Stalko, repeatedly

I’m the first one to tell u I’m addicted to anything that comes with the prefix “tech”. And that ends in “nology”. Anything that makes life easier or more fun – or maybe that just offers us a new avenue of time-wasting possibilities, some would say – is welcome to my world. After all, where would we be without the home coffee-machine, the universal remote control, the dishwasher, the smart phone and cable TV?

For someone who is into music as much as I am, it has also facilitated the pursuit of this passion. From receiving my very first Walkman (remember that?) from my parents at the age of ten, on which I played Fivelandia tapes with Christina d’Avena’s whiny, nasal voice. On to the advent of portable CD players – wow, no need to shove the tapes back into the cassette using a pencil tip! To the happy day I discovered the iPod and eventually the iPod Touch. And a happy day it was indeed. Sixty-four gigs of music always with me, wherever I go. Wow.

So yes, thank you technology.

However, it only occurred to me this week that we have sacrificed quite a lot of experiences at the altar of technology. While making the availability of the actual music much more widespread, technology has also distanced us from the reality of the raw deal. We are so used to just enjoying the polished product that music in the raw has become somewhat of a rare phenomenon. This is true not just when we’re listening to a CD, which naturally comes packaged in all the sparkle and the fanfare that our sophisticated (or spoilt) senses have come to expect. It’s equally true at live and even unplugged performances to a certain extent. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing; if anything, on the rare occasion that the beauty of the raw music is brought back home to us, it makes the whole experience even more worthwhile.

One such rare experience was indie folk band Stalko’s series of intimate gigs earlier this week. And by intimate, I really mean it. Each session hosted 25 people max, pretty much in someone’s living room. We got unplugged and we got a capella, We got one hour of raw emotion, raw music, raw everything in fact. And we all loved it. There is something about creating music without the benefit of mikes and all the electronic paraphernalia that makes the experience that much more, dare I say it, spiritual.

So kudos to the lads on a number of levels. Kudos for the music itself obviously, for creating something that touches our souls whether presented with or without the packaging. And kudos for having the guts to go through all the hassle of organising this series of intimate gigs. Had they taken the easy way out and organised yet another “normal” performance, the audience response would have been equally enthusiastic. The fact they didn’t and that they instead chose to give us this unique experience, is what sets them apart.

A number of elements contributed to make the event a definite highlight for all those present. For the first time at a Stalko gig, I could clearly make out the actual lyrics – wordsmith Simone Spiteri has a talent for bringing out the pathos in every verse. Thanks to the size of the audience we were all sitting pretty up close and personal to the musicians, which also brought out the visual aspect of the music and allowed us to follow every single instrument and every single voice. A capella singing, when done well, is always extremely beautiful and the gig also made it possible for us to appreciate the rather impressive vocal range of these lads. I have to say my favourites of the night were Lady Laundry – in Maltese, which somehow carries more emotion than the English version – Liquify and In A Hurry.

So yes, sometimes eschewing technology’s trappings can be a good thing. But it’s always fun to come back to the real world – and thus I urge you to view Stalko’s new video, In A Hurry (link above) . Evocative and haunting is one way to describe it. And without the technology, we certainly wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.

This post was published on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta).

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