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Watch: Tribali back to their roots

Tribali are back with one of their massive signature concerts, this time to celebrate the launch of the fourth album Raba’. Ramona Depares caught up with Peter Paul, Antoine and Eliza to hear all about it.

The year was 2004 and a few friends were casually jamming on a beach, just enjoying each other’s company while translating all the sensory experiences gained while travelling into music.

At that point, if anyone were to tell them that this jamming session would eventually lead to the birth one of Malta’s biggest music phenomena, they probably would have been somewhat sceptical.

Yet, here we are 14 years later and Tribali pretty much rules when it comes to world music in Malta. Back then, world music was something of question mark. Malta was to experience a new chapter in locally-produced music, a chapter that would initially baffle some – but that would later gain previously inexperienced popularity on the island.

“Our first jams were on the beach, at Riviera. Our friends and acquaintances seemed to enjoy these sessions and we allowed ourselves to be convinced to organise a more formal gig, a boat party. At this stage it was very much a loose group of people, but gradually we gained more structure and Tribali was formally born.”

This is how Antoine, percussionist, who has been with the band since day one, describes the early days of what would become one of Malta’s biggest bands. Peter Paul interjects:

“I hadn’t even joined the band back then! Antoine and I knew each other vaguely, through friends of friends. We were all travelling quite a bit, it was that period of time when everyone was doing long-term backpacking. Eventually, we all found ourselves back in Malta; we had already agreed to talk about working together on a more official project and... Tribali was born!”

Up till then, most of the music was the result of improvisations. Now, the dynamic changed with structured rehearsals and definite band members. The improvisations continued, but the end result was also refined into solid tracks and, eventually, recordings.

“At the time, most people in Malta hadn’t even heard of the didgeridoo. Typical reactions would be: what on earth is that? But then, when they heard the music, most would be won over. Nowadays, anyone who is into music is at least familiar with the didgeridoo, and a number of bands have incorporated it into some of their music. Not back then...”

Whether it was the fact that it all sounded so exotic, or it was all thanks to the band’s sheer energy and charisma on stage, Tribali didn’t take too long to become one of the most sought-after bands on the island. A series of high-octane gigs was followed by the launch of debut album Tribali, followed by Elephants of Lanka, The Traveller and Festa.

Awards poured in before long – several Malta Music Awards, raving global press reviews and international gigs, including Byron Bay Bluesfest, Glastonbury and Ancient Trance World.

And now comes Tribali’s eagerly-anticipated fourth album, Raba’, a return to the band’s roots that is undoubtedly making all fanboys and fangirls squee with delight. Complete with trademark vibrant artwork, the work of Andrew Cachia of Panda Design, the album includes all those sounds and beats that the band has become synonymous with, as well as – wait for it – a track in Maltese.

ElizaEliza

I meet up with three of the members – Peter Paul, Antoine and Eliza – at the band’s rehearsal space in San Ġwann. The others, Liam, Andrew and Nikki, still haven’t arrived yet, but there’s already a vibe happening. Peter Paul is casually jamming on the Hang, an instrument that is a bit like a drum but that was only produced in limited numbers.

Antoine is reminiscing about the band’s early days, telling me how he literally saw both the band and his daughter grow together. Eliza is chatting to me about how she was keen to introduce the Maltese language to Tribali’s new album, a choice that – judging by what I’m hearing – is working out exquisitely. “Tribali is family,” Peter Paul tells me.

“It’s not just about being in a band, the commitment is considerable. If you just show up, rehearse for a couple of hours and then leave, then it just would’t work out.” How so? Antoine jumps in with a: “The band does take priority for all of us. We’ve all had to make sacrifices in our personal lives and our careers in order to help Tribali grow into what it is today.”

Eliza nods, adding that the spontaneous jams – which often lead to the best-loved tracks – just wouldn’t happen if all the band members were not on the same wavelength when it came to band matters. The band rehearses together, jams together and also spends a lot of time away from Malta together, given the intensive gig circuit that they play (more international dates will be announced after the upcoming concert).

I turn the topic back to Raba’, and remark that they really seem to have taken the whole Maltese language thing to heart. They all nod enthusiastically, adding that they were immediately taken by the idea of Raba’ as a name, because of its ambiguous meaning and mellifluous sound.

“It also ties in with the artwork, which is kind of a mandala and very in keeping with what Tribali stands for,” Eliza says. And what Tribali stands for is exactly what this album is all about, as all three musicians assure me that – after having carried out considerable experimentations with their previous albums – this new recording truly encapsulates the sounds that the band is loved for. “Those who have been following us since our debut album was launched will realise that, to some extent, this is a return to our grassroots. We’ve evolved, of course. We use many more diverse instruments todays, the lineup has changed, vocals have become an integral part of our works...but at the bottom of it all, we are the same Tribali.

Peter PaulPeter Paul

We’ve come full circle,” Peter Paul tells me. He isn’t lying. From the very first track, Moal Boal, it feels as though I’m transported back to what I call the old-school Tribali days, the eclectic sounds a fusion of percussions, traditional wind and string instruments and vocals... crowned by an incredible feel-good vibe that somehow transcends all the tracks, including the mellower ones.

So what can we expect of the concert, set to take place on July 4? A festa of course, typical of everything that Tribali has come to stand for – an amazing audio-visual show, the band giving it their all on stage, colours, joy, dance and revelry.

And afterwards, fans will be able to chill with the band. Because a Tribali concert is never just about performing a few tracks and going back home; it’s more of a way of life, as those who attend regularly will attest to.

Tribali perform on July 4 at the Greek Theatre, Ta’ Qali. Tickets are available online. www.ticketline.com; http://tribalimusic.com/  

This interview first appeared on Sunday Circle.

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