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Friday, March 12, 2010

Qalb ta' Kampanjol

I'm saddened to hear of the demise of Maltese '70s pop singer Tony Gauci, who resurfaced on TV just last year thanks to Favourite Channel. I wasn't aware that his health had deteriorated to a life-threatening level as he was still in his mid-60s. Tony will undoubtedly be best remembered in time as one of the strongest links between traditional għana and modern Maltese pop songs. Back in his heydays he was undoubtedly one of Malta's superstars.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

I Don't Want To Go Out

Having once again witnessed the devastation property development in Malta has leveled at green areas and small towns across the islands, I am glad to see that a group of environment NGOs are taking to the streets to raise awareness about various issues that have ruined the country's environment. Encroachment of urban areas, illegal hunting and trapping, illegal occupation of public land, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, and water conservation are issues that have gone on for far too long.

Birdlife Malta, Nature Trust Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Ramblers Malta, Friends of the Earth, Moviment Graffiti, Greenhouse, and MOAM are leading a National Rally in Valletta at 10am on Saturday the 13th of March 2010, calling on the Government for effective law enforcement. Protests along the main streets of Valletta seem to be coming thick and fast this year. This one is at least as important as lowering utility tariffs and certainly as significant as free speech. If nothing else, let's hope that the government comes to see that something's rotten in this age of hope. Then again, change is inevitable...even if it's not always the sort of change we're after.

In spite of this, Malta remains as fascinating as ever. There's no way I'll stop following the complex cultural formations present there, as long as I'm alive and healthy enough to do so. This is why the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast has come to the 202nd edition. I'd like to think that if this podcast was a plant it would probably be an orchid.

To shake out the Malta EuroSong earwigs out of my head, I've chosen to open this week's podcast with Petra singing All I Need by Keith and Andrew Zammit. This song stands out head and shoulders above most other new Maltese pop tunes I heard in the past weeks. I would have certainly included it on the MMI podcast if it had come to me by any other channel.

I'm also very pleased to see the new album from Chasing Pandora. The Driver and the Dancer has already yielded two excellent singles - Running in Circles and Time - and now Escape has also been released with a cute music video to help promote the release of the album. It's also quite wonderful that the duo is receiving some much deserved attention from the alternative music media in the UK. So far, this is undoubtedly the most outstanding album released from Malta for 2010.

From time to time I like to dip back into past episodes of the MMI podcast to catch up with acts I like who have not released any new material for a while. David Agius falls squarely in this category. The Sydney-based singer-songwriter plays a mean guitar and I'd really love to hear some new stuff from him in the coming months. His MySpace page is still active, but no new songs have been forthcoming for a while. While we wait, I've picked I'm Not the One from 2007.

Closing off this week's podcast is a new release from Stefanos, ahead of the upcoming release of his album Zero Plus. Unlike most of his other recording, My Flower Girl is actually a song, and features the voice of Brendan Jackson, who many MMI podcast listeners will know as the singer from Eve Ransom. His tuneful voice makes this song well worth a listen and perhaps this track will be the highlight of Stefanos soon to be released album.

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, 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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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sign O The Times

A couple of weeks ago my friend Ariadne Massa, Chief Sub-Editor and long standing journalist with The Times (of Malta), asked me to answer some questions on "on how the changes in technology impact the media business in Malta" for an in-house diploma organised by her newspaper bosses.

In the spirit of this blog and everything it has come to represent over the last 6 years, I asked Ariadne to reproduce her questions and my answers right here on my blog. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this blog post.

1. There has been an emergence of citizen journalism. What do you believe is the impact this has on the way traditional journalists report?

I believe that traditional journalists look at citizen journalism in one of two ways. The first way is to ignore it as something not worthy of their attention; how can someone without the proper training, professional experience or ample resources do what they do? The other way is for them to pillage and plunder whatever they can get from citizen journalism to fill their pages and airtime. By extension, I'd say that traditional reporting has been impacted depending on the approach adopted out of these two camps. Those ignoring it do it at their own peril and lack of respect for their audience. Those who get it realize that their profession is no longer as privileged as it once was.

2. Does citizen journalism provide a clearer picture of the news or is it unaccountable vigilantism?

I think it does both these things. It cuts through the stylistic way the news reports what's going on to give perspectives that are unheard of in traditional journalism. At the same time, if anyone can say anything they want, then that's exactly what's bound to happen too. However, I'd stress that it's not one or the other. Both are possible at the same time, in varying measures.

3. Abroad, newspapers have been dealt a blow by the internet, but this does not seem to be the case in Malta. What do you believe distinguishes us from other countries?

Size. Parochialism. (Ir)Relevance. Lack of updated higher education. Isolation. Misplaced pride. Nostalgia. Complacency. How about all of the above?

4. The newspaper industry is under siege from new media. What do you forecast will happen to newspapers by 2020?

Fewer people will want to read a newspaper printed on paper but they will not stop wanting to get the news that's relevant to them. Also, the newspaper industry will continue to realize that the newsprint cycle is no longer in step with contemporary lifestyles. Front page news at any early hour of the morning will continue to become more and more irrelevant as it's reporting something we've already heard about as it happened or through other media available on demand, where and when we want them.

5. What do you believe newspapers should do to face the challenges ahead?

Answers to this question depend in large part on the size of the newspaper and the community it serves. I don't think I can give a decent answer to this question here and (with all due respect to the interviewer) I wouldn't really want to unless I was being paid or given proper professional credit for it.

6. Please feel free to add any other comments which you feel are relevant.

What the newspaper industry really needs to realize is that the intermediary role it once served is being relegated to the junkyard of history. The industrial age, which gave us the newspaper industry, is being superseded by what some call the information age, where information wants to be free. By free we mean both as in no cost and as in freedom, of course.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Like It Rough

I'm amazed at the recent developments on the case of young Mark Camilleri who is looking at the prospect of facing jail time because of Malta's outdated obscenity, censorship and blasphemy laws. Mona Farrugia (Malta's number one food writer) has published a very articulate reflection on the situation. She has also started circulating an online petition addressed to Malta's lawmakers asking for the following:

1. For Malta's censorship, obscenity and blasphemy laws to be changed to reflect the year we are living in (rather than the Middle Ages)
2. For our politicians to take their heads out of the sand (in general, but especially with regards to the above)
3. For the Police to drop the case against Mark Camilleri, 21-year old student Editor of Ir-Realta', a University newspaper in Maltese. When he published a particular piece of fiction in Maltese, Camilleri was prosecuted through laws that make it possible for him to be imprisoned.
4. For the University of Malta Rector and Chaplain to apologise in public for causing such ridiculous hassles and wasting Police time.

It's undoubtedly the first remarkable petition in Malta for this year. I can fully see why some people may be offended by works covered by these ancient laws (and seriously doubt there will be any apologies coming from Tal-Qroqq) but it really is about time that Maltese lawmakers do something concrete to protect freedom of expression in Malta.

Process seems to be the one word that describes most of what I'm doing and/or thinking about these days. The latest censorship petition in Malta and my weekly podcast are certainly clear examples of this, at least for me. The 195th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features some of the first releases for 2010. If this is the shape of things to came this year, this could turn out to be quite an interesting year.

The year's first release comes from metal rockers Fire who have issued a single from their album Thrill Me. Come with me is available as a free download on Reverbnation, which is sponsored by Microsoft. I must say that Kenneth Calleja's voice has never sounded better.

The first album announced for release in 2010 is Xammar, a 13-track CD of new Maltese songs by Freddie Portelli. The CD will be officially launched in February to coincide with Freddie's next tour of Australia. These 13 songs now brings the veteran singer's total number of tracks released in the last 45 years to 257. This new album is therefore quite appropriately titled as anyone hoping to be as prolific really needs to roll up your sleeves to catch up with Freddie. The title track from Xammar is uniquely crafted to bring together rough classic rock 'n roll and the singers love for his dog Nina. In my book, Mojo Nixon has got nothing on Freddie Portelli.

I'm always grateful whenever Maltese artists send me their CDs. One the ones I received over the Christmas break is With Stings Attached by For Strings Inn. I played a track from this EP before it was released last autumn, but now that I've actually received my own copy of the disc I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play a track from it. I've picked one called Strada Bar, which shows this new band as a force to be reckoned with on the local alternative rock circuit.

As regular MMI podcast listeners know, one of the things I cherish most about the Mużika Mod Ieħor series is the prospect of discovering and promoting new acts. So the first podcast for 2010 featuring new music must include something from this category. As it happens I recently came across a young new band called Bridget Bone. As a debut release (available via their Facebook fan page), What if signals great potential for this band, particularly if they manage to start gigging regularly 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 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, October 17, 2009

Waterloo Sunset

Last Tuesday evening I was walking across Waterloo Bridge from London's theatre district heading towards the National Theatre on the South Bank to hear a spot of live jazz and take in an exhibition of Maurizio Buscarino's photos from Grotowski's Apocalypsis Cum Figuris. Suddenly I realized that if I turned to look back on the Westminster skyline what I was really experiencing was a Waterloo sunset. It was a magical moment.

I had just returned from a quick weekend visit to Malta. Aside from a couple of personal and professional engagements, the rest of my time there was filled with all sorts of live music. This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast captures some of these musical moments, which included an unusual CD single launch in Valletta, a punky gig in Paceville, and an evening at CampusFest in the University of Malta's Vassalli Quadrangle. There was plenty more to see and hear but the laws of physics always get in the way on such occasions.

The music of Bletchley Park was originally featured on the MMI series last August after they had just won Rookie's 2009 Battle of Bands. They've now released their debut single entitled Alien so I thought it was appropriate to set things off with it on this week's podcast. I had a brief chat with guitarist Mario Saliba after the gig and then bumped into him again the next evening at Castille Place just before I watched Mark Dingli's Kont Diġa. I think I should play a track from its soundtrack on a future edition of the MMI podcast.

Just hours after arriving in Malta last Friday I found myself getting on an open top double decker bus to be taken to the Valletta Waterfront for the launch of the new CD single by Kristina Casolani.L to R: Jes Psaila, Renzo Spiteri, Toni Sant, Kristina Casolani The whole idea was quite well organized, especially the welcoming environment at Fratelli's where the launch actually took place. The coup was a live acoustic set of about half a dozen songs from Kristina's repertoire played by guitarist Jes Psaila and percussionist Renzo Spiteri (pictured here on during the bus tour). These arrangements clearly bring out the fact that Kristina is no ordinary R&B wannabe and her songs contain much more than well-crafted computer sequences. It was a very welcome surprise to hear such a heartfelt set from a performer who is better known for glitz and glamour.

Later that same evening I found myself at Remedy's in Paceville for Dripht's reunion gig. Dolls for Idols warmed up the crowd, perhaps a little more than Nick Morales expected. So much so, that this can be called the most troublesome show he ever gave because between a broken string, copious amounts of beer thrown towards the musicians, and clumsy stomping by die hard fans on the front row onto the small stage his guitar and pedals were damaged. Nevertheless, Dripht haven't lost the edge that made them so well-loved by the alternative scene in the first place. To mark their reformation (is that the right term?) they've reissued a track from their Global Warning CD entitled Ecoloclast. They have plenty of songs that are better than this but it's good to pay some attention to one of their lesser hyped tracks. I'm hoping they'll be writing and recording some new tracks next year.

Among many musicians at the Dripht gig (most of Xtruppaw, Ray il-Baħri, Patrick Galea, Adolf Formosa, Leo Stivala, and name a few) I met Antoine Vella who immediately told me that his former Particle Blue partner Claire Tonna has recorded a new song, which she has released as a confessional video on her Facebook page. I later found out that she was giving a very low-key gig in San Gwann that same night. Kicking myself hard is one of the things I remember doing when I found out about this. For the Princess Called Sea is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year. Claire has evidently found a new voice for herself and we can only hope that she will be recording more songs like this in the coming months. Along with all the tracks on this week's podcast, this song will be nominated in the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, which will open for voting in about six weeks time.

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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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unnatural Selection

I'm in Malta this week. It's a quick visit for personal and professional reasons. It's all good stuff, even if I don't particularly like traveling long distances for short visits. This is exactly how I feel whenever I go to academic conferences or other professional engagements. Then again, it's a way to get out of my head, ward off severe bouts of cabin fever and meet all sorts of delightful people.

I also can't believe how hot and muggy the weather is over here right now. I don't ever remember October being like this. It's a great difference from what I've become accustomed to in the UK at this time of the year.

Yesterday I attend a couple a great gigs. The first was an amazing acoustic set by Kristina Casolani with guitarist Jes Psaila and percussionist Renzo Spiteri at Fratelli's on the Valletta Waterfront. The other was at Remedy's in Paceville, where the long awaited reunion of Dripht almost literally brought the house down - my ears are still humming more than 12 hours later. I'll be featuring both these acts on my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast next week along with some of the other stuff I'm hoping to sample while I'm here this weekend.

Brought to you by Vodafone, the 183rd MMI podcast packs an interesting mix of styles and genres. Opening up with Thea Saliba's Lost in Space, which is exactly the sort of delightful electonic pop ditty you expect from this young singer. If nothing else, it sets the mood perfectly for Tenishia's remix of Winter Moods's 2006/07 hit Marigold. Whenever songs switch genres this way their worth is tested to the limits, and this particular favourite from Winter Moods passes the test with flying colours.

Beyond Infinity is a song from a new band called For Strings Inn, who are about to release a debut EP entitled With Strings Attached. From the samples I've heard from it on their MySpace page I get the feeling that each of the 4 tracks on this upcoming CD represent the individual musical taste of each of the band members, including Mark Zizza on bass and drummer Ryan Abela who are quite well-known on the local alternative music scene for their various escapades with groups playing quite varied styles.

Following up their debut album In The House with one called Tear It Down, Y4J Band continue to satify their many fans, particularly those gathered around them in Pembroke's charismatic movement. Tear It Down continues where the debut release left off but shows a degree of maturity, particularly in the vocal arrangements. The title track, which I've chosen to play as the closing song on this week's podcast, is clear testament to this.

All the songs on this week's podcast will be entered on my list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listener's Picks poll, which will open for votes via Facebook towards the end of November.

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, September 12, 2009

Come So Far Yet Still So Far To Go

For once in my life I feel surrounded by more positives than negatives, more knowns than unknowns, more good than bad, and more effective action than hot air. This is what change feels like. Much of it is personal, so I don't expect everyone (or even anyone!) to feel the same way as I do. If there's one thing that's around right now that I can pick to demonstrate the strong shift I'm trying to capture in words it's a music video by No Bling Show.

In countries where the music industry is a recognizable contributor to the national GDP this sort of work has become ordinary, almost to the point of complacency. For Malta and Maltese artists, however, this type of work is a cut above everything else that came before. Aside from any artistic merit the work itself has, the very fact that this video has been produced to the level demonstrated here is an admirable achievement in itself.

Beyond everything else, No Bling Show have beautifully managed to find a way to capture the impact of cultural imperialism on Maltese quotidian culture. Just for this, I wholeheartedly call their work simply brilliant.

If I ever needed a boost of encouragement to continue producing my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, this is it. I firmly believe that within a generation or so Maltese popular music will be predominantly less mimetic than it has been in the last fifty odd years. This may not seem as obvious to most people as appears to be for me and some regular listeners of the MMI podcast. I could be wrong about the future, but I want to believe that I'm right...and see no harm in that.

The 179th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast may not allude to the future I've just outlined, but it certainly captures the way things stand at this point in time. The opening song comes from a new CD album released by Colourblind called Spectre. I've already featured the title track and another called Miles on previous editions of the MMI podcast, so for today I've picked one called Masquerade.

Whenever any Maltese act releases a CD I'm reminded how far we've come. I'm also made to realize we still have a far road ahead. Things are getting better all the time and we truly have reason to believe they will keep getting better. Importantly, as I see it, we've finally (inevitably?) passed the tipping point, so there's no going back now.

Bring back a performer whose work I'd featured in an earlier edition of the MMI podcast is something I seek to do regularly. There are some acts for whom this is not easy. Tears of Revenge immediately come to mind in this category. Way back in the 6th MMI podcast, I played the music of Black Aura, the name under which Alfred Farrugia produces his electronic music. A few days ago, new music by Black Aura came to my attention through a couple of arty video clips produced by visual artist Brian Grech. Heavy Breathing is the track I've selected to include on my podcast, but you can hear several tracks from Black Aura on his official website as well as watch the videos on You Tube.

Maltese performers have been trying to make a name (and/or a career) for themselves oversees for decades. Carrie Haber is among the most recent names on this long list. She has managed to do something that very few, if any, have done before. For a limited time, Carrie has released a live recording of one of her songs recorded live at a London venue, where she's performed a number of times in recent months. The song is called I Need A Distraction, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more songs recorded live in London (or elsewhere) by Carrie, since she has promised to release a new one about once a month. Follow her on Facebook or MySpace if you'd like to be kept up-to-date on new releases in this vein.

Regular listeners of the MMI podcast know that I frequently include material from musicians who have Maltese blood running through their veins, even if they're not legally Maltese. Pete Molinari is one such artist; he qualifies through his mother's Maltese parentage. Earlier this year he recorded a new EP entitled Today, Tomorrow & Forever at the Playground Sound Studios in Nashville, Tenessee. While Maltese country singer Marty Rivers recorded in Nashville years before Molinari, the latter has done something others probably only dream of. This EP, released on 24 August 2009, features the legendary Jordanaires, best known as Elvis Presley's backing singers. You can hear the title track, one of Patsy Cline's classics, as the penultimate selection on this week's MMI podcast.

To remind us that taking good fun seriously is a worthy quest, Xtruppaw have returned with a live concert at the Buskett Roadhouse tonight. BNI and DJ Fre will be providing further entertainment before and after the band hits the stage. Xtruppaw have been working on their second album for some time and people who attend any of their (rare) live gigs these days will undoubtedly be treated to early versions of some of the new songs. If we're lucky 2010 will see the release of Xtruppaw's second album, but first they have to find the time to record it, of course. Ironically, the more live gigs they give, the less time they have to record their new album. Catch Xtuppaw's Nenannana as the closing pick on this week's podcast. I'm playing this today with a special dedication to my dear friend Immanuel Mifsud who celebrates his birthday today.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Petits Machins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Don't Know Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Erudite Eyes

What a shock to hear this morning that my dear old friend Dennis Vella passed away last night. He was only 56. As with so many of my other friends in Malta, we had lost touch ever since I left the country about fifteen years ago. Still, our paths would cross again every now and then.

Dennis was a perennial presence in my social life as I grew up in Malta. We first met in Tigne, where we both naturally gravitated to satisfy our shared love for all sorts of music. Many people who are now under 40 probably don't know Dennis as a musician, but if they know him at all will know him as a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta.

We were mature students at the University of Malta together in the early 1990s. He read History of Art, of course, while I explored Communications and Theatre Studies. We spent countless hours together in the University Film Club office at Students' House, often with our mutual friend Julian Manduca.

Other times we would meet at some music-related event or better still at an artist's studio. I spent many Saturdays at Antoine Camilleri's studio back in the late 1980s and into the 90s until I left Malta, and Dennis was no stranger there. Another time we'd bump into each other at Gabriel Caruana's windmill gallery in B'Kara, or the latest art show he'd curated or was simply visiting.

Dennis always struck me with his genteel manners and erudite knowledge of the context for whatever we were looking at or listening to. I was not surprised, but rather impressed, when he actually because curator at Malta's National Museum of Fine Arts. His love of art was second to none. Thankfully, most Maltese artists understood this and some of his peers have luckily captured him directly in their art. (Top painting by Debbie Caruana Dingli; Photo by Patrick Vella; Bottom painting by Isabelle Borg)

His extensive personal collection can serve as an excellent starting point for Malta's National Museum of Modern Art, which was something he frequently mentioned as a missing element in the islands' embrace of its own cultural heritage.

You'll be greatly missed Dennis. Anyone who met you frequently along the way surely knows what a rare gem of a person you were. Those who didn't know you will hopefully appreciate that the Maltese art scene is all the poorer now that you're gone.

Goodbye Dennis.

Dennis Vella (1953-2009)

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

You Know I'm No Good

I'm still in Malta. I don't feeling like blogging much but, as promised, I have re-released a podcast from the Mużika Mod Ieħor archives. I selected the 58th podcast in the series, which was originally released on Saturday, March 10, 2007. I pick this particular podcast since it takes us back exactly 100 episodes in the series from where we left things last week.

Meanwhile, I've also managed to enjoy all sorts of music during my stay in Malta, so far. Most notable are the Charles Camilleri memorial evening at the Manoel Theatre, the Ġensna Concert at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Grimaud and Chasing Pandora at Chiaroscuro, and Simon Vella's CD launch at St James Cavalier. Surprisingly all these events took place in Valletta, confirming that cultural life in the city is enjoying a resurgence after many attempts to rehabilitate it. It is indeed a beautiful city.

Another podcast from the Mużika Mod Ieħor archives next week.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Come Inside

From time to time popular culture icons die, as you'd expect in the circle of life, and in doing so bring up memories of things that were once significant in some way or other. Wendy Richard died a couple of days ago. She loved Malta. So much so that she picked to have her honeymoon there just a few months ago, after getting married for the fourth time. My fond memories of her come from years of watching Are You Being Served? in the 1970s but also from a very brief personal encounter at the Paris Theatre in London just after the recording of an episode of the popular BBC radio game show Just A Minute in 1988. With her sad passing I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that she picked Malta for her last proper holiday...particularly as this was a divorcee's honeymoon. And there she was in the only EU country where there's no divorce legislation. How quaintly exotic!

I see from my Facebook newsfeed that people in Malta are now experiencing one of the first round of utility bills under the new tariff system. Apparently this is just as controversial as the topic in the previous paragraph, if not more so. How soothing it is to think that I can loose myself in my podcast every weekend, just to get away from it all for a little while.

The 153rd edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor sees the return of two acts whose music was featured in my selections last year. The first of these is Richard Micallef, who has taken a leaf out of his dad's book and is now recording under his first name and his middle name, as Richard Edward. This is understandable when you have to put up with butchered pronunciations of your family name over and over. Hopefully people will focus more on his music and beautiful singing voice, as can be heard in his new single entitled Allowed to Cry.

Chris Enriquez is someone whose voice and music are completely new to the MMI podcast. It's always refreshing to feature material by performers who have never appeared on the series before. An Angel in the Making is one of two songs I found on his MySpace page. It's quite good and this quality of work makes me firmly believe that this is not the last we've heard from Chris Enriquez.

Keeping it completely new to the podcast I next turn my attention to a band called Sepia. They haven't made any studio recording yet, but we can still hear them from a number rough garage demos they've uploaded to the MySpace page. White Scar is a good way to samples this bands grungy sound. To my ears they could do with a good singer but then again they're quite tight musically so perhaps you will not miss the vocal line as much as I did on a second listen. Once again, you can rest assured that if/when a studio recording from this band crosses my path I'll be including it on a future edition of the MMI podcast.

This is precisely what happened with London-based band Ethnamorte, which includes Malcolm Callus among its founding members. After featuring a rough(ish) recording from this band last year, they now return with a very nicely done studio recording of a song called Shades of Beauty and Madness. At 10 minutes and 14 seconds, that a little too long to include in its entirety on my (roughly) 20 minute weekly podcast. If you'd like to hear the whole thing you can just head on over to their MySpace page, where you can also find other recordings and dates for their upcoming London gigs.

A couple of months ago, Pamela's debut CD Whispers, consisting almost entirely of songs written by Paul Giordimaina and Fleur Balzan was released to great acclaim. It appeared few weeks to late to be featured in the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, but it's one which will be definitely nominated along with all the other 2009 releases in the album category. I've already had the opportunity to play a couple of my favourite songs from this album when they first appeared, particularly in the Malta Song for Europe festival. To mark the release of the album as well as Pamela's upcoming gigs in Canada I've selected the song Turn Another Page. It's a really appropriate way to bring this week's podcast to a close, until we meet again for next week's edition.

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, February 13, 2009

Express Yourself

Pierre J. Mejlak has just published a collection of short stories entitled Qed Nistenniek Nieżla max-Xita. If you understand Maltese you can hear me read one of these short stories by clicking on the clip below.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

And We Bid You Goodnight

As January draws to a close we find that Malta has already lost two iconic figures in the field of arts and entertainment. The month opened with the demise of Charles Camilleri on the third day of the new year and came to an end with the passing away of Charles Clews the day before yesterday. Camilleri was 77, Clews was 89.

I've produced two special podcast to mark each of these prominent figures in Maltese culture. Camilleri's podcast featured the very first broadcast I produced for cable radio in Malta, while Clews' podcast came from the very first episode of my 26-part series marking the end of the cable radio service in 1990.

In spite of this, I thought it would be appropriate two remember both men in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. So the 149th edition of the MMI podcast opens with Charles Clews' classic pop song from the early 1960s Sparaw Għall-Qamar. With lyrics by Dr Ġorġ Zammit (author of the Wenżu u Rożi tales) and music by Joseph Ciappara it truly captures a very different time in Maltese popular culture. (I'd like to thank Mario Axiaq and Lino Cassar for helping me remember the names of those involved.) In the same way that space exploration from that era inspired Joe Meek to compose the tune Telstar, Pink Floyd to create Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive, as well as David Bowie to give us Space Oddity, Maltese pop music from the same decade came up with this classic ditty known and loved by (almost) all cable radio listeners. The use of the clarinet to simulate Morse code at the very start of the recording is simply brilliant.

Francesco Puccioni, better known as Mike Francis, died yesterday at the age of 46 after a long battle with a fatal tumour. Most people in Malta don't know him, but he had a very strong connection with Malta through his professional collaborations with fellow Mysic Diversions band mate Aidan Zammit Lupi. I've played their music on previous editions of the MMI podcast in 2007. Aidan suggested I play Friends from Mike Francis' album Inspired as a farewell to Francesco on my podcast.

I've been wanting to include something by the Maltese guitarist Simon Schembri on my podcast for many years. He was one of the very first people I interviewed on the radio in the mid-1980s. I've now acquired one of his two CDs released in France, where he is has based for almost three decades. The tune I've selected is Tárrega's Caprice Arabe.

Since today's podcast has taken on a special theme, I thought it would be best to end it with one of Charles Camilleri's best known compositions. From his Malta Suite I've picked the Village Festa in a rendition conducted by Brian Schembri from a recent recording at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta. The applause at the end of that recording is a fitting tribute for all the artists featured in this week's podcast.

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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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

They Can't Take That Away From Me

When the death of Charles Camilleri was announced last Saturday, I immediately thought about paying tribute to this remarkable Maltese musician in a podcast. I had just finished producing the 145th edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast so I knew that I had to produce something extra to remember Maestro Camilleri.

As it happens, Charles Camilleri was the very first person I interviewed on the very first radio broadcast I produced all by myself at Xandir Malta; after several months working with other established radio producers. That broadcast was meant to mark the 50th anniversary from the death of American composer George Gershwin. It was originally heard of Xandir Malta's Cable Radio on 11 July 1987. Josephine Mahoney was the announcer and Publius Micallef was the studio manager who recorded the original broadcast.
Charles Camilleri
Charles Arrigo had instigated me to produce George Gershwin: Tifkira and suggested I invite Charles Camilleri to speak about the composer. Rather than interviewing the maestro about Gershwin, I asked him to give me and the listeners a lesson about Gershwin from the perspective of a professor of music. His insights were not only brilliant but also very unusual from the usual biographical treatments of other composers by other commentators.

To remember Charles Camilleri, I've edited the highlights from my George Gershwin: Tifkira production and they're now available as a downloadable podcast. I believe that this special tribute is a very appropriate way to mark the passing of Mro Camilleri, since he was as great teacher and professor of music as he was a composer.

Charles Camilleri will undoubtedly be remembered as one of Malta's greatest composers of all time. I will forever remember him as the first person who was patient enough to put up with me in a radio studio.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't You (Forget About Me)

On Christmas eve 1998, MaltaMedia made its production debut: midnight mass from the Ta' Pinu Sanctuary in Gozo was webcast through Radio Calypso's website. The concept of MaltaMedia had been around since the previous summer, when Ray Bajada and I came up with the general idea of a Maltese online media network while having a drink at Xlendi.

The 1998 Christmas webcast was a team effort. Aside from the Radio Calypso part, which broadcast the midnight mass just as it had in previous years over the national airwaves, there was significant technical input from two close associates of MaltaMedia in its early endevours. Jean Galea Souchet was a key player in getting the technical side together. At that time he was the head honcho with VOL and provided us with everything you could want from an ISP. Glasgow-based John J. Cassar, who had been webcasting Maltese għana for about a year before this, provided overseas hosting space and technical insights to ensure that our webcast could reach as wide an audience as possible.

Encoding and uploading an hour-long audio file for an on-demand webcast back in 1998 meant that I stayed up until about 4am into early Christmas morning; working with an Intel Pentium I on a 28.8 Kbps dial-up internet connection. It was exhilarating to receive emails from Maltese people around the world thanking us for making the webcast available for all to access at will online. It was as clear as day that this was the future of broadcasting.

I believe that Ray has a photo of me sitting at the bar in his old converted farmhouse living room in Xagħra at about 2am (still encoding/uploading), after he returned home at the end of the broadcast. I must ask him for it one of these days. I believe that it would be a good memento to share with the public as MaltaMedia moves into 2009 to celebrate its 10th anniversary properly. Perhaps we should also make the webcast available again in perpetuity for the sake of posterity.

Meanwhile, I'd like to wish all the readers (and casual visitors) of my blog a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Down Under

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been interviewed by Marlene Galea from SBS Radio in Australia about my interest in music and broadcasting. An edited version of the interview was aired this morning in Australia. I will be appearing on SBS Radio again soon in a special feature they're preparing on the Maltese music scene. More about that when it airs.

Click here to listen to the interview. It's in Maltese, but feel free to contact me if you'd like to chat about any of this in English. The topic is central to an academic research project I'm in the process of developing, based on my first-hand experiences in Maltese music and broadcasting since the 1980s. Although I speak at length about the past, I should point out that I'm not really nostalgic, particularly since I believe that the best is always still to come.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Magic Bus

Now that the public transport system in Malta is back to "normal" it's good to start thinking about what will really come from the shambles created on the roads of Malta and Gozo throughout most of this past week? Will the liberalization of mass transport on the Maltese Islands really improve in the coming months. Perhaps it'll take a couple of years or more. Will the characteristic authentically vintage buses (not the ones made for tourist) survive much longer?

Knowing how hot the temperature gets at this time of the year in Malta, I seriously doubt anyone has the necessary energy to really bother with all this right now. Truthfully I must admit that I'm impressed by the Transport Minister's actions toward reforming the sector. In Malta it takes a hard-headed political animal like Austin Gatt to change anything that's been ingrained into the Maltese way of doing things for generations.

You could ask why I should care about all this when I don't live in Malta? Aside from the fact that I'm fascinated by this sort of this, the simple answer is that I depend on mass transit to a large extent whenever I visit the Maltese Islands now. So it really does matter to me. Unlike the first-time visitors to the Malta who swore never to return after the mess their holiday turned into, I must return to the islands several times in the coming years.

Ironically, it's at times like this that I miss (if that's the right word) being there. I'd have been able to stay on for the upcoming Hunters Palace gig at Warehouse 8 on July 25. Alex Vella Gera and Peter Sant recently recorded a number of tracks in London along with percussionist Vinicius Duarte. From these London session I've picked Brussels, to open the 123rd edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. Alex Vella Gregory will also be appearing at the upcoming gig, so it promises to be a splendid evening of fine music for discerning ears.

Last week
I mentioned that Pink Pube has just released the music for Dubbien by Particle Blue. This release is blanketed in sweet sorrow for me and all Particle Blue fans. The recordings are devoid of Claire Tonna's unique vocals and this recording is possibly the last we'll hear from what was undoubted one of the most interesting musical duos to grace the local scene in recent memory. Antoine seems to have found his groove again with Shattered Pride (featured in MMI #122) and I'm hoping to including a recent recording by Claire on an upcoming edition of the MMI podcast.

Errol Sammut seems to have appeared on this series more than any other singer in recent months. This is because he is involved in a relatively large number of bands and projects. The most recent of these is a band called The Does; called so after the initials from the band members - Dirk, Owen, Errol, Steve. To me it sounds just like an alternative version of Stone Joker, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Errol's voice is very recognizable and it makes you either become a fan instantly or tune it out after one too many listens, depending one your personal taste, I suppose.

After last year's impressive line-up for Malta's XFM Virtual Rock Star contest, which was won by Slur/Ann Degaetano, I was expecting an equally palatable cross-section of new acts and songs this year. There are a few good contestants but I must admit that I'd have liked to see more participants. I wonder what happened. Anyway, one of the better bands taking part is called Wax. Their song is called Thoughts and it comes with a decent video that I'm sure will be nominated in that category for the listeners' picks towards the end of this year.

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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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chant Number 1

To say that students are eager to get their marks at this time of the year is to state the obvious. It is therefore not surprising at all that over 1000 Maltese students have taken to Facebook to pressure the Malta Union of Teachers and the University of Malta Academic Staff Association to end their current trade dispute with the University of Malta. The students rightly claim that this action is unfairly using students’ result to enhance leverage on their cause, justified as that may be.

Aside from the politics of what the lecturers want and/or deserve and how they go about getting it, the most interesting element in all this for me is the use of Facebook to put pressure on the university and the lecturers to take the results out of their negotiations. This use of Facebook goes far beyond the trivial nonsense associated with vampires, zombies, flirting, showing off and a hundred and one other time wasting uses of this popular social networking online utility.

This is the best use of Facebook by a pressure group of this sort that I've seen so far from Malta. If there are other examples you know about, please bring them to my attention; you can also contact me directly on Facebook if you prefer. I recently wrote the first draft of a chapter about youth culture and the media for a forthcoming book about media in Malta, and I may include examples like this in it to show how the Internet provides new means of communication for young Maltese people.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Milk Today

If you're looking for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, please note that the series is on a one week break as I take some time off to rest over the Easter period. The next Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast comes to you next weekend. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the most recent offering or one of the other 100+ podcasts in the series.

This is my first weekend back home in Scarborough after a brief visit to Malta. I've blogged some of my thoughts about the visit over the last few blog entires, but I haven't really dedicated a whole post to the visit. There was a time when I would feel that such a piece of writing was an essential part of what this blog was all about. Micro-blogging on sites like Facebook has put an end to that. In the best of worlds, times change and we change with them.

This most recent visit is most memorable for me not because of the general elections which returned Prime Minister Gonzi to the Castille Auberge for another 5 years. *rant alert* My hope there is that he will push for the true political minorities in Malta to have their voices heard in parliament by making sure that seats in the house are truly representative of the number of votes a party gets, rather than some twisted constitutional arrangement that gives a party 4 extra seats in the house for less than 2000 extra votes while a party that gets 3000+ votes is left out of parliament. *end of rant*

During my most recent visit I found myself strangely feeling like I could live in Malta again. This feeling became quite strong during two or three moments during the visit; mostly in relation to friendships and art. I never thought I'd feel this way about Malta again. When I left the country all those years ago I thought that I had left it for good. This is still the case, but surprisingly I no longer feel that I couldn't return if I really had too.

There's no nostalgia involved in this feeling. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm immune to that nasty malady.

Cartoonist Maurice Tanti Burlo once told me that while I may find that living abroad is a most enriching experience it is only in Malta that I can find the best quality of life. For years I politely discounted this as an opinion of someone who had a different point of view from mine in terms of what living abroad is all about. I am now slowly but surely beginning to see what he was on about. Does this mean I've finally become a grown-up? Good grief!

I seriously doubt I'll ever make Malta my home base again. I've spent far too many years abroad to abandon one lifestyle for another completely.. However, as I've learned from my organic garden, roots aren't easy to destroy completely and the most surprising things can stem from them in appropriate conditions.

Anyway, a very Happy Easter to all readers of this blog. All should be back to "normal" by next weekend.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Only Way Is Up

I'm still in Malta for another couple of days. Scarborough beckons and not a minute too soon. I miss my monkey and my dog but for the first time in years Malta doesn't feel the same way it has to me since I left the country in the early 1990s. I wonder whether this feeling will linger on in the coming months. Perhaps it's because this visit has turned out to be quite different than ones in recent years.

Whatever it is, there are thankfully some things in life I know I can depend on. My weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is one of them, even if I'm tempted to take a brief Easter break next week. To prepare myself for the brief rapture (although I seriously doubt that this is the right word to describe it) podcast number 106 is held together by divine intervention (and again I very much doubt that the proper term to describe it).

The Y4J Band appears to enjoy a strong following among the Maltese charismatic movement in the Pembroke/St. Julians area. In The House is the theme song used by the group in what can only be described as an excellent example of Christian branding. If you think Christian worship in Malta is too stuffy for your taste, just check out this band and the group they pray with.

Lest you think that I plan to simply play contemporary Christian music during this week's podcast, I should mention that there's always more than one predominant perspective I'm (more than) happy to take into consideration whenever looking at anything. About 35 years ago, Maltese rock legend Freddie Portelli released what to my mind is the most outstanding devotional song to emerge from Malta in my lifetime. Mulej remains an amazing testament of the singer's spiritual side and it has hardly dated after all these years. He recently released a new CD album entitled Viva it-Tewmin. Although this album has an unlikely title, it contains what can be considered a follow-up to Mulej called Nitolbok Illum. While it bears the hallmark of all the best laid-back tunes in the Freddie Portelli songbook (including a spoken interlude and some delightful whistling) only time will really tell if this new song will become as memorable as Mulej.

Chris D'Alfonso is undoubtedly one of the brightest star of Maltese Christian rock. Broken, on the tracks from his 2006 album Blueprint was recent voted the top song for Eucharistic adoration on the Top Catholic Songs website. The available of Blueprints on iTunes has certainly contributed to this accolade. Well done Chris!

The contemporary Maltese Christian music scene is growing at a steady pace. Footprints and Quicksand are two new Christians bands currently gracing the local scene. The final two track for this week's podcast from these two bands. The first offering is Footprints' debut song I Need You, followed by Quicksand's Silence. Although the latter is a pleasant instrumental track, the band has also just released a song called Hu Magħna Llum, specially made for the Maltese World Youth Day 2008 and selected as the theme song for the upcoming Maltese Pentecost celebrations.

That's probably as far as the series will go before Easter. As I return home to Scarborough in the coming days, I know I'll be wading through a mountain of chores that have accumulated in my absence. This coupled with the sacred idea that rest is an essential part of life, it's most probable that the next MMI podcast will appear during the weekend after Easter. In spite of this, I promise to post non-podcast-related blog entry before then.

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, March 08, 2008

Election Day

I'm in Malta. It's election day. The logical fallacy is that I'm here to vote. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, I'm here because I had planned to be here at this time even before the national polling day was announced.

It may seem downright odd for anyone interested in the outcome of the Maltese General Elections that this blog post is actually about podcast number 105 in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Regular followers of this blog and the weekly podcast should not be surprised at all. As I find myself in Malta during the release (but not the actual recording) of this week's podcast I'm convinced more than ever that although election fever is running high, there's a sense that things are not what they used to be; by which I mean that if all goes well there should be at least one unexpected outcome from the predictable norms established by the mainstream over the last 35 years or so.

This week's edition opens with music from a band whose members have certainly not voted today. The Beangrowers are in Austria to promote their new album Not In A Million Lovers, just days away from their return to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. I'm looking forward to hearing the whole album, mostly because from the new tracks available via the band's MySpace page there's a strong sense that the Beangrowers have matured into one of the most outstanding bands to ever emerge from the Maltese Islands.

Following tracks from Airport Attractions and Stone Joker in recent weeks, you can now also hear a solo track called Affection by Errol Sammut, who listeners will know from either or both these bands. This kind of performer is unusual on the Maltese scene but most welcome by those who, like me, appreciate musicians who can vary their output over different projects. Errol's new solo demos would make interesting tracks for either one of the bands he plays in but they show well what he brings to the table with any of his collaborators.

For the simple reason that I follow the Maltese music scene from abroad, there are a number of acts that I don't get to hear about or from as soon as they appear on the local circuit. StarBunker is one such band. Move On is the single from their debut EP Forecast, which didn't appear on my radar until just a few days ago when I exchange a friends request message from guitarist David Cassar Torregiani, whom I've known for about 25 years since we both played in Tigne bands. To be more precise, we were both members of a band called Structure...but not at the same time.

The election spirit has moved me to present a couple of alternative music styles on the fringes of any mainstream taste. The first of these comes from Synthax & Chemicals, an electronica duo I know very little about, mostly because their MySpace page focuses almost entirely on their sounds rather than any other useful information punters like me look for. Listen to one of their two tracks Next To Hell and make up your own mind.

Hardcore metal is the other alternative style I've picked this week. I must admit that I've become a closet hardcore fan of sorts since I first heard this extreme brand of metal during an early morning radio breakfast show in New York City over a decade ago. Newcomers Cypher will be appearing with a couple of the best Maltese hardcore exponents - Loathe and Beheaded - at the Poxx Bar on March 22. I'll be back in Scarborough by then but I'd have loved to still be in Malta just for that. Anyway, listen closely to What Else Remains and you'll possibly see how hardcore can become much a sought after acquired taste.

It will not be business as usual in Malta or for the MMI podcast over the next couple of weeks. For more on that check back on this blog where I'll be blogging about this, that and the other in the hope of keeping some sort of personal record of these strange days.

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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