Year in Pop – Part 6: The Malta Scene
With the Song for Europe contest and the Malta Music Awards fresh in our minds, we all now know there is a lot of musical talent flourishing in Malta. Eric Montfort views the local successes of the past 12 months in his latest review of 2012.
There was no looking back for many Maltese talents last year. As in previous years, there was a hive of activity, with so many CDs, downloads and other digital/online presentations proliferating. This is the result of our parallel developments in IT and in education too. The versatility that one finds in our scene right now is incredible. However, again, it was the songwriters that really stood out. Claire Tonna released The Port, a debut album that showed the fruits of her experiences and her maturity. It is significant that such an artiste also drew praises from Martin Moore and Joanne Kennedy, two American folk-roots talents who performed in Malta last October, as well as the American ambassador to Malta, H.E. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who described Claire as artiste who can follow the footsteps of Joan Armatrading.
Stalko’s Grandiloquence was also another high-calibre album which fused roots, off-the-kilter melodies and a sense of precociousness that few other local talents have done lately. Big Band Brothers did some Maltese standard classics in their own swing, roots and jazz style with their album release Ftakar and Red Electrick released an unplugged album. Brikkuni released their sophomore album called Trabokk and showed how much their DIY style has matured. They also confirmed their creativity on their Ufficcju video release. Here is also another aspect of Maltese music that has also taken off with some encouraging results. Airport Impressions, Negative Spaces, Adie and Cable 35 all displayed verve and imagination on their videos.
Over the years, more Maltese talents have been trying their luck abroad. Carrie Haber has somehow managed to wade through the stiff competition that she has faced in London and last year, she released an EP. Former Shostakovich Nightmare drummer, Benny Camilleri teamed up with British band The Red Model and they delivered a fine local performance last December. They were supported by The Clandestines, who on their part, also showed how much of a tight trio they are. Beangrowers kept their annual date but their spin-off project, Bark Bark Disco has also been making waves lately. Melissa Portelli became Mel Xkeyfa and she also changed her looks and a little bit of direction from her days with Chasing Pandora when she released her debut EP.
This was also a year which saw a few collaborations, with Martin McNeill and The Dissidents recording and releasing their debut album in Malta. This release also featured one young Alex Alden, who can be described as a talent that gets as close as one can get to Scottish revelation Amy MacDonald. Winter Moods collaborated with Joseph Calleja on Miss You. Sadly, their former guitarist and founder member Steve Caruana-Smith passed away last October. Nicky Bomba released High Grade in Australia and in the UK, the half-Maltese, half-English Lauren Aquilina captivated audiences in the UK and Europe during her performances. Just 17, Lauren has been composing and delivering her own, original songs that show a sense of belonging and maturity, with her vocal inflexions providing a unique atmosphere. She is also the first talent of Maltese descent to hit the British Top 10 albums charts, since Sharleen Spiteri, thanks to her EP Fools.
The dance scene in Malta remained very strong, and Tenishia ended up figuring in the world-wide Top 50 DJ list. There were also interesting projects from Toby, Owen Jay and J-Joy among many other veterans as well as young hopefuls in this scene. Angelcrypt, Weeping Silence, Colourblind and Aces Shade kept the fire burning in our hard rock scene, in their own respective genres and spheres.
On a totally different plane, The Malta Song for Europe spawned a winner who again faced tough luck at the Eurovision Finals. Kurt Calleja with This is The Night hit a brick wall in Baku, Azerbaijan and KulTural won this year’s Ghanja tal-Poplu with Malta Tieghi. There were also a few interesting festivals, notably Ghanafest, Ghanja fuq il-Barrakka and Sickfest, which accents indie-rock, as does the Nil By Mouth Sessions and Lissen. The latter event was held at Corradino last September and saw an interesting array of local talents exuding cutting-edge folk roots, with all songs delivered in Maltese. It may have not attracted the thousands that Joe Calleja attracts, but it did generate a lot of hope for more similar audacious presentations. On a different note, Voices and Strumming Home kept their appointments and delivered to expectations, raising considerable amount of euros for charity.