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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Long Hard Road

Looks like we've made it! The weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series has reached the 200th podcast. Starting way back in November 2005, it has taken just over four years to get here. When the 100th podcast was released it was clearly time to celebrate but now I feel that every new podcast is a celebration in itself. The 200th MMI podcast is a special edition but last week's podcast was just as special, and I hope that next week's edition will be special too.

Three things have encouraged me above everything else to continue producing this series. The first is the incredible feedback I get from podcast listeners every week. This is coupled with waves of appreciation from many of the singers and musicians I feature from week to week. From these comments I can see that the MMI podcast is a significant element in the promotion of Maltese music around the world. I am also very grateful to Vodafone for sponsoring the podcast since last autumn. While I obviously don't produce the MMI podcast for financial gain, there are some associated expenses that must be covered and so the sponsorship is most welcome.

The 200th MMI podcast opens with the song I Can't Take It written by Elton Zarb and Ira Losco for Amy Agius. Amy is a new arrival on the local music scene and it's understandable to think that this sort of song and singer would be an automatic fit for the upcoming EuroSong festival. However, to my knowledge, it's gone a different root and that probably helps some listeners appreciate it better. This is a good pop rock song and Amy's voice is pleasant enough to carry it. If this is her debut I'm sure that her next offering may make even more of a splash.

Winter Moods have returned with new material ahead of the release of another album. The new song that's making the round on most local radio stations in Malta right now is called Last to Know. This is the band's first release as a quintet following the departure of founding guitarist Steve Caruana Smith (fondly known as Is-Serp) on amicable terms. Smith contributed greatly to the band's sound so it's understandable that they now sound slightly different. Their fans will undoubtedly appreciate the new sound particularly because it helps give them a way to reinvent themselves as one of the longest standing rock band on the Maltese music scene.

I believe that much more needs to be done to preserve and disseminate recording by Maltese musicians not only when they are released but also, and especially, years after they're originally released. On the 7th of July 2007 (07/07/07) Jewls Verse released his debut album Taking It Easy, lifting two singles from the album to help promote it at the time. He continues to gig around the islands regularly and he maintains an online presence too, of course, but I don't how many radio stations (including ones that originally played tracks from the album when it first appeared) continue to include tracks from it on their playlists, which are otherwise filled with songs from non-Maltese acts from the same period. It's a complex issue and I am attempting to address it systematically even beyond the weekly MMI podcast. Meanwhile, I will also continue to play tracks released in bygone years on my podcast too; not for the sake of nostalgia but rather to ensure that we keep a sense of continuity going in the ever-growing output coming from the local music scene. Jewls Verse's Help Me appears on this week's podcast precisely in this spirit.

New releases from acts I've already featured on the MMI podcast series delight me on a regular basis. Heartbeat fall squarely into this category right now as they've released some new songs through MySpace. I really like Dorienne Cachia's voice and feel that she's a perfect fit for the type of music produced by this band. Forever By Your Side is one of the new tracks that clearly demonstrate this. I'm sure I'll be including another one of these new songs they've just released in a future edition of the MMI podcast.

To close the 200th show in the series, I've picked something that's very special and dear to me. The 1989 TVM series Mill-Garaxx, which I created with my late friend Mario Ellul, will forever remain one of the most significant things I've ever done as a broadcaster. Bringing Maltese musicians to play live in the TVM studio was received well at the time mostly because there was a great lack of such space being given to live music (particularly rock music) on what was then the only Maltese television channel. Winter Moods were among the bands who appeared on that series. The opening music was written by Charlie Dalli and performed by his band X-Tend. It is the earliest specimen of rap in the Maltese language. That in itself makes it remarkable. Personally, I believe it provides the words I'd like on my grave:

"Kemm hi sabiħa dik il-ħolma li xi darba mmiss l-istilel,
imma kull valur jgħeb jekk kull ma mmiss isir deheb."

This roughly translates to "What a beautiful dream to one day touch the stars, but a value melt away if everything you touch turns to gold."

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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Thursday, December 31, 2009

See Saw

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

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


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

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

  • MySpace lives on

  • The resurgence of Twitter as an alternative social networking utility

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

  • Discovering No Bling Show

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

  • The MMI Podcast is now brought to you by Vodafone

  • Free Wi-fi on National Express trains

  • Visiting Moscow + Isle of Man + Hungary

  • Hello Wordpress!

  • High hopes with/for Obama

  • The joys of December

  • AHRC Sabbatical Award for 2009/10

  • Waterloo Sunset

  • 20 Years since 1989

  • 40 Years since 1969

  • The eye-watering rise of Facebook

  • Malta Eurosong 2009

  • Malta at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest

  • Failure of the Green uprising in Iran

  • January takes Mike Francis too

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

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

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

  • So much to do, so little time

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

    Until then, I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and/or listening to my podcasts in 2009 and a special thanks if you contributed to all that in any way...I wish you a very happy new year!

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  • 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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    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 31, 2008

    See Saw

    2008 is history. For the last five years I've been blogging about the ups and downs at the end of every year. Things have changed somewhat since 2004 around here, mostly because my blog has been taken over almost completely by show notes for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I have no real regrets about that. If I had more (free) time I'd probably blog more often between podcasts.

    So, my annual partial, most subjective, list of blog entries from the year gone by, in random order is marinated in podcast show notes. In any case, this list is meant mostly as a simple way to mark the highs and lows in my year, as chronicled on my blog throughout 2008:


  • Speaking about Performance in Second Life at the IOCT

  • Undergoing colonoscopy at Whitby Hospital

  • The 100th episode in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcasting series

  • Could I possibly ever live in Malta again?

  • The Maltese blogosphere is dead! Long live the Maltese blogosphere

  • Claudio Baglioni's version of L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel

  • Diana Gurtskaya singing Peace Will Come (Georgia's 2008 ESC entry)

  • I have one word for you: Facebook

  • Public transport in Malta will never be the same again

  • Best Dr Who episode, ever

  • Xtruppaw return to delight a live audience

  • Philip Auslander is not dead!

  • Being a student at Beached Academy

  • Appearing on Bondi+ via web-based video chat

  • Interview on SBS radio in Australia

  • CDs: Brikkuni's Kuntrabanda! and Magic of the Sun by The Rifffs

  • Marking 10 years since the first MaltaMedia production


  • Malta Song for Europe 2008 - semifinal

  • Malta Song for Europe 2008 - final

  • Hard disk meltdown!

  • 2008 Malta General Elections

  • Malta's entry at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest

  • Remodeling our kitchen

  • Christmas comes a little too early

    RIP: Roland Friggieri, Ebba von Fersen Balzan, Albert Hofmann, Sir Anthony Mamo, George Carlin, Bo Diddley, Kilin, and Manwel Borg.

    Not counting the departed friends and icons, this year seem to be considerably abundant in the ups and somewhat scarce on the downers.

    I'd like to thank you for reading my blog and/or listening to my podcasts in 2008 and a special thanks if you contributed to all that in any way...I wish you a very happy new year!

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  • 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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    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Gone Gone Gone

    At about this time of the year for the past 8 years, Mario Axiaq and I have been putting together a list of obituaries for people known for their public life in Malta. It is an exercise that works hand in glove with Mario's project to chronicle Malta day by day and MaltaMedia's round-up of the year gone by.

    In compiling this year's list I became aware that Manuel Borg, a former colleague of mine at Radio Malta, passed away this summer. I was not only shocked that he died at such a relatively young age (he was just 57 year old) but also that somehow the news of his passing didn't reach me until Mario and I started comparing the lists we had put together separately since last Christmas.

    I first heard of Manuel Borg's name as a radio producer on a multi-part rock documentary presented by Albert Zammit around 1981 on Radio Malta. Eventually, I caught his name again as co-producer on Twanny Scerri's various shows featuring Italian music. When I started my career in broadcasting just a few years later, Manuel was one of the technical crew I worked with regularly at Radio Malta. He and I became good friends and eventually co-produced a 13-part series commemorating the tenth anniversary since John Lennon's murder, starting on what would have been his 50th birthday in October 1990. It was the last year that Radio Malta enjoyed as the only radio station in the country. Manuel and I knew it was the end of an era. Just a few months later I quit my full-time job at Xandir Malta, which also meant that he and I never had the opportunity to work together again.

    Truth be told, after I had taken up my management job at Radio One Live, I had called on him to help me put together a decent collection of Italian music. I will always remember Manuel Borg whenever I hear a song by Lucio Battisti, I Camaleonti, I Giganti, Matia Bazar, or most other decent Italian acts And so should generations of Maltese radio listeners, particularly those who didn't watch much TV in the late 70s or 1980s. In any case, on a personal level, I'm most saddened by Manuel's death and I'm sorry I'll never see him again, even if the last couple of times we met we didn't really have much to say to each other beyond the obvious.

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

    ROBERT NAUDI, Politician
    (Died: 2 January 2008)

    (Died: 13 January 2008)

    JOSEPH M. GERADA, Tradeunionist
    (Died: 30 January 2008)

    CARM LINO SPITERI, Politician
    (Died: 9 February 2008)

    (Died: 21 February 2008)

    ALBERT RIZZO, Politician
    (Died: 29 February 2008)

    (Died: 15 March 2008)

    EMANUEL ABELA, Civil Servant
    (Died: 9 April 2008)

    SIR ANTHONY MAMO, President
    (Died: 1 May 2008)

    (Died: 8 July 2008)

    MANWEL BORG, Broadcaster
    (Died: 5 August 2008)

    JOE MERCIECA, Journalist
    (Died: 13 August 2008)

    GEORGE DOUGALL, Broadcaster
    (Died: 3 October 2008)

    KARL CHIRCOP, Politician
    (Died: 12 October 2008)

    ANTON AGIUS, Artist
    (Died: 19 October 2008)

    JADE BRINCAT, Musician
    (Died: 12 November 2008)

    SALVINU SCHEMBRI, Footballer
    (Died: 14 December 2008)

    EVELYN BONACI, Politician
    (Died: 15 December 2008)

    If you think there's anyone else we should include in this list, please contact me. We'd also appreciate any corrections to dates of death as listed here, because we don't always get things 100% right.

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    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, October 11, 2008

    Big Money

    Two memories from my pre-adult life crept across my line of sight this week. While I'm certainly not the nostalgic type, I thoroughly enjoyed a brief exchange with a former teenage girlfriend on Facebook, even if the bottom line was just a realization that we only really knew each other before either one of had grown up. And news of a St Gregory's Church Children's Choir reunion took me back even earlier into my childhood. I was very pleased to see pictures of so many people I haven't seen in well over thirty years.

    Both these instances made me aware of how radically my life has changed since my childhood and teenage years. This is probably true for many people, but it's not necessarily so for everyone. I also bring this up in light of the recent developments we're now all calling the current financial crisis. Back then I cared about money even less than I do now. Oddly, however, I find myself peripherally depressed by the economic downturn. Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise and this will lead more and more people to appreciate that there's much more to life and living than financial wealth and material possessions. Or at least I'd really like to think so.

    It's with these thoughts dancing around in my head that I prepared this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. It's also not accidental that three of the tracks on this week's podcast come from countries outside Malta. The first features London-based Maltese singer-songwriter Richard Micallef. People in Malta may still remember Richard as part of The Mics. His solo material is quite good and I'm really looking forward to hearing more from him as the years reshape his musical taste beyond the obvious. This man may emerge to be one of the stronger figures of the Maltese music scene in the near future. Listen closely to Take a Minute, which also comes in an acoustic version on his MySpace page, and you'll probably see exactly what I mean.

    Keeping it in the family, I thought it was about time I included something by Richard's brother Wayne. These guys are clearly indebted to their father for their musical genes. Anyone who cared about the Maltese music scene as far back as the early 1990s, probably remembers Joe George Micallef, who was among the longer-serving contenders on the local pop scene and hotel circuit. Wayne Micallef's Is Someone There owe's a lot to this legacy, even though it may not appear to do so at first glance.

    All the music for rest of the 135th MMI podcast comes from Maltese musicians outside Malta. I've already had the great pleasure of including a couple of songs by the Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter David Agius. I received a message from David via Facebook a few days ago asking people to vote for him on a Sing with Stevie Wonder Competition. He'll certainly appreciate your vote. You can also hear one of his own songs, entitled When I Get Old, on this week's podcast. I'm really looking forward to hearing more from David. It's a pity there's nothing from him I can nominate for this year's MMI Listeners' Picks.

    I was also pleased to hear from Ray Buttigieg recently, announcing that he has some new material on the way. Ray's messages tend to be cryptic, so I'm not sure what he's referring to exactly. I did find a new MySpace page dedicated to what he calls his Maltese Rarities. I've selected Imħabba Saltan Fuqi from this collection to bring this week's podcast to an appropriate close, until the next one.

    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, August 30, 2008

    Granpa's Grave

    I've been having very unusual dreams lately. Maybe it's because there a sense of change in the air, particularly from the American political circus, which almost merits its own blog entry. Or perhaps it's because I've been spending way too much time doing my research in Second Life. More simply, it could be that I haven't really had a break this summer.

    Last night I had a dream about the remains of my paternal grandfather, who died a few months before I was born. I am named after him. He was buried in the crypt beneath St Helen's Parish Church in Birkirkara, which is where I imagine he was baptized towards the end of the 19th century and married early in the 20th century. They stopped burying ordinary people in Maltese church crypts soon after the end of the 1960s and unless you came from a rich family your remains often ended up in the so-called well of bones after some years to make room in the limited burial spaces. I have no idea what actually became of my grandpa's remains, but in this dream I had we kept looking for them, finding and reburying them, only to have them returned to the well of bones again. This took place several times during my dream, just like the eternal recurrence of the same you read about in Nietzsche. Don't ask me how we recovered them from the well; DNA testing may have had something to do with it in my dream logic.

    This dream follows hot on the heels of another death-related nightmare I had just a few days ago. Performance theorist Phil Auslander is someone I know personally, but not that well. I say this to explain that I see no reason why in dreaming that he died (may you live forever Phil!) I was somehow appointed the executor of his will...and most of it had nothing to do with performance theory. Do I need a holiday or what?

    Until I can get a decent vacation, even if a mini one, I continue to find reprieve in my weekly podcast. Last week I was interviewed by Marlene Galea for the Maltese service on SBS Radio in Australia; I will be telling you more about that once it has been aired. As I was chatting with Marlene about the Maltese music scene, she mentioned Jay P as a newcomer on the Maltese-Australian scene and urged me to check him out. As a kid Jason Portelli (to give him his real name) was raised in Xagħra before emigrating with his family to Australia. He returns for a gig in Gozo on the 3rd of September. So, it's fitting that this week's podcast opens with the song Rain from his debut album 1565 Patiently Waiting.

    A couple of weeks ago I was sent a CD compilation released by Stagedive entitled Alternative Sounds from Malta Volume One. This is an excellent collection and a must have for anyone who wants to sample the rich range of alternative music from Malta. I'll be playing a couple of tracks from this CD in the coming weeks, starting right now with Danjeli's delightful Ħaġa Muħġaġa. I'm also looking forward to more volumes in this series. It really behooves the Poxx Bar to back these CDs.

    Young singer Amanda Friggieri records as Amelia. Her debut song A Blind Girl's Whisper shows that she can easily shine among all the local Eurovision wannabes. Her MySpace profile mentions bands and work on an album of original songs rather than pop aspirations. This makes me think that we'll be hearing more good stuff from this performer in the coming months.

    This week's edition of the MMI podcast comes to a close with a song called Promise written by Billy J with Edward Ferry and Jean Paul Debono from the band Black on White. Malcolm Pisani sings the song with the band and I must say that I like this style of song better for him than any other material I've heard him sing. He recent solo single Press Play is not bad, but to my ears Promise is better.

    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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    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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    Friday, January 11, 2008

    First Cut is the Deepest

    Earlier today I received an email from my father informing me that my dear old friend Roland Friggieri passed away last night after battling a long illness. Roland was a childhood hero for me; you could even say he was a role model of sorts. He was a cool cat before it was hip to be a cool cat in Malta.

    I last saw him on Tower Road in Sliema in the summer of 2006. He was just about to retire from work and looked very content. The world was his oyster. Little did I know that he would soon be living the rest of his life of a cancer patient. Knowing him, I'm sure he had no regrets...not even for the perpetual nicotine stains on his fingers.

    Of all the people I've met in my life, Roland was undoubtedly the most happy go lucky. Yet, he lived a beautifully paradoxical life, full of grace and a sensibility for some of the finer things this world has to offer. It is quite hard for me to picture him dead.

    He was very much like an older brother to me, even though he was actually old enough to be my father. He was a regular patron at my parents' bar on Depiro Street in Sliema. He lived just a few doors up the road anyway, so it was more of a place to hang out than a watering hole for him. Throughout most of the 1970s he would help me out with my homework. His casual coaching had a huge influence on my handwriting and I'll also think of him whenever I do long division without an electronic calculator. My reward for doing all my homework was a regular game of darts or pool in the bar. Needless to say, he taught me how to play both games too.

    The complexity of my childhood friendship with Roland came from the fact that while he was a regular fixture in my day-to-day life, providing me with gentle coaching session on my latest school chore, he also provided me with my first on-ramp into the world that his friend J.J. Tellus called "show business". That was a very fascinating world to me as a child. Seeing Roland play a part in the first local production of Jesus Christ Superstar or collaborating with J.J. on his Charlie Chaplin routine remain the earliest staged performance memories from my childhood.

    We never really kept in touch when I grew older. Without the bar as a common ground we had no real reason to meet. I'd bump into him here and there from time to time, of course, and he was always incredibly warm towards me. I always felt that Roland's secret was to be satisfied with what he had and never want more than whatever was available.

    Rest in peace old friend.

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    Monday, December 31, 2007

    See Saw

    2007 is history. If you've followed this blog for more than a year you probably already know that I at the end of every eyar I take stock of the previous 12 months. This all started in 2004 and went on with slight variations the following year and last year. I've come to see it as a way to have a quck look at all (or most of) my blog entries in one go.

    So now, for the fourt consecutive year here's a partial, most subjective, list of blog entries from the year gone by, in random order. This list is only meant to mark the highs and lows in my year, as chronicled on my blog throughout 2007:


  • Interview on BBC Radio York

  • World's first enhanced Maltese podcasts

  • Results of the 1st annual MMI Listeners' Picks + MMI podcast: 50th & 75th

  • Oliva Lewis wins the 2007 Malta Song for Europe

  • Easter in Malta

  • Visiting the National Media Museum with my students.

  • Lunar Eclipse + Eklissi Perpetwi

  • Pierre J. Mejlak's Riħ Isfel

  • Second Life - YouTube - Twitter - Facebook

  • Visiting Helsinki and the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest debacle

  • Post-Eurovision comments for Malta Today

  • The Simpsons Movie

  • Conferences: SL in London + SL-related in Salford

  • Discovering Drive + Dean Saviour

  • Patti Smith, Radiohead's In Rainbows + Danjeli's Kakofonija on my iPod

  • Taking the 2nd annual MMI Listeners' Picks poll to Facebook

  • Morrissey is not the UK Eurovision entry

  • RIP: Apakuki Coka - Jean Baudrillard - David Hatch - Bergman+Antonioni - Tony Wilson - Marcel Marceau - Karlheinz Stockhousen

  • My friend Ġorġ Mifsud-Chircop is dead

  • Olivia Lewis' drean turns into a nightmare

  • Big Brother (not the celebrity version)

  • 10th anniversary from Diana's death

  • Summer bummer

  • Radio Malta sinks to further low

  • Xtruppaw return on the scene with a football anthem

    In putting these two lists together I realized that there were a number of things in 2007 I'd have liked to blog about properly but didn't find the time or the muse to do so. At least most of them get a mention here and there, in unrelated posts. Here are the main ones (in random order): Frank Camilleri and Mario Frendo visit Scarborough, Pan's Labyrinth, Amy Winehouse, moving house, transliteracy, 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Steve Dixon's Digital Performance book, support for the Burmese monks, attending academic conferences in Birmingham + Leeds, the joys of organic gardening, Yoko Ono's Yes I'm a Witch, and Joni Mitchell's Shine.

    One thing I (very oddly!) didn't blog about was my interview with Clare Agius for her Mhux għall-Kulħadd on TV series. It's available on YouTube, of course. Perhaps that's why I forgot to blog about it.

    Anyway, many thanks for reading my blog and listening to my podcasts in 2007 and a special thanks if you contributed to all that in any way...I wish you a very happy new year!

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  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Pastime Paradise

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

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

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

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