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Thursday, December 31, 2009

See Saw

2009 is history. For the last six years I've been blogging about the ups and downs at the end of every year. Although my blog has been taken over almost completely by show notes for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, I still manage to sneak in all sort of (seemingly) unrelated comments and entries on a regular basis. In any case, this whole exercise continues to simply be a collection of snapshots gathered at specific moments in time rather than a detailed chronicle.

This year, my partial and most subjective list of blog entries from the year gone by, continues to be inflected almost completely by my podcast show notes. So, in random order, here's the list of highs and lows in my year, as captured on my blog throughout 2009:


  • 5 Years since WPW Syndrome diagnosis and I'm still here!

  • Pierre J. Mejlak's Qed Nistenniek Nieżla max-Xita

  • MySpace lives on

  • The resurgence of Twitter as an alternative social networking utility

  • Catching up with live music in Malta: April + October

  • Discovering No Bling Show

  • Music video from No Bling Show's Lucija u Samwel

  • The MMI Podcast is now brought to you by Vodafone

  • Free Wi-fi on National Express trains

  • Visiting Moscow + Isle of Man + Hungary

  • Hello Wordpress!

  • High hopes with/for Obama

  • The joys of December

  • AHRC Sabbatical Award for 2009/10

  • Waterloo Sunset

  • 20 Years since 1989

  • 40 Years since 1969

  • The eye-watering rise of Facebook

  • Malta Eurosong 2009

  • Malta at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest

  • Failure of the Green uprising in Iran

  • January takes Mike Francis too

  • Rest in Peace, my teachers:
    Augusto Boal - Charles Camilleri - Charles Clews - Brooks McNamara

  • Rest in Peace, my friends:
    Dennis Vella - Remo Mifsud - Niki Falzon

  • ...and the icons too:
    Wendy Richard - Michael Jackson - Les Paul - Farrah Fawcett

  • So much to do, so little time

    Putting these lists together has become a wonderful way for me to reflect on the highlights and the lowpoints of the year gone by. It is one of the few things that remained consistent throughout the life of this blog. I say this mainly because I know that this blog will once again be undergoing some transformation/s in the coming weeks and months.

    Until then, I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and/or listening to my podcasts in 2009 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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  • Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Gone Gone Gone

    At about this time of the year for the past 9 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.

    While countless tributes will be made to Michael Jackson, Mike Bongiorno, Farrah Fawcett and other well known figures outside Malta, it behooves us remember the many Maltese personalities who passed away during the past 12 months.

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

    Charles Camillieri, Composer & Musician
    (Died: 3 January 2009)

    Charles Clews, Actor & Broadcaster
    (Died: 29 January 2009)

    Alexandra Borg Olivier, Former Prime Minister's Wife
    (Died: 27 February 2009)

    Victor Tedesco, Football Club Manager
    (Died: 17 March 2009)

    Antoinette Soler, Actress
    (Died: May 2009)

    Nikki Falzon, Composer & Musician
    (Died: May 2009)

    Dennis Vella, Art Curator
    (Died: 28 July 2009)

    Clifford Micallef, Cyclist
    (Died: 30 July 2009)

    Jennie Psaila, Equestrian
    (Died: 4 August 2009)

    Desmond Vella, Entrepreneur & Promoter
    (Died: 25 August 2009)

    Joseph A Sacco, MFA Secretary General
    (Died: 9 September 2009)

    Lawrence Mintoff, Architect & Politician
    (Died: 14 September 2009)

    Remo Mifsud, Entrepreneur & Promoter
    (Died: 14 September 2009)

    Victor Diacono, Sculptor
    (Died: 22 October 2009)

    Joe A. Grima, Politician
    (Died: 2 November 2009)

    Twanny Buhagiar, Sports Journalist & Broadcaster
    (Died: 18 November 2009)

    Daniel Piscopo, Politician & Medical Doctor
    (Died: 14 December 2009)

    Angelo Fenech, Entrepreneur
    (Died: 16 December 2009)

    Lilliana Bencini, Radio Announcer
    (Died: 19 December 2009)

    Edwin Busuttil, Politician & Law Professor
    (Died: 20 December 2009)

    Victor Agius, Councilman
    (Died: 21 December 2009)

    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 19, 2009

    Christmas Is Just Around The Corner

    Christmas is here once again. Don't you just love how the wheel goes round and round? I've just cracked open this year's dark rum, even if a nice bottle of Benromach Traditional Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey I won in a local competition last summer has managed to beat it to the start line this year. What would life be like without the seasonal spirit?

    The steady flow of new Christmas music from Malta which started last year continues unabated this year. I stay away from the stuff that's too saccharine sweet for my taste but unfortunately this year there are even a song or two that I'd have liked to to include in the special edition of on my weekly podcast that reached me a little too late to be included. Is it just me or do some Maltese musicians and singers release their Christmas songs not as early as they should? You really can over do it in either direction on this.

    I'm quite excited about this year's MMI Christmas podcast because it's packed with very special material. The first track is has never been heard publicly before and it comes from one of my favourite Maltese band of all time, duo Particle Blue. Although the duo split a few years back, Antoine Vella has sent me an unreleased song from 2005 called Christmas Time Come On. These guys make me cry. This is the real deal. No sugar coated nonsense. Just raw emotions but still very appropriate for the season. What a gem!

    Fr Karm Debattista mssp has released an outstanding album of Christmas songs this year. It's called Min Hu dat-Tifel? (Who's This Boy?) and features traditional Christmas carols rearranged in a contemporary folk rock style played by Andrew Zammit on the lead guitar and bass, Edward Ellul also played on the bass, while Noel Grech played the drums, Jacob Portelli the violin, and Paul Giordimaina played the piano. Aside from singing, Fr Karm plays the recorder, rhythm guitar and keyboards on this album, which is nominated in the Top Album category for the MMI 2009 Listeners' Picks poll, which is open for votes on Facebook until Friday 1 January 2010.

    Andrew Zammit has released a Christmas song this year. I'd have loved to include Paċi fl-Art (Peace on Earth) on this week's podcast but it only reached me after I had recorded the show. I'll certainly play it on next year's Christmas podcast, but if you'd like to hear it now just go to Andrew Zammit's MySpace page.

    I'm quite please to be able to include quite an unusual Christmas song this year. It comes from the JMJ Project, which comprises John E. Zammit Pace (guitars, piano, harpsichord), Manny Cefai (bass, vocals, keyboards) and Joe "Peace" Camilleri (drums, percussion, vibes). This project is most remarkable because these middle-aged Maltese musicians contributed each of their parts for John lives in Malta, Manny is in the UK, and Joe il-Peace is based in Orlando, Florida. John and Joe sent their parts for Xmas on My Mind to Manny who put them all together in time for Christmas. This way of putting a song together is probably a first for the Maltese music scene. I hope to bring you other tracks from the JMJ Project (or the individuals involved in it) in 2010.

    The crowning glory for this year's MMI Christmas Special is a recording from 1989 featuring one of Malta's best ever musicial comedy duo
    Freeway. Toni Vella and Jesmond Tedesco Triccas have appeared on a previous edition of the MMI podcast from this 1989 edition of my Mill-Garaxx TV series. As the week they appeared on Mill-Garaxx happened to be a Christmas edition too they contributed their Pudina tal-Milied (Christmas Pudding) medley accompanied by Il-Merħla. Don't let anyone tell you that there was no fun to be had in Malta in the 1980s.

    The next MMI podcast will appear on Saturday 2nd January 2009 and it will feature the top picks by my listeners and others voting on Facebook for the favourite 2009 Maltese music releases. Until then, over the coming days 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 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, December 12, 2009

    Everything In Its Right Place

    Last week I wrote about the way things seem to come together at this time of the year. Ritual and routine help give us a sense of who we are and where we are. It's quite wonderful really, even for someone like me who celebrates chaos most of the rest of the year.

    This blog and my weekly podcast are a central part of that routine for me. As one of my teachers once told me, I prefer to promote chaos through order. It's a paradox but I must admit that order is only really surface deep. Creativity and disorder are great (even if odd) bedfellows.

    The 192nd Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is the last one for this year to feature new music from 2009, before next week's Christmas special. The number of missing nominations from the 2009 MMI Lister Picks poll is much smaller than it has been in previous years. This week's podcast includes two of the songs missing from that list.

    The first is a duet featuring Muxu and Talitha called Still Missing You. Thankfully, if you're a Muxu fan, you can still vote for him on the 2009 MMI Listener Picks poll since his video for Gone is nominated in that category. Muxu continues to be an interesting enigma in the Maltese pop scene. My feeling is that he will be a huge role model for the next generation of male pop singers in the Maltese islands.

    The new album by Christian rock band Salt was only released a few days ago, but it did manage to make it to the Top Album category on the 2009 MMI Listener Picks poll. Less Noise More Love will give the band's ever-growing fan base an excellent way to appreciate what is undoubtedly Malta's most prolific act in this faith-based genre. Still, to see Salt only within that sphere is to miss what a tight band they really are. Stronger, the song I've picked to play on today's podcast, is clear evidence that this band has much more to offer than cool prayer beats.

    Being contacted by singers and musicians via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or directly through my website is one of the things I treasure most about the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Different people have different ways of telling me about their music and I'm fascinated by the different ways people present themselves. Earlier this week I received a Facebook friend request from Dana McKeon. Nothing more. Like many other people on Facebook I get friend requests from people I don't know all the time. Before accepting them I take a look at their profile page to get a sense as to why they'd like me to have access to them via Facebook and vice versa. This was how I discovered Dana's song Voice in My Head, which is available in two versions on her MySpace page.

    Others send me their CDs in the post. I cherish each and every one of those little plastic discs, especially because I realize that in the not too distant future they will no longer be a viable way to distribute music. Manipulated by Twenty-Six Other-Worlds is a little metal gem. I think it's been underrated on the local scene, partly because their long songs are not very local radio friendly. And yet their melodic hard rock is among the best in the Maltese metal scene at the minute. I've played their songs on the MMI series a couple of times before, but I wanted to end this week's podcast with their song Lady Deadly. Manipulated is among the list of nominations in the Top Album category on the 2009 MMI Listener Picks poll. Voting is only open until the end of the year, so if you haven't voted yet please do so now before it's too late.

    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, December 05, 2009

    Time To Pretend

    December brings with it a bunch of annual occurrences that mark the end of the year. The first of these is the Maltese song festival organized annually by the YTC known as L-Għanja tal-Poplu. A couple of music awards events follow it within just a few days. Meanwhile two of the three public holidays the Maltese enjoy during this month roll around and clearly it's time to share season's greetings.

    Last week I was interviewed about the Malta Music Awards by Marlene Galea from SBS Radio in Australia. She actually broadcast my comments over two days. Throughout all this, Kenneth J. Vella was rebuilding the Facebook app that enables Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast listeners to vote for their top picks from 2009. Almost 100 people have already voted in the first few days that the app has been active on Facebook. We're expecting several hundred to vote over the coming weeks; voting is open until the end of the year. The top 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks will be announced during the first podcast for 2010.

    So the 191st MMI podcast attempts to capture all this, or at least some of it, since my podcasts tend to become even more eclectic in December. I've wanted to include something by The Areola Treat this year but it's only now that I've managed to come around to it. This is possibly because the band has been too busy touring and gigging to record any new material. So from the debut EP, released last year, I've picked 16, which is more than fit for purpose.

    There are a number of performers whose work has been nominated for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, who have released more material than what has ended up on the list receiving your votes. Two such acts are featured next in this week's podcast.

    The Myth are nominated in the singles category for Dream and in the music videos category with Animal. Their most recent release is called Thank You and I've selected to included it as the second track on this week's podcast. Similarly, Stefanos is nominated for his guitar instrumentals released online via MySpace. A few weeks ago he sent me an acoustic track called Tears in My Heart and I must admit that I prefer this sound over his electric tracks, and it serves as a very appropriate segue for the songs from L-Għanja tal-Poplu I've picked to play during the rest of this week's podcast.

    Antonio Olivari D'Emanuele and Justin Galea have teamed up on a song called Attent, which placed third in this year's YTC song contest. They are both regular listeners of the MMI podcast, so I take great pleasure in not only congratulating them but also in playing their song. I haven't received my copy of the CD album with all this year's songs yet, nor are they freely available online, but I have managed to acquire the winning song in time to include it as the closing track of this week's podcast. The 2009 Għanja tal-Poplu was won by Corazon Mizzi and Walter Micallef, whose duet is called Tal-Aħħar. Maltese songs like this give great hope to the use of our mother tongue 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 or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text. This podcast is brought to you by Vodafone.

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