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Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's a Hard Life

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm having hard drive problems this weekend. I will not be able to produce my podcast until I sort them out. As horrible as such situations can be rest assured that I'll be releasing my podcast over the next couple of days. I'm sure that anyone who has ever suffered a similar fate with their precious data will empathize with my present state of mind. Lesson of the day: backup!

One of our computer technicians at the university is having a look at what's wrong with my hard drive. I doesn't look like I'll be loosing my data and I have no idea just yet how long it'll take to get the system back in order. It seems that there's a serious disk problem which needs some proper attention if I'm to preserve my sanity. Meanwhile, I am making alternative plans for the podcast so it should be up by this evening...with or without my regular system.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Milk Today

If you're looking for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, please note that the series is on a one week break as I take some time off to rest over the Easter period. The next Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast comes to you next weekend. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the most recent offering or one of the other 100+ podcasts in the series.

This is my first weekend back home in Scarborough after a brief visit to Malta. I've blogged some of my thoughts about the visit over the last few blog entires, but I haven't really dedicated a whole post to the visit. There was a time when I would feel that such a piece of writing was an essential part of what this blog was all about. Micro-blogging on sites like Facebook has put an end to that. In the best of worlds, times change and we change with them.

This most recent visit is most memorable for me not because of the general elections which returned Prime Minister Gonzi to the Castille Auberge for another 5 years. *rant alert* My hope there is that he will push for the true political minorities in Malta to have their voices heard in parliament by making sure that seats in the house are truly representative of the number of votes a party gets, rather than some twisted constitutional arrangement that gives a party 4 extra seats in the house for less than 2000 extra votes while a party that gets 3000+ votes is left out of parliament. *end of rant*

During my most recent visit I found myself strangely feeling like I could live in Malta again. This feeling became quite strong during two or three moments during the visit; mostly in relation to friendships and art. I never thought I'd feel this way about Malta again. When I left the country all those years ago I thought that I had left it for good. This is still the case, but surprisingly I no longer feel that I couldn't return if I really had too.

There's no nostalgia involved in this feeling. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm immune to that nasty malady.

Cartoonist Maurice Tanti Burlo once told me that while I may find that living abroad is a most enriching experience it is only in Malta that I can find the best quality of life. For years I politely discounted this as an opinion of someone who had a different point of view from mine in terms of what living abroad is all about. I am now slowly but surely beginning to see what he was on about. Does this mean I've finally become a grown-up? Good grief!

I seriously doubt I'll ever make Malta my home base again. I've spent far too many years abroad to abandon one lifestyle for another completely.. However, as I've learned from my organic garden, roots aren't easy to destroy completely and the most surprising things can stem from them in appropriate conditions.

Anyway, a very Happy Easter to all readers of this blog. All should be back to "normal" by next weekend.

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Friday, March 21, 2008


On Good Friday morning I've taken to playing the double CD of Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber: the original London concept version from 1969 featuring Ian Gillan before he became famous as Deep Purple's singer. It's a ritual that strangely connects me to my childhood in Malta during Easter time, particularly Good Friday, for a number of reasons, some of which I've already mentioned in a previous blog entry. My fraternal friend Immanuel Mifsud plays Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in a similar ritual on the first day of spring. Oddly enough, this year they both fall on the same day.

On this quiet day I can't fail to think about some of the deaths we heard about in recent days. First on the list is artist Ebba von Fersen Balzan who passed away at Mater Dei Hospital last Sunday. I only met Ebba a couple of times. Once at the home she shared with her husband Saviour in Naxxar at the the of the 1980s and then one other time at an art event in the early 1990s. It's always sad to hear of people who die young. Ebba was 50 and that's far too young to die. The same goes for film-maker Anthony Minghella, a former drama student and lecturer at the University of Hull, who lost his life unexpectedly mid-week at the age of 54. I'm sure they both still had a lot to offer in making other people's lives more enjoyable.

Death is saddening whenever it comes. It's an irrevocable end like no other. It's one of the subjects that makes frequent appearances on my blog. I'm moved by death even when it befalls older individuals. Two such moments happened on Wednesday this week with visionary writer Arthur C. Clarke at 90 years old and actor Paul Scofield at 86. Both played a significant part in my creative imagination as a teenager. Scofield with his iconic film acting and Clarke with his TV series Mysterious World more than his futurist views on 2001.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Only Way Is Up

I'm still in Malta for another couple of days. Scarborough beckons and not a minute too soon. I miss my monkey and my dog but for the first time in years Malta doesn't feel the same way it has to me since I left the country in the early 1990s. I wonder whether this feeling will linger on in the coming months. Perhaps it's because this visit has turned out to be quite different than ones in recent years.

Whatever it is, there are thankfully some things in life I know I can depend on. My weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is one of them, even if I'm tempted to take a brief Easter break next week. To prepare myself for the brief rapture (although I seriously doubt that this is the right word to describe it) podcast number 106 is held together by divine intervention (and again I very much doubt that the proper term to describe it).

The Y4J Band appears to enjoy a strong following among the Maltese charismatic movement in the Pembroke/St. Julians area. In The House is the theme song used by the group in what can only be described as an excellent example of Christian branding. If you think Christian worship in Malta is too stuffy for your taste, just check out this band and the group they pray with.

Lest you think that I plan to simply play contemporary Christian music during this week's podcast, I should mention that there's always more than one predominant perspective I'm (more than) happy to take into consideration whenever looking at anything. About 35 years ago, Maltese rock legend Freddie Portelli released what to my mind is the most outstanding devotional song to emerge from Malta in my lifetime. Mulej remains an amazing testament of the singer's spiritual side and it has hardly dated after all these years. He recently released a new CD album entitled Viva it-Tewmin. Although this album has an unlikely title, it contains what can be considered a follow-up to Mulej called Nitolbok Illum. While it bears the hallmark of all the best laid-back tunes in the Freddie Portelli songbook (including a spoken interlude and some delightful whistling) only time will really tell if this new song will become as memorable as Mulej.

Chris D'Alfonso is undoubtedly one of the brightest star of Maltese Christian rock. Broken, on the tracks from his 2006 album Blueprint was recent voted the top song for Eucharistic adoration on the Top Catholic Songs website. The available of Blueprints on iTunes has certainly contributed to this accolade. Well done Chris!

The contemporary Maltese Christian music scene is growing at a steady pace. Footprints and Quicksand are two new Christians bands currently gracing the local scene. The final two track for this week's podcast from these two bands. The first offering is Footprints' debut song I Need You, followed by Quicksand's Silence. Although the latter is a pleasant instrumental track, the band has also just released a song called Hu Magħna Llum, specially made for the Maltese World Youth Day 2008 and selected as the theme song for the upcoming Maltese Pentecost celebrations.

That's probably as far as the series will go before Easter. As I return home to Scarborough in the coming days, I know I'll be wading through a mountain of chores that have accumulated in my absence. This coupled with the sacred idea that rest is an essential part of life, it's most probable that the next MMI podcast will appear during the weekend after Easter. In spite of this, I promise to post non-podcast-related blog entry before then.

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, March 08, 2008

Election Day

I'm in Malta. It's election day. The logical fallacy is that I'm here to vote. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, I'm here because I had planned to be here at this time even before the national polling day was announced.

It may seem downright odd for anyone interested in the outcome of the Maltese General Elections that this blog post is actually about podcast number 105 in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Regular followers of this blog and the weekly podcast should not be surprised at all. As I find myself in Malta during the release (but not the actual recording) of this week's podcast I'm convinced more than ever that although election fever is running high, there's a sense that things are not what they used to be; by which I mean that if all goes well there should be at least one unexpected outcome from the predictable norms established by the mainstream over the last 35 years or so.

This week's edition opens with music from a band whose members have certainly not voted today. The Beangrowers are in Austria to promote their new album Not In A Million Lovers, just days away from their return to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. I'm looking forward to hearing the whole album, mostly because from the new tracks available via the band's MySpace page there's a strong sense that the Beangrowers have matured into one of the most outstanding bands to ever emerge from the Maltese Islands.

Following tracks from Airport Attractions and Stone Joker in recent weeks, you can now also hear a solo track called Affection by Errol Sammut, who listeners will know from either or both these bands. This kind of performer is unusual on the Maltese scene but most welcome by those who, like me, appreciate musicians who can vary their output over different projects. Errol's new solo demos would make interesting tracks for either one of the bands he plays in but they show well what he brings to the table with any of his collaborators.

For the simple reason that I follow the Maltese music scene from abroad, there are a number of acts that I don't get to hear about or from as soon as they appear on the local circuit. StarBunker is one such band. Move On is the single from their debut EP Forecast, which didn't appear on my radar until just a few days ago when I exchange a friends request message from guitarist David Cassar Torregiani, whom I've known for about 25 years since we both played in Tigne bands. To be more precise, we were both members of a band called Structure...but not at the same time.

The election spirit has moved me to present a couple of alternative music styles on the fringes of any mainstream taste. The first of these comes from Synthax & Chemicals, an electronica duo I know very little about, mostly because their MySpace page focuses almost entirely on their sounds rather than any other useful information punters like me look for. Listen to one of their two tracks Next To Hell and make up your own mind.

Hardcore metal is the other alternative style I've picked this week. I must admit that I've become a closet hardcore fan of sorts since I first heard this extreme brand of metal during an early morning radio breakfast show in New York City over a decade ago. Newcomers Cypher will be appearing with a couple of the best Maltese hardcore exponents - Loathe and Beheaded - at the Poxx Bar on March 22. I'll be back in Scarborough by then but I'd have loved to still be in Malta just for that. Anyway, listen closely to What Else Remains and you'll possibly see how hardcore can become much a sought after acquired taste.

It will not be business as usual in Malta or for the MMI podcast over the next couple of weeks. For more on that check back on this blog where I'll be blogging about this, that and the other in the hope of keeping some sort of personal record of these strange days.

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, March 01, 2008

In A Little While

My hope to find some time to blog about my Second Life activities in recent days needs to wait another day or two. It's been one roller coaster of a week. I've seen the depths of hell and soared majestic to the heavens. I probably prefer to live in a Prozac-like state, but extreme ups and downs are interesting too.

Anyway, it's time for the 104th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Mike Bugeja's interview with me about MMI and my podcasting adventures appears in The Times (of Malta) this week so I'm expected at least half a dozen new listeners to discover the podcast at this point. With this in mind, I've put together a very varied edition this week; I'm sure regular listeners will enjoy it and I hope new ones will like it too.

The opening track comes from the debut album by a new Gozitan band. The album is entitled If Symptoms Persist. The band is called Inner Grey and the song is Your Vacant Stare. Metal has come a long way in the unlikely setting of Gozo over the last several years. Inner Grey are much slicker than my darling buds of 2005 Tears of Revenge but I miss the raw passion that makes for soul torturing songs. Still, judging by the rest of the tracks from the album, Inner Grey is one of the best sounding heavy bands to emerge from the northern isle.

My old friend Grimaud provided me with some much needed positive vibrations earlier this week when he released Aquaman on his MySpace page. The song was apparently recorded in 2007 and meant for an earlier release. I hope to catch up with Grimaud during my upcoming visit to Malta and I'll make sure to ask him for the back story to all this. I could email him about it, but why would I want to when I can speak with him face-to-face over a cold pint of Blue Label soon enough.

Also through MySpace I found out about bassist Oliver Degabriele's most recent recordings. He is now a member of the Riot jazz quartet based in France, where he has established his professional base. I hope the French musicians he plays with can appreciate that Oliver brings more than his formidable bass skills to their sets. Riot is an odd name for a jazz combo but somehow the track Kuumatt provides an appropriate balance.

For this week's final offering, I'm delighted to share with you a new recording by Caligula, the UK-based project of Glenda Azzopardi better known as Gia. Infidelity is produced by her husband Muttley Zammit and shows a musician and a singer finding their own voice filtered through what are undoubtedly very eclectic sources. I want to hear more from Caligula and I'm pretty sure that I won't be disappointed.

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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