry, just consider this from his new book:


    teleskopju ta' mirja
    ġo mirja,

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    Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Ninu Ninu tal-Milied

    Although my weekly music podcasting series is on a hiatus for the holidays, there's a two-part podcast of traditional għana with a Christmas theme, produced by Ġorġ Mifsud-Kirkop.

    This year this seasonal podcast takes on a special meaning: a tribute to the sadly departed Dr Mifsud-Kirkop who passed away just a few days ago.

    Part two appears next weekend.

    Merry Christmas everyone

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    Wednesday, December 19, 2007


    I just can't believe that my friend Ġorġ Mifsud-Chircop is dead. He was just 56 years old. His passing is a great loss for the study and preservation of traditional Maltese culture.

    Ironically I was preparing the list of obituaries for the annual end of year review feature from when I heard about his passing. I had just observed to my colleagues within the MaltaMedia production team that there are very few names on this year's list. That's a good thing, in the sense that fewer prominent people have died this year. It's so sad that we now have one more.

    It's not only a surprise but also quite shocking that Ġorġ is now on this year's list. Anyone who has studied Maltese at A-level in the last 25 years or so knows Ġorg Mifsud-Chircop's name from the textbook Fommu Bil-Għasel. His name was also synonymous with the Maltese folk scene and anyone involved in the preservation and dissemination of local traditions sure knew him and/or was known by him.

    Ġorg established the National Festival of traditional Għana about 10 years ago and he was behind the creation of a countless radio and television broadcasts of traditional Maltese music and storytelling. After his mentor Ġuże Cassar Pullicino, he was undoubtedly the foremost Maltese folklorist. Beyond all that, he was also a very generous human being and a trustworthy friend. I'm sure that he will be sorely missed by many.

    The last time I met him it was during one of my visits to Malta in 2006. He had organized an evening of traditional storytelling and għana at the Teatru Manoel courtyard. The event was entitled Nirrakuntaw mal-Ġaħan Tagħna: A story telling evening - Words, ballads and Maltese Għana; a collaboration between Poeżija Plus Narraturi 21. A full audio recording is available, courtesy Campus FM. It was the middle of winter but the atmosphere at the event was incredibly warm. I was moved to tears on that day. It was simply magical. Thank you Ġorġ...I really appreciated that and much else that you did.

    * * * * *

    Incidentally, here's the full list we're assembled for this year feature, so far:

    KARMENU ELLUL GALEA, Trade Unionist and Author
    (Died: 29 January 2007)

    PAUL J. NAUDI, Civil Servant and Diplomat
    (Died: 16 April 2007)

    EMANUEL HABER, Media Executive and Writer
    (Died: 28 June 2007)

    MARIO SERRACINO INGLOTT, Linguist and Chess Master
    (Died: 22 September 2007)

    (Died: 8 Novembru 2007)

    ĠORĠ MIFSUD-CHIRCOP, Folklorist and Educator
    (Died: 19 December 2007)

    If you think there's anyone else we should include in this list, please contact me. We'd also appreciate any corrections to dates of death as listed here, because we don't always get things 100% right.


    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Baby It's Cold Outside

    If you live in the northern hemisphere I'm sure you're feeling the cold right now. Along with that you may also be suffering from a common cold, as am I. I'm so congested now it's not even funny, but I'm sure it will pass soon enough. Thankfully, I wasn't so under the weather yesterday and managed to record the last Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast for 2007.

    Before stopping for a couple of weeks to enjoy the seasonal holidays, podcast number 95 in the series continues in the same vein as recent editions but this week it starts with some Christmas spirit. Classic rock band Fire has just released a new Yuletide song called Miss You This Christmas. It's great that we now have one more Xmas rock song to play along with the other mind-numbing muzak featuring sleigh bells and/or saccharine sweet voices.

    I also wanted to make sure to play something from Robert Galea's new CD album What A Day, which was released earlier this month. Robert is currently visit Malta from Australia where he is normally based and I'm sure that some of the MMI podcast listeners will catch him at one of his many gigs before he returns to the glorious summer in the land down under. To the End of the Earth is one of the tracks from this new CD, which is currently at number 3 on the MMI 2007 poll in the overseas-bases artists' category, right behind Mathematikal and fellow Aussies Skorba whose Temples of Devotion is my personal pick for 2007 in this category.

    Chris D'Alfonso
    is someone else who should have made it to the MMI 2007 poll but didn't. He would probably be in the overseas-based category now seeing that he has moved to Germany. It looks like he's working on a new album to follow up the successful Blueprint from last year. The new song is called Light of the World and his brand of Christian Rock blends is beautifully with that of Rob Galea.

    To bring this week's podcast to a close I've selected a song that was released towards the end of last summer. Perhaps it too should be on the MMI 2007 poll; it's one of the ones that really got away. Keep on Strummin' is written and produced by Antonio Olivari D'Emanuele with Errol Cutajar singing the lead vocal accompanied by the ŻĦN Symphonik Choir. It's not a Christmas song, of course, but the choir gives it a festive feeling and the idea of more to come in the new year is indeed one that's most appropriate to end on until the series returns with the results from the MMI 2007 poll during the first weekend in 2008.

    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, December 08, 2007

    Slip Slidin' Away

    Karlheinz Stockhausen is a name I've known well for many years. I borrowed the name from one of his compositions, Zyklus, for my very first radio series more than twenty years ago. He died earlier this week but I doubt that anyone I know actually cares who he was; my music colleagues at the university and a couple of other "serious" musician friends are the exception, of course.

    Whenever I think about death it's a reality check for me. It doesn't have to be the death of a person. It could even be an abstract death, like that brought about annually to every year by the end of December. It gives me pause for thought about the noble truth of impermanence.

    Moving swiftly on to the last of the remaining two podcasts in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series for this year. Now that the 2007 poll of the Listeners' Picks is well underway, I must of course take some time to play some of the tracks that should have made it onto the list of this year's nominations but didn't, mostly because I was not aware of them by the cut-off date.

    The first of these is a song by The Myth called Sworn Independent. I've been trying to get my hands on a decent recording by this band for quite some time. This is one of the few bands active now in Malta that has been playing for over a decade. This new song is quite good. It shows a band that has matured over the years and yet stayed in touch with recent developments in musical tastes. It's a keeper...and it's such a pity that it's not on the MMI 2007 poll.

    The same goes for Scar's Stolen. Their refreshing presence at this year's Malta Song for Europe sadly overshadowed the release of this excellent song. Frontman Konrad Pule' is undoubtedly one of the most versatile performers on the local scene, with very few true rivals. Listen to this new song carefully more than once and you'll also see that my praise is well deserved.

    Last week's plug for one of 2007 outstanding newcomers has actually had a direct effect on the way voting has progressed since then. Dean Saviour went from having no votes last week to topping the Internet Releases category this week, ahead of The Characters and The Rifffs. I think that's quite amazing. He got in touch with me a few days ago and mentioned that he has also recently collaborated with Jay Omaro on a song called My World. Well, since I missed that one too on the 2007 MMI poll I thought it would be a good idea to include it on this week's podcast. I like this song, but I think that's also partly because it reminds me of record I used to play very frequently on my radio breakfast show back in 1991, even if it doesn't really sound like it except for a couple of guitar chords.

    David Magro is another musician who got contacted me this week to let me know what he's been up to recently. I wish more musicians and singers would do that. David is known as Mind's Eye Dub, undoubtedly Malta's foremost reggae artist. He has just released a new song called Hold On, which he dedicates to all Africans in the world. At least MED is on the 2007 MMI poll with another release from earlier in this year. So, if you like this one you can still vote for him by voting for this other track.

    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, December 01, 2007

    Keep on Running

    I almost forgot to mention that last week's podcast marks two years since I started producing the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Whenever I stop to think about the fact that this weekly podcast is still around I'm simply amazed. This amazement comes primarily from the amount of new material that Maltese musicians keep churning out week after week. I'm also pleasantly surprised that I've managed to sustain my interest in spending a substantial chunk of my weekend towards putting together what has now undoubtedly become the longest running Maltese podcast.

    Last week, my podcast listeners started voting for their top picks from the 2007 releases I've nominated. In this week's podcast I'm including three acts that are not on this years poll, along with one that is but has not received any votes yet.

    I'm always thrilled whenever I find new online sources for music. The thrill is doubled when I also discover more music from Malta I've never heard before. A couple of days ago I discovered iCompositions and along with it the music of The Child Syndrom. I know next to nothing about this musician (I'm assuming that this is a solo project) and everything I know can be found on a MySpace page for The Celestial Voyager from Msida. So the focus is almost entirely on the music. The track I've selected is an electronic tune called Solenoid.

    Some releases appear after my annual list of nominations for the Listeners' Picks has been compiled. I was quite disappointed when this happened with BNI's On And On last year. To somehow make up for that I chose to include a track from that CD album, and this is how and why Shadows can be heard as the second track on this week's podcast.

    As I mentioned above, there are also a number of nominees on the MMI poll who don't receive any votes. There's a whole month left for voting but, as yet, Dean Saviour is one of the ones who have not been voted for yet. I think that this is a shame because his songs are quite pleasant. In the hope that some of my podcast followers take a second look/listen at this young Maltese music I'm playing his song Old Story. From his MySpace page I see that he is now located in the UK, so perhaps next year he'll be on the evergrowing 'overseas-based artists' list.

    The obscure has always been one of my passions in music. This is one of the reasons why this week's podcast comes to a close with the Terror, an piece industrial electronica from Dark Squad. Had I discovered them a couple of weeks earlier they would have probably made it on my list of nominations for 2007 Internet releases. Even if this genre of music is not your cup of tea, I still recommend that you have a look at this duo's photos on MySpace.

    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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