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Saturday, August 18, 2007


If you're in Malta (or any warm/dry place) right now, I think you'll be amused to find out that I have not been able to go anywhere this week without my umbrella. It's a glorious British summer...meaning it's foggy and rainy. This is to be expected after the 3 weeks of practically continuous sun we've just had.

What's not expected is the termination of the BBC's FM Russian service. What is being called "propaganda" cannot be as completely suppressed now as it was in the days before the widespread use of the Internet, of course. As I see it, this is a blessing in disguise for Internet services in Russia. Filtering the internet is quite easy for powerful entities like national governments but by its very nature the Net is structured to overcome such blockages. Media freedom now means something quite different than it did during the Cold War.

Off to a brighter place: the 79th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. It looks like I will not be taking a proper break this summer. So I'm covering acts on the gigging circuit in Malta, which seems to be at its busiest in August. Poxx Bar in Paceville has clearly become one of the hotspots for great live music. This weekend it's hosting three gigs from acts I've chosen to play on this week's podcast.

On Sunday night, Andre' Camilleri's Broken Hearts will join The Beangrowers and Shostakovitch's Nightmare in what sounds like a fairly eclectic mix. Camilleri's lastest CD album One Fine Day has already been featured on MMI. From it I've selected
I Got A Little Drunk.

My Journey by Marc Galea is another CD released earlier this year. I played the title track months ago but now I return to it to bring you something quite rare on my podcast: a cover version. There has to be something really special for me to play a Maltese cover of a song by a great like Jimi Hendrix. Galea's version of Voodoo Chile is sung by Grimaud. That's more than enough for me. It's an excellent recording that showcases the mighty voice of Tony Grimaud just as we knew and loved it 25 years ago when the singer was at the peak of his game. If this is what he (still) sounds like now I can't wait to hear more recordings from Grimaud.

Back to the Poxx Bar, where this weekend's line-up featured no less than two foreign bands on separate nights. The Italian band Soul Drivers take the stage tonight, supported by local newcomers Vinnie Vintage. I discovered this band's YouTube page and it features a set of single camera recordings in their garage. Listen to Sea to the Salt and you should be able to get a glimpse of things to come from this band.

Swiss metal rockers CardiaC are the other foreign act on the circuit this weekend. They're both at Poxx and Remedy, with a plethora of Maltese metal bands. Although as derivative as anything else you're bound to hear in this genre, I find CardiaC's approach quite original, mostly because they employ the Spanish language extensively in their songs. In some ways they remind me of the way Norm Rejection use Maltese in some of their tracks. El Tiempo brings this week's podcast to a close in a delightful way until I return with the 80th edition or an unrelated blog entry...whichever comes first.

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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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pastime Paradise

I've just heard some sad news on the radio. David Hatch has died at the age of 68. There are some remarkable people who never really become household names even though they help many become household names during their career. I think it's fair to say that David was one such person. This is to say nothing of his relatively recent knighthood.

It was a thrill to meet him in 1988 when I was a trainee at the BBC. You can see me here in a photo taken in his Broadcasting House office as he presented me with my certificate at the end of my training course. He was Managing Director of BBC Radio at the time and had previously served as Head of Light Entertainment as well as Controller of Radio 2 and Radio 4. I have a feeling he was deep in management hell at that time. He left the BBC about 10 years ago and worked for the National Consumer Council before he retired.
Toni Sant receiving a certificate from David Hatch at the end of a BBC Radio Training course in 1988
Judging from my hairstyle I wasn't too bothered that I was experiencing a potentially historical moment in my professional life. However, I remember that that I was aware that I was in the presence of an empire's fading glory.

David Hatch left an indelible impression on me throughout my broadcasting career and also delighted many radio listeners through his contributions as producer of I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and Just a Minute.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Guitar Man

It's been a good week. It felt good as soon as it started. Highlights included the DVD release of Pan's Labyrinth and a very fruitful visit to the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus by Ian Forrester and Matthew Cashmore of BBC Backstage. Both the film and BBC Backstage deserve a blog entry of their own, and I hope I can write about them in the coming days.

Meanwhile I'm here to announce the contents of the 59th podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series. This week's episode features instrumental music by four Maltese guitarists. I had never heard of the first three before this year but the fourth is someone whose work I've known for about twenty years. Robert Longo, Joe "il-Pejxa" Vella, and Charlie "Paletti" Muscat immediately come to mind as other guitarists whose music I've played on previous editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor. There are several others, of course, such as Sandro Zerafa, Jean Paul Galea, Demis Fenech, and Antonio Olivari.

This time I've turned my attention to Marc Galea and Jean Pierre Zammit, who are both guitar teachers. According to his website, Marc is working on an album and Jean Pierre is about to release a 3-track CD very soon. The tracks I've chosen to play from their repertoire are called My Journey and Wipe Every Tear respectively. They both demonstrate solid control of their rock guitar techniques without too much showing off, which sometimes accompanies similar work by lesser guitarists.

Unlike Galea and Zammit, Franco Tartaglia has chosen MySpace to distribute his recordings. His experimental work is quite interesting, even if it's one notch less sophisticated that that of the other two guitarists. Tartaglia has the potential to become one of Malta's more unusual guitar players pushing towards developing a unique style. Meanwhile, as you can hear in the track In Memoria he is honing his skills on establish formats with a minor twist.

While listening to Franco Tartaglia's music I thought it would be most appropriate to close this week's podcast with something from a Maltese musician who has been playing guitar since before any of the other performers featured in today's show were born. Manuel Casha left Kalkara for Australia many years ago. Back in the 1960s and 1070s he played in various pop bands before turning his attention to traditional Maltese folk music. To my way of thinking, he belongs to the first generation of Maltese rock guitarists, even if he is now more comfortable with Il-Budaj than with The Beatles. His album Neon was originally released on cassette in 1992 and remixed for CD in 2001. From it you can hear Fil-Bitħa tal-Granmastri (In the Grandmasters' Courtyard) as the final track on this week's podcast.

Now I'm off to watch Britain select its entry for this year's Eurovision Song Contest on BBC One. I don't think I'll be blogging about that because the songs shortlisted for the final selection are quite ordinary, with one exception. Sadly there's no sign of Morrissey, but if Big Brovaz win, this year's UK entry will be noteworthy, otherwise it'll most probably be just another forgettable year for this country. Incidentally, I'm quite amused by Terry Wogan's less than subtle suggestions that the British public should vote for Malta come the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

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.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got

About 19 years ago I met Fijian broadcaster Apakuki Coka in London. We were both BBC trainees. He was a very impressive character who was about 15 years older than me. In my typical Maltese manner, I used to tease him by saying that one day soon he would be the head of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. Some years later he became Fiji's top radio man, but we lost touch soon after and I never heard of him again.

Strangely enough, this afternoon I googled him. I honestly don't know what got into me. I was quite shocked when I discovered that Kuki died in July 2002 from a heart attack at the age of 51.

I'm only bringing this up on my blog because I can't think of a better place to do so. I emailed my old roommate Angelo Fernando, who was also a BBC trainee with us in London back in 1988 and is now settled in Arizona. I wonder if he knew about this. I don't think he did. He probably would have told me, just like I told him a few minutes ago. I apologize for this public moment of grief, but I really didn't know how else to start processing Kuki's premature passing...especially since he's been dead for almost five years already.

I always feel strange whenever people I know die. I guess it's inevitable. I feel even more strange when acquaintances I haven't seen for many year pass away, especially when they pass on before they can enjoy most of their lives. I don't want to get all morbid on you, so I'll leave it here for today, if that's OK with you.

Saturdays are podcasting days for me. So, if it wasn't for this, today I would just be blogging about the latest edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. This week it's number 56 in the series and features material I found through MySpace in the last few weeks.

Kristina Casolani is someone I had heard of before but her name never clicked in my head as someone to include on my podcast. This changed the instant I heard her songs on her MySpace page. She's just finished recording an album, which I presume will be released sometime soon. I've picked to play a song she performed on TV as a guest at one of the Song for Europe contests about four years ago, Wanna B Me. I don't think English-language pop music from Malta can ever be better than this.

I'm also pleased to discover Explicit through their MySpace page. Their song Games features an outro, which I believe is quite a rarity these days. I'm looking forward for more from this band. Stephanie Chetcuti is an excellent rock singer and I'm wondering if she moonlights as a singer away from the band like Stillborn's Diane Castillo.

Speaking of Stillborn, their former bass player, Jean Paul Galea has released a couple of solo home-recording on his new MySpace page. I really like the track Return, which I've included on this week's podcast. He is currently looking for new collaborators and I don't hesitate to say that if I lived in Malta I'd be exploring at least one jam session with him. Alas, I'll leave that privilege to those who can catch up with him more often that I would from this self-imposed exile I chose for myself all those years ago.

To close up this week's podcast I've chosen to play a song by one of the bands that debuted on my radar during last October's Battle of the Bands. They're a raw trio called Cable35 and if their song It's Over is a sign of things to come I'll certainly be looking out for more recordings from this band 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.

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