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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, January 23, 2010


My ears are still buzzing from last night's concert by The Prodigy at the Bridlington Spa's Royal Hall. It's almost incredible that this band has been around for 20 years and it was simply amazing to see young people in the audience who weren't even born back when they started out. The Prodigy is simply a massive band and their music is undoubtedly anthemic for a whole generation. There's a direct connection with The Prodigy in the 197th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I'll came to that when I get to the fourth track in this week's MMI podcast.

Prolonging the shelf-life of their debut EP Your Head Is Too Big For Your Crown, released a couple of months ago, Skimmed have now released the song Shitty Jobs on their MySpace page along with some new band photos. This bodes well in terms of what seems to be a plan to ensure that people don't lose track of Skimmed's EP in the torrent of new material that's due out this year.

Bletchley Park have just released their follow-up single to last year's debut Alien entitled Hold the Trap. This new offering is a solid pop rock song but I believe that this band is still to make a significant impact on the local scene, by which I mean to say that their best work is still ahead of them. They strike me as a hard-working band, so I don't doubt that we'll be hearing more from them this year.

Wayne Camilleri and Errol Sammut seem to have great plans for this year. They've come together as a new duo called K.O.I. (Knowledge Over Intellect) releasing Tears in My Eyes as their debut song. Their sound has delightful 1980s undertones, which makes me think that they're (craftily) tapping into the retro groove de rigueur, as others have beautifully demonstrated in recent years.

Back to that concert by The Prodigy. The reason I made it to the concert last night was thanks to my cousin Keith who is half of the duo South Central. How could I turn down an Access All Areas pass to such a great gig. It was an added bonus to be able to hear South Central do their live DJ set. The crowd truly enjoyed the music they provided and their affinity with Prodigy fans is enshrined through their official remix of Warrior's Dance, which was the second single of The Prodigy's Invaders Must Die album from 2009; the South Central remix is available on disc 2 of the special edition for this album. Their UK tour continues the rest of this month as they head to the south coast in the coming week (Plymouth and Bournemouth) followed by a stint in Scotland ending at the Glasgow O2 Academy. Watch out for them in Malta this springtime.

To close off this week's podcast I've squeezed in a new release by K1nk featuring Thea Saliba. Luigi Lusini's music works well with Thea's vocals and it makes me think that this is possibly a better way for this young Maltese singer to break into the international dance scene than any of her previous attempts. I suppose only time can really tell whether this is the case or not.

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, January 02, 2010

Shout to the Top

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

Now that the brief Christmas break is over, the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast returns with a special edition featuring music from the 2009 Listeners' Picks poll. Here are the entries voted as the listeners' top picks from the poll we conducted on Facebook throughout the month of December 2009. This year, the poll was facilitated by Kenneth J. Vella.

2009 Top Album:
The Rifffs - Moonstomp

Maltese music fans have been waiting for more than 25 years. It's truly a case of better late than never. Pity it had to come out the same year as the fabulous Stejjer tal-Bandli (tal-Mosta) by No Bling Show, which was the absolute runner-up in this category this year.

2009 Top Single: (tied)
The Rifffs - Champagne Charlie's Ghost
Relikc - Mindwreck

Releasing another single from the Moonstomp album in 2009, The Rifffs managed to land a draw at the top place for this category, along with newcomers Relikc. While the old masters are clearly at the top of their game, the little youngs are obviously highly in tune with the new generation.

2009 Internet Release:
Relikc - Tomorrow

It's quite fitting that this band should grab this category for themselves. Danjeli's Kolla was a close second and could have possibly won if we had been given more than an unofficial release on Facebook by the winner of the 2007 Top Album in the MMI Listeners' Picks poll.

2009 Overseas-based Release: (tied)
Joe Mizzi - Age of Decay [Album]
Airstrip One - Into the Silence [Online release]

Although there were no best selling acts in this category during 2009, I am please to see that Joe Mizzi's most recent album has managed to grab the top place. It is surely remarkable that Airstrip One retain their place at the top of this category for the second year running, even though they must share the title with Joe Mizzi this time around.

2009 Top EP:
Chasing Pandora - Running in Circles

Chasing Pandora more than deserve the top spot in this category this year. Airport Impressions managed to attract a very respectable number of votes as runners-up with their EP Seeing With Eyes Closed. In the end, the beloved Gozitan duo managed to outshine every other EP released in Malta in 2009 by a factor of at least two to every one vote awarded to the other nominees in the same category.

2009 Top Video:
No Bling Show - Lucija u Samwel

The same luck that befell No Bling Show in the Top Album category has fallen on Carrie Haber in this one. Her video for Me Oh My! would most certainly have garnered the largest number of votes (in all categories and not just this!) if it wasn't for No Bling Show's exception short film for Lucija u Samwel. As it is, NBS have clearly raise the bar higher than it has ever been for the local music scene.

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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Waterloo Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, September 25, 2009

So Far, So Good...So What!

I've compiled a list of alternative music from Maltese recording artists released so far in 2009. This is the fourth year that I'll be polling my blog readers and Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast listeners towards establishing the top favourite releases of the year.

The number of new releases is already slightly larger than it has been in any year since 2006, even if, as ever, I have a feeling my list is not complete. Please let me know if you think there are any additional titles I should add to this list before starting the voting via Facebook. The list is not meant to be fully comprehensive - I am selective - but I would like to include as many titles as possible at this stage, so please don't hesitate to contact me if you think I've missed out on your favourite 2009 release. I'm also aware that there are some more releases still to come over the next few weeks. I'll be releasing a final list before the voting starts in late November.

Here's the list so far, with respective categories in square brackets:

  • 8 Ugly - Goodbye [ Single ]
  • Aaron Benjamin - On My Mind [ Single ]
  • Abysmal Torment - Omnicide [ Album ]
  • Airport Impressions - Seeing With Eyes Closed [ EP ]
  • Airstrip One - The Ghost [ Overseas ]
  • Andrew Zammit - When All Is Gone [ Online ]
  • anti- - Tufts [ Album ]
  • Antonio Olivari - Dark Ages [ Album ]
  • Billy Lee - Don't Give Your Heart Away [ Online ]
  • Black Aura - Heavy Breathing [ Video ]
  • Bletchley Park - Fake Smiles [ Online ]
  • Brian Vassallo - In the End [ Video ]
  • Cable 35 - Hygene [ EP ]
  • Cable 35 - Mary [ Video ]
  • Carra - album? [ Overseas ]
  • Carrie Haber - It's Complex [ EP ]
  • Chiara - What If We [ Single ]
  • Chris Enriquez - Closest Thing To Love (Because of You) [ Single ]
  • Christabelle - Flame [ Single ]
  • Claudia Faniello - Wild Flower [ Video ]
  • Clement - 909 Invasion [ Online ]
  • Colourblind - Spectre [ Album ]
  • Corrupted Minds - Why Be Normal [ Online ]
  • Cygna - Kuintaar [ Online ]
  • Daniel Cassar - Around the Day in 80 Worlds [ Online ]
  • Danjeli - Kolla [ Online ]
  • Denny Falzon - This Dance is Forever [ Overseas ]
  • Demis - Senspiration [ Album ]
  • Dolls for Idols - Through the City at Night [ Online ]
  • Doubt - Floating Free [ Online ]
  • Droned - Sky Mines [ Single ]
  • Effetti Kollaterali - 33 RPM [ Online ]
  • Elyk Elymur - Dismantle and Destory [ Album ]
  • Ethnamorte - Shades of Beauty & Madness / Belt is-Seħer [ Overseas]
  • Eve Ransom - Soundtrack To A Smile [ Single ]
  • Explicit - Shame [ Single ]
  • Fire - Thrill Me [ Album ]
  • Forsaken - After the Fall [ Album ]
  • Fraser Gregory - A Garden At The Top Of The Tree [ Overseas ]
  • Freddie Portelli - Tonight [ Single ]
  • Hadrian Mansueto - Catch You [ Video ]
  • Ira Losco - Mixed Beats (The Remix Album) [ Album ]
  • Item - Give Up The Ghost [ Online ]
  • Jean Claude Vancell - Ain't Good Enough [ Single ]
  • Joe Mizzi - Age of Decay [ Overseas ]
  • Jon Lukas Woodenman - Better Man [ Overseas ]
  • Julie Ann Zahra - No One in Heaven [ Single ]
  • Kartridge - Wild Crazy Nights [ Single ]
  • Knockturn Alley - Medusa [ Album ]
  • Krafteknique - Thousand Needles [ Online ]
  • Lappalie - Sydneymoon [ Overseas ]
  • Laura Zarb Cousin - You Bruise Me [ Single ]
  • l urk - didj [ Online ]
  • Lyndsay Pace - Addicted [ Single ]
  • Macropode - Convergence [ Online ]
  • Manwel T - Virtual Dub [ Album ]
  • Manwel T Meets Mind's Eye Dub - At the Temple of Dub [ Album ]
  • Marilyn Mifsud - Where My Head's Been [ Single ]
  • Mark Axiaq - Sleeplessness [ Overseas ]
  • MC Frans - Funky Frans [ Video ]
  • Melchior Sultana - Recognize the Real [ Album ]
  • Milk Mi - Disappear [ Single ]
  • Miriam Christine - Alone Today [ Video ]
  • Muxu - Drop It (Say No No No) [ Single ]
  • Muxu - Gone [ Video ]
  • No Bling Show - Stejjer Mill-Bandli (tal-Mosta) [ Album ]
  • No Bling Show - Lucija u Samwel [ Video ]
  • NV - Envy [ Album ]
  • NV - Reason for Denying [ Single ]
  • Oliver Degabriele's Trio - Asteroid 612 [ Online ]
  • Original Cast Recording - Porn: The Musical [ Album ]
  • Pamela - Whispers [ Album ]
  • Paul Giordimaina - A Letter to Bernie [ Album ]
  • Pete Molinari - "Today, Tomorrow & Forever" [ Overseas ]
  • Plato's Dream Machine - Journey Man [ Single ]
  • ReBorn - Chew My Plasticine [ Online ]
  • Red Electrick - Black 8 / 10 Years Too Late [ Single ]
  • Relikc - Tomorrow [ Online ]
  • Renee Cassar - Live and Learn [ Overseas ]
  • Renee Cassar - Dreary Day [ Video ]
  • Retrophytes - Retrophytes [ EP ]
  • Richard Edward - Basking in Baghdad [ Single ]
  • Salt - Star [ Single ]
  • Sasha and Sam - Lullaby for Two / Nina [ Online ]
  • She2s - Bubblegum [ Video ]
  • Simon Vella - Unspoken: Sounds from Within [ Album ]
  • Skimmed - Your Head Is Too Big For Your Crown [ EP ]
  • Skullcakes - Dive [ EP ]
  • Sonitus - Asphixetamol [ Online ]
  • Stefanos - Little Thoughts / Zero Plus [ Online ]
  • Stimulus Timbre - Flowing in Your Mind [ Online ]
  • SunSatION - Disappear [ Online ]
  • Soundscape Foundation - Savannah [ Online ]
  • Sylvan Borg - Mouse by Day (Hero by Night) [ Single ]
  • Synthact - Aer [ EP ]
  • The Does - My Better Side [ Single ]
  • The Myth - Dream [ Single ]
  • The Myth - Animal [ Video ]
  • The Rifffs - Moonstomp [ Album ]
  • The Rifffs - Champagne Charlie's Ghost [ Single ]
  • Thea Saliba - On the Dancefloor [ Single ]
  • "Thomas Hedley," - In Ecstacy [ Single ]
  • Thy Legion - Sadism Through Holy Intervention [ Online ]
  • TokinToker - Elevator to the Moon [ Online ]
  • Tom Caruana - Rebel Withou Applause [ Overseas ]
  • Totema - Till I Die [ Online ]
  • Tribali - The Elephants of Lanka [ Album ]
  • Twenty-Six Other-Worlds - Incubus [ Online ]
  • U-Bahn - Beautiful Girl [ Single ]
  • Uncharted - Blame Me [ Single ]
  • Various Artists - Malta Eurosong 2009 [ Album ]
  • Various Artists - Malta Hit Song Contest 2009 [ Album ]
  • Various Artists - Tumult and Squak [ Album ]
  • Victims of Creation - Chapter 22 [ Online ]
  • Victor Chetcuti - Together Free [ Overseas ]
  • Victoria Osbourne - Filling Days [ Online ]
  • Wayne Micallef - Open Road [ Single ]
  • X-Vandals - Breach the Silence [ Album ]

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    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Come So Far Yet Still So Far To Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    Petits Machins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Saturday, 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, 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, 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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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Love Shine a Light

    Malta's name is once again to be heard as a contender in the Eurovision Song Contest finals. Many believe that if Chiara couldn't do this for Malta no one else could. This has put immense pressure on the singer, even though she has participated in this pan-European contest twice before. I can understand what she meant last night after the semifinal when she said that she was more concerned about making it through to the final than she is about her performance at the final.

    This is not hubris. Chiara is the first to admit that she is stubborn and hard-headed when it comes to reaching for the number 1 spot at the Eurovision Song Contest. Since she is not a singer by profession this is understandable. Over the years Chiara has fashioned as a Eurovision performer and this suits her very well. She seems quite happy to think that this contest is the pinnacle of her carrier in the music industry. There's nothing wrong with that, especially for a singer who comes from a country that has produced fewer international stars that most people have fingers on one hand.

    By all counts, winning the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest is no easy feat for the Maltese singer and her Belgian-made song. Chiara has a beautiful singing voice but she will need to beat at least 4 others singers with beautiful voices and/or songs: Jade Ewen (UK), Yohanna (Iceland), Malena Ernman (Sweden), and of course Patricia Kaas (France). Flor-de-lis (Portugal) is not to be discredited at this point of the game either.

    Any assessment of Chiara's chances for bringing the Eurovision Song Contest to Malta in 2010 should also take into consideration that Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina) is clearly the Eastern favourite this year, while Alexander Rybak (Norway) remains the bookies pick to win. Today the bookies have Malta in 10th position on average at the final, and many are including Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine within the final top 10.

    As I write this I'm watching the dress rehearsal for the 2nd semifinal. If this year is a year for ballads and/or great voices I don't think the 2009 ESC winner is among this batch. Most of the songs could have been last year's runners-up in their respective countries but the Ukrainians really know how to stage a spectacular extravaganza. Anyway, I'll reassess this situation, if absolutely necessary, on Friday. If I'm lucky I'll manage to take in the town and its glorious culture a little bit more than I've had time for till now.

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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    You Know I'm No Good

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

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

    Another podcast from the Mużika Mod Ieħor archives next week.

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    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    And We Bid You Goodnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    They Can't Take That Away From Me

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

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

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

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

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    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, November 29, 2008

    Power to the People

    It's finally time for all my Mużika Mod Ieħor listeners to vote for their top picks out of all the Maltese releases from 2008. This year's poll is once again being carried out via Facebook. James Attard has reactivated the Facebook app we created last year for yet another round of voting.

    The categories remain the same as last year, with the slight difference that singles and EPs are now separate. The volume of releases has increased so much this year that this spilt will undoubtedly be welcome by all. The video section has been retained, even though there are considerably fewer nominations this year in that category.

    I have my personal preferences, of course, and if you're one of the first people to vote and/or you listen to my podcast regularly you'll know what they are. Alternatively you can wait until the first podcast of 2009, when the official picks are announced and I compare the public top selections to my own. Voting continues the the second day of the new year and the results will be announced in a special podcast on Saturday 3rd January 2009.

    Meanwhile my weekly MMI podcasting series continues regularly until the Christmas holidays. This week's edition open's with the music of an English singer-songwriter of Maltese descent. Victor Chetcuti's dad was Maltese but he was born in the UK to an Irish mother. I'm surprised that it has taken me this long to discover his work. He's been quite active in the last few years and is now on the verge of releasing his third album. From his 2007 CD I've picked a song called Thinking of You. Listeners can rest assured that I will be featuring a track or two from the new album next year.

    To announce the 2008 MMI Listener's Picks poll, I wanted to play something from one of last year's top vote recipients. Mathematikal received the most votes in the based-overseas category for their Electrophant EP. Now that they're back in Malta they've been as active as ever, even if they're not nominated in any of this year's categories. Their remix of the Beangrowers' Good Band Bad Name can be heard as the second track on this week's podcast. It also gives me the opportunity to mention that the album from which the original version of that song is taken, Not in a Million Lovers, is among those nominated.

    Incidentally, Mathematikal are appearing at the Poxx Bar in Paceville tonight in another evening of The Devil Digs Rave, along with Vinnie Vintage. Having attended a very similar gig last March I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to explore Malta's underground music scene.

    The inevitable releases I should have included on the 2008 MMI poll but didn't will now start dropping like flies, of course. The first of these is an EP called Extreme Dancefloor featuring tracks by Melchior Sultana and Kevin Call a.k.a. DJ Nojz. It was release last April, but I only became aware of it a couple of days ago when Melchior contacted me with some other tracks that he recorded more recently. Anyway, this is how it goes every year and I guess by now we've all come to expect this, regardless.

    For the rest of this week's podcast I've selected tracks by Melchior Sultana and DJ Nojz. The first is Melchior's The Life I Lived, which is not on the EP I just mentioned. The other, by DJ Nojz, comes from that EP and it's a techno number called Metobo.

    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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    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Down Under

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

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

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    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Space Oddity

    MySpace have just changed the interface for the music player that appears on pages where musicians, bands and singers upload their tracks for all to hear. This in itself may appear to be just another attempt to change the way MySpace looks, but there's some bad news in it for people like me. The previous MySpace music player displayed the year for the track you were listening to (if it was entered by the artist) as well as the name of the album of compilation it came from; not to mention better/more space for the accompanying artwork.

    I'm hoping (against all odds, probably!) that this will either be rectified soon or better still that artists will start blogging more about the tracks they upload or at least somehow give their listeners further information about the tracks they want us to listen to on their MySpace pages.

    I'm not saying all this because I'm turning into a grumpy old man. Well, at least not just yet. The missing information is really useful to people like me who put together podcasts with material that's available mostly only through MySpace. Aside from my podcast, I also have an academic/archival interest in the extra data that comes with tracks uploaded to MySpace.

    Thankfully, over the years I've also developed a two-way conversation with many of the artists I feature on my podcast. So, in many cases, the additional info on MySpace is not really something I look out for. Still, there are several acts that I either know very little about or only know what I know about them through MySpace. This became even more obvious to me a couple of days ago, when I started putting together the list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.

    This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features a number of new addition to that list of nominations, which will remain a work in progress until the public voting starts via Facebook in November. Explicit return with a new single called Sunny Again. Stephanie Chetcuti's voice reminds me why I like most, if not all, Maltese rock bands fronted by women. It is so refreshing to hear a Maltese female voice singing to an accompaniment that's anything other than the dime a dozen studio programming productions that grace the so called pop scene. I believe that more people in Malta would like alternative music if they heard it more frequently on radio and TV.

    Another thing I'd like to hear more of are Maltese bands or singers doing covers of Maltese songs, even if not in Maltese. Dripht did it with The Rifffs' Dance Music for Depression, but it is far from common. 8 Ugly are preparing to release their debut album entitled Sleeper. Happily it includes a cover of Call Me, originally written by Ronnie Busuttil for his band The Refugees. Comparisons are odious, but I have a feeling that listeners will like 8 Ugly's version, particularly as they have worked closely with Ronnie and others associated with The Refugees.

    New releases will keep appearing until voting on the MMI 2008 poll starts, and even beyond. We'll try and catch as many as we can to avoid the same sort of 'oops, too late' disappointments from previous years. Music Street Productions are releasing a CD called Purely Pop Compilation on the 7th of October. I don't have a copy of this CD yet but it features a stellar cast from the local scene: Thea Saliba, Jewls Verse, and Amelia, among others. Those others include a delightful duo I'd never heard of before called Velvet Rain. I like their A Song for You very much, so I've decided to play it half way through the 133rd edition of the MMI podcast.

    Speaking of goings-on in Malta, Mancunian band Autokat will be playing live at the Sky Club in Paceville this Friday the 3rd, along with local indie delicacies Areola Treat and Airport Impressions. This English band is attracting quite a bit of attention not just because their music is quite good - as you can hear for yourself from the single Innocence - but also and especially because their drummer is Mike Joyce, who played with The Smiths back in the 1980s. As foreign gigs in Malta go, this is one not to be missed. Sadly I'm stuck in Scarborough this week, even though I've had two solid invitations to come to Malta in recent days. If they're playing one of the local clubs around Manchester I may even catch them on one of my upcoming trips to Salford.

    Apparently I'm not the only one who had a hard time with the new MySpace music player. Aaron Benjamin and I have been emailing to and fro about his new song after I told him I couldn't access it on his MySpace page. I'm sure he'll sort it out soon enough, but meanwhile you can hear Break the Silence as the closing track on this week's podcast. Needless to say, this too makes it to the nominations list for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.

    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 09, 2008

    Rock 'n Roll

    This past week I've been attending the Beached Academy, as a student. This is an annual opportunity for budding talent in Scarborough to work with professional tutors on song-writing skills and music performance. There's also training for people who want to work on the technical side. While some would think that I don't qualify to be a student within such a setting, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. It was good to be among young, raw performers keen to see what the scene has to offer. This is why I teach at the university. And yet, it was quite good to see what the student experience is really like. Our tutors were Toby Jepson (former Little Angels frontman and the new singer for Gun) and celebrity vocal coach Dave Laudat. Their generosity is astounding.

    We shall all be performing at the Beached Festival on Sunday 17 August here in Scarborough, so I'm sure I'll talk about all this some more later. I'll (hopefully) also get an opportunity to play you a recording we did together on a song written at this year's Beached Academy on my weekly podcast. Former Goldfrapp drummer Rowan Oliver, who is now a fellow tutor at the university, said that hearing me sing was a revelation. I'd certainly put that on my poster and publicity material if I were to take this further rather than return to my regular life once Beached is over.

    For the 126th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast I've picked Jean Claude Vancell's new song Heartbreaker as the show opener. Once again JCV delivers an excellent track showcasing both his skills as a songwriter and as a singer. I have a lot of time for this young man and so should you.

    The Areola Treat will be appearing live with the Retrophytes at the Poxx Bar next Saturday, 16th August. Last month they released their eponymous debut EP on the Belgian independent label Kinky Star. Boulevard Werewolf is lifted from it. Playing this band's music on my podcast for the third time in less than a year (do I like this band?) makes me realize that I've never played anything by Lumiere, the band Areola guitarist Adrian and drummer Chris played in in the first half of this decade. So to right that wrong, I've included Rememberence of Lovers Past from their 2005 album It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. That was indeed one of the finest bands to grace the Maltese music scene, ever.

    Since I'm playing something from 2005 and it's August, I must pause to celebrate Pinkpube's upcoming birthday/anniversary. On the 23rd August 2005, Pinkpube was launched 4 astounding EPs. HA's Approaching the Gnu was one of them. From it I've included Festa in this week's podcast. I'll be returning to the Pinkpube catalogue again over the next two weeks to mark the third birthday/anniversary properly or as we say in Maltese kif imiss.

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

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    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    The Boys are Back in Town

    Xtruppaw Lajv Is-Sibt 12 ta Lulju 2008.


    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    If I Was

    If I was in Malta today I would most definitely be at Warehouse No.8 in Marsa listening to Danjeli's Kakofonija live. My Facebook friends know this from reading my status message, and my podcast listeners know this from listening to last week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. Danjeli's live concert is as much an historic event for the Maltese music scene as the release of Is-CD tal-iXtruppaw in June 2006 or Claudio Baglioni's version of L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel more recently.

    It's events like this that make me realize that my weekly podcast is an excellent way to keep in touch with what's going on in the Maltese music scene. This week's edition contains tracks that have either just been released or relate to upcoming gigs. The first song is one that's apparently making a big splash on the local airwaves this summer. Muxu's Beat My Drum is one of the most catch tunes I've heard coming from Malta so far this year. Produced by Jay Omaro it's pop laden R&B track, which cannot be easily dismissed as just another song in this genre. Listen to it closely and I'm sure you'll be singing it over and over in your head for the rest of the day, if not longer.

    Former Radio Malta 2 Reggae Club DJ Manwel Tabone has metamorphosed into dub master Manwel T. His mixes and dubs have already appeared on previous edition of the MMI podcast. A few days ago he released a new bunch of tracks and I've selected Umtha Welanga Dub (feat. Mind's Eye Dub), which will surely delight anyone who likes this type of music and probably everyone else who enjoys good music.

    Eve Ransom have released their second new song for 2008. Paradox is a well-made follow-up for last February's Just The Way I Am. The band's grungy sound is crowned by ex- Scream Daisy guitarist and songwriter Brendan Jackson's voice. I honestly can't imagine a different voice for this band. I have a feeling that this band sound quite good live too. Please write back and let me know if you've seen this band live and agree or disagree with this. They're appearing at the Splash & Fun Park on the 5th of July.

    Another upcoming gig that will undoubtedly attract a nice crowd of die-hard metal fans is planned for July 18 at Remedy in Paceville. Norm Rejection will continue their reunion activities leading towards new recordings and , The July 18 gig will be the first time that the band's new bassist - the most prolific Rex - appears in public with Norm Rejection. I'm particularly looking forward to a recording of their new song Kemm Hawn Dwejjaq fil-Pajjiz. Evidently, plus ça change.

    Martyrium will be sharing the bill with Norm Rejection at Remedy. This monster black metal band are currently preparing to release their third CD, Awakening the Ancient, which should appear later this summer. You can listen to a preview of the new material on their MySpace page. To close this week's podcast I've selected Eden from Martyrium's 2001 debut CD Withering in in Voluptuous Embrace.

    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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