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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, April 26, 2008

Have You Ever Seen Rain?

The rain can be both real and metaphorical at the same time. I thought about this quite frequently this weekend. I had planned to spend as much of my "free" time in the organic garden at home. It started out as the first truly mild weekend this season, but my plans were rained on; first metaphorically and then from the sort of clouds that always bring moisture in the air.

I've now resigned myself to yet another weekend were I can't do the work I'd like to in the garden. Hopefully it will get better very soon because the lawn really needs mowing. Meanwhile I find solace in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. At times like this it feels very much like my own private pot at the end of the rainbow.

The 111th MMI podcast opens with a song from Pete Molinari whose mother's Maltese parentage qualifies him for inclusion in this series. He has a remarkable voice that would be very well suited for Maltese għana. He has not explored that part of his personal heritage, yet. If/when he does, keep in mind that you heard about it here first. Have a listen to Virtual Landslide, one of his recent singles, and you'll see what I mean if you're familiar with Maltese folk singing beyond the hackneyed stereotype.

On one of the early editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor I featured a tune called White Russian by the Sandro Zerafa 5tet. At that time this was a new project that this Maltese Paris-based guitarist was exploring. The whole thing has now matured into a full CD release, which was launched at the recently opened venue Warehouse No.8 in Marsa. While listening to the track Sidewalk Slant it crossed my mind that the launch party must have been a fantastic place to be this weekend, particularly because Danjeli provided the music after hours.

Any opportunity to play something from Danjeli is not easily passed up on my podcast. From last year's outstanding Pinkpube release by Danjeli Kakofonija I've picked Dureb. It works well in the eclectic mix on this week's show. If you still haven't heard Kakofonija, do yourself a favour and download it (for free!) from the Pinkpube website.

In preparing this week's selection I came across singer Ann Degaetano's name. She won the Virtual Rock Star contest put on by Malta's XFM radio with her band Slur. I was hoping to see more of her by now. To my knowledge, so far she has been a one hit wonder. I hope someone tells me I'm wrong and points me towards new recordings featuring Ann's voice. Luckily, other than the song she presented for last year's XFM contest she also released It's Your Imagination, which even on a first listen shows that it would be a shame for this singer to simply disappear into oblivion just yet.

Closing up with something new, I came across B. Lee, the new lead guitarist with Metrokueen, who appeared on a recent edition of the MMI podcast. B. Lee (aka Billy) has released an instrumental blues rock track called Until I Find My Way. More than anything I really like the title of this instrumental track because it ties in with the way I feel about getting back to the garden. Until then, I'm just caught in what Joni Mitchell calls the devil's bargain.

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

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Baby It's Cold Outside

If you live in the northern hemisphere I'm sure you're feeling the cold right now. Along with that you may also be suffering from a common cold, as am I. I'm so congested now it's not even funny, but I'm sure it will pass soon enough. Thankfully, I wasn't so under the weather yesterday and managed to record the last Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast for 2007.

Before stopping for a couple of weeks to enjoy the seasonal holidays, podcast number 95 in the series continues in the same vein as recent editions but this week it starts with some Christmas spirit. Classic rock band Fire has just released a new Yuletide song called Miss You This Christmas. It's great that we now have one more Xmas rock song to play along with the other mind-numbing muzak featuring sleigh bells and/or saccharine sweet voices.

I also wanted to make sure to play something from Robert Galea's new CD album What A Day, which was released earlier this month. Robert is currently visit Malta from Australia where he is normally based and I'm sure that some of the MMI podcast listeners will catch him at one of his many gigs before he returns to the glorious summer in the land down under. To the End of the Earth is one of the tracks from this new CD, which is currently at number 3 on the MMI 2007 poll in the overseas-bases artists' category, right behind Mathematikal and fellow Aussies Skorba whose Temples of Devotion is my personal pick for 2007 in this category.

Chris D'Alfonso
is someone else who should have made it to the MMI 2007 poll but didn't. He would probably be in the overseas-based category now seeing that he has moved to Germany. It looks like he's working on a new album to follow up the successful Blueprint from last year. The new song is called Light of the World and his brand of Christian Rock blends is beautifully with that of Rob Galea.

To bring this week's podcast to a close I've selected a song that was released towards the end of last summer. Perhaps it too should be on the MMI 2007 poll; it's one of the ones that really got away. Keep on Strummin' is written and produced by Antonio Olivari D'Emanuele with Errol Cutajar singing the lead vocal accompanied by the ŻĦN Symphonik Choir. It's not a Christmas song, of course, but the choir gives it a festive feeling and the idea of more to come in the new year is indeed one that's most appropriate to end on until the series returns with the results from the MMI 2007 poll during the first weekend in 2008.

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, October 20, 2007

Autumn Leaves

The autumnal turning leaves in the UK don't seem as pretty as those reddish bursts I had become accustomed to in the States. They're beautiful in their own way here. They also need to be picked and cleared from the pavements or wherever they fall. I spent most of the afternoon today picking up dead leaves that fell from the huge tree at the top of my organic garden, just a couple of yards away from my vegetable patch.

There are still plenty of leaves on the tree. They won't be there much longer. Clearing the leaves that have already fallen at this point seems necessary, otherwise there'll probably be more than are manageable in one afternoon session. As an activity, this is probably as far away from my weekly podcast as I can get on a Saturday afternoon. It's great to be away from activities that require cerebral engagement to one degree or other. In the garden I feel very in touch with nature. It's very peaceful and I always feel better after spending even just a couple of hours pottering about.

On to the 87th podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series, which opens with a new single from The Characters. One in a Million shows this popular band in top form. It appears that they're on their way to releasing a new album sometime next year. Nothing has been revealed about that yet, but all the tell-tale signs are there.

Paul Abela is one of the most prolific Maltese pop song writers. I think he's also one of the most underrated musicians. Listening to tracks from Tristan B's debut album Fallen Angel, you can most certainly sense his prowess, especially if you pay particular attention to the song structures and the instrumental bits between the singing. Life is a Beat has a particularly North African tinge and I've selected to play it on this week's podcast to highlight the point I'm trying to make here. Manuel Balzan, or Tristan B as he is known, is a pop singer in the pin-up mode. Unlike many other wannabes he is blessed with the a crop of original songs written by a great composer. It appears that they're building a pan-European marketing strategy for years to come, but only time can tell if this is just another case of pearls for swine.

Since we're in a pop gear today, I thought it most appropriate to include a song by Thea Saliba. The CD album from this former JESC performer is called About You. I must admit that I haven't heard the whole record by I'm chose to include Bring it Up a song written by Billy J, after hearing it on his YouTube page. It feels good to see that there are relatively intense performers in the local pop scene. There's nothing I hate more than bad pop. Thea certainly does not fall within that category and is actually an excellent example of a decent pop performer.

Aside from the mainstream tunes on today's podcast, I wanted to include something from the trenches. The MMI series is possibly the only regular source to listen to Maltese music and musicians that are absent from radio playlists for one reason or another. Wayne Camilleri has just made to demo recordings. He has released these instrumental tracks on ReverbNation. I expect to see them on his MySpace page sometime soon too. Meanwhile you can hear It's All Okay as the closing track on 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 add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007


If you're in Malta (or any warm/dry place) right now, I think you'll be amused to find out that I have not been able to go anywhere this week without my umbrella. It's a glorious British summer...meaning it's foggy and rainy. This is to be expected after the 3 weeks of practically continuous sun we've just had.

What's not expected is the termination of the BBC's FM Russian service. What is being called "propaganda" cannot be as completely suppressed now as it was in the days before the widespread use of the Internet, of course. As I see it, this is a blessing in disguise for Internet services in Russia. Filtering the internet is quite easy for powerful entities like national governments but by its very nature the Net is structured to overcome such blockages. Media freedom now means something quite different than it did during the Cold War.

Off to a brighter place: the 79th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. It looks like I will not be taking a proper break this summer. So I'm covering acts on the gigging circuit in Malta, which seems to be at its busiest in August. Poxx Bar in Paceville has clearly become one of the hotspots for great live music. This weekend it's hosting three gigs from acts I've chosen to play on this week's podcast.

On Sunday night, Andre' Camilleri's Broken Hearts will join The Beangrowers and Shostakovitch's Nightmare in what sounds like a fairly eclectic mix. Camilleri's lastest CD album One Fine Day has already been featured on MMI. From it I've selected
I Got A Little Drunk.

My Journey by Marc Galea is another CD released earlier this year. I played the title track months ago but now I return to it to bring you something quite rare on my podcast: a cover version. There has to be something really special for me to play a Maltese cover of a song by a great like Jimi Hendrix. Galea's version of Voodoo Chile is sung by Grimaud. That's more than enough for me. It's an excellent recording that showcases the mighty voice of Tony Grimaud just as we knew and loved it 25 years ago when the singer was at the peak of his game. If this is what he (still) sounds like now I can't wait to hear more recordings from Grimaud.

Back to the Poxx Bar, where this weekend's line-up featured no less than two foreign bands on separate nights. The Italian band Soul Drivers take the stage tonight, supported by local newcomers Vinnie Vintage. I discovered this band's YouTube page and it features a set of single camera recordings in their garage. Listen to Sea to the Salt and you should be able to get a glimpse of things to come from this band.

Swiss metal rockers CardiaC are the other foreign act on the circuit this weekend. They're both at Poxx and Remedy, with a plethora of Maltese metal bands. Although as derivative as anything else you're bound to hear in this genre, I find CardiaC's approach quite original, mostly because they employ the Spanish language extensively in their songs. In some ways they remind me of the way Norm Rejection use Maltese in some of their tracks. El Tiempo brings this week's podcast to a close in a delightful way until I return with the 80th edition or an unrelated blog entry...whichever comes first.

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 07, 2007

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

I've been watching Live Earth on TV for several hours today thinking what a strange world we live in. I'm wondering how the Pope's new position on the mass in Latin and the fact that Bill Gates is no longer the richest man in the world have to do with it. Last night I was full of dread. Some of it is understandable anxiety from working on my book and other such things, but there's something bothering me that I can't really put my finder on, yet.

One thing that gets me through the day when I feel like this is my weekly podcast. This week I'm blessed with four brand new tracks to play and that makes the whole experience a joy for me. Just last week I was thinking that this could be a dry summer, compared to last year, but I can now see how wrong I was.

First up is a new track from a new CD by Fr Karm Debattista mssp. I believe I've already given Fr Karm partial credit for my general musical sensibility previously. His new album is called Agħmilni Bħalek and it sounds better than anything I've heard from him before. Imla 'l Qalbi shows him as a mature songwriter and an outstanding example of how well contemporary pop rock can be adopted for Christian music.

Scream Daisy have released a new single, which comes for a new album they're working on. The track is called Bees and if you haven't already heard it on the radio or their MySpace page you can catch it on the 73rd edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Drive too have released a new song. Take You High shows the great potential this young band has, even if I preferred their debut offering In Your Eyes better. This band is a standout newcomer act for me this year and I hope to hear plenty more from them in the coming months.

In case you haven't noticed, the date today is 07.07.07 so its a great occasion to do something special. Death Metal band Arachnid picked today to launch their album Compelled to Distort. At the risk of being accused of blasphemy I close this week's podcast with the track The Art of Pain Part 1from this album. If you have a problem with that just let me know and perhaps I can share some of my nighttime dread with you.

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.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007


It's been raining quite heavily for the past couple of days. Britain is fairly notorious for rainy weather but even by UK standards what we've seen this week is quite extreme. I gather that this is similar to the great soaking Rome saw on the canonization weekend earlier this month, which moved on to Malta a day or so later.

Usually I don't care so much about the weather but since I've added gardening to my pastimes it's natural that I get concerned...especially when the rain damages (even ever so slightly) my horticultural efforts. This is where having more than one pastime comes in handy. Some pastimes, however, aren't considered a hobby, and for me one such activity that's not easy to define as such is my weekly podcast. This week's edition is the 71st in the series and it give me the opportunity to play four brand new tracks, all of which will undoubtedly make it to the end of year listeners' pick for 2007.

The Rifffs have recorded a couple of new tracks at Farmhouse Studios in Siggiewi and will be releasing Jack the Ripper as their next single this summer. It's a very energetic track that showcases the band in full force. I sense a possible theme for their elusive debut album but I doubt that this is what's been delaying the date of this much awaited release. We can only continue to hope but I'm sure the album is an inevitable reality (hopefully) later this year.

Christabelle Borg was born a whole decade after The Rifffs released their first single. She is only 15 but judging from Tonight her new single - recorded in America in January with a Malta released in April - she's on her way to make her mark on the local music scene...if not beyond. R&B has always been an elusive genre for Maltese musicians. This is understandable when you consider that it is quintessentially an American style. So when Christabelle's songs sound authentic mainly because of the heavy American input on them. This is not to ignore the fact that she has been beautifully coached on how to sing in a way that goes beyond the ordinary and mediocre, an approach that usually sounds the death knell for most other Maltese pop idol wannabes.

When it rains it pours. Another new release this month comes from Chemical Orphan. Following up on carnival's Casanova the next song is tied in with the UN's World Refugee Day on June 20. What If It Was You? is a provocative song and one that made me uncomfortable the first time I heard it. I believe the same will happen to other people, possibly for different reasons too. You can hear it on this week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor and make up your own mind about it.

Straying away from new releases for a moment, I'd like to thank Brussels-based Maltese blogger Gybexi for pointing out the online availability of the 1977 album This is Joe Cutajar. Listening to any of the tracks on this album you can easily see how far the Maltese recording scene has come. This was one of the first recordings made at Smash Studio in Fgura. The songs are composed by Ray Agius whose more recent High Alert appeared on last week's podcast. This week I've picked Dak Kien Żmien sung by Joe Cutajar, featuring an instrumental phrase that always reminds me of the Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin.

Back to new releases, I can't fail to point out the release of Tifkira a new CD in Australia by Manuel Casha commemorating the first anniversary from the death of Frans Baldacchino il-Budaj. To mark this anniversary, next week's podcast will be a repeat of my tribute to Frans il-Budaj, which was originally published in the weekend after the singer's passing. This series continues with new releases and other material the following weekend when I'll bring you the 72nd edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

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.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007


Saturday night is rarely this special. How often do you see a total lunar eclipse on a clear winter night? It was spectacular and eerily beautiful. The reddish hue that engulfed the moon late this evening is one of the most fantastic natural phenomena I've ever witnessed. Did you see it? What did you think?

lunar eclipse

My personal build-up to the eclipse consisted of producing my weekly podcast. Not exactly the first thing I would have chosen to do before the eclipse, were it not a Saturday night.

Mużika Mod Ieħor has not featured much heavy music this year, so this week's edition makes up for that. If you're not into metal and other such sounds, fear not, it's not full on mayhem. The opening song comes from BNI's 2006 album On and On. Play Dead has a somewhat dark title but it is one of their lighter tracks. It's more ska and reggae than punk. A welcome variation for those who appreciate that raw power this band is backed up with a passion for great melody.

The much-anticipated return of Norm Rejection will take place on Friday, March 9 at Poxx Bar in Paceville. They've been gone for about six years and they've been sorely missed by fans of heavy rock in Malta. Their song Malta Not for Sale from 2000 remains on of my personal top 5 Maltese songs ever recorded. To mark this reunion by Norm Rejection I've chosen to play the wonderful Straight Jacket from their second album 0002. This is clearly not an ordinary band.

If you're looking for extreme metal, few Maltese bands are more hardcore than Loathe. The band is about to embark the Enemies Of Mediocrity Tour, which has them playing alongside non-Maltese metal bands like Allergen, Subliminal Fear, and Seven Years Dead. The tour takes them to a number of English towns, which are not too far away from where I live. The shows start on Friday, March 9 in Chesterfield, and continues on in Barnsley, Wakefield, Sheffield, Doncaster, Lancaster, Manchester, ending in Birmingham on March 23. If you've never heard Loathe you can catch Hell to Burn, a track off their 2005 album Up Close and Personal, on this week's edition of my podcast.

Since this we're keeping it heavy, I think it's most appropriate to end this edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor with a band new recording by a young new death metal band from Malta called Thy Legion. I think the reference is military, but somehow I have a feeling that one of the band members used to attend Legion of Mary meetings until not too long ago. I could be wrong, of course. Thy Legion have recently completed recording six tracks for their upcoming CD release Proclaimer of Chaos. The one I've selected as the closing track for this week's podcast is called Domain of Eternity. Metal doesn't get much harder than this.

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.

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