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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Granpa's Grave

I've been having very unusual dreams lately. Maybe it's because there a sense of change in the air, particularly from the American political circus, which almost merits its own blog entry. Or perhaps it's because I've been spending way too much time doing my research in Second Life. More simply, it could be that I haven't really had a break this summer.

Last night I had a dream about the remains of my paternal grandfather, who died a few months before I was born. I am named after him. He was buried in the crypt beneath St Helen's Parish Church in Birkirkara, which is where I imagine he was baptized towards the end of the 19th century and married early in the 20th century. They stopped burying ordinary people in Maltese church crypts soon after the end of the 1960s and unless you came from a rich family your remains often ended up in the so-called well of bones after some years to make room in the limited burial spaces. I have no idea what actually became of my grandpa's remains, but in this dream I had we kept looking for them, finding and reburying them, only to have them returned to the well of bones again. This took place several times during my dream, just like the eternal recurrence of the same you read about in Nietzsche. Don't ask me how we recovered them from the well; DNA testing may have had something to do with it in my dream logic.

This dream follows hot on the heels of another death-related nightmare I had just a few days ago. Performance theorist Phil Auslander is someone I know personally, but not that well. I say this to explain that I see no reason why in dreaming that he died (may you live forever Phil!) I was somehow appointed the executor of his will...and most of it had nothing to do with performance theory. Do I need a holiday or what?

Until I can get a decent vacation, even if a mini one, I continue to find reprieve in my weekly podcast. Last week I was interviewed by Marlene Galea for the Maltese service on SBS Radio in Australia; I will be telling you more about that once it has been aired. As I was chatting with Marlene about the Maltese music scene, she mentioned Jay P as a newcomer on the Maltese-Australian scene and urged me to check him out. As a kid Jason Portelli (to give him his real name) was raised in Xagħra before emigrating with his family to Australia. He returns for a gig in Gozo on the 3rd of September. So, it's fitting that this week's podcast opens with the song Rain from his debut album 1565 Patiently Waiting.

A couple of weeks ago I was sent a CD compilation released by Stagedive entitled Alternative Sounds from Malta Volume One. This is an excellent collection and a must have for anyone who wants to sample the rich range of alternative music from Malta. I'll be playing a couple of tracks from this CD in the coming weeks, starting right now with Danjeli's delightful Ħaġa Muħġaġa. I'm also looking forward to more volumes in this series. It really behooves the Poxx Bar to back these CDs.

Young singer Amanda Friggieri records as Amelia. Her debut song A Blind Girl's Whisper shows that she can easily shine among all the local Eurovision wannabes. Her MySpace profile mentions bands and work on an album of original songs rather than pop aspirations. This makes me think that we'll be hearing more good stuff from this performer in the coming months.

This week's edition of the MMI podcast comes to a close with a song called Promise written by Billy J with Edward Ferry and Jean Paul Debono from the band Black on White. Malcolm Pisani sings the song with the band and I must say that I like this style of song better for him than any other material I've heard him sing. He recent solo single Press Play is not bad, but to my ears Promise is 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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

We Carry On

I don't really have much to say this week because I'm just too busy to think properly. Nothing new there. The only really new thing, other than the fact that the kitchen is now (almost) done and some other work-related news (to be announced soon), is the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. The number of people who have added the page on their Facebook profile has now more than doubled since last weekend. I'm sure the number will continue to swell in the coming weeks and months, particularly as we start looking into the 2008 Listeners' Picks.

The opening song on the 128th podcast in the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series is the debut release by Milk Mi. Black Sheep was lauched at Rookies yesterday so I doubt there's newer material I could be including in this week's podcast. There's a video to go with this song too. Good stuff.

Last night I was interviewed by Marlene Galea for the Maltese service on SBS Radio in Australia; I tell you more about that once it has been aired. Chatting with Marlene about the Maltese music scene prompted me to play some music by an Australian rock band with a Maltese connection. Missfire, fronted by Maltese Australian singer Chris Saliba, have never appeared on the MMI podcast before now, so I think it's appropriate to include Holding On Again from the EP Halfway Here, which they released last year. I believe they're about to release an album any time now. If/when I get a hold of that I'll probably play a track or two from it too.

In the last two years I've played something by Sylvan Borg every year. This year is no exception even though I don't think he has really released any new recordings. He has just been gigging in London but I'd love to hear some new stuff from him. Meanwhile, I'm playing Walk, the only track on his MySpace page that I haven't already included in a previous edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

Speaking of previous editions of the MMI podcast, this weekend marks two significant events for this series. The obvious (I would say) fact is that it was on the 25th of August 2005 that I first started test podcasts on the MaltaMedia Online Network. Two days earlier, the online independent Maltese record company Pinkpube was officially launched. I've been marking the 3rd birthday/anniversary for Pinkpube over these past three weeks; it's three years so it's three consecutive mentions, how's that? This week's podcast ends with Daisy Gonzales off the Pinkpube album from August 2006, One: A Micro Celebration For A Pinkpube Year In Action. Here's hoping that this record label lives on for many years to come.

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, August 16, 2008


I've just set up a fan page for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast on Facebook. Within the first twenty four hours, about fifty Facebook users have added the page to their profile. The main goal for this new Facebook page is to serve as an easy way to communicate with all my podcast listeners who are also Facebook users. This is not to say that all the listeners are on Facebook, but I have a feeling that only the very few are not or will not be. This is the second time that the podcast is using Facebook. The first time was late last year when we designed a Facebook app for the 2007 Listeners' Picks. It looks like we'll soon be thinking about the 2008 app and the new fan page should make it much simpler to let people know that they can vote. Better still, I'm also planning to collect nominations on the fan page too. More about that in the coming weeks.

So on to the 127th edition of the MMI podcast. From time to time I feature music by non-Maltese musicians who are performing in the Maltese islands. This week it's Vanessa & the O's who are appearing along with the Beangrowers at the MITP as part of this year's Evenings on Campus. The gig is on Saturday the 23rd of August. If I were in Malta this summer, this is one show I'd most definitely go see and I'd probably be sitting next to Ġużé Stagno because this is the sort of music he's really into.

Airstrip One should be hitting the Malta too sometime sooner or later. They have a strong connection with Malta through the fact that singer Andrew Hill is half Maltese. They're about to release an album and from it you can hear the song Circles on this week's podcast.

Speaking of new albums, I've heard (if that's the right word) that Access To have released an album. I looked for info about it on their website, but the domain is simply parked and there's next to nothing on their MySpace page. In any case, I've decided to play Something About You, which may or may not be on the album. If anyone knows (and that goes for any of the band members too, of course) please let me know. I'd gladly play (another) track from the album if I ever manage to get my hands on it.

In keeping with the celebration I started last week in honour of Pinkpube's 3rd birthday/anniversary, this week's MMI podcast ends with music from the durable record label's catalog. One of the first four EPs they released on their initial launch on 23 August 2005 included one by the elusive X-18. The track I've selected is called Lynsday. I'll most probably continue with the nod to Pinkpube one more week; after all the birthday/anniversary is not 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, August 09, 2008

Rock 'n Roll

This past week I've been attending the Beached Academy, as a student. This is an annual opportunity for budding talent in Scarborough to work with professional tutors on song-writing skills and music performance. There's also training for people who want to work on the technical side. While some would think that I don't qualify to be a student within such a setting, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. It was good to be among young, raw performers keen to see what the scene has to offer. This is why I teach at the university. And yet, it was quite good to see what the student experience is really like. Our tutors were Toby Jepson (former Little Angels frontman and the new singer for Gun) and celebrity vocal coach Dave Laudat. Their generosity is astounding.

We shall all be performing at the Beached Festival on Sunday 17 August here in Scarborough, so I'm sure I'll talk about all this some more later. I'll (hopefully) also get an opportunity to play you a recording we did together on a song written at this year's Beached Academy on my weekly podcast. Former Goldfrapp drummer Rowan Oliver, who is now a fellow tutor at the university, said that hearing me sing was a revelation. I'd certainly put that on my poster and publicity material if I were to take this further rather than return to my regular life once Beached is over.

For the 126th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast I've picked Jean Claude Vancell's new song Heartbreaker as the show opener. Once again JCV delivers an excellent track showcasing both his skills as a songwriter and as a singer. I have a lot of time for this young man and so should you.

The Areola Treat will be appearing live with the Retrophytes at the Poxx Bar next Saturday, 16th August. Last month they released their eponymous debut EP on the Belgian independent label Kinky Star. Boulevard Werewolf is lifted from it. Playing this band's music on my podcast for the third time in less than a year (do I like this band?) makes me realize that I've never played anything by Lumiere, the band Areola guitarist Adrian and drummer Chris played in in the first half of this decade. So to right that wrong, I've included Rememberence of Lovers Past from their 2005 album It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. That was indeed one of the finest bands to grace the Maltese music scene, ever.

Since I'm playing something from 2005 and it's August, I must pause to celebrate Pinkpube's upcoming birthday/anniversary. On the 23rd August 2005, Pinkpube was launched 4 astounding EPs. HA's Approaching the Gnu was one of them. From it I've included Festa in this week's podcast. I'll be returning to the Pinkpube catalogue again over the next two weeks to mark the third birthday/anniversary properly or as we say in Maltese kif imiss.

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, August 02, 2008

Rat in Mi Kitchen

I'm in the middle of kitchen remodeling at home right now. This sort of thing must be up there on the list with the most stress inducing experiences in life: divorce, house moves, personal loss, etc. Although it's not cheap to put in a new kitchen these days (has it ever been?) living without the comforts of home-cooked food and putting up with all the skilled labourers can be even more stressful than the financial aspect. Apart from a kind invitation by my next door neighbours for a delightful supper, I haven't had a decent home-cooked meal in days. Yes, I am eating out but there's a limit to how pleasant an experience that can be when you're stressed out with other things.

Anyway, I'm probably making it sound worse than it really is. Like so many other things in life, it will pass quickly enough. At least with this one there will be a new kitchen to enjoy once all the hardship is over.

As you may expect, being covered in paint and the inevitable crankiness that comes with putting in a new kitchen wouldn't stop me from putting together my weekly podcast. This week I'm delighted to open it with the music of the trio Silence Kills You. For a moment I thought that I had never played anything by any of my family members on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series (but then I remembered Keith and South Central, of course). I bring this up because two of the three musicians in this band are my blood relatives: Izzy and Sean are my second cousins, their mothers are my first cousins on the Sant side of the family. Aside from this, the music is clean and simple showing that the band has the potential to be a different offering on the ever-expanding local scene. I hope they can now see beyond the rock masses and the radio contests they've taken part in over the last few years to continue playing and recording more original songs like No Button To Rewind. Their brand of pop rock is much needed locally to bridge the gaping chasm between Eurovision wannabes and underground rockers.

Speaking of underground rockers, I'm very pleased to hear that Cynic Pictures have recorded a well produced version of their song Aim High, which I played on an earlier edition of the MMI podcast. This and Skizzo their other song, demonstrate the energetic fervor with which this band is aiming to bring punk to the masses. To my ears, these recordings are rather radio friendly. I mention this because radio remains a very significant way for musicians to reach a wide audience in the Maltese islands. It is the main way all sorts of acts move from the underground into the more public sphere.

In spite of this, there are those who relish the underground. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that in my book. Prayer of the Dying, the multifaceted project by Martin Ciappara fits this bill perfectly. Who else would release an EP on a limited edition cassette only? Ghastly Laments follows up on last year's debut CD/tape Structures of a Dying Matter. Afterlife Beacon Productions from Iceland are involved in this release and if the track Anointing of the Sick is anything to go by, I'm sure it will be sold out very soon.

I'm always thrilled to hear from podcast listeners. When whoever writes in is also a musician I know I'm usually about to discover some new sounds to include on my weekly podcast. Baz Cilia contacted me a few days ago and introduced me to the recordings of Spriggan Mist, which is his current project with his wife Maxine. They're now based in Bracknell, here in the UK, but there's still close ties to Malta. I've selected two tracks from their new EP Konditions of Change - The Merry Mead and Lazy Stones - to bring this week's podcast to a rather different close than what I've been playing in recent weeks. They're now working on an album, so you'll most certainly be hearing from them again on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series in the coming months.

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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