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Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Life is as back to "normal" as it can be now. During most of the week I'm marking essays by my students or dealing with one of my research projects. On the weekend I spend a good chunk of time working in the garden, when it's not raining. My weekly podcast remains the constant marker than realigns everything for me. I could almost say the same thing for the monthly newsletter, but it doesn't come anywhere near the podcast in terms of making me feel like I've done something that really matters.

The 116th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features four new tracks from recording artistes we've heard before on the series. The first comes from Salt who have just released a new single called Jars of Clay. At the risk of blasphemy I'd say that this band would be a great contender for Malta's entry at the Eurovision Song Contest one day, but first they need to get themselves on a few touring circuits across Europe; something which is much easier said than done. Incidentally, Jars of Clay is available as a free download from the band's website.

Someone else who would make an excellent Eurovision entry for Malta (if it's technically possible - he lives in Melbourne) is Nicky Bomba. At first glance his work is too sophisticated for the Eurovision but his recent project with Nicol Caruana (his father) shows that he has a keen ear for Maltese music. I must see about getting my hands on this new album of Maltese songs. Meanwhile, we'll stay as far away from all that as possible by listening to the title track from Nicky's new EP Jah in the Moment. Jah...bliss.

Last April I introduced my podcast listeners to a new band on the Maltese scene called Metrokueen. Back then their singer was Shawn Ryan who recently parted from the band and re-recorded Insanity, the same song I played from the band a couple of months ago. This song is slowly turning into this year's Bleed by Tears of Revenge. Remember that song? Listening to Shawn Ryan's new version of Insanity make me think how much I'd love to hear a new version of Bleed.

Stepping backwards to move forward one last time today, we turn to another remix by Toby. This time I've selected his remix for Aaron Benjamin's new single. As you may recall, this singer has moved to Malta from Brighton and he seems to be settling into the Maltese music scene quite nicely. Toby's remix of Let It All Go sounds quite different from the actual single, so there's a little something for everyone in this combination; or at least I'm sure we'd like to hope so.

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, May 24, 2008

I'm Not in Love

In the past two year I've always produced a "special" podcast for the Eurovision weekend. Lordi moved me to do the first one and I was too deep into it last year not to do it again. This year I'm putting a stop to it, even if (professionally) I can't ignore this phenomenal annual media circus completely. In any case, I've blogged more than enough about it this year, so now it's (almost) time to turn my attention to other things.

Ironically, perhaps, this week's podcast opens with a track from Ira Losco's new album. Fortune Teller is her 3rd CD and it will be released on the 14th of June at Sky Club in Paceville. Idle Motion is the song from this album that I've selected as the first one for the 115th podcast in the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

Another new album to be released in the coming week's is the debut solo album from Sharleen Spiteri. She is probably best known as the singer from the Glaswegian rock band Texas, for the last twenty odd years. Sharleen qualifies for inclusion on the MMI podcast because her father is Maltese. The album is called Melody and it comes out on the 14th of July. A single called All The Times I Cried has already been released from it but I've chosen to play That Was A Lie, a promotional track that her record company is giving away as a free download.

Victoria Spiteri is an unknown London-based songwriter who has recently moved to Malta and is now seeking representation and a publishing deal. She recently released a couple of demo recording on her MySpace page. I first heard them a few days ago and I liked them enough to want to include one of them on my podcast as soon as possible. Every Time's the Last Time I picked for my podcast listeners to sample.

As I was putting this week's podcast together I realized that I had played three song in a row from female singers for no particular reason. I also couldn't fail to observe that the tone and mood because somewhat calmer and more sophisticated than it has been over the last few podcasts. So to counter all this, I chose to close this week's podcast with a song called Jipapej by the ever-entertaining Fakawi. I think I'll leave it all there until the next edition.

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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Friday, May 23, 2008

Love on the rocks

No big surprise. Right?

I've also just written what will probably be my last report from Belgrade for MaltaMedia. It's actually the start of what comes next for me with regards to the performance studies angles I come chasing after at this controversial event.

As for the rest of it, here are some names, for amusement purposes only:

4 songs I think could win the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest final:

  • Ukraine: Ani Lorak - Shady Lady
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina: Laka - Pokušaj
  • Portugal: Vânia Fernandes - Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)
  • Spain: Rodolfo Chikilicuatre - Baila El Chiki Chiki

  • 4 songs I like from the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest final:
  • Georgia: Diana Gurtskaya - Peace Will Come
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina: Laka - Pokušaj
  • Finland: Teräsbetoni - Missä Miehet Ratsastaa
  • Turkey: Mor ve Ötesi- Deli

  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Love Me Two Times

    Anyone expecting me to blog about my top picks for the second semifinal of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will be disappointed. This is because minutes after watching a full dress rehearsal of the second semifinal I find myself thinking how relatively easy it could have been for Malta to stand out among the other 18 entries it is competing against. As it is, I see Malta's entry as just one of the many uninteresting performances Eurovision televiewers will be subjected to on Thursday evening. What do you expect anyway? It's the Eurovision Song Contest! Some would say. I'm hearing this more and more this year. It could be that it's because I have my head stuck more on my academic interests this year than it has been in any previous year during the contest.

    Regardless of this, I still think that this event is just a load of harmless fun. Better still, there are moments that are truly pleasant and even downright remarkable.

    If I could have my way about the final vote, I'd see Georgia's Diana Gurtskaya with Peace Will Come as the overall winner of this year's contest. It's not likely that this will come to pass, but stranger things are known to happen at this contest. I'm not saying that Georgia will win. I'm saying I'd be very happy if Diana Gurtskaya's song won. It's the sort of song that can move people of good will all over Europe and beyond, aside from the Eurovision.

    As the hackneyed saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So there's little else to say that really matters at this point. And yes, I am enjoying the anonymous comments on my recent blog entries. They're priceless for showing how easily I can be misunderstood, regardless of whether my words are twisted or not.

    Feel free to leave your comments here about any of the entries Malta is competing against on Thursday evening. Perhaps there are more lame songs this year in the contest simply because there are more contestants...but please don't let that stop you.


    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    One Love

    As expected, my presence at the Eurovision Song Contest is not easy to explain. Thankfully, the main thing I find interesting in this annual event is finally beginning to crystallize into a performance theory, which I'm slowly articulating into a plan for what will probably surface as an academic paper. The more I see of the media circus that goes on behind the scenes courtesy of the European Broadcasting Union, the more I see the wealth of performance studies angles available for close scrutiny. It's very pleasant to be able to share such thought with fellow academics in a place where most people wouldn't expect to see beasts like us.

    I'm sure that's not what most of the readers of this blog are expecting to hear from me at this point. I was speaking with some media people from Malta just a few moments ago and noticed that I have little more to say than what I've already said in Sunday's blog entry. The only thing I would add is that it looks as if a novelty song could win the contest this year. By "novelty song" I mean an unusual act in the sense that it's not just another song like many others before it. We'll know better after Thursday's semifinal, once the thumb-wrestlers of Europe have spoken and made the telecom beneficiaries several thousand euros richer.

    The weather in Belgrade is too warm and muggy to make sightseeing for long hours pleasant, even if the public transport system in this city is most efficient and affordable. This is how I find myself picking the top 10 songs I'd like to see make it through to the final from the first semifinal round, set to hit the stage at the Belgrade Arena this evening (in order of appearance).

    DISCLAIMER: There's a personal agenda (slightly hidden, for now) guiding my choices. To avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings, I hasten to add that my agenda is purely academic.

  • Moldova: Geta Burlacu - A Century Of Love
    Anyone looking for a non-Eurovision song (whatever that is!) needs look no further than this.

  • San Marino: Miodio - Complice
    This small nation's Maria l-Maltija makes me want to see more from this country.

  • Belgium: Ishtar - O Julissi
    A song in a language specially invented by the lyricist.

  • Azerbaijan: İctimai - Elnur & Samir - Day After Day
    It takes some doing to be this theatrical on a Eurovision stage.

  • Ireland: Dustin the Turkey - Irelande Douze Pointe
    Finally! A Eurovision singer that's an actual puppet.

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina - Laka - Pokušaj
    Laka is the sort of performer I'd love to see in a full concert rather than just singing one 3 minute song.

  • Finland: Teräsbetoni - Missä Miehet Ratsastaa
    What could be better than heavy metal in Finnish at the Eurovision? Not even Lordi managed to pull that!

  • Romania: Nico & Vlad - Pe-o Margine De Lume
    Anything this old fashioned is bound to attract votes from the (possibly) millions of old fashioned Eurovision viewers.

  • Russia: Dima Bilan - Believe
    Hats off to the guy who came second in 2006, right behind Lordi.

  • Greece: Kalomira - Secret Combination
    Wouldn't it be lovely to go back to Athens next May?

  • My top 10 will obviously not be the top vote receivers tonight. There are a few songs not on my list which I think will actually make it to the final. These include: Israel (does Dana International want to win the contest as a songwriter?), Andorra (just because Gerard James Borg knows a thing or two about Eurovision song titles), and Armenia (the bookies rank this only second to Russia for the first semifinal round).

    Please feel free to comment below. I'm particularly fond of anonymous comments meant to discredit anything I have to say about the Eurovision...they're like the words of a drunkard, close to the truth but often a sad reflection of something more important.


    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    You Give Love A Bad Name

    Earlier this afternoon I posted my first report from Belgrade about Malta's participation at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. I'm honestly appalled at the countless opportunities the Maltese entry is just glossing over at this year's edition of the contest. I say this mostly because Morena is a great pop performer. She has a very strong voice and the camera loves the classic Mediterranean looks. Morena deserves better than to have her dream tainted by missed opportunities.

    My present impression of the Maltasong board is that they're either like the proverbial deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming car or they're simply still the same people who co-ordinated what are Malta's worst Eurovision results to date.

    There's more, of course. Other than the fact that they've written two of the more successful Maltese Eurovision entries, I fail to see why Gerard James Borg and Philip Vella have been given the opportunity (by some of the same people who voted such a close result in the recent general elections in Malta) to try again to fail as miserably as they did last year. If I hear anything more about the so called bloc-voting and the "fact" that Malta has no Eurovision neighbours I'll most probably hurl uncontrollably.

    Italy is not Malta's only geographic neighbour missing from the Eurovision contest. All five north African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt) are members of the European Broadcasting Union and therefore eligible to take part in the contest. Morocco actually did take part in 1980. Just in case you really care about these things, the Eurovision Song Contest is not for European countries, but for countries that are EBU members. Israel's EBU-membership and long string of high-profile entries undoubtedly complicate matters for any lobbying to bring in some (if not all) these Arab countries.

    Let's leave that heavy stuff aside for a now and focus on something relatively trivial. Many of the Maltese people I'm meeting in Serbia are obviously asking me who's going to win the contest this year. Naturally, I have no clue (yet) but I know two things for sure, 100%: (a) ESC 2009 will not be held in Malta, and (b) there will be a new Maltasong chairman by this summer. Just remember you read it here first.

    I will now indulge in some more ramblings before I hit the Slivovitz, so please feel free to stop reading. The Spanish word for daisy is a much nicer name for a girl...the etymology of Morena's chosen stage name is quite pertinent in light of some of the things I mentioned earlier...I'd rather have rakija than vodka, mostly because there's so much more than vodka in a Margarita, even if we're in the wrong part of the world for that sort of thing right now.

    Gotta go.


    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    Stuck in the Middle with You

    I can't believe I'm writing this from Belgrade. Believe it or not I'm here for the next few days. The reasons are not as obvious as they may seem and I hope to be able to blog about something other than the obvious over the coming days. Meanwhile, I've produced the 114th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

    This week the podcast opens with a double dose of Niki Gravino. First a remix by Toby of Pieces from the superb 2007 album The Politics of Double Beds. This is followed by Catwalk Baby from the same album. I've managed to get my hands on courtesy of the Gravino marketing machine and I must say that I'm mighty grateful. The CD production is outstanding and the whole thing is a milestone in alternative Maltese music.

    Bitterside are preparing to launch an album called Underrated on the 29th of May. To promote it, they've released a single called A Selfish Cry. After it comes out I'm sure I'll play you another track from it. This band has worked hard over the last few years to establish itself as a household name in Malta. Once their album is released they'll certainly be one step closer to achieving their goal.

    From time to time I like to keep up with various local bands to see what they're up to. Recently my attention was drawn back to Item, a metal band I originally featured on the MMI series about a year and a half ago. I honestly can't keep up with their line-up changes but I must say I am glad that they're still churning out recordings and the core is strong enough to keep the band going. They've released a couple of unmastered tracks on their MySpace page from what appears to be an album in the making entitled The God The Slave The Machine. The one I've selected to end this week's podcast with is called Birth of a Myth. And it's an excellent place to leave my podcast for this week...until the next episode.

    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, May 10, 2008

    Is This Love

    Reggae fans around the world mark the death of Bob Marley this weekend; he died on May 11, 1981. It is therefore fitting that this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor opens with a tribute to the Jamaican legend by Mind's Eye Dub. I Wanna Love You is an innovative dub on a classic song and it bears the hallmark of David Magro, Malta's own most prolific reggae musician.

    The rest of the 113th MMI podcast consists of hard rock tracks, starting out with a new recording by Joe Mizzi called Falling Apart. I'm ashamed to say that I've somehow not managed to include anything from Joe Mizzi in the series to date. This is extra shocking when I realize that he has released 2 CDs -- Unrest (2005) & The Zero Chain (2007) -- since this series started and I happen to know (perhaps I should say knew) Joe on a personal level too rather than just as a musician; we first met in the early 1980s. Anyway, this will undoubtedly be ratified, starting right now.

    A few weeks ago I joined the Maltese Metal Scene Community at It is a wonderful example of a subculture within a subculture. Through it I've discovered a couple of metal bands that had escaped my attention until now. One of these bands is Blind Saviour who are poised to release their debut album The Master Plan. From it you can hear The Episode, which is one of two songs featuring singer Rachel Grech. The other song comes from Weeping Silence, who have recently released a new CD entitled End of An Era. From it I've selected Deep Regret, mostly because this was the only track I could get my hands on without waitng yet another week to feature this band on my podcast. Rachel Grech's voice is a welcome change on the local Metal scene, however, I need to hear more from these two bands to make up my mind in terms of which one suits her better.

    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, May 03, 2008

    Always Right Behind You

    It's been another strange week. I'm beginning to feel an urgent need for a proper break, but that's not going to happen for a while. At least I managed to get out and do some decent work in the garden this weekend.

    I was going to post something about the death of Sir Anthony Mamo a couple of days ago but chose not to, mostly for a personal reason I'm about to share with you now. Throughout my childhood I recall my departed grandmother Ġiużeppa and the late great-aunt Ġiustina saying that Sir Anthony was their cousin. They were all Mamos anyway. I even recall my grandmother saying that she was his babysitter at one point. My father reminded me about some of this when the news of the demise of Malta's first President spread across the Maltese Islands. It feels good to know that such a revered man - a politician, no less - was a distant relative. It appears that the Mamo side of my family has great genes, as my grandmother and a couple of her siblings lived very long lives just like Sir Anthony. Unlike most Maltese men he even managed to outlive his wife Margaret, who passed away about six years ago.

    Moving swiftly on to this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, which is number 112 in the series. In true spring mood it features all new tracks released in recent days, weeks or months, as the case may be. First off is the song Memories from Two, the second EP by Chasing Pandora. When this duo first appeared on the scene a couple of years ago I was one of many who raved about them. Now that they've acquired a solid following I can completely see why. They deserve every accolade they get, even if they still haven't surpassed themselves on their divine debut.

    Local music scene veterans The Myth have also just released new material. In their case it's a single called Star. By their own admission this song sounds like something out of the Oasis songbook; like a cross between Champagne Supernova and Live Forever. I prefer their blues-tinged numbers but it's good to see them spread their repertoire to include the sound of other (more recent) bands they admire.

    It's always a pleasure to listen to new releases on the Pinkpube website. Their most recent release is an EP by Brian James, which was actually first made available for download in January. The 4-track EP is called Ectomorph and from it I've selected Red Strobe; incidentally the whole thing is available as a free download from Brian is one of Malta's techno pioneers and he has inspired many others to follow in his footsteps, even if they're not always aware of how significant he is for the local electronic music scene.

    This type of music is/was often referred to as house. The two styles are actually quite distinct, even if most people are unable to distinguish between the two...particularly anyone for whom this is just electronic din. One of the up and coming house-masters (does that term still have any meaning on the street?) is SunSatION. I know very little about him other than the fact that he's quite young guy from Żurrieq. From his MySpace page I've included the tune Not A Wonderful World as the closing track for 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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