Two major milestones in Maltese music broadcasts
This month, Malta’s music broadcasting scene marks two milestones with Toni Sant’s 300th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast and Michael Bugeja’s 100th edition of Rockna. Ramona Depares picks their brain about the evolution of the local musicscape and about M3P, a collaborative multimedia database of Maltese music and associated arts.
Those who know what’s what when it comes to Maltese musicians and bands will tell you that there are two people to follow.
One of them is our music correspondent, Michael Bugeja, who also runs a weekly music radio show called Rockna on Radio 101, featuring interviews and live music.
The other is Toni Sant, of Mużika Mod Ieħor fame, the only regular web podcast dedicated to music by Maltese artists and bands.
Next week, Rockna reaches its 100th broadcast while Mużika Mod Ieħor turned 300 (episodes) on June 9.
Together, the two series of broadcasts offer a means for enthusiasts to keep themselves updated about local artists and releases that are not necessarily covered on mainstream radio shows in Malta.
Mużika Mod Ieħor goes a step further; Sant keeps an online archive of all past podcasts, or poddati as he prefers to call them. This archive is also available to those who visit his site www.tonisant.com. Bugeja tells me that this will also be the next step for Rockna.
“Rockna started out focusing on band interviews; at first I only played recorded music. The turning point came four months into the schedule, when Danish musician Jesper Ejrup came on the show with an acoustic line-up featuring several Maltese musicians.
The live performance worked beautifully, but I was totally sold on the idea only after Claire Tonna’s performance a couple of months later. She served as a catalyst, and since then I’ve always tried to get bands to perform live on the show,” Bugeja says.
Despite the name Rockna – an amalgamation of the words ‘rock’ and ‘tagħna’ (our rock music) – Bugeja takes a wide approach and the show has also included folk, rap, punk, metal and world music, and just a couple of weeks ago, the show also featured an electronic act.
“The listeners are enjoying this concept of unplugged sessions and there have been several memorable ‘performances’.
Nicky Bomba springs to mind; this artist is the ultimate one-man-show. Brikkuni’s session was also a blast, but then again most shows tend to be, mainly because of the spontaneity which also goes down a treat with the radio audience.”
For Bugeja, one of the biggest breakthroughs he’s witnessed on the local music media scene in the past 15-odd years, occurred thanks to Scream Daisy’s year 2000 hit Room 7.
“This was the first ‘recent’ track by a Maltese band that received extensive airtime on local radio stations. Listeners went crazy over it. Suddenly, radio stations seemed to realise that there was a lot of good material coming out of the Maltese music scene.”
Sant agrees, but for him the catalyst was punk band Xtruppaw, which he says were responsible for starting a generational shift that inspired him to start his Mużika Mod Ieħor podcasts.
“The first track on my first poddata in 2005 was theirs. I had originally heard of them a couple of years earlier while living in the US.
What marked them out wasn’t the fact that they sing in Maltese, it was more that they understood the limits of their scope. They didn’t have a burning ambition to conquer the whole world and this kept their music real and dependable.”
Together with R.A.S., BNI, Pupi tal-Logħob and punk festival Festaħwid, Xtruppaw gave rise to a new community of raw music.
Despite the differences in style, Sant compares the influence they left on the scene to that of the late Dominic Grech, whose group The Tramps has gone down in the annals of Malta’s music legends – and whose hit Xemx, incidentally, is currently enjoying a massive revival with the younger generation thanks in part to Xtruppaw’s notorious interpretation and to writer Ġuże Stagno’s pop novel Xemx Wisq Sabiħa.
“Grech had a significant impact on Maltese pop culture but the extent of his contribution still needs to be properly acknowledged. The Tramps and Xtruppaw are as culturally significant as, say, the poet Dun Karm. To mention one example, I have yet to see a more effective commentary about the famed Maltese pika (petty pique) than Xtruppaw’s L-Innu ta’ San Ċipress. But Malta rarely acknowledges these influences on our heritage.
“I suppose this is the tragedy of democracy, the fact that the creative minority is not represented. Hence, my poddati.”
Sant thinks of his podcasts as a way of aiding the preservation of public memory in the absence of national audio-visual archives. This role of digital curator is very close to his heart as a professional academic.
And now, both Sant and Bugeja, along with a handful of like-minded individuals, are set to take this role of ‘digital curators’ a step further, thanks to a recently-launched project called ‘Malta Music Memory Project’ (M3P).
This project is co-ordinated by the M3P foundation, a purposely established organisation, with support from the Malta Arts Fund, the National Archives and the University of Hull, UK.
“There are so many artists who left their mark on our music heritage, but for whom we have no records. Take the now defunct Lesser Gods, whose members all shared a sterling reputation from their work with other well-known bands. Absolutely no public record of their work exists except for the fragments that were captured sporadically during the year or so the band was active,” Sant said.
M3P addresses this problem by taking the shape of an open-source, online database that serves as an ongoing exercise for archiving and cataloguing all Maltese music and associated arts, both locally and abroad.
The project runs on the same principle as Wikipedia; anyone can add records, interviews, visuals or other material related to music. With the M3P foundation spearheading the foundation, Sant and Bugeja hope that before too long the M3P will take on a life of its own, propelled by the momentum of continuous contributors.
“The idea is not to limit it to those who became notable or famous but to acknowledge and to document the work of anyone, past, present or future who contributes to Maltese music,” Sant said.
For more information about the M3P, visit www.m3p.com.mt.
Follow Toni Sant’s weekend Mużika Mod Ieħor podcasts on www.tonisant.com. Michael Bugeja’s Rockna is broadcast on Radio 101 every Friday at 7.15 p.m.