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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, 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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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gone Gone Gone

At about this time of the year for the past 9 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.

While countless tributes will be made to Michael Jackson, Mike Bongiorno, Farrah Fawcett and other well known figures outside Malta, it behooves us remember the many Maltese personalities who passed away during the past 12 months.

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

Charles Camillieri, Composer & Musician
(Died: 3 January 2009)

Charles Clews, Actor & Broadcaster
(Died: 29 January 2009)

Alexandra Borg Olivier, Former Prime Minister's Wife
(Died: 27 February 2009)

Victor Tedesco, Football Club Manager
(Died: 17 March 2009)

Antoinette Soler, Actress
(Died: May 2009)

Nikki Falzon, Composer & Musician
(Died: May 2009)

Dennis Vella, Art Curator
(Died: 28 July 2009)

Clifford Micallef, Cyclist
(Died: 30 July 2009)

Jennie Psaila, Equestrian
(Died: 4 August 2009)

Desmond Vella, Entrepreneur & Promoter
(Died: 25 August 2009)

Joseph A Sacco, MFA Secretary General
(Died: 9 September 2009)

Lawrence Mintoff, Architect & Politician
(Died: 14 September 2009)

Remo Mifsud, Entrepreneur & Promoter
(Died: 14 September 2009)

Victor Diacono, Sculptor
(Died: 22 October 2009)

Joe A. Grima, Politician
(Died: 2 November 2009)

Twanny Buhagiar, Sports Journalist & Broadcaster
(Died: 18 November 2009)

Daniel Piscopo, Politician & Medical Doctor
(Died: 14 December 2009)

Angelo Fenech, Entrepreneur
(Died: 16 December 2009)

Lilliana Bencini, Radio Announcer
(Died: 19 December 2009)

Edwin Busuttil, Politician & Law Professor
(Died: 20 December 2009)

Victor Agius, Councilman
(Died: 21 December 2009)

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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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Only When You Leave

Earlier this month it seemed as if the grim reaper was working overtime, particularly on Maltese fifty-somethings. The prelude came with the passing of the gentle mannered Dennis Vella: a great loss for the contemporary Maltese art scene. Most recently, after at least two other Maltese men in their fifties, it was my old friend Remo Mifsud who died. He was only 51 and a very active doer of many good deeds; truly too many to mention here. His name had graced the pages of this blog at least one other time, when he informed me that our mutual friend Maggie Borg had succumbed to cancer back in 2004. Aside from these four men, I'm sure there were several others I never knew, but who were loved and cherished by those around them.

Regular readers of this blog know that death is one of the themes I return to quite frequently. It is not a morbid obsession but rather a reminder of our mortality that drives these posts. I'm also almost constantly surrounded by obituaries and death anniversaries because of work I do in relation to's Today in Maltese History.

It easy to find solace in the living. Life is for living, and death is simply an essential part of life. Without making light of the grief that comes with death, I plenty of the vital energy and elan that's farthest away from death in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. John Peel was so right to champion teenage kicks; teenage dreams are indeed so hard to beat.

The opening song on the 180th MMI podcast comes from Wayne Micallef. This summer he has enjoyed considerable radio airplay in Malta with his single Open Road. Although I've already featured Wayne on a previous edition of my podcast just a few months ago, it suddenly dawned on me that I had not played this particular song. So here it is. I'm sure it will be quite well supported in the upcoming 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, nominations for which will be appearing very soon.

I also played music the band Skimmed just a few weeks ago. Their single Can't Stop has been receiving widespread airplay in Malta ahead of the release of their debut EP Your Head Is Too Big For Your Head. The CD will be launched officially on Friday 25th September 2009 at Lo Squero in Floriana; and if that's not enough to encourage you to drag yourself there, perhaps I should also mention that the support act is none other than the fabulous Brikkuni. The song I've selected to play today from this new 8 track EP is aptly called Victory Kitchen.

U-Bahn are undoubtedly among the few Maltese electronica acts that have been active longest. However, apparently they're also one of the least willing to release full tracks for free listening on the web; to my knowledge they don't even have a MySpace page. It has also taken me a while to bring you their most recent hit, Beautiful Girl. It's well worth the wait and I'm sure that die-hard fans are more than willing to part with their hard-earned euros to add this track to their MP3 player shuffle playlist.

Moving on swiftly to the other end of the electronica spectrum, I recently came across the work of Stimulus Timbre, which is the name under which Keith Farrugia records his music. Flowing in Your Mind is an apt way to end this week's podcast. I'll should be back on the blog sooner than the next podcast to reveal this year's initial list of nominations of the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll.

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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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

I haven't seen anything like this since Elvis Presley or John Lennon died. I'm referring, of course, to public reaction in the wake of Michael Jackson's unexpected demise. From the perspective of media coverage, we haven't seen anything like this since 9/11. The two events are clearly very different, but the way new technologies (particularly mobile devices and the internet) are being used is simply phenomenal. I was most impressed by a headline: Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him.

As far as I'm concerned, Twitter has been the best way to watch the event unfold. TV coverage wasn't even to give me the news in a timely way on Thursday evening, but Twitter certainly kept me updated throughout the next 24-hour news cycle.

The whole story really boils down to a sad death of someone who lived in the public eye, playing the interminable game of feeding the media machine while begging to be left alone. Comparisons are odious, but I'm sure other name can easily come to anyone who reads this without my mentioning any other obvious 'icon' for the past, both recent and not so recent.

As I had the opportunity of saying publicly at least three times on Thursday, I believe that many years from now, when all the controversial stories have inevitably died down, Michael Jackson will still be seen as a major figure of late 20th century popular entertainment. Hopefully he will be remembered as the important pop artist he really is; one who brought some of the white mutations of rock 'n roll back to black music.

To my knowledge, there is no significant Maltese connection to Michael Jackson. Turning my attention to the 168th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is probably as far away as I can get from the aftermath of Michael Jackson autopsy. The four tracks I selected for this week's podcast are either new or new to me. I know that regular listeners enjoy hearing new material, and so do I.

Classic rock band Fire are all set to release their second album on the 31st of July at the Farsons Beer Festival. Thrill Me is a welcome follow-up to 2007's Ignite. The title track has been released ahead of the album to promote the CD and it's a great way to open this week's podcast.

Uncharted is also planning a new release in the coming weeks. Their new single Blame Me is out on the 13th of July. Promotion for this new single has been underway for several weeks and it almost feels as if the song has already been released. So much so that I get the feeling that I may be wrong about the official launch date. It wouldn't be the first time that I got a detail like this wrong.

It's not easy keeping up with all the Maltese acts I feature on the MMI podcast. Marilyn Mifsud was first featured on the series a couple of years ago. Last year she was an active member of the girl group Vieve, which I never got around to including on my podcast simply because I was asked not to play some demos I heard and then I lost interest in the whole idea of a girl band. She2s have just appeared to continue where Vieve left off, with a completely different line-up and sound, I hasten to add. In any case, I always thought that Marilyn was one to watch out for. So I was very pleased to discover her new song entitled Where My Head's Been, on her MySpace page. To me, this song seems like the perfect way for a young Maltese singer to move away from unfulfilled teenage dreams with grace and make the best of the experience.

The Maltese hip-hop scene is also beginning to come of age. The upcoming live concert by the international artist Immortal Technique in Pembroke will be an excellent way for local acts to appear on the same stage as a major hip-hop star. Malta's own No Bling Show will be playing before Immortal Technique. Another Maltese hip-hop band that goes by the name of Effetti Kollaterali will also entertain the crowd expected. I picked their 33 RPM as the closing track for this week's podcast, partly as a personal reminder to pick things up right about here this time next week.

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, May 30, 2009

Always Coming Back to You

A couple of days ago I found out that Brooks McNamara, one the most influential and supportive professors I had during my graduate studies at NYU, has died. I was saddened not only by the fact that he had been sick and passed away, but also because it took me a couple of weeks to hear that he died just a few days after Augusto Boal.

Brooks retired about a year after I started working on my PhD, so I was unable to have him supervise my work, which eventually moved away considerably from what it would have been with him. However, I will always treasure how he taught me that there's great significance in giving due importance to alternative performance forms, particularly popular entertainments. He also made me appreciate amateur performances much better than I ever could ever have done without his guidance. The very first piece of academic writing I published (a book chapter I co-wrote with Vicki Ann Cremona about carnival and panto in Malta under British rule) started out as a paper for one of his classes.

In many ways, my current research interest in Maltese music owes a great deal to Brooks McNamara. I can feel his guiding hand in several of my decisions as I think through a way to bring together my academic work with my passion for Maltese music, amateur performances, hybrid forms of entertainment, and the plethora of scattered documents in the archive I long to create for future generations.

My weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast has become ground zero for all this, from my perspective. It is my notebook for the work that needs to be done to preserve and promote Maltese popular music. The 164th MMI podcast clearly demonstrates the broad spectrum of work that no radio station or record store in Malta really bothers to capture in any significant way.

Sasha Vella and Sam Hayman have released a number of new tracks on their website. Apparently a CD is in the works. I've had the great pleasure of playing their songs on previous MMI podcasts various other times. Sam even helped me out by pointing out a broken link on last week's show notes. You could say that my decision to play Nina as this week's opening song is simply a way to say thanks to Sam, or just another excuse to hear Sasha's lovely songs. Either way it's a win-win proposition.

Maltese-Australian singer Renee Cassar has finally released her debut album. If you follow the MMI podcasts regularly, you'll know that I've featured her songs on various previous editions. She is quite good and surprisingly makes for addictive listening. She has also produced a video for the song Dreary Day, which is one of the new songs on the album. I'm not sure why she's not well known in Malta yet. She produces exactly the kind of songs that Maltese radio stations like to play whenever they say they play Maltese music, without including any Maltese-language tracks on their playlists. Perhaps this album will finally get her the attention she deserves back on the rock.

I'm extremely pleased whenever a Maltese band that has been gigging for some time releases a recording. This is what happened a few days ago when the Retrophytes announced that they will be releasing their debut EP this summer. They're previewing a couple of tracks from this EP on their MySpace page. Virgin is the one I've selected to include on this week's podcast and it shows how and why the band keeps gathering a greater following with every live show they do. I have a feeling that they may be the next alternative Maltese band to go mainstream. If they do I'm sure more recordings will keep coming our way in the coming years. So it's all good.

Anyone living in Malta this weekend shouldn't miss this year's edition of the GħanaFest at the Argotti Gardens in Floriana. With tickets at just €2 it's almost as if there's no entrance fee. Festival coordinator Ruben Zahra has assembled an amazing programme featuring three consective evenings of traditional Maltese għana, contemporary Maltese folk, and various guest acts from around the Mediterranean. In marking this event on my podcast, I've included a track by his own band Nafra called Tlaqna.

The amazing Brikkuni will be playing at GħanaFest tomorrow at 8:45pm. I'm sure many of their fans will be heading out to the Argotti Gardens for this concert. In the process they will also be exposed to all sorts of other delights during the last day of this 3-day festival. Brikkuni's L-Eletti is a very appropriate way to close this week's podcast as we enter the final week of electoral campaigning ahead of next weekend's European Parliament and Local Council elections.

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

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

After the Love is Gone

I can't believe it's already been a week since I left Moscow. It all seems like a blur. I guess this is partly, if not mostly, because I'm so busy with all sorts of things. Unfortunately some of the things that keep me busy are not very productive. It's really about time I learned to take the raw with the cooked, and yet it's getting better all the time.

Two deaths broke up this week's humdrum cheer. The first was that of Maltese actress Antoinette Soler. She was quite well known and loved both on stage and TV for many years. Oddly, though, I haven't seen a single obituary or appreciation for her online. Next came the shocking personal message from my old friend Robert Longo that Niki Falzon had passed away. He was only 48 but Sam Hayman told me that he'd been hospitalized about a month ago. I'm afraid that the best that I can do is remember them through my blog and celebrate Niki's music during my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

The 163rd MMI podcast is a mixed bag of goodies that accumulated on my desktop over the last few days. The opening song is the long awaited debut release from Kartridge. This band, fronted by former Purple Haze singer Daryl Ebejer, has been gigging since around 2006, and I've always longed to hear them. Now that they've finally produced a recording I can fulfill that wish and share their sound with my podcast listeners. The song is called Wild Crazy Nights.

I'm pleased to see that more and more Maltese musicians and performers are taking to Twitter. On this week's podcast I've deliberately included two people who have taken to Twittering quite regularly. It was through Twitter that I discovered Christabelle's song Flame, which has just been released on YouTube accompanied by a static picture of the singer for the duration of the song. Apparently it's been out (and getting regular radio airplay in Malta) for several months but if it wasn't for the fact that I started following Christabelle on Twitter about a week ago I would have probably missed out completely on this one.

Brian Vassallo is the other inclusion on this week's podcast to come from Twitter. Several days ago, Philip Mizzi posted a short film called In The End made by Ramon Mizzi. Philip acts in this short film, but I only really became aware that the original soundtrack was composed by Brian Vassallo from Brian's Twitter account; I have been following him for a number of weeks. The track I've selected from this short film soundtrack is called My Only Son.

Regular listeners of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series may remember that I've included the music of Nick Falzon at least a couple of times in previous editions. Niki, as those of us who knew him more than two decades ago called him, was a very prolific composer of jazzy new age music and broadcast jingles. His passing earlier this week is marked with a fond final farewell at the close of this week's podcast. The music I've chosen to play to see us out until the next episode comes from a 1992 album called Twilight Moods, which Niki Falzon released under the name Masque, in collaboration with several other musicians, including saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock and drummer David Vella. Glow is among the best tracks on what was one of the very first Maltese CD albums ever released.

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

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

May It Be

I was just getting ready to blog about the fact that Wired Malta (formerly known as Wired Temples) is now active again with postings by Gattaldo when I received the very Toni Sant with Augusto Boal outside NYU - August 1999sad news that Augusto Boal has died. I have very fond memories of the summer weeks we spent together in 1999, when he gave a 3-week intensive workshop in the Theatre of the Oppressed at New York University. Assisting him during that series of workshops was one of the most beautiful experiences not only of my theatrical life but also of my life as a human being. Augusto made theatre because he cared about people. I will miss him.

The return of Wired Malta after hibernating since mid-winter is a very welcome. As some of the regular readers of WM may have noticed, Robert Micallef, its founder, has been too busy with other projects to continue updating that blog regularly. He plans to return in the coming weeks but meanwhile we've invited our long-term friend Gattaldo as a guest blogger to get things started up again. Gattaldo is setting out with the following two strands: (1) Noise - excerpts from various sources with one theme in mind, and (2) Borgo is a story, the characters of which all live in the same town. One of the things Gattaldo remembers most about his childhood was his father's imaginative storytelling and the fact that his dad would start the story without knowing where it would lead. In this little experiment, it's the journey that is important. It's a story with no end. All characters in this story are fictitious; and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Meanwhile, I've also released the 160th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. This week I've selected to play four brand new tracks and a previously unreleased recording. The opening song is the new single from The Myth. Dream sees Dion Farrell and his band finding their own style. It's been a long process and I have good reason to believe that it's far from over. Check out their MySpace page for the latest gig listings. Another new single comes from 8 Ugly, whose long-awaited album is expected later this year. Goodbyefinds singer Mark Azzopardi in top form. I'm looking forward to more from this band and hopefully I can catch them live one day sooner or later.

The Myth's Dream is a follow-up to Animal, which I played during one of the first MMI podcasts this year. During another podcast last January I introduced my listeners to the music of guitarist Stefanos. He now returns with a new recording entitled Zero Plus. Stefanos is a proficient rock guitarist and I for one would be very pleased to hear him play live and/or record with a proper band rather than a drum machine and sequenced tracks.

During my recent visit to Malta I was glad to (re-)meet Cecil Jones. We've known each other for decades but hadn't met since the early 1990s. I asked him to forward some of his recordings and I promised to include at least one of them on my podcast. Break Machine is an unreleased track writen and performed by Cecil Jones, with Mario Caruana on fretless electric bass and the late percussionist Nicki Doublet. This song helps me fulfill two long-held desires for this series of podcasts: playing something by Cecil Jones and featuring a recording featuring Nicki Doublet, who died young of a cruel illness some years before the series first appeared.

A few days ago, Tribali released a new CD called The Elephants of Lanka. After just a few minutes of listening to this album I would say that the band has matured since their first outing a few years ago. I'm grateful to Howard Keith and Dennis Fenech at Jagged House for sending me a copy of the CD by snail mail. This has enabled me to pick the track Festa as the closing track for this week's podcast. I'm sure that many music lovers will thoroughly enjoy the musical fusion presented by Tribali on The Elephants of Lanka. If you're in Malta on the 23rd of May you can catch Tribali live in concert at the GreenPak EarthGarden in Ta' Qali; tickets cost €15 and are expected to sell out soon.

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

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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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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Underneath the Stars

The Cure were the guest band on Jonathan Ross' chat show last night. They released an album towards the end of last year. I was quite amazed to see that Robert Smith still wears the same hairstyle and make-up as he did almost 30 years ago, and yet he didn't seem like a nostalgic throwback to the 1980s. Perhaps I was very tired after a long week at work, but I saw him as unusual and unlike anything else as ever.

I'm becoming morbidly fascinated by the aging process and how different people deal with it. An old teacher of mine told me today (in a Facebook message) that he wishes he was professionally where he is now at 66 when he was 40. And yet, so many of the artists I admire were already dead by the time they were 40 or thereabouts. Aging gracefully is not the same as living in an aging body as if your spirit refused to grow old.

Ok, enough belly-button gazing. On to this week's podcast, which is the 152nd in the weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Following on from last week's episode, I've picked another 5 brand new tracks to play this week. The first three come from bands who although relatively new on the local scene are each making a splash in their own way.

Cable 35 have released a single called Mary, with an accompanying video (available on YouTube) ahead of the upcoming launch of their limited edition EP entitled Hygene. The launch party will take place at the Poxx Bar on the 14th of March and features Areola Treat as a guest band on the bill. Red Electrick follow-up on last year's successful debut single The End of It All with a single called Black 8 release for radio airplay the day before yesterday. And Colourblind return with a new single called Spectre as they announce an album, which should be "out soon".

I'm always thrilled when Maltese performers contact me to tell me about their latest recordings. The thrill is even greater when its someone I haven't heard from in a while. Sasha Vella contacted me a few days ago about the new recordings she and Sam Hayman have released on their new website. I love every one of the songs I've heard from Sasha and Sam. From the new batch I've selected Lullaby for Two, which as some beautiful echos from Erik Satie's piano style. Sasha's voice is so unusual on the local scene that I'm surprised that more people haven't already heard her sing. The new songs and website should help greatly in possibly rectifying that. I'd love to see them live some day.

Last week I mentioned Antonio Olivari's album Dark Ages, which has been released as a free download from Pinkpube. Following the preview I played from it in June 2007 (that's not a typo!) it's great to see that Olivari's music is finding a new audience through this Pinkpube release. Today I've picked The Link, the opening track from Dark Ages. I would have loved to hear the set he and saxophonist Carlo Muscat played at the book launch party for Pierre J. Mejlak's Qed Nistenniek Nieżla max-Xita last week.

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, 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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Friday, January 30, 2009

Make 'em Laugh

Veteran Maltese comedian Charles Clews passed away yesterday at the age of 89. If it wasn't for the fact that I was in London attending a briefing on European research funding at the British Library, I would have probably blogged about his death sooner. Still, Charlie was such an established household name among all Maltese around the world that his passing would barely go unmarked.

I met him many times during the years I worked at Xandir Malta. He would mostly come to visit my office mate Lino Cassar, an old friend of his, before and/or after his weekly recordings at Radio Malta with producer Charles Abela Mizzi. What often struck me is how similar his off air personality was to the way the public knew him. He was surely a gentleman who was most gracious in every way imaginable. I'm not saying this because he's now dead. I'm saying this because he truly was an amazingly wonderful and generous person.

Aside from these candid office meetings, our paths only crossed each others professionally a couple of times. One of these occasions took place in 1990 when I produced a 26-part series marking the end of the cable radio service in Malta. Charles Clews had to be interviewed for such a series, of course. As it happened, he was the second guest on the series; the first was Charles Arrigo. Although the reason to start the series talking about the popular game show 20 Questions was purely personal, it's not incidental that Charles Clews was the second guest on the series, even though he was somewhat associated with it. As the venerable broadcaster Effie Ciantar once put it, it was the Rediffusion cable radio service that made Charles Clews (and his comedy troupe Radju Muskettieri) famous, but it was Clews and the Radju Muskettieri who helped Rediffusion put a cable radio set in almost every home in the 1950s.

To mark the passing of this remarkable man, I've repackaged my interview with him from 1990 as a downloadable podcast. His funeral is being held tomorrow. If I were in Malta I would most certainly be there to pay well-deserved respect to this delightful man who made hundreds of thousands laugh throughout his life.

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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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Saturday, January 03, 2009


Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a good one.

Life has already reminded us how cruel it can be: I was very sad indeed to hear of Charles Camilleri's passing at the age of 77 today. Mro Camilleri's death was announced after I had already finished producing the 145th edition of my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. So I will produce a separate (non-MMI) podcast within the next couple of days to mark his passing. Charles was very kind to me over the decades that we knew each other, and he will always have a special place in my mind as the first person I ever interviewed on the radio at the very start of my broadcasting career almost 25 years ago.

The Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast returns after a two-week break over the Christmas period. This week's edition features music from the 2008 Listeners' Picks poll, which we carried out on Facebook over the last five or six weeks. 574 people cast their votes on the 2008 poll. This is more than double the number of people who voted the previous year.

55% of all voters cast their preference in the Top Album category. Ira Losco's Fortune teller received 18.5% of these votes but, as expected, Brikkuni's Kuntrabanda! was selected as the the Top Album for 2008, with 21.3% of the votes in this category. The track I've selected from Kuntrabanda! is the band's excellent version of Danjeli's Iż-Żufjett, which comes across as one of the most amazing Maltese songs ever written.

Thea Saliba's popularity as the singer for Malta's entry at to the 2005 Junior Eurovision Song Contest helped her achieve a considerable number of votes in the 2008 Top Single category. 58% of all voters cast their preference for Top Single and Thea's Musilicious received 13.5% of these 333 votes. However, popular Christian rock band Salt managed to garner 15.9% of the preferences in this category with Jars of Clay. My personal preference was for The Rifffs Magic of the Sun, but I believe that Salt's Jars of Clay is a very worthy winner of the MMI 2008 Top Single accolade.

Claudio Baglioni's version of L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel attracted 24.7% of the 198 votes cast in the Malta-related Overseas Release category. However, British band Airstrip One (whose Andrew Hill qualifies them in this category through his Maltese parentage) received 30.3% of the votes in this category for their EP Into the Silence. From this EP I've selected Crashing Cars, which is a much heavier offering from this band than most of their other songs. I have a feeling that Andy Hill will be making a splash on the Maltese alternative scene this year.

291 votes were submitted in the Top Online Release category. Ezzy's Puzzle People is clearly the most supported selection here with 21% of the votes. Still, for the first 3 or 4 weeks, Synthax & Chemicals looked like they could be the winners in this category with their online release Next to Hell. In the end, they only managed to secure 14.1% of all the preferences in this category.

I'd like to give an honourable mention to the outstanding Gozitan duo Chasing Pandora. I have a feeling that if rather than two EPs they had released an album during 2008 or just one EP they would be among the listeners' top picks. Two and Wide Eyed Beauty together received 23.8% of the overall votes, which is 2.5% more than Brikkuni's album. They clearly have a much deserved group of fans who adore them. The video for their song Memories (from the EP Two) received 3 more votes than The Beangrowers' Not In A Million Lovers, but 4 less than the 60 to Wax's Thoughts. Wax also won the 2008 Virtual Rockstar contest by Malta's XFM. I hope that the following and success they've built over the last year or so propels them into greater things in 2009.

Back to the 2008 Top EP category, it looked like Baz and Max Cilia (as Spriggan Mist) were set to clinch this title for their Konditions of Change. They ran a vigorous campaign for votes on Facebook but in the end Just Rock by nosnow/noalps gathered 24.6% of the 321 votes in this category. Their song Headset -- which incidentally has a great video to go with it -- brings the podcast to a close. In parting, I should also mention that nosnow/noalps managed to attract the largest number of votes out of all this year's nominations, with 13.6% of the 574 total voters behind them...just 0.4% ahead of Chasing Pandora.

There's also an enhanced version of this podcast. [coming soon!]

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

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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)

(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)

(Died: 1 May 2008)

(Died: 8 July 2008)

MANWEL BORG, Broadcaster
(Died: 5 August 2008)

JOE MERCIECA, Journalist
(Died: 13 August 2008)

(Died: 3 October 2008)

KARL CHIRCOP, Politician
(Died: 12 October 2008)

(Died: 19 October 2008)

(Died: 12 November 2008)

(Died: 14 December 2008)

(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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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Amid the Falling Snow

Having spent about 12 of the last 48 hours traveling on trains between Scarborough and Coventry I can't really say that my body has completely settled down by now. I still hadn't shaken the road off when I woke up this morning to see that a veritable winter wonderland awaited me outside. I expected this to happen because I watched the weather forecast on TV last night but it still made me change my plans for the day. The scene from my bedroom window was beautiful and most peaceful so I didn't want to bother with the real world, until I really can't stay away. On days like this I miss being snow bound. It never really snows that much in Scarborough.

Aside from all the traveling I probably feel this way too because I was invited to visit Malta this weekend as a judge for the Malta Television Awards. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm not a big fan of award ceremonies. In spite of all this, I couldn't really accept the invitation to go to Malta because travel plans were left for the last minute and I'm not very good at doing things this way. Just to be a good sport, I accepted to vote on the award categories I was asked to anyway. So I'm partly responsible for whoever wins two of the Mermaids in this year's Malta Television Awards.

When it comes to my sense of personal accomplishment and self fulfillment, all this pales in comparison to the joy I derive from producing my weekly music podcast. This week's edition features two tracks from an album released just a few days ago called Jailhouse Voices. The musicians on this album are not Maltese, but the production is by Mop Krayz, who is Maltese...even though this is clearly not his or her real name. The track I selected to open my podcast with is called Gone with the Storm by Virgill & Cons. The other track closes the podcast and it's called Jade Tinted Sky by Keito.

I picked this latter track because I wanted to mark the memory of Jade Brincat, former keyboard player with Stillborn, Momento Nostri, and Archaic Descent. Jade died on Wednesday 12 November after suffering a cardiac arrest at Mater Dei hospital following severe side-effects to medication she was given to treat a chest infection. I was a little troubled to hear rumours and unfounded gossip that she had died from a drug overdose. I can't believe that people in Malta still jump to such conclusions just because she was a rocker. Her keyboard playing can be heard on a previous edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series, when I featured the song Angel by Stillborn. To remember Jade today I've picked a live recording she did with Stillborn at last years rock festival in Marsaxlokk. The song is is called Lost and features Jade keyboard playing quite prominently.

I'm always thrilled to discover new music and young musicians from Malta. This week I discovered two such acts through MySpace. Gilmour Cauchi came to my attention through Nathan Inder's page. You can hear a track by each of them on this week's MMI podcast. Gilmour's tune is called Capri, while Nathan's track is called Herbert's Intro. These two young musicians are clear examples of what some Maltese teenages are up to with their computer driven home studios. It really is fascinating stuff.

In the coming days I'm hoping to launch the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks poll via Facebook. I'll post a blog entry about that if we manage to get it going before next week's podcast. I'll probably have some more things to say about awards shows too. I'm just biting my tongue for now...but probably not for too long.

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, 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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Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Windmills of Your Mind

When Kilin died earlier this week I paused to focus on my obsession with death and everything Maltese. I resisted temptation to blog about Kilin's passing when it happened, not just because I only met the man a couple of times and knew him only marginally through his writings, but more so because I felt the need to shake off the obsessive impulse I mentioned in the first sentence of today's blog entry.

I was also tempted to listen to a recording of an original Maltese song I wrote and sang with Kilin's daughter Cecilia in 1986. The song was written for Skruġġ, a Maltese musical based on Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. I honestly believe that including it in this week's podcast would have been most inappropriate, for various reasons. I haven't seen Cecilia since before I left Malta for good in 1994, but I was pleased to see her name in print again, on a short note to thank people for their respectful tributes on one of the local newspaper websites. Perhaps I'll play that song on the Christmas edition of my podcast. Yes, that would certainly be more appropriate.

Not being physically able to attend the great gig by Xtruppaw and The I-Skandal today, did help my mood as I prepared this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I'm not surprised, however, that once I got into it I got over both my Kilin-related thoughts as well as my misplaced longing for Maltese culture.

A new duo called Shattered Pride has just released some tracks via MySpace. Singer Dorian "Sid" Turner and electro-musician Antoine Vella got together in May when they discovered they shared a common taste in dark '80s electro-rock, which they've managed to capture beautifully on tracks like Beneath. They seem to be producing new material quite fast but that comes as no surprise for anyone who knows how prolific Antoine can be when the muse strikes. Fans of his former band Particle Blue are undoubtedly delighted by the official release of their 2005 recordings for the Dubbien performance. More about that next week.

I'm very pleased to see that Carrie Haber (as she now calls herself) has released a number of new recordings of songs we've heard as raw demos just a few months ago. The original version of They Turned Me To Plastic was featured on an earlier edition of the MMI podcast. So it gives me great pleasure to include the full-band studio arrangement of this same song on this week's podcast.

Carrie is currently in London doing a couple of gigs. Tonight she is Tony Moore's guest at The Regal Room. If you follow the Maltese music scene closely, you'll have seen Carrie championed by Tony on TV show Let's Talk Music a few week's ago. That TV series is quite unusual for Malta but it's wonderful to hear that there are plans for it to return next year. Since Tony likes Malta so much, it's only fitting that we include his music on a MMI podcast. From his album Perfect and Beautiful I've picked Face in the Window. Look beyond his history with Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew and you'll see that Tony Moore is a remarkable artist in his own right. I really enjoyed a set he played at SecondFest last year, and I'm currently revisiting that for my own research into Second Life.

"It's all good" is a mantra I've picked up from my wife. It's what leads me to include Black Metal act Improbus Atrum towards the end of this week's podcast. They released an EP entitled Bearing the Mark on the 4th of July. I haven't heard the whole EP, but for personal reasons I'm partial to My Immortal Master. From pictures I've seen of this band, I have reason to believe that they're interesting to watch live too.

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, July 05, 2008

Doctorin' the Tardis

Just as most of us thought that Doctor Who was about to regenerate into a new actor, the current series came to a close, in what has arguably been the best season for the show ever, bar none. Yes, gentle readers, I am a Dr Who fan. I'm a little sad to see the Doctor go away (until next Christmas) but the knowledge of a Cybermen return gives me just one more reason to live.

On a different note, former US Senator Jesse Helms died on the 4th of July. Helms is seen by many as one of the worse opponents to freedom of expression in art, particularly in performance art. I came to know his name well in my research on the culture wars, particularly in relation to Franklin Furnace. While I can never agree with his point of view on art and culture, I've oddly come to appreciate his oppositional rhetoric and actions. Reaction to his abhorrence of works by artists like Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Karen Hughes, among others, made these artists produce interesting pieces of art in response. I believe this is not the way he is viewed in the art world, but I find it's better to relish the not-so-obvious positive that comes with the death of an oppressor.

As if all this wasn't enough to spice up my weekend as I sat down to produce this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, Xtruppaw announced their return on the Maltese music scene earlier this week. How can I ever resist an excuse to play some more Xtruppaw on my podcast? The 121st edition opens with Rajt Ma Rajtx from Is-Cd tal-iXtruppaw. The I-Skandal, how have been on a hiatus for the last two years, will be appearing ahead of Xtruppaw at the Poxx Bar in Paceville on Saturday 12 July. From their 2006 CD Skaccomatto I've selected Adjectives as the second track for this week's podcast. Now that il-Fre is back on the rock, I wonder if Dripht will reunite anytime soon. I, for one, sincerely hope so.

It's always a joy to discover new Maltese acts. Ezekiel Micallef appeared on my radar via MySpace a few days ago. Ezzy has released a number of varied tracks on his MySpace page and I've picked Puzzle People. I have feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from this newcomer in the future.

This week I've also made sure not to repeat a mistake I made last year with the musical activities of the ŻĦN. Antonio Olivari D'Emanuele has written and produced a new track for the Symphonik Choir, featuring Melanie Saliba on lead vocals. The Language of Music is one of two new recordings by the ŻĦN choir, written specifically for the upcoming Musequality concert at the University's Temi Zammit Hall on the 18th and 19th July.

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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