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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

See Saw

2008 is history. For the last five years I've been blogging about the ups and downs at the end of every year. Things have changed somewhat since 2004 around here, mostly because my blog has been taken over almost completely by show notes for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I have no real regrets about that. If I had more (free) time I'd probably blog more often between podcasts.

So, my annual partial, most subjective, list of blog entries from the year gone by, in random order is marinated in podcast show notes. In any case, this list is meant mostly as a simple way to mark the highs and lows in my year, as chronicled on my blog throughout 2008:


  • Speaking about Performance in Second Life at the IOCT

  • Undergoing colonoscopy at Whitby Hospital

  • The 100th episode in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcasting series

  • Could I possibly ever live in Malta again?

  • The Maltese blogosphere is dead! Long live the Maltese blogosphere

  • Claudio Baglioni's version of L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel

  • Diana Gurtskaya singing Peace Will Come (Georgia's 2008 ESC entry)

  • I have one word for you: Facebook

  • Public transport in Malta will never be the same again

  • Best Dr Who episode, ever

  • Xtruppaw return to delight a live audience

  • Philip Auslander is not dead!

  • Being a student at Beached Academy

  • Appearing on Bondi+ via web-based video chat

  • Interview on SBS radio in Australia

  • CDs: Brikkuni's Kuntrabanda! and Magic of the Sun by The Rifffs

  • Marking 10 years since the first MaltaMedia production


  • Malta Song for Europe 2008 - semifinal

  • Malta Song for Europe 2008 - final

  • Hard disk meltdown!

  • 2008 Malta General Elections

  • Malta's entry at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest

  • Remodeling our kitchen

  • Christmas comes a little too early

    RIP: Roland Friggieri, Ebba von Fersen Balzan, Albert Hofmann, Sir Anthony Mamo, George Carlin, Bo Diddley, Kilin, and Manwel Borg.

    Not counting the departed friends and icons, this year seem to be considerably abundant in the ups and somewhat scarce on the downers.

    I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and/or listening to my podcasts in 2008 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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  • Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Don't You (Forget About Me)

    On Christmas eve 1998, MaltaMedia made its production debut: midnight mass from the Ta' Pinu Sanctuary in Gozo was webcast through Radio Calypso's website. The concept of MaltaMedia had been around since the previous summer, when Ray Bajada and I came up with the general idea of a Maltese online media network while having a drink at Xlendi.

    The 1998 Christmas webcast was a team effort. Aside from the Radio Calypso part, which broadcast the midnight mass just as it had in previous years over the national airwaves, there was significant technical input from two close associates of MaltaMedia in its early endevours. Jean Galea Souchet was a key player in getting the technical side together. At that time he was the head honcho with VOL and provided us with everything you could want from an ISP. Glasgow-based John J. Cassar, who had been webcasting Maltese għana for about a year before this, provided overseas hosting space and technical insights to ensure that our webcast could reach as wide an audience as possible.

    Encoding and uploading an hour-long audio file for an on-demand webcast back in 1998 meant that I stayed up until about 4am into early Christmas morning; working with an Intel Pentium I on a 28.8 Kbps dial-up internet connection. It was exhilarating to receive emails from Maltese people around the world thanking us for making the webcast available for all to access at will online. It was as clear as day that this was the future of broadcasting.

    I believe that Ray has a photo of me sitting at the bar in his old converted farmhouse living room in Xagħra at about 2am (still encoding/uploading), after he returned home at the end of the broadcast. I must ask him for it one of these days. I believe that it would be a good memento to share with the public as MaltaMedia moves into 2009 to celebrate its 10th anniversary properly. Perhaps we should also make the webcast available again in perpetuity for the sake of posterity.

    Meanwhile, I'd like to wish all the readers (and casual visitors) of my blog a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

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    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Gone Gone Gone

    At about this time of the year for the past 8 years, Mario Axiaq and I have been putting together a list of obituaries for people known for their public life in Malta. It is an exercise that works hand in glove with Mario's project to chronicle Malta day by day and MaltaMedia's round-up of the year gone by.

    In compiling this year's list I became aware that Manuel Borg, a former colleague of mine at Radio Malta, passed away this summer. I was not only shocked that he died at such a relatively young age (he was just 57 year old) but also that somehow the news of his passing didn't reach me until Mario and I started comparing the lists we had put together separately since last Christmas.

    I first heard of Manuel Borg's name as a radio producer on a multi-part rock documentary presented by Albert Zammit around 1981 on Radio Malta. Eventually, I caught his name again as co-producer on Twanny Scerri's various shows featuring Italian music. When I started my career in broadcasting just a few years later, Manuel was one of the technical crew I worked with regularly at Radio Malta. He and I became good friends and eventually co-produced a 13-part series commemorating the tenth anniversary since John Lennon's murder, starting on what would have been his 50th birthday in October 1990. It was the last year that Radio Malta enjoyed as the only radio station in the country. Manuel and I knew it was the end of an era. Just a few months later I quit my full-time job at Xandir Malta, which also meant that he and I never had the opportunity to work together again.

    Truth be told, after I had taken up my management job at Radio One Live, I had called on him to help me put together a decent collection of Italian music. I will always remember Manuel Borg whenever I hear a song by Lucio Battisti, I Camaleonti, I Giganti, Matia Bazar, or most other decent Italian acts And so should generations of Maltese radio listeners, particularly those who didn't watch much TV in the late 70s or 1980s. In any case, on a personal level, I'm most saddened by Manuel's death and I'm sorry I'll never see him again, even if the last couple of times we met we didn't really have much to say to each other beyond the obvious.

    Here's the list for this year, so far:

    ROBERT NAUDI, Politician
    (Died: 2 January 2008)

    (Died: 13 January 2008)

    JOSEPH M. GERADA, Tradeunionist
    (Died: 30 January 2008)

    CARM LINO SPITERI, Politician
    (Died: 9 February 2008)

    (Died: 21 February 2008)

    ALBERT RIZZO, Politician
    (Died: 29 February 2008)

    (Died: 15 March 2008)

    EMANUEL ABELA, Civil Servant
    (Died: 9 April 2008)

    SIR ANTHONY MAMO, President
    (Died: 1 May 2008)

    (Died: 8 July 2008)

    MANWEL BORG, Broadcaster
    (Died: 5 August 2008)

    JOE MERCIECA, Journalist
    (Died: 13 August 2008)

    GEORGE DOUGALL, Broadcaster
    (Died: 3 October 2008)

    KARL CHIRCOP, Politician
    (Died: 12 October 2008)

    ANTON AGIUS, Artist
    (Died: 19 October 2008)

    JADE BRINCAT, Musician
    (Died: 12 November 2008)

    SALVINU SCHEMBRI, Footballer
    (Died: 14 December 2008)

    EVELYN BONACI, Politician
    (Died: 15 December 2008)

    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.

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    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

    It may just be that this is the earliest I've ever been grabbed by the Christmas spirit. It feels quite odd, particularly because there's at least one whole week of lectures and meetings at our university before campus starts looking like a ghost town. If I stop and think a bit why I'm feeling Christmas in the air earlier than usual this year, I'd probably say it's the dark rum and pre-production on this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

    For the first time in years there seems to be a steady flow of new Christmas music from Malta. Some of it is far too saccharine sweet for my taste but there are a song or two that I'm more than happy to include on my weekly podcast. The first of these is Shilloo's Tree Christmastime is Here. The lyrical twist is quite refreshing and all the British references are an excellent example of the strong influence the colonial years have had on contemporary Maltese culture.

    I didn't want to turn this week's podcast into a Christmas special, so I've also included one non-seasonal track. Hadrian Mansueto's music would have probably made it to my list of nomination for the 2008 MMI Listerers' Picks poll, if I had discovered it earlier. Voting is now underway via Facebook until the 3rd of January 2009 but I still wanted to sneak in Manseuto's music before the end of the year. Running Away has hints of The Doors' Riders on the Storm (if not an actual sample!) and it's as good as way as any to introduce this young musician to the MMI podcast listeners.

    Back to the Christmas stuff: I was very pleased to be included in the publicity drive for Muttley's latest project, now that he has returned to Malta. Recording as Mutt Ley, he has teamed up with Gianni Zammit and Chris & Moira to deliver a new yuletide song called Christmas Time. Better still, all money generated from this song will be given to away to charity.

    As Christmas is all about good cheer, I wanted to share one of the best Maltese musical moments from this season with my podcast listeners this week. X-Tend double CD Sbieħ il-Milied from 1991 was not only one of the most forward looking Christmas projects ever produced on the local scene, but also the very first double CD produced in Malta. My favourite track of all from that work is Il-Wasla tas-Slaten Maġi. It shows Charlie Dalli at his absolute best, both as a songwriter, a daring performer, and a collaborative maverick the likes of which I've rarely met.

    The alternative view of Christmas (finally) has its own champions too. I haven't managed to get my hands on the Jingle Punk CD released (recently?) by Pupi tal-Logħob, but I'm still able to close this week's podcast with their wickedly delightful Wasal il-Milied based on the traditional carol named after Good King Wenceslas. It's an excellent way to end this year's Mużika Mod Ieħor offerings.

    The next MMI podcast will appear on Saturday 3rd January 2009 and it will feature the top picks by my listeners and others voting on Facebook for the favourite 2008 Maltese music releases. Until then, over the next two weekend, we will once again be releasing Ġorġ Mifsud-Chircop's special christmas editions of his Tisqifa għall-Għana tagħna featuring Karmnu Debono l-Pikipakk (from Birkirkara) and Frans Mifsud ta' Żaren ta' Vestru (from Żejtun).

    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, December 06, 2008

    Speak My Language

    It has been quite a week. It is indeed quite appropriate that this was also the week that Scarborough experienced the worse snow storm in all the years I've lived here. Meanwhile, the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks poll (on Facebook) has already attracted about 250 music lovers within the first seven days. Voting remains open until the 3rd of January, when I'll be featuring the top vote recipients in a special edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

    This week's edition of my weekly podcast includes three songs from this year's Għanja tal-Poplu, which took place at the Phoenecia Ballroom last Saturday. Before playing any of these songs, I wanted to share the Maltese-Australian sound of Miss Mary. I came across her page on MySpace just a few days ago and became intrigued by both the sound and the lack of detailed information about Mary. In any case, Up in the Clouds provides an excellent opening for this week's podcast.

    Brikkuni are the winners of the 2008 Għanja tal-Poplu. Their song L-Uffiċċju is not on their recently released Kuntrabanda CD, so some of their (slighly less ardent) fans will not have had an opportunity to hear it yet since L-Għanja tal-Poplu does enjoy the same level of (over)exposure as some other song contests. Drummer Michael Galea informs me that the band will be re-recording this song "properly" and releasing that as a single of sorts very soon. Until then they're currently at the top of the 2008 MMI Listerners' Picks in the album category, where Kuntrabanda has been neck and neck with Ira Losco's Accident Prone throughout most of this past week.

    I've been wanting to include one of Walter Micallef's songs on my podcast since day one. For some odd reason I never got around to it. So I'm overjoyed to finally include his music on this week's podcast. Bix-Xemx Warajja landed him in second place at this year's L-Għanja tal-Poplu. It shows Walter in top form, after about thirty years of participation in this annual song contest organized by the YTC.

    Last year's winner of L-Għanja tal-Poplu was awarded for 'best interpretation' this year. Aside from the song that won her this accolade, Corazon Mizzi has also collaborated with Antonio Olivari at this year's contest and I've decided to include their song Se Ngħaddi 'l Hawn on my podcast. There are several other songs worth a listen from the same contest and perhaps I'll play some of them in future editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

    To close up this week's podcast I've included a rough recording of a song called On the Other Side by newcomers The Freuds. I have no qualms with including low-fi recordings like this on my podcast when they give listeners a glimpse of what can come later from the same musicians. All ends being equal, we'll be hearing from The Freuds again in 2009, unless they take their band name too literally.

    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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