MaltaMedia Click Here!
Toni Sant's Blog
  A blog from the MaltaMedia Online Network | LATEST BLOG | NEWS | WHAT'S ON | FEATURES | WEATHER | CONTACT TONI SANT

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

I haven't seen anything like this since Elvis Presley or John Lennon died. I'm referring, of course, to public reaction in the wake of Michael Jackson's unexpected demise. From the perspective of media coverage, we haven't seen anything like this since 9/11. The two events are clearly very different, but the way new technologies (particularly mobile devices and the internet) are being used is simply phenomenal. I was most impressed by a headline: Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him.

As far as I'm concerned, Twitter has been the best way to watch the event unfold. TV coverage wasn't even to give me the news in a timely way on Thursday evening, but Twitter certainly kept me updated throughout the next 24-hour news cycle.

The whole story really boils down to a sad death of someone who lived in the public eye, playing the interminable game of feeding the media machine while begging to be left alone. Comparisons are odious, but I'm sure other name can easily come to anyone who reads this without my mentioning any other obvious 'icon' for the past, both recent and not so recent.

As I had the opportunity of saying publicly at least three times on Thursday, I believe that many years from now, when all the controversial stories have inevitably died down, Michael Jackson will still be seen as a major figure of late 20th century popular entertainment. Hopefully he will be remembered as the important pop artist he really is; one who brought some of the white mutations of rock 'n roll back to black music.

To my knowledge, there is no significant Maltese connection to Michael Jackson. Turning my attention to the 168th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is probably as far away as I can get from the aftermath of Michael Jackson autopsy. The four tracks I selected for this week's podcast are either new or new to me. I know that regular listeners enjoy hearing new material, and so do I.

Classic rock band Fire are all set to release their second album on the 31st of July at the Farsons Beer Festival. Thrill Me is a welcome follow-up to 2007's Ignite. The title track has been released ahead of the album to promote the CD and it's a great way to open this week's podcast.

Uncharted is also planning a new release in the coming weeks. Their new single Blame Me is out on the 13th of July. Promotion for this new single has been underway for several weeks and it almost feels as if the song has already been released. So much so that I get the feeling that I may be wrong about the official launch date. It wouldn't be the first time that I got a detail like this wrong.

It's not easy keeping up with all the Maltese acts I feature on the MMI podcast. Marilyn Mifsud was first featured on the series a couple of years ago. Last year she was an active member of the girl group Vieve, which I never got around to including on my podcast simply because I was asked not to play some demos I heard and then I lost interest in the whole idea of a girl band. She2s have just appeared to continue where Vieve left off, with a completely different line-up and sound, I hasten to add. In any case, I always thought that Marilyn was one to watch out for. So I was very pleased to discover her new song entitled Where My Head's Been, on her MySpace page. To me, this song seems like the perfect way for a young Maltese singer to move away from unfulfilled teenage dreams with grace and make the best of the experience.

The Maltese hip-hop scene is also beginning to come of age. The upcoming live concert by the international artist Immortal Technique in Pembroke will be an excellent way for local acts to appear on the same stage as a major hip-hop star. Malta's own No Bling Show will be playing before Immortal Technique. Another Maltese hip-hop band that goes by the name of Effetti Kollaterali will also entertain the crowd expected. I picked their 33 RPM as the closing track for this week's podcast, partly as a personal reminder to pick things up right about here this time 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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Little Green

Goings on in Teheran right now are quite sad and very disturbing. There is very little people like me can do from afar. I've been following the protests and the violent reactions mostly through Twitter. My main source is @TehranBureau but @kvella has also introduced me to @StopAhmadi. Between tweets about the clashes I've also been interested about the media talk around the power of Twitter and new technologies in Iran. It's all quite gripping and reminds me of the political unrest we experience in Malta in 1980s; I now realize that although what we went through back then was terrible, it fades in significance compared to the current situation in Iran.

As the fall of communism twenty years ago clearly demonstrated, new modes of communication are great non-violent weapons for oppressed people seeking change. When thinking about all this I'm humbled to think that I use the same technology for things that certainly not a matter of life and death for anyone. And yet the lighter things in life are essential. They provide some the things that make life worth living. For me, music is one of those essential things in life. Aside from the emotional boost some types of music give me, I am professionally invested the role of music in Maltese cultural identity and the networks associated with it. This is why I keep producing my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

For the 167th MMI podcast I wanted to include only new material that I heard about directly from the artists. One of the things I really appreciate about producing this series is the direct regular contact it gives me with Maltese musicians and performers. I was thrilled when Victoria Spiteri sent me a message on MySpace to tell me about her new song Filling Days. She performs as Victoria Osbourne now and regular listeners may recall that I first played one of her songs in May last year when she had moved to Malta from London looking to expand her options as a songwriter. I'm really looking forward to see who she ends up collaborating with in the coming years.

During my most recent visit to Malta I was obviously surrounded by musicians every day. On the very first evening I was invited to a wedding and the groom's cousins included the indomitable Danjeli (to my great delight) and Salt guitarist David Schembri. I played the lastest stuff from Danjeli last week, so this week I thought it was high time to include the latest single from Salt, which David promised to send me during his cousin's wedding. Star arrived via email several weeks ago. If you haven't already heard it elsewhere, you can hear it as the second selection on this week's podcast. Will Salt manage to repeat last year's MMI poll placing? (Salt's Jars of Clay was voted Top Single on the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.)

A couple of days before leaving Malta on this same last visit, I went to Juul's Bar in St Julian's for what I believe was the debut gig by Plato's Dream Machine. This trio is made up of musicians who have all appeared with other acts on previous editions on the MMI series. Singer Robert Farrugia Flores (whatever happened to Dominoes?) is trying very hard to channel the ghost of Bob Dylan from the early 1960s. Il-Fre provides a solid bass accompaniment while Ryan Abela keeps a steady beat on whatever percussion instrument happens to be handy on any given day. I like PDM's combination of DIY and busker spirit and it is beautifully captured on the limited edition CD single they've released, which includes their version of Dylan's I Shall Be Released. The band's main song, however, is called Journey Man and it's full of the sort of sounds that the band can produce and will hopefully continue to produce as they move into innovating on the Dylanesque elements they're in the process of assimilating. A Fuscia Sun Vessel (another trio fronted by Robert Farrugia Flores) did that beautifully a few years back, as you may have heard it on a previous MMI podcast.

Regular listeners of my weekly podcast will know that Adolf Formosa is one of my favourite singer-songwriters from Malta. He recently recorded a new song and contacted me (via Facebook) to tell me about it. Let's Bite the Morning gives us a peak at a reflective moment from Adolf. It's not as tuneful as some of his other songs, but still delightful for fans like me.

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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Waiting for the Miracle

Whenever an academic year draws to a close, my brain is always flooded with ideas for things I'd like to do over the summer months. Many of them have been with me for several years, and yet I never seem to manage to make time for them. From time to time I dedicate countless hours to something or other that stays with me for many years to follow. My weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast started out as one such idea.

That idea has not only spawned 166 podcasts in the MMI series (to date) along with a number of other special podcats, but has also served as the foundation on which I'm currently building a major research project on collaborative multimedia databases exploring the way social network enliven culture through technologies of cooperation. A position paper on this work is one of the things I'll most certainly be working on in the coming weeks.

The 166th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast consists of six brand new tracks by acts that have already been featured on previous editions in the series. The first comes from the young singer-songwriter Jean Claude Vancell, whose work I've liked from the first day I heard it. He has now released a new single called Ain't Good Enough, which is very radio friendly and should receive quite a bit of airplay in Malta in the coming weeks. I've selected to play the acoustic version of the song because it really demonstrates his songwriting abilities while showcasing his unique voice.

Pinkpube continues to delight electronica fans everywhere with its regular new releases. Last week (on June 6) the new album by anti- entitled Tufts was issued as a free download on the Pinkpube website. This is Maltese minimalist electronica at its best. Żifna tal-Etere is among the most interesting tracks on this new album by anti- but it was actually hard for me to pick the tune to play among all the joyful delights on this new album.

Another new album was released by Elyk Elymur. Dismantle and Destory may give off the wrong impression about what to expect in terms of musical style. Regular listeners to the MMI podcast may remember that Elyk Elymur's music is stylistically similar to orchestral film music, with hints of New Age moods from time to time. There and Back Again fits this description perfectly, as do most of the other tracks on this album.

10 Years Too Late is the third single by Maltese pop-rock band Red Electrick. It is officially released today, so I'm glad I'm able to bring it to my podcast listeners right away. I've always liked this band, even when it's main elements performed under a different name. If you like this genre of music, you'll find that they haven't released a single song that you won't want to hear again and again. Last month they were signed to LA-based indie label Poison Tree Records, and Desert Drive Publishing (LA), who will be promoting, released and digitally distributed their music outside Malta in the foreseeable future. The American label and publisher first heard Red Electrick on MySpace.

Now that Facebook has given its users vanity URLs, fan pages for musicians and other such public personalities are also on the rise; even though you need to have 1000 followers to get a personalized URL on one of those types of pages. Danjeli is the latest Maltese musician to join the fray. Unlike most other Maltese acts who went in this direction, Danjeli understands that loyal fans should be rewarded, and rewarded regularly. He has therefore released a new track called Kolla through his new Facebook page as a sampler for the most recent material he's recording for an upcoming follow-up to 2007's amazing Kakofonija. You can hear Kolla as the closing track on this week's MMI podcast, of course, but if you're on Facebook (if?!) you should also add yourself as a fan on Danjeli's page. Not to do so would be most unpatriotic and should expose you to the ridicule of the most extreme political nut-jobs.

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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 06, 2009

You're My Number One

With the European parliament elections underway there's far more political campaigning in the air than most other times of the year. Local council elections make things more exciting for all involved, but also alienate those like me who are not really very interested in governments, local, national, or whatever. I was very amused to read Mrs Maltagirl's tweet this morning after she voted: "...if you don't use your vote, you lose your right to complain!" To which I quickly replied: "One way some people complain is by using their right not to vote!"

One thing is guaranteed to help me preserve my sanity at times like this. Yes, you guessed it: my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, now on number 165 in the series. It's not that I'm not interested in politics. I'm simply only interested in politics when things matter or when they make part of a larger picture that actually means something to me.

Following on the excellent feedback I received on having Sasha & Sam open last week's podcast, I've decided to go for something that's gentle on the ear again as the opening track. Victor Chetcuti has just released his third CD album entitled Together Free. I first featured Victor's music from the southern English seaside town of Bournemouth last November. The song I've picked today is called Look Into Your Eyes. Victor's voice is wonderfully soothing and the arrangement on this song makes the whole thing very pleasant.

Tom Caruana is another Englishman of Maltese descent previously featured on the MMI podcast series. He too has a new album out. His is called Rebel Without Applause. Ye Old School is the name of the track I've selected from Tom's album. His hip-hop infused tunes have a distinct English feel to them, which is not unlike the sort of thing you find in songs by The Kinks, The Style Council, or Blur. Listen closely and you'll see what I mean. There may be Maltese blood running though Tom's veins but his sensibility is most certainly British.

Out of the various listeners who contacted me during the past few days, I was particularly struck by a message from Etienne Farrell. She told me of a concert taking place at the Paola Primary School next Friday 12 June after 7pm featuring The Myth, Beheaded, Lord Adder, Colourblind, and Trick or Treat, among others. This a benefit gig in aid of a work colleague of some of these bands who need medical treatment. As it happens, The Myth have recently released the third of the songs they recorded last summer with string arrangements. The latest one is called Dream, and Dion Farrell is right to think that this is the best song he has ever written. It's quite good indeed but I believe he will be giving us even better songs in years to come.

From time to time I'm faced with a time-duration dilemma in picking what to play on my podcast. At over 8 minutes, Incubus the debut release from the band Twenty-Six Other-Worlds, verges on the limit I'm comfortable including on what in effect is a 20-minute show. Still, once you hear it you'll see that it's not too over indulgent and could very well prove to become a classic among Maltese metal fans in 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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.