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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wild Young Hearts

It has now been exactly five years since I started living with the fact that I suffer from WPW Syndrome. Discovering that I'm afflicted by this heart condition has given me an answer to previous unexplained questions about my health, but it has also made me acutely aware that I'm no longer an invincible young man.

In many ways, living with WPW Syndrome is hardly inconvenient. I take a little pill every day and all seems well, for the most part. However, stress is obviously something that I try to avoid at all costs. This is not always possible, of course. To rephrase a noble truth: life is stressful. And yet, life goes on.

Five years is a long time, but in the greater scheme of things it's not really that long. Time is such a fascinating phenomenon. Over the last three years or so I've taken to measuring it through my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. On the one hand I can't believe we're already up to podcast number 177 in the series, but on the other hand I'm not surprised that this has happened because it's the natural order for this sort of activity, when it's done consistently. It was August 2005 when I first started experimenting regularly with podcasting.

If for no other reason, I look forward to each edition of the MMI podcast for the new music it brings with it. I honestly doubt I hear about some of the recordings I play from week to week. One such pieces comes from a singer who represented Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003. Like other worthy Eurovision performers, Julie Ann Zahra has gone on to do more that sing silly pop songs in her musical career. She's just given a couple of concerts at St. James Cavalier with guitarist Jimi Savage. This follows on from the recent release of No One In Heaven, a single written by Owen C.

Speaking of recent releases, Airport Impressions released an EP containing all the recordings they've released to date. This band has been gathering popularity in Malta through various high-profile gigs and TV appearances. They also won several awards last year and are now clearly more than just a guitar duo. You can hear their song Genuine as the second pick on this week's podcast.

Soundscape Foundation have the potential to be the next Airport Impressions in as much as they're starting out as a guitar duo singing their own songs. Savannah has an old grunge feel to it but still packs a distinctive punch. Simon Cutajar and Daniel Cassar would do well to keep at it. I'm looking forward to more songs from these guys. Eventually they may even expand the band to make a lasting impact on the local alternative scene.

I'm always very appreciative when Maltese musicians and performers send me their CDs by post. Digital downloads are cool, but CDs will still be with us in the foreseeable future. This month I've received about half a dozen new CDs. Fire's Thrill Me is among them, of course. This band is among the foremost classic rock outfits in Malta. Their recordings sound so good not only because they are excellent musicians but also because guitarist Robert Longo produces all the band's recordings in his own Padd Cell Studios. Back Home is a brilliant example of the dynamic range this band has managed to achieve in the few years it's been together.

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.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Petits Machins

A few days ago I discovered an old VHS tape from 1989. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself present a special edition of the weekly popular TVM current affairs programme Malta u Lil Hinn Minnha with Paul Azzopardi. I had forgotten all about this. For many years before Malta's liberalization of the broadcasting airwaves, this news show was the main (if not only) current affairs appointment for Maltese televiewers. This edition was the last one broadcast in 1989 and featured Giogio Moroder's The World We Live In, a half hour documentary with original music and images of events that have shaped our world. Moroder's work was originally created for German Television Channel 2 and for copyright reasons I only included a brief excerpt from it in the clip I uploaded on YouTube.

The same old video tape included almost an entire programme from the first series of Mill-Garaxx. I digitized a couple of clips from that too and immediately uploaded a live Black Train medley by Freeway, with Jesmond Tedesco Triccas on guitar and Toni Vella on bass. I also managed to capture a couple of other things from this same video cassette, including something for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

The 176th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features a sexist perspective of Maltese women from 1989 in Freeway's Viva n-Nisa. I don't think you could get away with that on Maltese TV now. I find it quite problematic from a feminist perspective but it's a delicious historical glimpse at the way most Maltese people (not just men) thought about women in their society at that point in time.

The podcast opens with a song called Tomorrow by Relikc. This band has been around for a couple of years but it was only last June that they managed to produce their first recordings for public consumption. They're not the sort of band that can get lots of airplay on radio in Malta, but I'm sure they go down well in their live gigs.

NV has just released a new single, following her debut album Envy, which appeared last February. Reason for Denying is not from the album and presents the singer in a somewhat lighter sound than what we heard on all her previous singles, which made it into that album. It's good to see some variation in NV's style and I'm sure the next thing we hear from her will also be exploring other territories since this singer is still to endear herself as a household name in Malta.

Speaking of household names, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard Paul Giordimaina in Malta. He's been a professional musician for over thirty years and his career has seen him reach the highest peaks in the local scene in both pop and jazz. It's therefore a great joy to see that he has now released a jazz double CD. This is a side of him that only jazz aficionados or regular patrons at B.J.'s night club (where he's been the resident artist for close to three decades) really know. A Letter to Bernie is an outstanding album for several reasons. Foremost among these is the fact that it is a tribute to the late bass player Bernard Scerri, who died on 3 October 2002. The album features various guest jazz musicians who knew and played with Bernard, as well as Giordimaina originals inspired by Scerri's spirit, along with a handful of live recordings featuring the bass player live at B.J.'s in 2000.

To close up this week's podcast, from A Letter to Bernie I've selected Marcus Miller's Tutu, made famous by Miles Davis in 1986, as performed by Paul Giordimaina (piano), Mark Attard (synth), Walter Vella (flute), Edward Ellul (bass), Tony 'Giegu' Bartolo (percussion), and Reuben Navarro (drums). It's fitting that so many of the musician who knew Bernard so well, and played with him over the years, should pick this cool bass driven tune to remember their friend by. I'll certainly play one or two more tracks from this double CD on my podcast in the coming weeks.

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.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

We Are Golden

When blogging about the summer of 1969 last week, I forgot to mention the infamous Helter Skelter murders by the Manson Family. It's remarkable that all that negative energy was in the air at (more or less) the same time as other such landmark events.

When Les Paul passed away at the wonderful age of 94 a couple of days ago, his death was marked with respect by many cognoscenti. Although he was credited with giving rock 'n roll its most essential element (i.e. the electric guitar) and pioneering another key element of the music industry (i.e. multitrack recording), there was none of the mass media attention afforded to Michael Jackson, or even Farrah Fawcett. It sure is a strange world we live in.

These are some of the thoughts swilling around in my head today as I prepared the 175th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. Not that they actually have any bearing on the contents of this week's show, but they certainly give some context to what would be going on my blog if I hadn't given it up almost entirely for show notes of my weekly podcast.

I first played the music of the Maltese band Skimmed on my podcast in 2007, around the time I missed a gig they played at Naasha's, the now-defunct events lounge in San Gwann. They have now just released their debut single called Can't Stop, ahead of a planned EP launch on the 25th September at Lo Squero entitled Your Head Is Too Big For Your Crown. Their support act on that day will be none other than Brikkuni.

Doubt is the new recording name for Karl Baldacchino, who has also appeared on previous editions of the MMI podcast, albeit in a different guise. You may already know him as Synthact or as half of the due Corrupted Minds. I have no idea why he's now recording as Doubt (Karl, feel free to enlighten us through the comments function on this blog or your MySpace page, please) but I like the track Floating Free enough to gladly include it on this week's playlist.

Few Maltese cartoon characters have released their own pop song. So it's a delightful surprise to see Frans il-Ħamallu surfacing as MC Frans this summer. Funky Frans comes with an excellent video to accompany the song, with lyrics by Mr Herbal and music by Mr Mars. The song is quite worthy of a listen or two even without the video, but the video makes it a potential viral video hit among many Maltese internet users around the world; I'll eat my hat if you see this (uncensored) on TV in Malta. A follow-up will surely come our way sooner or later.

Last week's inclusion of ambient music has been well received by MMI listeners, enough to encourage me to play another track from this genre on MMI #175 too. This time the music is by newcomer Eric Scicluna who records as Krafteknique. The tune I've selected is called Thousand Needles and it's just one of several you can hear on his MySpace page, if this sort of thing is your cup of tea.

Gozitan metal band Inner Grey released their debut album If Symptoms Persist last year. They're playing some gigs this summer, so I thought it would be appropriate to include a track from the album as the closing song for this week's podcast. Save Me has some excellent guitar playing on it and it will undoubtedly delight all the band's fans that I've picked it to end my mid-summer show with.

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.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Summer of 69

A couple of weeks ago much was made of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the first men to walk on the moon. This weekend, hundreds of Beatles fans gathered on the famous pedestrian crossing in Abbey Road to re-enact the iconic cover photo of the album with the same name, which was originally snapped 40 years ago to the day. And next weekend many aged hippies will be marking the 40th year since Woodstock.

I was an infant in the summer of 1969. I'm not one for nostalgia and yet I am moved to mark each of these events in my own way. The Apollo 11 anniversary took me to Second Life, where a 3D sim of the landing site was created with lunar module and all. Earlier today I watched Beatles fans and tourists annoying the hell out of motorists on Abbey Road through a webcam I discovered via Mashable. And I'm not sure what I'll be up to next weekend in relation to Woodstock. Luckily no one has thought to recreate the 1999 fiasco where all we really remember is the commercial exploitation of fans, which resulted in enough mayhem to make the Hell's Angels proud.

My old friend Alfie Fabri (and others) equate the summer of '69 (and Woodstock in particular) with the way we saw things in Malta about fifteen years later. Having lived through the 1980s as a teenager in Malta, I couldn't disagree more. I know what they really mean and it's all connected with the complex way popular culture in the Maltese islands has developed during our lifetime. Yet, I seriously doubt anyone will bother to cash out on the 25th Anniversary of MaltaSajf'84.

The local music scene has come a long way since those days. In many ways things are really better now. The one thing I really miss from back then is my physical youth. My cultural youth is rejuvenated every weekend through my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. The 174th edition in the series brings in yet another opportunity to hear new music made in Malta.

Manwel T returns with a new album on Dubkey Records called Virtual Dub. He's giving the album away for free through the Dubkey website. You can also find other Dubkey releases there, including In the Temple of Dub, which has Manwel T collaborating with Mind's Eye Dub. This music is way cool. Reggae beats have been in Manwel Tabone's life for decades now, and it shows through his dubs and remixes. I've picked one called Thirsty Dub performed by HotDrop, and it's an excellent way to open the podcast.

London-based Fraser Gregory has maintained his Maltese connection on his upcoming debut album entitled A Garden At The Top Of The Tree, which was recorded at Temple Studios, produced by David Vella and mixed by Luuk Cox. The album should be released sometime soon but you can hear a track from it called There is a Forest right now. If I manage to get my hands on a copy of this new album I'll gladly play another track or two from it, especially if there of the same caliber as the song I've included as the second pick on this week's MMI podcast.

A few days ago I heard Lyndsay Pace's new single. It's called Addicted and shows this young singer at her best. It's quite rocky but not too rocky. To put it another way, this is the best thing I've heard from Lyndsay. She's quite good. I'd say that if she keeps on this track, she may truly end up making her mark on the local scene one day sooner or later.

From time to time I'm thrilled to discover new acts which fall neatly under the ambient and/or minimalist banner. Sonitus is the most recent of these finds. I have no idea who Sonitus really is. The only picture on the MySpace profile page is deliberately very blurry. I almost don't want to know Sonitus' true identity. The music speaks for itself after all. This genre is quite an acquired taste and I know that many regular MMI podcast listeners wouldn't necessarily pick it as one of their personal choices. There's no harm in trying something new every now and then. Sonitus' track is called Asphixetamol.

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.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Don't Know Much

This summer is building up into an interesting one. It has its fair share of ups and downs, but the ups seem to be really good. Even some downs have an up side. Now that our dear friend Dennis Vella has passed away, his professional aspiration to create a National Museum of Modern Art for Malta is on practically everyone's lips within the Maltese art scene, or at least on their minds.

On a more personal note, even if still in the general category of modern (or rather contemporary) art, I've been advised to "gloat" (by an American friend/colleague) about the fact that I've been awarded an AHRC research grant to enable me to take a proper sabbatical during the next academic year to work on my book. Only one in five applications to the AHRC research leave fund are successful, but now that I've lived in the UK for the past five year, I can safely say that gloating is frowned upon big time, especially in academia. So I won't gloat. I'll just say that the book is about Franklin Furnace and the spirit of the avant-garde and it's entitled A History of the Future; due to be published by Intellect Books in 2010.

Cultural differences are fascinating. At their most extreme they lead to culture wars and things like the so-called war on terror. Without any extreme elements, I live with cultural differences every day of my life. Once a week I celebrate the differences through my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. You could say all roads (I take) lead to my weekly podcast, in one way or another. I'm convinced about that, even though I haven't managed to find a way to articulate it properly, just yet.

The 173rd edition of the MMI podcast opens with the new single from the band Explicit. Shame gives us another blast of Stephanie Chetcuti's voice. Listening to this song I thought it would be a good idea to have more female voices on this week's podcast.

The only male voice I've picked belongs to Richard Edward. His songs have appeared at least twice on previous editions of the MMI podcast. He has a very tuneful voice, as you're able to hear in his new song called Busking in Baghdad. If you live in Malta you can also catch him performing live at The Shelter in Rabat ever Wednesday evening.

Bletchley Park have appeared out of nowhere on the local rock scene. They've even managed to win the 2009 Battle of the Bands held at Rookies just a few weeks ago. They seem to have great plans and if the fans that got to where they are now continue to support them I'm sure we'll be hearing from them after the ecstatic energy of these initial months subsides. To my ears, Fake Smiles is the best of the half dozen songs they've released on their MySpace page. If all goes well, it can only get better.

Hadrian Mansueto contacted me a few days ago to tell me about a new video for his tune Catch You, shot by Richard Humphreys. The video is directed and edited by Shahir Daud and features all the guys from Physical Graffiti: Le Parkour Aotearoa.

The musical Porn is currently enjoying a second run in Malta before it heads off for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival up in Scotland. Porn will be at the George 4 from the 7th August until the 31st August (no shows on the 11th, 18th, and 24th). I have a feeling it's going to attract a substantial amount of press attention, particularly if people with loud and far-reaching voices within the UK alternative culture go see it and like it. Suzanne Wadge plays the part of the young porn star Sanddy in the musical. She sings a lovely little song called The Kind of Girl I Am. It's Porn's My Favorite Things, I Don't Know How to Love Him or Under the Sea.

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.

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