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Saturday, November 14, 2009


Something pretty unusual happened this week but for some odd reason I can't really remember what it was. All I remember when it happened is thinking it would be good to include this on my blog. It seems silly to say this here but Twitter has made blogging about moments rather than significant ideas unnecessary Micro-blogging is a far better way to share moments than blogs are. Blogging remains for meaningful events and elaborate ideas...but "meaningful" and "elaborate" are obviously relative.

For me, and hopefully for most of the people who will read this, my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast embodies both a meaningful event and an elaborate idea. Yes, I may be overstating the importance of my podcasts, but I honestly receive far too many appreciative comments to believe that several listeners appreciate the MMI series for what it is.

The 188th podcast in the series features something I've rarely done in previous editions. Ally (that's Alison Ellul) is about to release her third single on Wednesday 18 November. A preview of I Remember is certainly in order, but so is an airing of her previous song Do You Miss Me?, which came to my attention mainly through its well-crafted music video. I'm nominating both tracks for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, soon to be launched for public voting over on Facebook.

Crimean rapper Dimal has managed build himself a respectable following in the Maltese pop scene. He is known generally as the Russian rapper and it's an image that suits him well. His most recent single feature the extraordinary vocal talents of Maddee Dargue who is establishing herself in Malta as a professional cocal and phonetics teacher after years of working in the recording industry in the UK. Her voice most certainly makes Dimal's song Nothing's Gonna Hurt Us worth hearing more than once.

Baz and Max Cilia established the UK-based folky band Spriggan Mist some time ago. I featured their music on previous editions of the MMI podcast and they now return, as a larger band, with a new recording from an album they're planning to release next year. The song is called Indigo Child and features Max's untainted voice front and centre. You will not easily forget this song, even if you're not particularly fond of this style of music.

Simply because deep contrast makes for an interesting series I never shy away from mixing genres, especially extremes from the edges of the spectrum. With a name like Loathe you certainly wouldn't expect another folky band to close this week's podcast would you? Loathe have been on the forefront of the hardcore Maltese metal scene for a number of years now. They are working releasing an album called Despondent By Design, which should be their 4th CD since 2003. They just come off a the Dark Design Tour with fellow metalheads Slab playing in various UK cities and appeared at Rookies with BNI last night for a Friday the 13th gig that undoubtedly went down well with local rockers. Their next gig will take place at Remedy on the 27th of November with Slit sharing the bill. This Resepect is an excellent sampler from the upcoming Loathe album and it's a very fitting way to bring this week's podcast to a close.

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, June 20, 2009

Little Green

Goings on in Teheran right now are quite sad and very disturbing. There is very little people like me can do from afar. I've been following the protests and the violent reactions mostly through Twitter. My main source is @TehranBureau but @kvella has also introduced me to @StopAhmadi. Between tweets about the clashes I've also been interested about the media talk around the power of Twitter and new technologies in Iran. It's all quite gripping and reminds me of the political unrest we experience in Malta in 1980s; I now realize that although what we went through back then was terrible, it fades in significance compared to the current situation in Iran.

As the fall of communism twenty years ago clearly demonstrated, new modes of communication are great non-violent weapons for oppressed people seeking change. When thinking about all this I'm humbled to think that I use the same technology for things that certainly not a matter of life and death for anyone. And yet the lighter things in life are essential. They provide some the things that make life worth living. For me, music is one of those essential things in life. Aside from the emotional boost some types of music give me, I am professionally invested the role of music in Maltese cultural identity and the networks associated with it. This is why I keep producing my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

For the 167th MMI podcast I wanted to include only new material that I heard about directly from the artists. One of the things I really appreciate about producing this series is the direct regular contact it gives me with Maltese musicians and performers. I was thrilled when Victoria Spiteri sent me a message on MySpace to tell me about her new song Filling Days. She performs as Victoria Osbourne now and regular listeners may recall that I first played one of her songs in May last year when she had moved to Malta from London looking to expand her options as a songwriter. I'm really looking forward to see who she ends up collaborating with in the coming years.

During my most recent visit to Malta I was obviously surrounded by musicians every day. On the very first evening I was invited to a wedding and the groom's cousins included the indomitable Danjeli (to my great delight) and Salt guitarist David Schembri. I played the lastest stuff from Danjeli last week, so this week I thought it was high time to include the latest single from Salt, which David promised to send me during his cousin's wedding. Star arrived via email several weeks ago. If you haven't already heard it elsewhere, you can hear it as the second selection on this week's podcast. Will Salt manage to repeat last year's MMI poll placing? (Salt's Jars of Clay was voted Top Single on the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.)

A couple of days before leaving Malta on this same last visit, I went to Juul's Bar in St Julian's for what I believe was the debut gig by Plato's Dream Machine. This trio is made up of musicians who have all appeared with other acts on previous editions on the MMI series. Singer Robert Farrugia Flores (whatever happened to Dominoes?) is trying very hard to channel the ghost of Bob Dylan from the early 1960s. Il-Fre provides a solid bass accompaniment while Ryan Abela keeps a steady beat on whatever percussion instrument happens to be handy on any given day. I like PDM's combination of DIY and busker spirit and it is beautifully captured on the limited edition CD single they've released, which includes their version of Dylan's I Shall Be Released. The band's main song, however, is called Journey Man and it's full of the sort of sounds that the band can produce and will hopefully continue to produce as they move into innovating on the Dylanesque elements they're in the process of assimilating. A Fuscia Sun Vessel (another trio fronted by Robert Farrugia Flores) did that beautifully a few years back, as you may have heard it on a previous MMI podcast.

Regular listeners of my weekly podcast will know that Adolf Formosa is one of my favourite singer-songwriters from Malta. He recently recorded a new song and contacted me (via Facebook) to tell me about it. Let's Bite the Morning gives us a peak at a reflective moment from Adolf. It's not as tuneful as some of his other songs, but still delightful for fans like me.

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 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, April 25, 2009

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

Twitter has taken over as my social networking utility of choice. Facebook has been reduced to an alternative email/messaging system and a must-visit for playing Knighthood. MySpace is still alive and essential source for new music. This blog has now entered its 6th year of existence. And that's the current state of things with me and Web 2.0, as we used to call it.

The weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is part of this personal mediascape I've carved out for myself. This week I've even attempted to do something that I don't remember ever doing before: I've somehow managed to squeeze 6 tracks by 6 different acts in the 159th MMI podcast without making it longer than the usual approximate time of 20 minutes.

As I was preparing the music for the podcast I received an email announcing the release of an album called Manwel T Meets Mind's Eye Dub at the Temple of Dub from the newly establish net-label Dubkey Records. The whole album is available as a free download from Dubkey's website, which was established to spread free roots reggae & dub music. Manwel Tabone and David Magro have appeared in several previous editions of the MMI podcast with some of the tracks that appear on this first Dubkey album, but I've selected Back To My Dub (MANWEL T mix two) because it's a very pleasant way to open up the show.

Dolls for Idols is a new band surfacing from the Maltese islands. Their debut tracks are well produced and augur for a stellar rise on the local scene. They gigging too, of course, but apparently not extensively enough. Any club owners or event organizers reading this should really check out this band because they sound as good as any other I've heard within their genre in Malta in recent years. The track I've picked for my podcast is called Through the City at Night.

Another new album comes from one of Malta's best underground electronica producers. Melchior Sultana's latest release published by the Cold Busted label is called Recognize the Real. He doesn't keep his personal website updated but at least there are several recent updates on his MySpace page. From the 18 tracks on this new CD I've selected Mel's collaboration with guitarist Jonathan Ellul entitled Man Flight Passion. Sultana's music is quite broad-ranging and I look forward to his releases. So you can be sure I'll be playing something else from this Maltese musician in an upcoming edition of the MMI podcast. I'll probably also play another track by Jonathan, from his own unrelated (i.e. without Melchior) tracks on MySpace.

A couple of podcasts ago I introduced you to a Maltese guitarist who seems to split his time between Sydney and Oslo. Mark Axiak is also involved in a duo called Lappalie with singer Milena. I promised I'd come back to this material, so I've picked a haunting song called Sydneymoon to keep my promise. The wealth of Malta-related material of MySpace is simply staggering.

Brussels-based Kurt Buttigieg is a well known name in the Maltese blogosphere. In fact, he was one of its pioneers under the pseudonym Gybexi. I met him in person when I visited Brussels a couple of years ago and never expected to come across the work he sonic work he has recently published under the name Skullcakes. I must admit that I love the sort of aural explorations that Skullcakes presents through the related MySpace page. You can also hear the track called Neon Wolf Amongst Them as the fifth selection on this week's podcast.

The last song that I managed to include in this week's podcast comes from Laura Zarb Cousin. This teenage singer told me in an email she wrote me a few days ago that she has just collaborated with composer-producer Toby on a song called You Bruise Me. Laura has a good voice for the type of genre she has picked and it appears that Toby has managed to play up her best qualities too. Laura has a personal page on Facebook but no MySpace presence I could find. Toby hasn't included this song on his own MySpace page, so I feel safe in saying that htis may very well be either a preview of a soon-to-be-released single or just another one of those best kept secrets the Maltese music scene coughs up from time to time. I guess only time can really tell.

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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