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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stuck On You has been offline for the last couple of days because the hosting company forgot to move the files that make up this website during server migration. Other websites I own or manage where involved in this server migration but they seem to be working fine. Now that you're reading this, the situation has been restored.

I'm in the process of switching the whole site to WordPress. I had already started exploring this before the mess-up with the hosting company. I'm seriously tempted to switch hosting companies, but I've been with this one for more than a decade so I'm used to their ups and downs. Truth be told, I can't imagine any hosting company can offer a much better service than the one I have; even if some of the things that bug me get ironed out I have a feeling that I would have to deal with others. There's a second hosting company I've worked with the last couple of years, so what I'm saying here is based on long practical experience of these things.

Anyway, it seems that hosting services, WordPress, and website structures are going to dominate my summer. I'm about to attend WordCamp in Cardiff next weekend to immerse myself into the WordPress community, which is incredibly strong and empowering. I'm hoping that it's also very supportive of people like me. I'll let you know how it goes by this time next week, when I should be right in the middle of it all.

Next week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast will somehow related to this year's Malta Jazz Festival, taking place 16-18 July. This week's MMI podcast, which is the 170th in the series, should appeal greatly to rock fans. The Maltese metal scene has evolved interestingly in the last couple of decades and I'm very pleased to note that the genre has developed in such a way that it is no longer the default mode for guitar bands.

To warm up our ears to take in this week's selections, I've picked a track from an American CD called Vicious Country by Poppa Chubby and his wife Galea. I was very impressed to see huge posters for Poppa Chubby in Moscow on my recent visit to that city. Bad housewife Galea has been featured on the MMI series a couple of other times, highlighting her Maltese ancestry. Their version of Gene Vincent's Race With the Devil is an excellent updating of this rockabilly classic.

Facebook users may have seen a post of my wall by Cedric Debono a few days ago announcing a new recording by metal band Item. Give Up The Ghost has the trio performing in top form. If you'd like to see them live, you can catch them along with Knockturn Alley on Friday 17 July at the Liquid Club in Tal-Ballal. Item started recording material for a new album last month and I'm sure their fans in Malta and beyond will be looking forward to this release.

X-Vandals is yet another Maltese metal band that released an album about three or four weeks ago. I haven't heard the rest of the album (because I haven't managed to get my hands on a copy yet) but from the couple of tracks I've heard on their MySpace page, it's safe to say that Breach the Silence has these veteran rockers at the top of their game. Uprising plays up their activist side and it's an essential part of what endears them to their loyal fans. Thy Legion supported X-Vandals during their 13 June album launch, so I thought it would be most appropriate to close this week's podcast by playing their most recent recording, which is called Sadism Through Holy Intervention.

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, 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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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Never Before

Ever since I started this blog way back in April 2004 I made it a point to post something at least once a week. I had never broken that promise, until last week. As you may have gathered from my previous two posts, I was on a two week visit to Malta. Unlike all other visits since April 2004, I didn't feel compelled to blog much about anything. I did post two entries while in Malta, both announcing podcasts, of course, but perhaps because I also took a break from producing new podcasts over the last couple of weeks I also ended up taking longer to blog than I had ever done before.

I have a feeling that the fact that I'm quite active on Facebook and Twitter had something to do with this brief blogging hiatus too. As satisfying as social networking and microblogging can be, I don't think I can easily give up blogging and podcasting any time soon, as long as I can find the few hours per week required to maintain my blog and podcasts.

So, the Mużika Mod Ieħor series returns this week with the 158th podcast. New material keeps flooding in, so it's inevitable that all the tracks I've selected for this week's podcast come from the steady flow of new releases. The first of these is a demo by The Does who follow-up last year's first single with a follow-up (demo) called My Better Side.

As much as I appreciate bands who produce well made music, I'm rarely as impressed as I am whenever someone decides to give their music a particularly Maltese twist in one way or another. The upcoming album Stejjer Tal-Bandli by No Bling Show is an excellent example of this. While others have already (successfully) attempted rap and hop-hop in Maltese, Jon Mallia and his collaborators have elevated the form to a new level. Rather than play tracks of the actual album, which is set to be released on the 3rd of May, I've decided to share a related YouTube video featuring Jon with guitarist Phil Zammit and percussionist Michael Galea jamming on one of the tunes from the album called Lucija u Samuel (l-ewwel parti). More on all this once the album has been released.

If you follow this podcast and/or blog regularly, you may recall that I introduced the work of Karl Baldacchino, who records as Synthact. Pinkpube have now released Synthact's debut EP entitled Aer as a free download. I like the minimalist arrangement on a track called Oligarchy, and you can hear it half way through this week's podcast.

During my recent visit to Malta I had the great pleasure of meeting Malcolm Galea, who has managed to make a name for himself on the local entertainment scene over the last decade or so. When we met up he told me all about the interesting work that has gone into the creation of Porn: The Musical and the current plans to develop the work further beyond the confines of the Maltese islands. As musical theatre goes, this work seems to me to be on par with many other works I've come across in recent years, so I'll be surprised if Malcolm and his company (including musicians Kris Spiteri and Boris Cezek) don't manage to get Porn noticed beyond the rock. You can get a sense of the quality of this musical by listening to the song Naked on a Sunday featuring the voices of Max Dingli and David Ellul.

To close of this week's podcast I've picked Thea Saliba's new single, entitled On The Dancefloor. This former Eurovision startlet has done relatively well for herself over the last couple of years and I'm quite impressed by the fact that she has chosen to move on from the Eurovision scene without actually completely turning her back on it. While her song choices aren't always to my personal taste, I have a feeling we'll be hearing much more from her in the coming years.

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

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Let Me Down

When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around. That's some of the best advice I've ever heard, and yet if what's still around is also going down the crapper then it's likely that being optimistic becomes a harder task. This is how I feel right now. I'm sure the negative global vibes aren't helping, but most of it is personal. Not too personal that I don't want to even mention it on my blog, but personal enough that I'll leave it at that before I get into further details.

It's almost a cliche for me to say now that when I find myself in times of trouble I know I can always depend on my podcast to lift up my spirits. Cliche or not, it's simply the truth. This week's edition is further buoyed by the airing of an interview I had on SBS radio in Australia. That sort of thing validates the longevity of the MMI podcasting series in ways that can only really be judged by time.

The 137th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast contains five more tracks to add to the list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks, which will be open to a public vote via Facebook next month. The first song is one of a small number of tracks recorded recently by Scar, who are currently in the process of putting together a new album. They've release Cambodia as a radio single, but I picked Untenable to open my podcast.

A new band from Gozo called The Imagery are about to release their debut EP entitled Idiosyncratic. Produced by Keith Anthony (of Chasing Pandora fame), the EP will launch officially on Friday 7 November at Rookies in Buġibba; they're evening organizing special transport for their Gozo fans who want to attend. From this EP you can hear Margie Bloom as the second track on this week's podcast. I believe this new band will be very well received in Malta if they keep it up this way.

Red Electrick is another new band. They've already released a very radio friendly debut single called The End of It All. Essentially this is the band Drive with a new name. The sound is also more poppish but I'd have to see them live to really say how different from Drive this new b(r)and really is. I liked Drive's debut single last year very much and it was one of my personal favourites from 2007. Red Electrick sound good but almost too clean for my taste. Still, you could argues that it's better for a band to be too clean than too dirty.

This dichotomy is evident in the final two tracks I've picked for this week's podcast. The first comes from metal band Insurgence, who just supported the Belgian band Fungus Inc, appearing live at Remedy last Friday. They've just released some new tracks they recorded at their garage in Marsa on their MySpace page but I've chosen to play a song they recorded earlier called Shattered Integrity.

The closing track on this week's podcast comes from teenage punk throwbacks Organized Dizorder. I inferred that I'd be including their music at the end of last week's podcast, when I mentioned the upcoming label launch for Resist.Reform.Destory taking place at the Poxx Bar on Saturday 8 November. Following in the footsteps of other Maltese punk bands, most noticeably RAS and BNI, Organized Dizorder bring the visceral elements of their mother tongue into Anti-Social, which brings the 137th podcast to a crashing end.

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

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Saturday, October 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 02, 2008

Rat in Mi Kitchen

I'm in the middle of kitchen remodeling at home right now. This sort of thing must be up there on the list with the most stress inducing experiences in life: divorce, house moves, personal loss, etc. Although it's not cheap to put in a new kitchen these days (has it ever been?) living without the comforts of home-cooked food and putting up with all the skilled labourers can be even more stressful than the financial aspect. Apart from a kind invitation by my next door neighbours for a delightful supper, I haven't had a decent home-cooked meal in days. Yes, I am eating out but there's a limit to how pleasant an experience that can be when you're stressed out with other things.

Anyway, I'm probably making it sound worse than it really is. Like so many other things in life, it will pass quickly enough. At least with this one there will be a new kitchen to enjoy once all the hardship is over.

As you may expect, being covered in paint and the inevitable crankiness that comes with putting in a new kitchen wouldn't stop me from putting together my weekly podcast. This week I'm delighted to open it with the music of the trio Silence Kills You. For a moment I thought that I had never played anything by any of my family members on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series (but then I remembered Keith and South Central, of course). I bring this up because two of the three musicians in this band are my blood relatives: Izzy and Sean are my second cousins, their mothers are my first cousins on the Sant side of the family. Aside from this, the music is clean and simple showing that the band has the potential to be a different offering on the ever-expanding local scene. I hope they can now see beyond the rock masses and the radio contests they've taken part in over the last few years to continue playing and recording more original songs like No Button To Rewind. Their brand of pop rock is much needed locally to bridge the gaping chasm between Eurovision wannabes and underground rockers.

Speaking of underground rockers, I'm very pleased to hear that Cynic Pictures have recorded a well produced version of their song Aim High, which I played on an earlier edition of the MMI podcast. This and Skizzo their other song, demonstrate the energetic fervor with which this band is aiming to bring punk to the masses. To my ears, these recordings are rather radio friendly. I mention this because radio remains a very significant way for musicians to reach a wide audience in the Maltese islands. It is the main way all sorts of acts move from the underground into the more public sphere.

In spite of this, there are those who relish the underground. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that in my book. Prayer of the Dying, the multifaceted project by Martin Ciappara fits this bill perfectly. Who else would release an EP on a limited edition cassette only? Ghastly Laments follows up on last year's debut CD/tape Structures of a Dying Matter. Afterlife Beacon Productions from Iceland are involved in this release and if the track Anointing of the Sick is anything to go by, I'm sure it will be sold out very soon.

I'm always thrilled to hear from podcast listeners. When whoever writes in is also a musician I know I'm usually about to discover some new sounds to include on my weekly podcast. Baz Cilia contacted me a few days ago and introduced me to the recordings of Spriggan Mist, which is his current project with his wife Maxine. They're now based in Bracknell, here in the UK, but there's still close ties to Malta. I've selected two tracks from their new EP Konditions of Change - The Merry Mead and Lazy Stones - to bring this week's podcast to a rather different close than what I've been playing in recent weeks. They're now working on an album, so you'll most certainly be hearing from them again on the Mużika Mod Ieħor series in the coming months.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's a Hard Life

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm having hard drive problems this weekend. I will not be able to produce my podcast until I sort them out. As horrible as such situations can be rest assured that I'll be releasing my podcast over the next couple of days. I'm sure that anyone who has ever suffered a similar fate with their precious data will empathize with my present state of mind. Lesson of the day: backup!

One of our computer technicians at the university is having a look at what's wrong with my hard drive. I doesn't look like I'll be loosing my data and I have no idea just yet how long it'll take to get the system back in order. It seems that there's a serious disk problem which needs some proper attention if I'm to preserve my sanity. Meanwhile, I am making alternative plans for the podcast so it should be up by this evening...with or without my regular system.