Archive for May, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Show notes for the 257th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast featuring music by performers from or in Malta:

Funk InitiativeParis
I’m always amazed when a new Maltese band introduces itself to the world with a music video. When it’s a video like the one Funk Initiative produced for Paris I also realize what a long way digital video production has come in the last 20 years. You really no longer need a record company behind you to get a decent recording and accompanying music video out. This particular band and track are no different from most other out on the market right now and they certainly deserve to be noticed by a larger audience than they’ve reached so far.

MuxuLove You Right
The Maltese master of slick pop is back with what to my ears sounds like a relatively mature departure from his humble beginnings just a couple of years ago. Here’s someone who is clearly head and shoulders above the fray and all the wanna be pop stars that grace the Maltese islands believing that the Eurovision Song Contest is the ultimate in show business. Muxu continues to earn my respect as he has since the very first time I heard him telling us to beat his drum. Now, where’s that album? Or is that sort of thing too old fashioned now?

Jean Claude VancellMusic Box
I’ve always liked the songs created by this young Maltese singer-songwriter. They hold a great promise that he sometimes manage to achieve all on his own. He returns after what seemed like a two or three year long hiatus with a song that’s so well-crafted that you can’t but feel you’ve already heard it plenty of other times after the very first listen. I hope he’s back to stay this time.

I’m never sure whether bands use a definite article as part of their name when they produce a logo without one. In any case, this new Maltese pop rock band seems to be attracting lots of airplay right now. I’ve been wanting to play their debut song for about two weeks but for some reason it remained in my pending folder along with a bunch of other tracks I plan to include in upcoming editions of the MMI podcast. I don’t know much about this band but their instant popularity with certain types of Maltese radio stations makes me believe that we’ll be hearing much more from them in the coming months and years.

Pupi tal-LogħobHagi SAK
They’ve gone through a number of line-up changes over the past 10 years but Malta’s best loved old-school punk pranksters are thankfully still around thanks to Kuzza. I saw them live at Rookie’s a couple of months ago and now I’m extremely pleased to include them as the opening act for M3P’s You Rarely Hear This On The Radio 2: La Maltija, which will also include Duo Kukkanja (that’s Steve id-Delli from Brikkuni and Justin Galea from Plato’s Dream Machine) as well as Ċikku l-Poplu in what should turn out to be a memorable evening at V-Gen in Paceville. This is just one of four live music events associated with the inaugural M3P conference, which will be taking place at St James Cavalier in Valletta on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th June 2011.

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 enjoy listening to the podcast on the player right below this text.

Running Scared

Show notes for the 256th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast featuring music by performers from or in Malta:

Norm RejectionKemm Hawn Dwejjaq Fil-Pajjiż
This track from the new EP Belligerent from the same band that gave us Malta Not For Sale about 10 years ago will very possibly join that classic of 21st century Maltese rock as a favourite with generations to come. No other band expresses itself as eloquently about political discontent in Malta as Norm Rejection. The EP also features a couple of bonus tracks from the bands early recordings from the 1990s.

Cable 35Memories
In preparation for the release of their CD album, Cable 35 have released a music video for this song to start off the promotion for July’s official launch. I’m sure I’ll be playing another track (or two) from the album once it comes out, so for now I can only really recommend that we enjoy the video that comes with this new song. I think people familiar with this band’s previous pop punk sound will be pleasantly surprised at the heavier grungy sound this power trio has moved towards.

One of the most popular new metal bands in Malta in the 1980s was called Passion Blade.  They eventually morphed into Blade and by the end of the 1990s had matured into one of the best loved melodic metal acts that Malta has ever produced. Apparently Blade is now reformed and in the process of producing new material. So I thought I’d play this track from 1998 on this week’s podcast, particularly for the new generation of rock fans in Malta who are completely unfamiliar with this band.

Prayer of the DyingWastelands
Martin Ciappara has been involved in various projects over the last decade or so and most of them have been featured on previous editions of the MMI podcast. When his band Prayer of the Dying released the album In Silence and Grief We Decay a few weeks ago, I knew right away that I’d be including a track from it on the MMI podcast. So that’s what you hear as this week’s closing selection.

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 enjoy listening to the podcast on the player right below this text.

You Only Live Twice

This morning my old friend Paul Giordimaina (who composed Malta’s 2011 Eurovision entry) wrote the following note on Facebook:
“Irrelevant to certain comments made by some ‘armchair critics’ or self proclaimed music experts i want to congratulate Glen for an amazing performance filled with great positive energy.Also well done the backing vocalists and dancers for their total commitment. Thks to the numerous backstage proffesioanl people who worked endlessly around the team. A special thks to PBS for their dedication and support from day 1 and last but not least thks to the big majority to the maltese people who beleived in the project ‘ONE LIFE'”

I commented by saying that Glen Vella gave a great show. He was in tune, hit the mark and the act looked very polished on stage. He (and the song) deserved a better placing but there’s clearly more to the Eurovision Song Contest than that.
Veteran Maltese pop singer Jon Lukas Woodenman wrote his own note on Facebook after Malta failed yet again to yield a decent placing at the Eurovison Song Contest. Here’s an essential excerpt :

[… ] “i will today ‘n tmrrw put on my artiste & production  hat and review the Maltese entry as projected last night and try to decide WHY this happened and find out where did we go wrong AGAIN cos’ i REFUSE to accept the usual moan that of voting of next door neighbours as the Maltese normal losing excuse. There probably is something intrinsically wrong in how Malta writes, produces, chooses and then projects the actual songs that needs to be seriously adhered to …. EMOTIONS ASIDE please .. there is ALWAYS something missing on the night. 50 years on we HAVE NOT HACKED it yet … do u seriously think it’s ONLY because they gang up on us ? The bookies ONLY want to make money (no patriotism there) the odds they offered fr the song was one to eleven …..bookmakers news 9 May 2011 … QUOTE ‘ Eurovision: Odds stacked against Glen, according to bookmakers’ …… are we gonna’ face this and TRY to PUT it RIGHT ? … are we gonna’ eliminate what we thought would work on the night that ACTUALLY did NOT … or are we to settle fr ‘THEY GOT IT IN FR US’ sad bull shit and go through the same rigmarole ‘n blunders next year.” […]

I’m not sure the Maltese Eurovision structure is set up in such a way to get to the bottom of what’s going wrong year after year. The main reason is that the producers for Malta’s entry are removed almost completely from the music industry across Europe and involvement in this has now become a crucial ingredient for a decent placing at the ESC. And to be clear, it’s not enough to have a strong affiliation with a record company. It takes an up-to-date knowledge of trans-European PR for pop music: an expertise in how the music world operates online, or at least tries to.

Also, to be fair, the old essential ingredient (i.e. the song and its performance) is the other element that needs more attention. There has been a (slight) improvement in the way the song is picked – or rather which song is picked – but there’s still a long way to go in determining what makes a memorable and/or impactful song for this show.

There’s no point in over-analyzing Glen Vella and One Life in this context. The situation is not that radically different from what it’s been since about 2006, when weeks ahead of the contest I predicted that Lordi would win that year. The “armchair critics” or “self-proclaimed music experts” from Malta didn’t take me seriously then and the people who can really make a difference in Malta haven’t heard what I’ve been saying all these years now. Apparently that can’t really do much about what I’m saying either.

Anyway, good thing I didn’t come to Düsseldorf just to follow the Maltese act, otherwise I’d be stuck in what is not a particularly interesting part of Germany until the weekend. The events we lined up from the Eurovision Research Network for this year start tomorrow and I hope to blog a little about that in the coming days too.

Meanwhile if you’re only interested in Malta’s entry at the Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps you’d rather hear the comments I gave to Marlene Galea at the Maltese service of SBS Radio in Australia after Malta once again failed to qualify for the ESC final.

If There’s Any Justice in the World

Once again I find myself in a European city in May for the annual Eurovision Song Contest. This year we’re in Düsseldorf, Germany. If I’m to be honest, this year I’m here almost exclusively for the Eurovision Research Network (ERN). We’ve organized three events this year: our annual symposium, our annual round-table, and the final of three workshops in the ‘New’ Europe series, which started last February at Royal Holloway, University of London.

I know that most of my regular blog readers are not surprised by any of this, but you’re also expecting me to engage with the annual context, from a Maltese perspective, with a slightly less academic approach. So, I will try not disappoint you. Perhaps I’ll blog some more about the ERN later this week, once Malta is either no longer in the contest or while I get a respite before I blog about how miraculous it is that Malta has returned to the final without first establishing a significant pan-European presence for either it’s entry and/or the performer it selected to represent it.

So, in the spirit of not voting for your own country, I give you my personal picks for the 10 qualifying songs in the ESC 2011 Semifinal 1, which will take place tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at 9pm CEST. I’m factoring in various prediction factors and a little of my personal experience with the Eurovision Song Contest…so this will undoubtedly be a very subjective and relative selection.

I don’t think this will make it to the final but I firmly believe it belongs in my top 10 picks for this year’s first semifinal. I’d probably like it more if it wasn’t sung in English.

This year’s Turkish song has almost the same effect on me as the Albanian one. If only one of the two make it to the final, it’ll certainly be this one, even though the other sounds a little more sincere to me.

An obvious throwback to the swinging ’60s a la Austin Powers. I can’t see Eurovision fans not liking this one – and it looks amazing live in the arena.

One of the most interesting songs from a musical perspective and if offers a good alternative to most of the other songs in this year’ semifinal 1. However, I admit that I’ve rarely not liked Georgia’s ESC entry.

Can you honestly imagine a Eurovision Song Contest final without Russia? Now that would be a real shocker.

I’d be very surprised if Iceland’s song didn’t make it to the final this year. If it doesn’t it’ll certainly mean the end of an era…but this is Eurovision so I expect it to get through simply because it appeals considerably to the main demographic for this show’s audience.

Very catchy melody and exactly the sort of song you expect at Eurovision. This sort of thing is often hit or miss, but in relation to the songs its competing against it stands a very good chance.

If there’s any justice in the world, Evelina Sašenko’s C’est Ma Vie will become a Eurovision classic…but perhaps it’s now a couple of decades or so too late. It’s the most beautiful new pop ballad I’ve heard in a very long time. This song gave me goosebumps the first time I heard Evelina sing it live in the Esprit Arena. What a stand-out! If Andrew Lloyd Webber had written a song as good as this for Jade Ewen, the UK would have won ESC 2009.

A favourite with the bookmakers and it’s very spectacular live in the arena. You can still catch some of that spectacle on TV but perhaps the singers leave a little to be desired for those you seek something worthy of the spectacle and the honey sweet musical arrangement.

I can’t imagine a final without a Greek entry but stranger things have happened at the Eurovision Song Contest. Bringing in hip-hop in Greek is a brave and bold move, the type I wish the Maltese would take, so I’ll be watching this one closely to see whether my hunch is more than just that.

Keep in mind that at least four of the top acts tipped to win the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest are not taking part in the first semifinal along with Malta and the rest of the songs presented on Tuesday.

DISCLAIMER: The “predictions” made in this blog post are for your amusement only. I’m pretty sure that these will not be the 10 countries whose songs will actually qualify for Saturday’s final.

CLAIMER: I’ll be greatly amused to see how many of my 10 picks are also the ones that will be seen/heard again on Saturday.

I Can

Show notes for the 255th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast featuring music by performers from or in Malta:

RelikcTake the Blame
This band has been a favourite of MMI podcast listeners since they first appeared a couple of years ago. I like their tight pop rock sound and they are quite radio friendly. Come the end of the this year, I have a feeling that this track will be among the highest ranking listeners’ picks for 2011 singles, or whichever category I’ll have nominated it for.

TroffaHamra y los MechonesIn the Streets of Barcelona
It’s not often that I play music in my podcast that surprises me as pleasantly as I’ve been by the sound of this Barcelona-based outfit. The connection with Malta comes in the Troffa Ħamra in the name of the band, who is none other than Ruth Abela, perhaps best known for playing clarinette with Brikkuni or sax with The I-Skandal. The bossa nova you hear here, along with the other tracks they’ve released on their MySpace page are simply delightful.

Genn & MayoPrincesses In Dungarees
Annemarie Mayo and Janice (that’s Genn to you) Ellul came together as a duo after meeting in the ŻĦN’s Strummin’ Home annual concert a couple of years ago. With a little help from some friends (including some musicians from Relikc) they’ve made some public appearances as well as recorded some tracks, including the one you can hear on this week’s podcast. Mayo’s voice is the first of two great new voices on the Malta music scene. I hope to hear (and share with you) more of this in the coming months and years.

Monobrow MPWet Roads
A couple of weeks ago this duo released a limited edition of their online only 5-track EP featuring what is clearly some of their best work, even though most of it is their version of songs you already know (and possibly like) from worldwide stars; their version of Gnarls Barkley’s Who’s Gonna Save My Soul is blindingly good. Since I so rarely play covers on the MMI podcast, I thought I’d pick Wet Roads instead since I’ve been assured that it’s actually one of their original songs. Still, I think I’ll include their Gnarls Barkley cover on a future edition of the MMI podcast anyway.

Divine SinnersCactus Rose
I’ve been fascinated by the DIY, almost simplistic, sound of this duo. I was therefore thrilled to see that they’ve now even extended this to a new video for one of their songs. It’s a superb rendition of life on a Gozitan farm today, even if there’s very much a firm tongue in cheek approach to the whole thing.  Watch the video and if, like me, you like this brand of quasi-anarcho-folk you’ll certainly appreciate that this band is on its way to make an indelible mark on the local music scene.

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 enjoy listening to the podcast on the player right below this text.