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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Sun Always Shines On TV

My visits to Malta are almost always flavoured with a main theme, which dominates most of my activities in the days I spend visiting my country of birth. Often it's music. Sometimes it's family. This time it's TV. To be quite honest it feels a little odd, particularly because I thought I had shaken off the ghost of TV before the end of the 20th century.

This round of TV-dominated activities started with performing my civic duty as a member of the expert jury panel at the 2010 Malta EuroSong, selecting Malta's 2010 Eurovision Song Contest entry. This exercise took up almost an entire weekend of my life, but I don't regret a second, even though enduring subpar songs and singers overshadowing some excellent singers and a couple of decent songs is not an easy job. Fortunately, reason prevailed at this year's local selection for Eurovision and the act with the best chance of not doing too badly at the contest in May was selected with a clear vote by both the judging panel and the televiewers. In spite of this, my ideas about what Malta really needs to do vis a vis its annual Eurovision efforts remain unchanged.

It was delightful to get away from it all with Charles Xuereb (one of my former broadcasting career mentors) on Wednesday at Malta's National Museum of Fine Art. Our evening in the Art & Wine @ South Street series seemed to generate quite a bit of debate around the theme of contemporary art. The museum staff's vision for the future of art in Malta is simply fantastic. They're already doing miricles with the resources at hand and I wholeheartedly believe that great new things may come to pass at Malta's foremost art musuem in the coming years.
Art and Wine @ South Street

I'm always amused by the different audiences and broad-ranging cultural dynamics in Malta whenever I visit. Back to TV on Friday, I spent the better part of the evening in the green room for Malta's most popular chat show: Xarabank. On one level it's a showcase for populist Maltese ideas to florish, on another it's a contemporary cultural anthropologist's playing field. I enjoyed it all, even though I only got to speak for no more than a couple of minutes on the show.

To bring it all to a close, earlier this evening I attended the 2010 Malta Television Awards at the same Ta' Qali venue where I spent most of last weekend. I was one of the judges for the Best Documentary category. It was a fabulous networking occassion as a huge number of the multiude of people who work in Malta's television industry where all gathered under one roof. As award shows go, this is one that's still in its infancy in terms of impact and format. Considering how television has developed in Malta over the past 20 years, I am quite keen to see what shape things will take on 20 years from now; especially as TV faces an ever growing challenge from the Internet.

Although I was mostly in Malta to give lectures on contemporary performance at the University of Malta through the Erasmus programme, overall I come away from this TV-themed week with a clear sense that the quantity and quality of television shows in this country has advanced greatly since I officially abandoned my career as a professional broadcast in the 1990s. However, I'm saddened by the fact that there's no more creativity now than was evident in the time when resources were restricted and limited in every way, shape and form.

Incidentally, if you've come to the blog looking for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast I urge you to listen to one of the 200 episodes I've produced since 2005, while I prepare for the 202nd edition.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dream On

Malta's entry for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest was selected last night. Newcomer Thea Garrett will sing My Dream by Jason Cassar and Sunny Aquilina this May in Oslo. It was a relatively easy selection for the expert panel of judges and the televoting public to pick this act from the 20 entries in the final round of Malta's selection for this year's Eurovision. The local pop scene is tired and complacent but (as one of this year's members of the judging panel) I'm grateful that at least one song rose above all others in such a clear and undeniable way.

For Thea Garrett and her team the road ahead has many twists and turns that need to be handled with care. I wish them all the best with their adventure, mindful of the fact that they will spread their wings enough to do the best they can with the resources available to them.

Rather than harp on about this year's Malta EuroSong for the 201st Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, I'd like to share with you an interview conducted by Marlene Galea from SBS Radio in Australia about a week ahead of the event, assessing the state of Malta's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. This is meant as constructive criticism towards a better understanding of how the Maltese music pop scene can make better use of the opportunities offered by appearing on a television show followed by hundreds of millions of viewers.

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, November 21, 2009

Tomorrow's Dream

Very recently I was asked about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, more than once. Perhaps it's not inappropriate to air my position on this publicly, especially since I've never really done this before. There are very few children (i.e. under 15s) I'm particularly interested in hearing sing or watch perform. Shaheen Jafargholi is one recent notable exception, of course. While I think that it's never to early to start if you have talent or if you'd like to nurture one, I'm also particularly concerned that certain kids are pushed by their parents into this scene for one reason or another. I find this an uncomfortable position to create good music and in most cases the results are quite atrocious.

So, as you can see, I do have limits. To put it simply, brilliant child performers are very rare. Good ones are hard to come by too. A quick browse through seven years of Junior Eurovision Song Contest entries only confirms what I feel about child performers. I'm also aware that this will not necessarily go down well with young wannabes and/or their families. Still, calling a spade a spade is essential.

It's therefore unlikely that I'll be featuring child performers on my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast anytime soon. It's not a Eurovision thing, it's all about personal tastes in music. While I do play the odd track that doesn't really align with my own tastes, I never include anything I wouldn't want to hear more than once or not at all. I always try to balance my own taste with that of my listeners.

The 189th MMI podcast addresses three things listeners have asked for. The first two come right away in the form of two songs from Sasha & Sam. The last time I featured their music on my podcast, listeners reacted positively to them like they've hardly ever done with any other act. People in Malta can catch Sasha & Sam live on two separate gigs in the coming days. On Tuesday 24 November they will opening for Jesse Cook at the City Theatre in Valletta. Then on Friday 27 November they will be at the Black Pearl. They're also about to launch a CD album entitled The Space Within. From it I've selected two songs to open this week's podcast: My Life and Something to Say. The album will be nominated for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, which will open for voting via Facebook in the coming days.

I was quite amused to hear of the Female-fronted Extreme Music Festival (FEM), which is taking place this evening at the Sky Club in Paceville. FEM is a cool idea and if nothing else it shows that rock is no longer a boys' club in Malta. The bands appearing on the bill include Weeping Silence, Oblique Visions, The Imagery, Virginia Queens, Six.Point.Circle, Deluge of Sorrow, Sepia and Indigo. Most of these acts have appeared on previous edition of the MMI podcast. From this FEM line-up I've picked to play a track from Indigo, fronted by Marvic Lewis. Delve is a following track to the Struck album released a couple of years back. It's the sort of thing that gives both females and males great hope for an even better rock scene in Malta than the one that has clearly already developed in recent years.

For some people, electronica seems as far away as you can get from rock on the genre spectrum. Kurt Chircop is one of the more prolific exponents of this type of music in Malta. Recording as l urk, I look forward to including his music on the MMI series from time to time. This time he has really topped himself with a track entitled He Named His Cat "Leo". It also makes for a lovely little interlude in a MMI episode packed with wonderful tracks.

Freddie Portelli returns to the series to close up this week's podcast. The One and Only is one of two singles he released this year. He is currently finishing work on a new album of songs in Maltese to be released next February, when he's also scheduled to return to Australia for a number of shows for his numerous Maltese-Australian fans especially in Melbourne and Sydney. The current single sees him exploring Ska within his distinctive style, featuring his daughter Claudette as backing singer and a scorching guitar solo by Robert Longo.

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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Monday, May 18, 2009

Love Reign O'er Me

I'm on the train from London going up north back home to Scarborough right now. I published the 162nd Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast but I didn't have time to blog about it because I was in Moscow. I also had other plans for Sunday and today which made it next to impossible for me to blog any sooner.

I know I owe my faithful podcast listeners a decent blog entry about the most recent podcast. I also owe my loyal blog readers a post about the result of this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Although I have access to the internet via the free wi-fi service on the train, we'll be pulling into York railway station within the next half hour so I won't have time to write the way I'd like to before later tomorrow or possibly even Wednesday. Normal service will resume soon enough, so for now please forgive me for writing the rest of this blog entry the way you're about to read.

The 162nd podcast was released just before the 2009 Eurovision final. So, as you'd expect there's a little Eurovision in it, but if you know anything about the MMI podcast you know to expect something quite different than what the mainstream Maltese media would give you on such an occasion. Yes, the podcast opens with Chiara singing her Belgian made song, with which she managed to return Malta to the contest's final round for the first time since 2006. Malta will never get a decent placement in the current version of the Eurovision without either an outstanding song or a strategic marketing campaign...or both. I think that's all I'll say about the Eurovision today, especially now that it's all (almost) over.

Next up is Freddie Portelli with his new single Tonight. Freddie turned 65 on the 5th of May and listening to this new song makes me appreciate how hip some Maltese pensioners really are these days.

The 2nd edition of the Malta Hit Song Contest presented its final session on the 1st of May. Neville Refalo won this year's contest with a song that was clearly better than most of the rest of those in the competition. However, one of my personal favorites was by Julie Pomorski.

For anyone interested in what Maltese music really sounds like I would currently wholeheartedly recommend the debut album from No Bling Show. I played one of their songs a few weeks ago from a live video version. Now you can hear the song about Lucija u Samuel in the CD version from the album Stejjer tal-Bandli. This album will undoubtedly standout when the end of year top picks are selected for 2009. Meanwhile, I urge you to get your hands on the album and listen to the difference. Here's a group of young Maltese artists on the verge of maturing into significant Maltese artists.

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.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Love Shine a Light

Malta's name is once again to be heard as a contender in the Eurovision Song Contest finals. Many believe that if Chiara couldn't do this for Malta no one else could. This has put immense pressure on the singer, even though she has participated in this pan-European contest twice before. I can understand what she meant last night after the semifinal when she said that she was more concerned about making it through to the final than she is about her performance at the final.

This is not hubris. Chiara is the first to admit that she is stubborn and hard-headed when it comes to reaching for the number 1 spot at the Eurovision Song Contest. Since she is not a singer by profession this is understandable. Over the years Chiara has fashioned as a Eurovision performer and this suits her very well. She seems quite happy to think that this contest is the pinnacle of her carrier in the music industry. There's nothing wrong with that, especially for a singer who comes from a country that has produced fewer international stars that most people have fingers on one hand.

By all counts, winning the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest is no easy feat for the Maltese singer and her Belgian-made song. Chiara has a beautiful singing voice but she will need to beat at least 4 others singers with beautiful voices and/or songs: Jade Ewen (UK), Yohanna (Iceland), Malena Ernman (Sweden), and of course Patricia Kaas (France). Flor-de-lis (Portugal) is not to be discredited at this point of the game either.

Any assessment of Chiara's chances for bringing the Eurovision Song Contest to Malta in 2010 should also take into consideration that Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina) is clearly the Eastern favourite this year, while Alexander Rybak (Norway) remains the bookies pick to win. Today the bookies have Malta in 10th position on average at the final, and many are including Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine within the final top 10.

As I write this I'm watching the dress rehearsal for the 2nd semifinal. If this year is a year for ballads and/or great voices I don't think the 2009 ESC winner is among this batch. Most of the songs could have been last year's runners-up in their respective countries but the Ukrainians really know how to stage a spectacular extravaganza. Anyway, I'll reassess this situation, if absolutely necessary, on Friday. If I'm lucky I'll manage to take in the town and its glorious culture a little bit more than I've had time for till now.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Is This Love

I'm in Moscow this week for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. If you follow this blog regularly (or at least you've followed it around previous months of May) you'll know that this event is one I'm interested in for various reasons. Although there's lots of pop-trash and kitsch galore, as someone with a performance studies-related day job, I feel professionally compelled to follow this annual festival. Also, as a lover of Maltese music I can't ignore any Maltese singers who appears on TV in front of an audience of millions of televiewers around the world.

Anyway, enough introductions. I do this every year. So, what's different this year? I'm not blogging as extensively as I've done about Eurovision week since 2006. I'm twittering regularly instead and if you're interested in knowing what I'm thinking and/or what's going on in Moscow (from my perspective) you can follow my micro-blogging activities on Twitter.

This year I'm also very pleased to start collaborating with SBS Radio in Australia to provide special reports through their Maltese language service. The first report is now available online through the SBS website and at

Other than this, I've been interviewed by Norman Hamilton for Super One TV. I'll post that if/when I get my hands on the edited version. I've also been interviewed by the Xarabank team for their upcoming special appearing later this week. They both asked the usual question: "so who's going to win this year?" and I've obviously replied that I have no idea. Still, if it were up to me France wins Eurovision 2009. Patricia Kaas makes me cry whenever I hear her sing the beautifully depressing Et S'il Fallait Le Faire. Paris is wonderful in May. Better still: Cannes...perhaps?

France really wants to win this year. So does the UK. This is rather weird because both countries have obviously not been taking the Eurovision Song Contest too seriously in recent years. Mind you, I loved Sébastien Tellier last year: pure pop genius. The UK has brought out the big guns in the shape of Andrew Lloyd Webber this year. The song is not one of Lloyd Webber's best but Jade Ewen is a brilliant performer who is able to deliver It's My Time better than any other singer anyone can imagine.
Chiara at first rehearsal of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest semifinal 1
Malta should do well this year. Chiara has been a Eurovision starlet waiting for her close-up since 1998. Competition on the first semi-final is not so tough for a singer with her experience and exquisite voice. If she performs to the best of her abilities she should sail through to Saturday's final quite easily. Maltese Eurovision fans will finally rejoice in the fact that a singer from Malta is performing at the Eurovision final. More on that after the first semifinal; prudence first.

What else can I say? I don't have much more to add, except to invite you to follow me on Twitter if you'd like to get the latest from me in Moscow.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

For Those About To Rock

I'm writing this on the National Express train between York and London King's Cross on my way to Heathrow Airport. I'm on my way to Moscow for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. I wanted to test the free on-board wi-fi by publishing my weekly MMI podcast from the train. So far so good...or better still: it looks like everything is falling into place nicely. Wireless internet really is an essential element of the major paradigm shift that allows me (and countless others) to engage in this sort of mobile activity. For a blow by blow update on all this, you can follow me on Twitter too. I won't be offended if you don't.

To make sure I arrive in Moscow for the Eurovision in the appropriate mindset the 161st Mużika Mod Iehor podcast is dedicated to all Maltese (hard) rock fans. Starting off with a band that as not only just released a new album but also took part in the 2nd edition of the Heavy Metal Eurovision back in 2005. Aidenn Falls sees this veteran Maltese metal band Forsaken in top form. Leo Stivala's vocals give the band a distinctive mark that makes them instantly recognizable among the many other metal contenders on the scene. After the Fall came out on 1 April 2009 and marks Forsaken's first collaboration with Swedish metal label I Hate Records.

Speaking of new albums, I'm sure that every self-respecting rocker in the Maltese islands has heard about the new release from Knockturn Alley entitled Medusa. I featured this band on my podcast back in 2006 when they first appeared with their debut EP The Dream is Dead. I'm very pleased to play Epilogue (Cities Burn) from their new debut album, which is officially released tonight at the Liquid Club in Tal-Ballal, limits of San Gwann. Greek band The Source are the opening act at the launch gig. Something tells me that the connection comes through Knockturn Alley's drummer Dimitris Aggelidis.

In The Name Of is another active Maltese hardcore metal band. I've never had an opportunity to play any of their music on the MMI podcast before. This is most probably because they've only been around for a couple of years and it's only recently that I managed to get my hands on one of their recordings. Have a listen to Rise (of a Crushing Alliance) and sample the sort of thing you should expect from the if you go see them live along with Twenty Six Other Worlds and Oblique Visions at the Poxx Bar in Paceville.

This genre of music is a dominant subculture which rivals any other style of music. I believe that it's only considered underground because most radio stations refuse to play it. It's not surprising that one of Malta's most successful alternative bands emerged from a hardcore metal band. That band was called Victims of Creation. I had the distinct honour of playing their only released recording on the MMI series within the first few months after I started podcasting. It is therefore a joy that I share with numerous other Maltese rock fans that Victims of Creation have returned to play live at the Malta Doom Metal Festival, which took place at The Poxx a last weekend. Victims of Creation (with a slightly altered line up of original members) have released a garage recording of a track called Chapter 22, and that's the sound I want running through my head as I head out to Moscow for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. I'll make it up to any podcast listeners who prefer lighter genres of music next week. I promise.

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.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Let It Shine

A few days ago I was interviewed by SBS Radio in Australia about the process by which Malta is selecting this year's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, taking place this May in Moscow. I spoke candidly and at length about the 20 songs that made it to the Malta Euro Song 2009 final round; as well as some that didn't make it. Truthfully, most of what I said is simply personal opinion, but it was a good way for me to put myself in the right frame of mind to engage with the annual circus that accompanies this event.

This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast follows on from this trajectory and offers my best thoughts on some of the better songs in this year's crop. I must admit that we've been spared from the same fate we suffered last year, which for me will be remembered as one of the weakest over-all years ever. This is not to say that there's a wide range of material to choose from this year, but at least there are a handful of pleasant pop songs to enjoy.

The first of these is one called Choose Your Number written by Augusto Cardinali and Giovann Attard for the young Maltese entertainer J.Anvil. It follows on from previous songs this team has presented in these local contests and it as enjoyable as a cold bottle of fine sparkling water on a hot summer's day. The same can be said for Before You Walk Away, written by Paul Giordimaina and Fleur Balzan for the vocal group Q, consisting of Fiona, Glen, Leontine, Luca, and Pamela. The feeling I get from both these entries is that they're coming from the bittersweet experiences of similar songs in previous editions of the local selection leading to the Eurovision. This is simply meant as an honest observation rather than a criticism of anyone involved in making this impression on me.

It is therefore with great joy that I welcome a song by what to me are a new composer and a new singer: Andrew Zahra and Kylie Coleiro respectively. The song Let It Shine (lyrics by Joe Julian Farrugia) stands out as the freshest thing on this year's local selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly I can already see this young singer learning to do things that will eventually be her undoing. What I mean to say is that the best thing about Kylie Coleiro is that she is indeed someone who has just managed to break away from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. It's that vestal virgin quality she should be playing up rather than the teenager who is growing up to fast. If that approach doesn't come natural to her, than a near-legal Lolita is most definitely the way to go. Turning into yet another Maltese Eurovision wannabe is the last thing you want to do, Kylie, dear. Trust me, at the risk of sounding pompous and patronizing, I'd say I know a thing or two about this stuff.

At the other end of the spectrum is Eurovision super-diva Chiara. Her angelic voice is almost literally just what the doctor ordered in a selection process such as the one most countries go through before picking a song for the Eurovision Song Contest. I believe that the fact that Chiara is singing a Belgian song (albeit in English) is a problematic (if not controversial) one. At the risk of being accused of being xenophobes, many Maltese are not admitting publicly that this is not the right song for Chiara to take to the Eurovision. Can you imagine what it would be like if Chiara actually went to the Eurovision with What If We and continued her upward ascent to the winning position at the final in Moscow with a song that is less Maltese than any of the others ever sung from Malta? It would probably be even worse for Marc Paelinck and Gregory Bilsen if Chiara returned Malta to the Eurovision final but then failed to be crowned Eurovision queen as she one day truly deserves to be.

In the midst of all this, some good singers and even interesting songs end up being discarded completely as not appropriate for the final round of the local selection. The one I feel the most for is a song called Lament. This is a brave attempt by the Maltese Schlagermeister Philip Vella: a Maltese-language ballad pairing Eurovision veteran pop tenor Ludwig Galea with venerable folk singer Fidela Carabott tal-Bambinu, who at the age of 73 has won the National Folk Singing (Għana) Festival four times. I'm very disappointed that this song didn't at least make it to the final round replacing one of the 20 that actually got to have another attempt at representing Malta at the Eurovision. It is a very fitting way to end the 150th MMI podcast, until "normality" reigns down on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series once again next weekend.

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, October 18, 2008


Just before I started writing this blog entry, Andrew Lloyd-Webber appeared on my screen announcing that he was writing next year's UK Eurovision Song Contest entry. This is not a wacky story that will go away, like Morrisey's bid from a couple of years ago. Lord Lloyd-Webber will be mounting a talent contest to find the right act or singer for the song he's taking to Moscow next May. Even if you detest the kitschiness of the Eurovision, there's no denying that this is a major moment in British pop culture history. If all goes according to plan, this will potentially bring the contest back to mainstream entertainment in Britain. After all, the whole thing is running under the banner "Your Country Needs You!"

For those who couldn't care less about this sort of drivel (as Alex Vella Gera once told me it was, right here on this blog) it's a good thing that this week's edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features music by largely unknown, new underground acts that will never ever rub shoulders with anything even resembling the Eurovision.

Simon Cutajar, who sings with the upcoming band Skatenati, contacted me a few days ago to draw my attention to the first two acts I've now included in this week's podcast. The first is psytrance duo Soul Kontakt, comprising of Colin Piscopo and Gilbert Cordina, who have just released an EP entitled Deliverance. From it I've selected Brain Telescope to open the 136th MMI podcast.

Tom Caruana is a UK-based musician who Simon and I are assuming (hopefully correctly) to be of Maltese descent. We'll see what he says now that I've included a couple of his tracks on this week's podcast. Beat King is a delightful acid jazz piece but because he too has just released an EP called Is it Free? I've also included a second offering from this artist. You can even hear his voice on Everything Costs and the whole EP is available as a free download via Tea Sea Records.

I'm very grateful to Simon for pointing me towards both Soul Kontakt and Tom Caruana. Both their EPs will be added to my list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks. If you would like to recommend any music you think should be considered for my podcast please contact me.

It's always a pleasure to discover odd acts from Malta. DJ Lord Vampirick most certainly has a high sense of theatrical effect, even if he may not necessarily be considered a media manipulator. I received a MySpace 'friend' request from him recently and I was immediately intrigued both by some of the images he has chosen to represent him as well as the overall image he's deliberately (or otherwise) working on. After all he's only 17, so his output should be taken for what it really is: teenage experimentation. I am particularly fascinated by a track called Tryin To Be Hard, which stands head and shoulders above anything else I've heard from him. It is a high example for the theory of mimesis and alterity I'm planning to employ in my eventual study of the Maltese music scene, not withstanding the Eurovision Song Contest, of course.

To close this week's podcast I've picked a track from a new project that's about to be launched at the Poxx Bar in a couple of weeks. Hostile Hostage is among the first offerings of Revolt.Destroy.Reform, the new label about to be launched in November. White Police is a good example of the breakcore gabber style adapted by Hostile Hostage. I, for one, am very pleased to hear this style of music brought to the local scene, and I'm sure it will be well received by many old school techno lovers and anarcho-punks. More of this in another podcast soon.

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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Friday, May 23, 2008

Love on the rocks

No big surprise. Right?

I've also just written what will probably be my last report from Belgrade for MaltaMedia. It's actually the start of what comes next for me with regards to the performance studies angles I come chasing after at this controversial event.

As for the rest of it, here are some names, for amusement purposes only:

4 songs I think could win the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest final:

  • Ukraine: Ani Lorak - Shady Lady
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina: Laka - Pokušaj
  • Portugal: Vânia Fernandes - Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)
  • Spain: Rodolfo Chikilicuatre - Baila El Chiki Chiki

  • 4 songs I like from the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest final:
  • Georgia: Diana Gurtskaya - Peace Will Come
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina: Laka - Pokušaj
  • Finland: Teräsbetoni - Missä Miehet Ratsastaa
  • Turkey: Mor ve Ötesi- Deli

  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Love Me Two Times

    Anyone expecting me to blog about my top picks for the second semifinal of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will be disappointed. This is because minutes after watching a full dress rehearsal of the second semifinal I find myself thinking how relatively easy it could have been for Malta to stand out among the other 18 entries it is competing against. As it is, I see Malta's entry as just one of the many uninteresting performances Eurovision televiewers will be subjected to on Thursday evening. What do you expect anyway? It's the Eurovision Song Contest! Some would say. I'm hearing this more and more this year. It could be that it's because I have my head stuck more on my academic interests this year than it has been in any previous year during the contest.

    Regardless of this, I still think that this event is just a load of harmless fun. Better still, there are moments that are truly pleasant and even downright remarkable.

    If I could have my way about the final vote, I'd see Georgia's Diana Gurtskaya with Peace Will Come as the overall winner of this year's contest. It's not likely that this will come to pass, but stranger things are known to happen at this contest. I'm not saying that Georgia will win. I'm saying I'd be very happy if Diana Gurtskaya's song won. It's the sort of song that can move people of good will all over Europe and beyond, aside from the Eurovision.

    As the hackneyed saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So there's little else to say that really matters at this point. And yes, I am enjoying the anonymous comments on my recent blog entries. They're priceless for showing how easily I can be misunderstood, regardless of whether my words are twisted or not.

    Feel free to leave your comments here about any of the entries Malta is competing against on Thursday evening. Perhaps there are more lame songs this year in the contest simply because there are more contestants...but please don't let that stop you.


    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    One Love

    As expected, my presence at the Eurovision Song Contest is not easy to explain. Thankfully, the main thing I find interesting in this annual event is finally beginning to crystallize into a performance theory, which I'm slowly articulating into a plan for what will probably surface as an academic paper. The more I see of the media circus that goes on behind the scenes courtesy of the European Broadcasting Union, the more I see the wealth of performance studies angles available for close scrutiny. It's very pleasant to be able to share such thought with fellow academics in a place where most people wouldn't expect to see beasts like us.

    I'm sure that's not what most of the readers of this blog are expecting to hear from me at this point. I was speaking with some media people from Malta just a few moments ago and noticed that I have little more to say than what I've already said in Sunday's blog entry. The only thing I would add is that it looks as if a novelty song could win the contest this year. By "novelty song" I mean an unusual act in the sense that it's not just another song like many others before it. We'll know better after Thursday's semifinal, once the thumb-wrestlers of Europe have spoken and made the telecom beneficiaries several thousand euros richer.

    The weather in Belgrade is too warm and muggy to make sightseeing for long hours pleasant, even if the public transport system in this city is most efficient and affordable. This is how I find myself picking the top 10 songs I'd like to see make it through to the final from the first semifinal round, set to hit the stage at the Belgrade Arena this evening (in order of appearance).

    DISCLAIMER: There's a personal agenda (slightly hidden, for now) guiding my choices. To avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings, I hasten to add that my agenda is purely academic.

  • Moldova: Geta Burlacu - A Century Of Love
    Anyone looking for a non-Eurovision song (whatever that is!) needs look no further than this.

  • San Marino: Miodio - Complice
    This small nation's Maria l-Maltija makes me want to see more from this country.

  • Belgium: Ishtar - O Julissi
    A song in a language specially invented by the lyricist.

  • Azerbaijan: İctimai - Elnur & Samir - Day After Day
    It takes some doing to be this theatrical on a Eurovision stage.

  • Ireland: Dustin the Turkey - Irelande Douze Pointe
    Finally! A Eurovision singer that's an actual puppet.

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina - Laka - Pokušaj
    Laka is the sort of performer I'd love to see in a full concert rather than just singing one 3 minute song.

  • Finland: Teräsbetoni - Missä Miehet Ratsastaa
    What could be better than heavy metal in Finnish at the Eurovision? Not even Lordi managed to pull that!

  • Romania: Nico & Vlad - Pe-o Margine De Lume
    Anything this old fashioned is bound to attract votes from the (possibly) millions of old fashioned Eurovision viewers.

  • Russia: Dima Bilan - Believe
    Hats off to the guy who came second in 2006, right behind Lordi.

  • Greece: Kalomira - Secret Combination
    Wouldn't it be lovely to go back to Athens next May?

  • My top 10 will obviously not be the top vote receivers tonight. There are a few songs not on my list which I think will actually make it to the final. These include: Israel (does Dana International want to win the contest as a songwriter?), Andorra (just because Gerard James Borg knows a thing or two about Eurovision song titles), and Armenia (the bookies rank this only second to Russia for the first semifinal round).

    Please feel free to comment below. I'm particularly fond of anonymous comments meant to discredit anything I have to say about the Eurovision...they're like the words of a drunkard, close to the truth but often a sad reflection of something more important.


    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    You Give Love A Bad Name

    Earlier this afternoon I posted my first report from Belgrade about Malta's participation at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. I'm honestly appalled at the countless opportunities the Maltese entry is just glossing over at this year's edition of the contest. I say this mostly because Morena is a great pop performer. She has a very strong voice and the camera loves the classic Mediterranean looks. Morena deserves better than to have her dream tainted by missed opportunities.

    My present impression of the Maltasong board is that they're either like the proverbial deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming car or they're simply still the same people who co-ordinated what are Malta's worst Eurovision results to date.

    There's more, of course. Other than the fact that they've written two of the more successful Maltese Eurovision entries, I fail to see why Gerard James Borg and Philip Vella have been given the opportunity (by some of the same people who voted such a close result in the recent general elections in Malta) to try again to fail as miserably as they did last year. If I hear anything more about the so called bloc-voting and the "fact" that Malta has no Eurovision neighbours I'll most probably hurl uncontrollably.

    Italy is not Malta's only geographic neighbour missing from the Eurovision contest. All five north African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt) are members of the European Broadcasting Union and therefore eligible to take part in the contest. Morocco actually did take part in 1980. Just in case you really care about these things, the Eurovision Song Contest is not for European countries, but for countries that are EBU members. Israel's EBU-membership and long string of high-profile entries undoubtedly complicate matters for any lobbying to bring in some (if not all) these Arab countries.

    Let's leave that heavy stuff aside for a now and focus on something relatively trivial. Many of the Maltese people I'm meeting in Serbia are obviously asking me who's going to win the contest this year. Naturally, I have no clue (yet) but I know two things for sure, 100%: (a) ESC 2009 will not be held in Malta, and (b) there will be a new Maltasong chairman by this summer. Just remember you read it here first.

    I will now indulge in some more ramblings before I hit the Slivovitz, so please feel free to stop reading. The Spanish word for daisy is a much nicer name for a girl...the etymology of Morena's chosen stage name is quite pertinent in light of some of the things I mentioned earlier...I'd rather have rakija than vodka, mostly because there's so much more than vodka in a Margarita, even if we're in the wrong part of the world for that sort of thing right now.

    Gotta go.


    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    De do do do de da da da

    Don't think me unkind. Words are hard to find. I'm really disenchanted by the final eight songs in the 2008 Malta Song for Europe. It could have come to this earlier but here we are now, and there's very little I can (or care to) do about it. In spite of this and because I've committed myself to taking the raw with the cooked, I've produced the third annual podcast tied to the Malta Song for Europe in the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. [See also MSFEonMMI: 2007 & 2006]

    There are only a couple of songs from the 17 selected to compete at the semifinal stage that I care to ever hear again. So it was not easy putting together a playlist for this week's podcast. Luckily, Australian Pop Idol Natalie Gauci has been invited as a special guest for the final night this evening so I open podcast number 99 with one of her pre-Sony contract songs. Take It Or Leave It shows the verve that got this singer to the level of success she's currently enjoying down under.

    Jean Claude Vancell has appeared on an earlier edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. He is quite an adventurous song writer, even if a relatively quirky performer. I like him. I also like his debut MSFE song Contradiction, which obviously didn't make it to this evening's final round. I'm looking forward to his upcoming album, which I understand is either entitled Unspoken or Of Hopes & Dreams. I'm sure I'll be featuring his music again on the MMI series once the album is out.

    One song at this year Malta Song for Europe semifinal was clearly a cut above the rest. Unbelievably it didn't make it to the final round. I refer, of course, to the Paul Giordimaina and Fleur Balzan song Whispers performed by Pamela. I've been attracted to Pamela voice for the last three years or so. Whenever I hear her songs my mood sublimates without fail. This is the closest that Maltese pop music comes to art.

    To my mind there's no way to follow Pamela singing Whispers with any other song from this year's Malta Song for Europe. The only way I can end the 99th edition of my weekly podcast is to play the most sincere recording I've heard from a Maltese singer in quite some time. They Turned Me To Plastic by Carrie, the 2007 Eurovirtual Song Contest (what's that?) winner who is clearly not giving in to any of that nonsense. Listen closely to this home recording of this young Maltese singer in a Tori Amos inspired confessional mode. I think it's quite chilling.

    As I write this, Malta's entry to the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest has not been announced yet. To be quite honest, I find it hard to see Malta doing well in Serbia come May. I could be wrong. I'm frequently wrong but sometimes I'm dead on.

    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, January 23, 2008


    I've keep relatively quiet about the 2008 Malta Song for Europe so far. I've given a couple of comments through the MaltaMedia News Service, but not much else on my blog. So before the fans start rolling I thought I'd empty my pockets of all the loose change that's gathered there since last May's Helsinki debacle.

    I must confess that if it weren't for my academic interest in the performance of Maltese cultural identities I'd have seriously lost interest in the Malta Song for Europe this year. There's absolutely nothing new or exciting about it. I'd even dare say that there are are couple of abysmal elements among the 17 semifinalist, but I suppose I'm still fuming from the disgusting snub Jo Zette (i.e. Ray Calleja) was given in the previous selection round.

    Pamela sings what is undoubtedly the most beautiful song on the 2008 semifinal list. Whispers is one of Paul Giordimaina's best compositions. Pamela has a great voice and she has sung Paul's songs to perfection in recent years. Unfortunately, the SMS-happy audience that votes for each year's Malta Eurovision entry will only pick her as the sacrificial lamb once all other obvious contenders have been exhausted. Never forget what happened to Olivia Lewis.

    If Malta wants to get a chance at qualifying for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest final, the Malta Song for Europe winner must be Mary Spiteri. It doesn't really matter which of her two songs gets through to this Saturday's final. Mary is the one performer who can get the sort of buzz going on the international Eurovision circuits needed to cut through the jungle of mixed messages and garner enough points for Malta to get through to this year's Eurovision final. Anything less and any solid chances in Serbia this May will be thrown to the wind.
    And just because simple minds like simple things, here's my personal pick for the 8 songs that should make it to Saturday's final, in order of appearance on the semifinal. The actual selection will undoubtedly be marginally or greatly different.

  • Elinor Cassar: Give Me a Chance (Paul Giordimaina/Fleur Balzan)
  • Mary Spiteri: My Last Encore (Ray Agius - Godwin Sant)
  • Morena: Vodka (Philip Vella - Gerard James Borg)
  • Pamela: Whispers (Paul Giordimaina/Fleur Balzan)
  • Klinsmann: GO (Dominic Galea - Claudette Pace)
  • Jean Claude Vancell: Contradiction (Jean Claude Vancell)
  • Chris & Moira: All Right (Chris Scicluna - Moira Stafrace)
  • Mary Spiteri: If You Believe (Paul Abela - Raymond Mahoney)

  • As you can see, Mary Spiteri's pulling power is so strong that it's next to impossible not to include both of her songs on Saturday's final 8 list.

    Continuing a little tradition I started two years ago, my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast this Saturday will feature my personal selections from the Malta Song for Europe without much thought for the actual contest.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Quick note added on Friday morning:
    I'm disgusted by the whole thing. Whispers didn't make it to the final. Unbelievable! Mary Spiteri is not in the final. Understandable...but still a great shame. If I warm up to the idea of watching the final on Saturday, I guess I'll be horribly disappointed if any song other than Give Me A Chance (it's so not the best Giordimaina/Balzan song) is the winner. Still, the winner will probably be Klinsmann with his homage to Busted's Air Hostess or Morena with a moronic song. Anything else and you can get ready for another national disappointment in May.

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    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    That's How People Grow Up

    The balancing act of working on regular tasks and spending time on Facebook (which was the subject of a troubling article in The Guardian a few days ago) is something that I'm sure I share with many of my blog readers. I'd like to think that Facebook is not a distraction from everyday life but an integral part of whatever it is that I do from day to day. Taking my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast as an example of this, I can now clearly see/say that Facebook is an essential part of letting people know that the podcast is available, while keeping in touch with people who have all sorts of contributions to make to the series.

    This week's podcast is number 98 in the series, which means that in a couple of weeks time we'll be celebrating the 100th edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. Since next week's podcast will feature my pick of music from the 2008 Malta Song for Europe festival, I wanted to pack as much new music as possible into this week's podcast because we won't really have a regular edition for another three weeks.

    Dimension-Al has launched his 2008 activities with a remix for the band The Secret Meeting for their track Into the Future. Aldo Lombardi has clearly established himself as a force to be reckoned with and I have a feeling we'll be hearing from him again this year on my weekly series. The same goes for Ivan Filletti who will hopefully release his long awaited second album. A few months ago he released a single that I've been meaning to play on my podcast for sometime. I Keep Standing shows Filletti has what it takes to follow-up on Somedays, his debut album from 2005.

    From time to time I look for music websites other than MySpace for new Maltese music. One of these sources is One of the acts I found on is called LeftPlay, but the two songs they have on this site seem to go back a couple of years, so I'm not sure if they're still active. In any case, they sound quite good and the track I've selected to play is called Breathe. All I know about the people in LeftPlay is that they're called Andie and Daniela, but I'd really like to know more. Please contact me if you can help me out with this.

    The final two tracks on this week's podcast come from two newcomers on the local music scene. The first of these is Charlie, a teenage British-Maltese Pop/R&B singer who is looking for a musical future in the UK. Judging from Crazy Life and some other things she has been up to recently I have a strong feeling that we'll be hearing more from her in the coming months and years.

    Rhythmic Havoc is the other new act on this week's podcast. This interesting Hip-Hop combo has its roots in extreme metal. I'm not particularly crazy about the vocals on their tracks, but the music and the production are very good indeed. I'd love to hear them do a song with a guest vocalist (and there are quite a few of them in Malta) because I'm sure that their production skills will be appreciated even more.

    I'm now off to consider this year's Malta Song for Europe. I must admit that on first listen I'm not too thrilled about this year's offerings. I most definitely don't see a Eurovision winner in any of them...but stranger things have happened on that scene in recent years, so I'm not willing to make any grand statements just yet. More in next week's podcast, of course.

    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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    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    The Boy In The Bubble

    I've been catching up with life on Web 2.0. Twitter is on the blink but my YouTube account is alive and well. I'm now also on Facebook. MySpace remains a constant presence, of course, while Second Life creeps up to the top of my daily agenda. Since it's not on the web but on the broader internet, SL is not part of Web 2.0 but it still involves collaboration and social networking - two of the most essential elements in any Web 2.0 experience.

    This morning I also realized that I didn't mention anything on my blog about the Web 2.0 article I wrote for May's issue of PINK, the monthly magazine from The Times of Malta, edited by Ariande Massa. This is possibly because I've been absorbed in all sorts of other things but most probably because PINK is not available online. Maybe I should just upload it myself. [check back later if you're interested in this...]

    The 68th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast
    may not seem like an obvious part of my Web 2.0 activities but it more ways than one. MySpace plays a crucial part in the selection of the tracks I include from week to week. Thomas Hedley's new song Just Your Picture On My Mind would not have come to my attention if it wasn't for MySpace. I said something similar the first time I included a song by Hedley on my podcast.

    Just when I thought that the Eurovision Song Contest was over and done with for this year, two things crossed by desktop reminding me that I can't really get away from it just yet. The first of these is the Eurovirtual Song Contest currently accepting votes on Paris Link. This is not the first European virtual song contest, even if it is the first edition of this particular one. The Heavy Metal Eurovision is most amusing and I've featured it on my podcast back when Maltese bands still took part in it.

    Malta's entry on the Eurovirtual Song Contest is Carrie with Flooded Roads. You can vote here. She is currently leading the pack with more than 590 votes. I really wonder how Carrie would have fared at this year's Eurovision with this song. I'm sure that someone somewhere would have written that it's not a typical Eurovision song, and indeed this is probably why it's doing so well on the Eurovirtual song contest.

    Back to MySpace before I move on to the second Eurovision incident I mentioned earlier. Vince Bongailas is someone I remember clearly from a chance encounter at Bighi about 10 years ago when he was recording some songs with Kenneth Mizzi. Vince is also known to many as one of the best Maltese boxers of all time. He has now resurfaced on my radar as Ailas via MySpace. I've included a song called My 36 out of the tracks you can currently hear on his MySpace page. Vince is a very interesting character and I'm glad I'm able to bring the sound of Ailas to my podcast listeners.

    Commenting on a recent blog entry, Antonio Olivari (formerly known as the blogger Arcibald) pointed out that in my Eurovision haze I failed to give any attention to the 32nd edition of the YTC festival L-Għanja tal-Poplu. I actually have a lot to say about this song contest but I'll save it for another day (or year) and simply do what Antonio suggested and play the 2007 winning song. Hawn Jien by Corazon Mizzi is quite an unusual song. Corazon has a lovely voice and the song she has written is unlike any I would ever expect at the Eurovision.

    I hope that this is indeed the last I hear or write about the Eurovision for a while. Even my good friend Immanuel Mifsud is still mentioning it on his blog, which has now relocated to WordPress, so perhaps this is just another wish that will come to naught. We Maltese really do give more attention to this contest than we should. This is why I'm so interested in it. This is why I cannot ignore it. Why are so many Maltese people obsessed with this event? And what does it really say about Malta as a nation?

    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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    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Changing Of The Guards

    No more about the recent Eurovision debacle. I've really had enough of it...for now. Perhaps I should be blogging about the Blair-Brown changeover (or even the upcoming switch from the Maltese Lira to the euro) but my blog is not what it used to be, so I'll move on.

    This entry is actually meant to serve as a public announcement of my presence on YouTube. I've just been spending too much time in Second Life to create my YouTube account earlier. It also just occurred to me that I haven't even mentioned anything about my adventures as a 3D avatar. I wonder why.

    I really need to sort out my priorities in terms of my interests and what not. I guess the first thing on my agenda must be to get the Franklin Furnace book published. To get to that I have to clear all the other odd jobs that have piled up over the months. The first of these is a MaltaMedia feature about the sainthood of Dun Ġorġ Preca. An equally pressing task is a huge pile of essays by my students, which I need to mark in within a period of about two weeks.

    And now you may have an idea why I don't always blog as often as I should between my weekly podcasts.

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    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Within You Without You

    Raphael Vassallo contacted me today about a feature he's writing for Wednesday's Malta Today. He asked me some questions he is circulating to people he wants to quote in his feature. Here are my answers to his questions.

    1. As you may or may not be aware, some people are advocating that Malta pull out of the contest in protest after this year's elimination. What are your views?

    My answer is yes...and no. Yes because Malta (as in the Ministry of Tourism etc. ) is not getting what it's paying for from the Eurovision Song Contest. No because it would be a shame if there was no opportunity for any Maltese people to experience the great media circus that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

    2. Do you feel that the voting has grown more or less conspicuously political/territorial in recent editions?

    No. It's just a matter of numbers. In recent years we've seen a relatively large number of new nations join the contest. For obvious reasons, these new nations happen to be mostly former Soviet states or Balkan states. This makes for a natural affiliation and neighbourly voting. In my view, voting was even more "political" before televoting was introduced about 10 years ago. I'm not making this up. Just have a look at voting records over the years and you'll see exactly what I mean.

    3. Many have attributed our dismal past two performances precisely to neighbour voting, etc. And yet, this year's winner (Serbia) attracted votes from practically all countries. Is it possible we dealing with a case of sour grapes?

    A large part of this year's general reaction is undoubtedly a case of sour grapes; Certainly much more than anyone who keeps blaming neighbourly voting is willing to admit. In spite of a last minute call for a boycott from an anonymous source, Malta's final points went to Belarus (10), Serbia (8), Bulgaria (7), Russia (6), Slovenia (5), Latvia (4), Ukraine (3) and Hungary (1). These are all countries supposedly involved in neighbourly voting. In the semifinal, Malta's points went to Latvia (12), Belarus (7), Slovenia (5), Hungary (4), Bulgaria (3), Serbia (1).

    Interestingly, in the semifinal Malta only received points from Albania, Turkey and the UK. The other 38 countries gave Malta zero points.

    Incidentally, I find the 12 points Malta awarded to the UK for the final very farcical. I can only make peace with this by thinking that it was some for of protest vote rather than post-colonial oblivion.

    4. One question just for you: In recent years, you have consistently suggested we change tack altogether, suggesting that we send Xtruppaw instead of the usual retinue of pop stars. What do you think that Malta's insistence on sending the same kind of musical representative says about us as a nation?

    Although some of the MaltaSong board members are quite passionate about promoting Malta and very generous with their quasi-selfless involvement, they are clueless about what the Eurovision is really all about. The result they achieved this year and last year is proof enough of this. To add insult to injury, they are also completely out of sync with what the Maltese music scene actually has to offer. Xtruppaw doesn't exist in isolation. Then again, simply sending someone like Xtruppaw to the Eurovision, without the appropriate financial and promotional backing is like throwing Christians to lions.

    Having said this, I must add that especially with more than 40 entries, the Eurovision Song Contest is just another game. Does the best team always win the FIFA World Cup? And when does the most deserving person win the Super 5? It's about time more Maltese see the Eurovision Song Contest for what it is and stop pushing for the same sort of songs to send as Malta's entry.

    As a nation we appear obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest. Naturally, not everyone is a die-hard Eurovision fan. Author Immanuel Mifsud wrote a very articulate entry in his personal blog just before Saturday's Eurovision final, expressing the disgust of many who feel that they don't form part of the "Malta" represented at the Eurovision Song Contest. Some would say he's upset for the right reason. The Eurovision is not really bringing the nation together the way we'd like to think. It just brings together some people who disagree on everything else, be it political party affiliation, village band club support, or whether Malta should legislate on divorce and abortion.

    I believe that whenever we forget that it took Finland 40 entries to get it right and stamp our feet when things don't go our way, we make Malta look pathetic. Then again, giving the Eurovision as much media attention as we do, we already make ourselves stand out as unusual Eurovision fanatics, to put it mildly.

    Here's a wonderful excerpt from the Schlagerblog by UK-based Eurovision fans the Schlagerboys who appeared waving a huge Maltese flag during the semifinal in Helsinki and live on Xarabank the following day:

    If, god forbid, Scooch do not win tonight, will the BBC organise a two hour TV special for the band, including a live outside broadcast from Natalie's home town of Sutton Coldfield and a live link to Helsinki?

    Will past Euroivision celebs be sitting on the panel in Malta and song writers and heads of delegation be sitting on the panel in Helsinki? Will Caroline's Gran be interviewed via the satellite link and Russ's cousins and aunts be flown over to Helsinki to sit in the press centre and wave flags and cheer? Will the Schlagerboys be called upon to add their comments to the nation?

    Probably not.

    I think that says is all.

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    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Gimme Shelter

    I really enjoyed reading Immanuel Mifsud's blog entry about the Eurovision. As one of Malta's foremost contemporary authors and poets, any time he gives to something as seemingly trivial as Malta's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest is indeed very welcome by pop culture dust mites like me.

    I'm sure he'll be heartened by the fact that the blog entries I wrote from Helsinki this week follow the list of songs on Patti Smith's new album of cover versions called Twelve, track by track. The Rolling Stone's anti-war dirge Gimme Shelter is the fourth song on the album and perhaps I'll keep doing this until I either come to a natural end or I get bored, whichever comes first. The next track on Twelve is Patti's take on George Harrison's Within You, Without You. How marvelous is that?

    Since I'm on the theme of cover versions I thought it would be most appropriate to open my weekly podcast (did you really think I'd skip it this week?) with Nat Newborn Big Time's version of Lordi's Hard Rock Hallelujah, featuring the voice of Vicky Rusty.

    This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor may be seen as a Eurovision edition but anyone seeking any of the cringe-worthy stuff I've subjected myself to in Helsinki over the past few days will be somewhat disappointed. Hanna Pakarenen's Leave Me Alone is undoubtedly the most solid song of the lot and sadly hardly anyone thinks of it as a winner. In case you're one of the millions who've never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest or wouldn't be caught dead hearing any of the drivel dished out each year, you can catch Finland's exemplary entry on the 66th edition of my music podcast.

    Not one to wish onto others that I wouldn't even wish on my own enemy, there are no more direct Eurovision references in the rest of this week's podcast. Norfolk-born 19-year old John Galea has appeared on a previous edition of my podcast. He has been recording some new tracks this year in preparation for an album. From this 2007 material I've picked Faded Popstar.

    Anyone in Malta seeking the perfect Eurovision antidote this Saturday night can find it in the UK band Sidecar Kisses, playing at Poxx Bar tonight. You can hear their song We've Been Getting On as the closing track on this week's podcast. I wonder if I should go catch up on more blog updates on the Eurovision or give it a rest and return to academic life and scholarly research. My flight back to London is tomorrow (Sunday) at lunchtime.

    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.

    Toni Sant at the Hartwell Arena in Helsinki on 12 May 2007

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    Friday, May 11, 2007


    Can you imagine how Olivia Lewis feels right now?

    Do you honestly think that the MaltaSong board did everything possible to get Malta to the 2007 finals? And is that the same as doing everything they know how to do?

    Can you imagine how Olivia's family (especially her parents) feel right now?

    If I only hit 3 out of the 10 qualifying songs from the semifinal, am I really worthy of predicting a Eurovision 2007 winner?

    Can you imagine how Olivia's manager/boyfriend feels right now?

    Now that the Ukraine has become marked as a potential winner, should I agree and appear to simply be joining the bandwagon? Does it matter that I privately expressed a near certainty about a Ukraine win before I arrived in Helsinki earlier this week?

    Can you imagine how the people of Olivia's hometown Qormi (and the rest of the Eurovision fans in the Maltese Islands) are feeling right now?

    Will Malta wake up and smell the coffee now?

    Can you imagine how Fabrizio Faniello feels right now?

    Does any Maltese person care that Andorra (with echoes of Klinsmann in MSFE 2007), Portugal (another southern European country) and Estonia (an Eastern bloc country that won in 2001 and hosted in 2002) failed to qualify in every semifinal round since 2004?

    Can you imagine how any singer hoping to represent Malta at Eurovision 2008 feels right now?

    All this on Xarabank, tonight after the news on TVM...with live link-ups from Helsinki.

    Do you really care what I think right now?


    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Everybody Wants to Rule the World

    While France's new president vacations on a yacht in Malta, final preparations are underway in Helsinki for the 2007 Eurovision semifinal. For the uninitiated, I should add that Malta has to take part in the semifinal this year because of last year's dismal result.

    I'll be attending the first of three dress rehearsals this afternoon; I always thought that the dress rehearsal was the last rehearsal before the first public performance...apparently not. I will be subjected to two and a half hours of magnificent television technology for live stage performances while enduring several number mind-numbing schlagers, spiced up with the odd "rock" ditty.

    Here's a quick rundown of the ten countries I think will make it through to the final from the 28 taking part in the semifinal. They're in the order they'll appear during the semifinal. DISCLAIMER: this list should not imply that I neceessarily endorse a particular song or country; it is merely a pick of the 10 songs I think will pass on to the final. The comment following each pick is an indication as to why it's on my list of 10.

    Israel: TEAPACKS - Push The Button
    This band reminds me of my beloved Xtruppaw...but they're not going the extra mile for a Lordi-style win.

    Cyprus: EVRIDIKI - Comme Ci, Comme Ça
    It's a catchy song that should attract enough votes to make it into the final.

    Belarus: KOLDUN - Work Your Magic
    The people have spoken! Haven't you heard?

    Georgia: SOPHO - Visionary Dream
    If only Malta's debut Eurovision entry was this good!

    Switzerland: DJ BOBO - Vampires Are Alive
    A cultish entry that could capitalize on the countless Emo and dark side lovers. Then again, it's too much of a pop dirge for any self-respecting emo.

    Denmark: DQ - Drama Queen
    One drag queen is not enough for this year's final.

    Serbia: MARIJA ŠERIFOVIĆ - Molitva
    Marija seems to have the Chiara syndrome. There has to be a good reason why this entry is currently topping the betting odds.

    Czech Republic: KABÁT - Malá Dáma
    You have to respect a country that sends a rock act the first time it takes part the Eurovision Song Contest. Wouldn't it be fantastic to visit Prague next year?

    Malta: OLIVIA LEWIS - Vertigo
    Well, I'm sure you'd have her on your list if she invited you in for a chat while she has a bubble bath...but, truth be told, there has never been a stronger Maltese entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Andorra: ANONYMOUS - Salvem El Món
    This is a good parallel case to see how Klinsmann would have fared this year in Helsinki.

    So that's the list before the first semifinal dress rehearsal. I may tweak it later. If I do, I'll let you know. In any case, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below after hearing the songs.


    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Are You Experienced?

    I'm blogging from the press centre at the Hartwell Arena in Helsinki, Finland. I'm here for the European Broadcasting Union's annual showcase, also known as the Eurovision Song Contest. On my arrival at Helsinki airport last night, I sensed that this year I can take some time to do a bit of mental stock-taking about why I give this song contest so much time and energy. It is a process that should take several months, possibly years. For now suffice it to say I'm not here for the songs.

    My plan is to blog regularly while I'm here. I want to use my blog to keep track of the most salient moments during this year's EBU extravaganza. I can't wait to see the TV set-up in the arena, and later I may blog my thoughts on some of the better entries.

    The one question I keep being asked over and over is the obvious one after last year's experience. Who will win this year's Eurovision Song Contest?

    Unlike last year, there's no obvious winner this year. I explained this to Olivia this morning during her bubble bath. I also told her that I believe Malta has never had a better entry. She seemed pleased but our conversation ended there because the foam in her bath tub started subsiding.

    So, who's it going to be this year? Yes, I know I'm biased, but I honestly believe that this time Malta has as good a chance as any other country doing its best in Helsinki.

    Toni Sant at Eurovision 2007

    Photo: Toni Sant (vetrina) at Eurovision Press Center by Frederick Zammit.


    Monday, March 26, 2007

    When Will I Be Famous?

    This past weekend Olivia Lewis launched her personal blog about her participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. I'm chuffed that she has cited this blog as a source of inspiration to join the blogosphere.

    This gives me some time to pause and think about the state of the Maltese blogosphere, which has swollen well beyond what it was just one year ago when most bloggers knew each other and followed each other's blogs regularly.

    Unlike other pundits I'm not too concerned by what people say or don't say in their blogs. The medium is the message. Just the fact that people have blogs is noteworthy in itself. People have the power to say what they want and potentially be heard by people who would otherwise not have access to their thoughts. That's the most interesting thing about blogging as far as I'm concerned.

    Back to Olivia Lewis: I enjoyed reading the interview she gave to the Schlagerboys, which they published on the same day that she launched her blog. I was hoping she would mention it on her own blog so that more people can cherish the contagious zeal of the Shalgerboys. At the same time I can see that Olivia is eager to post entries that would not appear elsewhere. Her blog will be the place to visit if you want to know what's going through her mind as she prepares to sing her heart out in Helsinki this May.

    It appears that Olivia's blog could feature a daily entry. I'm sure her numerous fans would appreciate that very much. Perhaps it's also a good way to gather new fans, especially ones who could vote for her at the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final on May 10.

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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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    Tuesday, January 09, 2007


    The news of the day is that Morrissey could represent the UK in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this being announced on the BBC this afternoon.

    This is big news for various reasons:

  • It's Morrissey! That's enough in itself. For those who know the former Smiths singer beyond what they hear on the radio, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't know Morrissey, no explanation is possible. If you really want to understand, try reading a biography of Sandie Shaw or watch the video for You Have Killed Me below.

  • The BBC is, and has always been, behind the Eurovision selection for the UK. Their interest in the song contest has never been on the scale we know in Malta, but for one reason or another the UK has won the Eurovision Song Contest several times.

  • Most recently, the UK has not been performing too well at the Eurovision. When I say performing, I mean that in the broadest sense. The songs were pretty lame (wow!) and the hype around them was even lamer.

  • It seems that Lordi's 2006 win (still considered a one-off event by many Eurovision "experts") is being taken quite seriously by some Eurovision organizers. It seems to me that this does not apply for the Maltese entry. I mean, have you heard the 2007 Malta Song for Europe finalists?

  • Morrissey is a heavy weight artist who can bring attention back to the UK entry, even if some other country comes up with a better scheme for attracting votes.
  • There are other reasons. I'm sure you, my gentile readers, can see why this announcement is big news...even if Morrissey doesn't makes it to Finland in May. So let's have them as comments on this post. Just click this link and away you go. Let the circus begin!