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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Get Over It

I'm trying to resist blogging about how busy I am and how much I wish I had the time to write about some of the things I'm doing. I think it's actually counterproductive, so that's all I'll say about it today. In the coming days I'm going on a work-related mini-tour starting in Hull on Wednesday, then on to Leicester on Thursday, and Leeds on Friday. Most of it is related to my adventures in Second Life, so I'll (hopefully) be blogging about it next week.

Right now it's time to share with you my 103rd podcast in the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Starting off with a new song from Colorblind. Miles is even more sophisticated than any of their previous offerings. As contemporary progressive rock goes, this band is really doing something right. They've already been at it for 10 year, and it now shows.

Last week I played something by a duo called Airport Impressions. As I pointed out, Errol Sammut is also a member of Stone Joker. I've also recently found out that he has recorded a number of solo tracks too. Before I play any of these tracks (I'll do that in the coming weeks) it's appropriate to bring you Hero, Stone Joker's follow-up single to their Alone debut. Is it just me, or did this band go from being called Stoned Joker to Stone Joker?

While the first two tracks in this week's podcast come from bands that have already appeared on previous editions, the next two tracks add new names to the list of singers and musicians featured on Mużika Mod Ieħor. Although we've heard the band Salt before, singer Luisanne Tate also sings on her own. I just heard a song she's singing for the Malta Hit Song Contest 2008 and I like the arrangement so much that I thought it would do very nicely on this week's podcast. This TV song contest features some of the usual suspects (many of whom would do better to never sing in public) but it's good to see such events because otherwise there would be far fewer opportunities for songs like No Harm in Dreaming to get heard by a broader audience. Needless to say, this song and others that are musically worthy are the recipients of the lowest number of SMS votes. The TV contest is now on hold until after the general elections. Someone thinks they have their priorities straight, no doubt.

Away from all that, I came across the music of Kris Spiteri on a few weeks ago. He's been active for a number of years, so I was slightly surprised that his worked hadn't crossed my path before. He is clearly not an ordinary musician and his songs are among the most pleasant I've heard in recent years. You can hear Come Taste the Band 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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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chasing Pavements

Apparently Malta is gripped by the political campaigns ahead of next month's general elections. Whatever the eventual outcome I'm not entirely sure there will be a better or a worse off Malta than we've seen in recent years. I'm most amused by the great fuss over relatively so little. Living abroad over the past 3 Maltese general elections has given me a very different perspective on things than what I would have if I had stayed there.

Oddly enough, I'm flying to Malta on the eve of election day. Many will interpret this as as move towards exercising my right to vote, even though I haven't lived in Malta full-time since 1994. As it happens, I had made my travel plans before the election date was announced, so I can't even say I'm taking advantage of the cheap(er) Air Malta flights for election trips.

The official purpose of my visit will be to continue my participation in the Erasmus programme and deliver a number of lectures and workshops at the University of Malta. I'm also looking forward to seeing my parents again, of course. I'll certainly spend some quality time with friends (old and new) but most of all I'm very keen to take in as many gigs and unique cultural events as I can in the few days that I'm there.

Meanwhile, aside from my academic activities, I continue to present my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I plan to bring the two closer together in the coming months. Mike Bugeja interviewed me about all this a few days ago for an upcoming feature in The Times of Malta. More about that later, as things develop.

This week it's podcast number 102. It opens with a new song from Uncharted called Another Day. This is their follow-up to last year's debut Song for you. Uncharted is one of the few Maltese bands I know of that has a Facebook profile. There's nothing sensational about that but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

Through Facebook I also became aware of Airport Impressions, a new acoustic guitar duo comprising Errol Sammut from Stone Joker and Johann Schembri. They've released a couple of songs on MySpace and you can hear Wake Up as the second track on this week's podcast. Johann has also been seen playing with Bernard Bonnici in recent years. Bernard, who is better known as Ben, has released some tracks on his own through his MySpace page. In Memory Of is the one I've chosen to play.

Starting today, Saturday 16th February, the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast will also be aired on SydneyOne Radio every Saturday at 4pm, Sydney time. This is the second radio station that has opted to syndicate my MMI podcast. Central FM a Maltese community radio station broadcasting from Attard, picked up the podcast in January last year. Central FM renounced its FM frequency last month and is now only available as a live webcast. By contrast, SydneyOne Radio doesn't even have a website.

To mark the presence of Mużika Mod Ieħor on the Australian airwaves, I thought it would be appropriate to feature an Australian band with a Maltese connection. The John Smith Quintet is based in Melbourne. There's no John Smith in this band, which is actually a quartet. The Maltese connection comes in the form of drummer Melchior Borg, who I met via MySpace a few days ago. You can hear the funky rock sounds of this band on a track called Gone. An excellent title for the final song selection until next week.

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, February 09, 2008

Piece of Me

Anyone following my Facebook page in recent weeks knows that I've just undergone a colonoscopy at Whitby Hospital. This my third such intervention since 1994 and things have never been as bad as the first time. I'd even go as far as saying that I'm now better than I've ever been. I'm very touched by all the kind words and wishes of good health I've received over the last few weeks. I'm also very grateful to the NHS staff in Whitby who took care of my procedure.

I've now almost fully recovered from the whole thing. To prove it, I've even gone ahead with producing the 101st podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series today. I'm not pushing it. I'm really not. So much so that I'm also giving a lecture to our third year Digital Media students on Monday morning.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog entry is to tie-in with the 101st MMI podcast. This week it's business as usual with three brand new tracks, one new comer act and an interesting connection between two previously unrelated performers.

Dominoes is a new trio on the Maltese music scene. They seem to have appeared out of nowhere with their debut song Love Maze, grooves in a T-Rex kinda way. They're now gearing up to appear as one of the supporting acts at the upcoming 22 February launch of the nosnow/noalps EP. More from them all in the coming weeks and months, no doubt.

Now that we're in the second month of the new year I'm no longer surprised to see new recordings being released on a fairly regular basis. Eve Ransom give us their new song entitled Just the Way I Am, and it's a grungy tune in an early 1990s kinda way.

If you're looking for a sound like no other look no further than Sky of Yuggoth. This long running project from Joseph Mercieca, the same performer who gave us the trippy sounds of MJ.5, has reemerged with a new release called Three Seals of Masshu. Music doesn't get much darker than this without the lyrical grace of a Leonard Cohen or some sludgy blood-drinking metal monster.

By contrast, this week's closing track comes from Russian singer Julia Kay who qualifies for an appearance on Mużika Mod Ieħor by virtue of her marital status to the man behind the previous track on podcast number 101. The song I've selected to play comes from the band she used to sing with before she moved to Malta. Luxeterna is the name of the band and the song is called Angel Teardrops. Next time you'll hear the name Julia Kay in relation to music in Malta it will either be as a Eurovision contender or in some delicious electro-gothic combo...and remember, you read about it here first.

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, February 02, 2008

Thank You for the Music

Looks like we made it. It gives me great pleasure to announce the 100th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. It's really just another one in the series but because 100 has special significance in metric counting a celebration of one sort or other is in order.

Aside from using the occasion to bring my podcast to the attention of a larger audience I'd also like to thank all the loyal listeners, especially those who have followed Mużika Mod Ieħor since it first appeared in November 2005. Podcasting has enabled my return to regular appointments behind a microphone. Regular broadcasting is something I hadn't done since about 1999, after many years listing "broadcaster" as my profession. Though the MaltaMedia Online Network, I've been exploring the possibilities of webcasting since 1998. My personal highlight in all the webcasting with MaltaMedia is undoubtedly the audio reports I recorded in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Those webcasts appeared again in September 2005 as MaltaMedia's first podcasting series, which was undoubtedly the world's first series of podcasts in the Maltese language. Mużika Mod Ieħor started soon after that with the first podcast appearing on Saturday 13 November 2005.

I was tempted to include my favourite tracks from the first 99 podcasts on this edition. As I'm not the nostalgic type I chose to open the podcast with a brand new recording from Fakawi, one of Malta's most entertaining bands. They've just released their Smart Song, which is a send-up of all the buzz surrounding the launch of Malta's Smart City. I didn't need to have my arm twisted to play this song on my 100th podcast. The fact that my old friend Mark Attard is the keyboardist for this band earned them enough points to make it to this week's playlist without any resistance.

Making sure that the tracks I selected for this week's podcast were all special for one reason or another, I chose to include a rare recording by the late 80s band Ophidian Twin. As you may recall from a previous edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor, this band was among those that appeared on Mill-Garaxx, the TV series I produced and presented back in 1989, under the direction of my departed friend Mario Ellul. Cameron's Closet is one of two songs The Ophidian Twin played live in the main TVM studio all those years ago. It would be really great if I could get a hold of some of the other recordings that appeared on Mill-Garaxx. Unfortunately there's no official archive of the recordings at TVM, but I have a feeling that some people here and there may have VHS recordings they taped off the air when the programme first aired. If you have one of those recordings, please please please get in touch with me. I've included another track by the Ophidian Twin from Mill-Garaxx at the bottom of this blog entry, which I recently uploaded to YouTube.

To my mind, it's hard to follow a recording from Mill-Garaxx with something that's not extremely outstanding. Danjeli's 2007 album Kakofonija does the trick beautifully. It's my top personal pick from all the Maltese recordings released last year. Appropriately, the track I've chosen for this week's podcast is called Interludju. If you haven't heard this brilliant album yet, just head over to where you can download a full copy at no charge.

To mark my penchant for including music my overseas based Maltese musicians or musicians of Maltese descent I've included the track Filfla from the CD Temples of Devotion by Australian band Skorba. Andy Busuttil's band has been featured on a earlier edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor and their album received my personal vote for top overseas-based released in the 2007 MMI poll that appeared on Facebook a few weeks ago. It's wonderful to be able to add this band to the list of recommendations for anyone who likes Maltese combos like Etnika, Nafra, or even Tribali.

A special MMI podcast such as the one I'm presenting today would not be complete without something from Xtruppaw. While we wait for their second album (currently still in pre-production) we can still enjoy the most excellent debut release, Is-CD tal-iXtruppaw. That album is a must-have in CD format for any fan of contemporary Maltese music. I've picked L-Għanja tal-iXtruppaw from it to close the 100th podcast with music from the same band that opened the very first podcast in the series. Interestingly, this recording had not been made when the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast first appeared.

So now on to the next 100 podcasts. At an almost weekly rate it should take just over two more years to get to the 200th podcast in the series. If all goes well, the 200th edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor should appear sometime in the spring of 2010. All I can add is that I'm really excited about all the new music and other rare recordings we'll be discovering together between now and then on this series.

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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