Ramona Depares http://www.ramonadepares.com Life with a dash of zing Mon, 28 Sep 2015 13:09:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 Marc Storace Part II: Getting Personal http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/08/31/marc-storace-part-ii-getting-personal/ Mon, 31 Aug 2015 07:50:27 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4740 Marc Storace - RmC Tempdrom Bremen 3-15-15 cYour fondest Malta memories as a child?

I couldn`t think of a better place to have grown up. In my days, the traffic flow was still bearable, in spite of uncontrolled exhaust fumes. We roller-skated in the streets or along the endless Sliema promenade all the way to the Rocky-Vale skating-rink in St.Julian`s.

Our beach, the Exiles, was a haven for fishing, snorkelling, canoeing and socialising. The juke-box in the Wild Swan Bar on my street corner blared out current hits, from Little Richard and Elvis to the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Local teddy boys and teddy girls jived and rock`n`rolled whilst I sat outside watching, listening and licking ice on a hot summer evening.


What do you listen to in your spare time?

Depends on my mood. Sometimes I enjoy the sweet sound of bird song as much as I enjoy listening to old-school rock. In between reading, watching movies, documentaries, chatting and singing, I don`t find that much time left to listen to as much music as I used to lately.

When I do, my taste varies from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd, from blues to reggae, jazz to classic and oldies.


Do you follow the Maltese music scene?

The latest Maltese act to catch my attention was Red Electrik. Amongst others, I also like Airport Impressions, Winter Moods, The Riffs and Characters and Ira Losco does a super job too. They are commercial acts and the music sounds good and emits deep emotional energy. And Joseph Calleja makes me very proud.



What is your secret for rocking on for the best part of five decades?

I`m sure it`s my profession and attitude to life which has kept me going this long. I feel young at heart and adore my wife`s healthy cooking!


How true was the famed ‘sex, drugs & rock’n’roll’ lifestyle of 1980s singers?

It was pretty real, not just for singers but for whole bands and for that whole generation. But the truth is, it did not start or stop in the 1980s did it? It`s a necessary human thing, going back to ancient times and tribal culture, for people to get together and celebrate.

A hard-working society needs to find time to wind down and dance together. Watching movies and listening to good music at home is all good. But we all need to socialise and let off steam together. The main thing is not to go over the top!

You first moved to London in your 20s – what was the biggest culture shock for you at the time?

It was my first time away from the shelter of my parents` home. I suddenly found myself fighting to keep up with all things new that life threw at me. Commuting to my day job, rehearsals, going out on dates, doing household chores, paying rent…it suddenly became exhaustingly unreal and I got homesick.

I was contemplating on returning home when destiny provided me with a sweet chance to visit Switzerland…and the rest is history.


You settled in Switzerland not long after leaving Malta and you stayed there – what attracts you to this country?

Switzerland gave me the opportunity to sing in central Europe. I was embraced by local rock musicians for my singing and ability to write lyrics in English. The more I felt at home. In the meantime, I learnt to speak the Swiss-German language fluently and became fully integrated. Today, I live here with my wife Cornelia and our two children Luca and Giuliana.


How do your children deal with the fact their dad is a rockstar? Do they show any signs of following in your footsteps?

As toddlers, they used to walk around proudly wearing backstage passes, ear-plugs and Krokus t-shirts at concerts. They listened to pop and rock. This went on until their early teens, when they suddenly became influenced by what their friends were listening to, which was mainly rap. We bought Luca (now 22) a drumset at a very early age and he still plays it, 17 years on. We sent Giuliana (20) to piano lessons, but she later dropped piano for singing. She enjoys singing very much and has a good voice. We always encouraged them to keep music as a hobby until they have their diplomas. Time will tell.

Marc Storace will be performing during Rockestra on September 12 at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali. Tickets are available online.






Marc Storace: The King is Back http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/08/31/marc-storace-the-king-is-back/ Mon, 31 Aug 2015 07:46:42 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4734 KROKUS - doppelseite_bandfoto KopieTogether with Krokus, the band he co-founded, he plays to sold-out venues across Europe and the US, even as pop queen Rihanna rocks his band t-shirt on stage. I interviewed Marc Storace ahead of his participation in this year’s edition of Rockestra. This interview first appeared on the August 2015 issue of Sunday Circle.

He is undoubtedly Malta’s biggest rock export and – some four decades after he packed his bags for London and, eventually, Switzerland – his music still mobilises thousands, playing to sell-out venues in Europe and beyond.
He is Marc Storace, co-founder of platinum-selling rock outfit Krokus and one of the few men who are living proof that rock, indeed, is not dead. And now, a full nine years after Krokus performed to a packed Old Power Station in Floriana, Storace is back in his home country to set the stage of Rockestra on fire.
Rockestra, in case you’ve been hibernating for these past seven-odd years, is one of the major fixtures in Malta’s music calendar. Organised by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund, it combines classical, pop and rock music, giving a different twist to well-loved favourites and featuring a number of top names from the local music scene.
Storace himself was meant to take part in last year’s edition, but scheduling problems meant that his involvement had to be postponed to this year – and it’s an involvement, he assures me, that he is very much looking forward to.
“I jumped at the opportunity to perform with our national orchestra and with some of my country’s talented musicians, all for a good cause,” he says.
But will it be his signature energy-driven, Krokus-style performance – or should we expect something mellower? The answer, fans will be happy to know, is the former.
2015 Krokus - Arcada Theatre ST.CHARLES 5-1-15 Marc 1“I always perform physically-demanding rock songs that ask for vocal energy. For Rockestra, orchestral arrangements are in Wayne Grima’s capable hands; his arrangements have already echoed inside London`s mighty Royal Albert Hall. Sigmund Mifsud will, as usual, direct and inspire the whole shebang with his endless passion. But the rest is up to the audience. Because nothing will stop an enthusiastic Maltese crowd from turning Ta`Qali into a bubbling cauldron of free-spirited fun. That’s what it is all about.”
And his multitude of fans certainly agree. It is evident that – despite being absent from the island for years – Storace’s local following has continued gaining ground. Despite regular private visits to Malta, which included jams with local musicians at the former BJ`s in Paceville, the 2006 concert was the first time Krokus actually performed in Malta. This was followed immediately by a gig at the Nadur carnival in Gozo the following year. Fans lapped both up. And, by the look of things, Storace’s Rockestra performance will be no less rocking.
Of course, Storace is no stranger to the fusion of rock and classical. The singer was born in a family of classical musicians. His parents are opera aficionados (his mother played piano music for him even while still in her womb, while his father sang as tenor), while his older sister Edith is a classical musician and teacher.
“I still listen to classical when I need switching off, to relax and let my fantasies flow. Preferably accompanied by a good glass of red and candlelight. Classical orchestras add much colour and emotion to a basic rock song,” Storace says.
And when it comes to colour and emotion, Storace’s band Krokus has aplenty. Since the band reunited with the original line-up in 2007 (Swiss founder-member and bassist Chris Von Rohr, lead guitar player Fernando Von Arb, Mark Kohler on rhythm guitar and Freddie Steady on drums) it’s been a whirlwind of record releases and tours.

And, fresh from last year’s live-album release Longstick Goes Boom, the group has been touring ever since. A look at the guys’ 2014/2015 schedule reads like a geography textbook, with The Caribbean, the Bahamas, various locations in the US, North America, the Czech Republic, Barcelona and Madrid on the list of pitstops.
“We performed 19 Concerts within circa 25 days in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. This year we have played more new territories; it`s amazing how heartily new fans react to our music. Seems like hard rock is really the best stress-buster.”
In the meantime, there are also murmurings about possible new recordings and projects, as Storace reveals that the band will soon be meeting up with Sony Music in Zürich “to make concrete plans out of ideas we have floating in the air”.
Added to this, Storace himself is taking part in Test, a rock-opera that will premier in Basel, Switzerland, in February.
“I have a main part in which I play a down and out 130-year-old man called Luke. Yes, that’s right, 130 years old.”
To say that Storace’s schedule looks busy is an understatement. At this point, I can’t help but wonder: how does it feel to have pop icons like Rihanna showing off a Krokus tee? If that isn’t a real case of the opposites, then I don’t know what is.
“Yes it is, but she`s a great singer and gives us free publicity. If she feels cool wearing a vintage Krokus t-shirt on stage, that – by the way – was sketched by yours truly in the 1980s, I say… go ahead Rihanna! Just do it!”
And yet, Krokus’s steady stream of successes far from made Storace forget his roots. Krokus’s latest album cover finds the star wearing a tee-shirt with the Maltese cross. He still speaks, reads and writes the language fluently and makes it a point to return almost every year.
“I hate staying away too long, because I love seeing my family and old friends. They help to charge my batteries.”
As far the oft-repeated question, will we see Krokus playing in Malta any time soon, Storace’s reply is simple.
“I can only say we are waiting for someone to come forward. One of my dreams is for someone from Malta or Gozo to come forward and book us for a mega-historic show before it`s too late. Maltese fans long to see and hear and meet us all. They deserve to witness the original members of this historic band before the sands of time make it impossible.”
Rockestra takes place on September 12 at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali. Tickets are available online.

Read more about Marc Storace here.



Mana Tapu: The Maltese Road to Zion http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/06/05/mana-tapu-the-maltese-road-to-zion/ Fri, 05 Jun 2015 10:47:03 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4724

A review of the debut EP, Timpana, ahead of the band’s summer gig schedule. First published on the Sunday Times of Malta.
timpanaIt’s difficult to categorise and label Mana Tapu’s EP, amusingly named Timpana. This band’s music might be rooted in reggae and ska, but it also draws inspiration from a host of other sounds and genres that run the gamut from funk to blues, a little bit of punk and even that latino vibe. And it does so successfully, making Timpana an incredibly fun fusion. In fact, if I were asked to describe the sound of summer and good vibes I’d say that this band encapsulates it pretty neatly.

As bands go, Mana Tapu  is pretty eclectic; the six-piece outfit is made up of Maltese musicians Frans Darmanin on bass and Dario Vella C on vocals and guitar, with Pupachile on vocals and lyrics; Jogy Bo on vocals,  guitars and lyrics; Tete (aka Camacho Criminal) on vocals; and Andrew McGrath on drums adding the international flavour. The amount of band members is reflected in the richness of its music; each track boasts multi-layered arrangements, with some of the intros kicking off simply and escalating into a kaleidoscope of  vibrant sounds soon enough.

The band started out playing casual acoustic jams on our beaches some three years ago. After winning the Rookies and the Hard Rock Cafe battles of the bands, Mana Tapu grew into the outfit that was responsible for some pretty memorable gigs last summer. And now, as the musicians gear up for what seems to be a pretty hectic season of gigging, comes this six-track, multi-lingual EP, in Maltese, English, Spanish and a spattering of French.

The list kicks off with the light-hearted B’Naqra Paċenzja, its catchy intro bringing to mind beachside bonfires and lazy Maltese evenings. The lyrics reflect this; it’s all about sweaty sessions rehearsing in the garage, jamming by the sea and the sultry lifestyle that spells ‘summer’ for many of us. The track switches between Maltese and Spanish most intriguingly – not to mention astonishingly, especially considering that the vocalist is not Maltese. Strangely enough, the decidedly non-Maltese accent of the vocalist is endearing, as opposed to annoying.

Gangland is next, with an intro that spells a totally different mood – more laconic and somewhat darker, in keeping with the title of the track. With vocals in English (again switching to Spanish for particular verses) and laidback riffs derivative of rhythm and blues and a touch of calypso, this track creates a contrasting mood to the previous one, more latino lover than total freak out. This one wouldn’t be out of place in the funkiest bars of Havana – the Cuban capital, not the Maltese club.

Keep on Moving changes the mood yet again with an energetic, vocals-driven piece (again, in English and Spanish); if this were an analogy to a party, I’d say that this track signifies that time of the night when things are taken a notch higher, with the initially relaxed riffs growing more insistent, until you can’t help groove to the tune, or at least tap your feet a little bit.

Kanta R Rima is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Xtruppaw sound – energetic and catchy with its recurrent ‘Mana Tapu’ call – check out the video, which was just released last week to promote this year’s Malta Street Arts Festival, which this year moves from Sliema to Valletta. It will give you a good indication of what to expect from a typical Mana Tapu gig.

The last two tracks on the EP,  Jah Gringo and Babylon Aside as the names suggest, show the strongest reggae credentials and both music and lyrics are a tribute to classic reggae . The last song, especially, will go down very well with fans of classic reggae and is a return to the roots of the genre, showcasing all those musical elements that make the genre such fun.

Mana Tapu will be performing live on the following dates and locations:

June 7 at Earth Garden, Roots Stage at Ta’ Qali, at 10pm;

July 26  at the Malta Street Art Festival, Valletta, Main Stage at 10pm;

August 2 at the Beer Festival on the Rock Stage at 10pm.




The new Avengers http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/05/11/the-new-avengers/ Mon, 11 May 2015 08:34:19 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4712 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

War Machine

As was inevitably going to happen, Avengers: Age Of Ultron has sparked all kinds of conversation and debate as to where the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes from here.

Boing Boing has posted an entire discussion on the film’s ‘Easter eggs’ and the Internet as a whole has basically picked the film apart in search of hints and clues about future projects.

But even with all this going on, there seems to be a curious lack of attention being paid to the very end of Age Of Ultron. Setting up next spring’s Captain America: Civil War, in which Captain America and Iron Man will oppose one another (presumably with respective allies of their own), the end of Age Of Ultron sees our superhero team splitting up. Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Hawkeye go their separate ways, leaving Black Widow and Captain America behind…. Only Black Widow and Captain America aren’t alone; they’re standing before a new crop of Avengers, evidently ready to be trained as Cap’s new team.

So who are they? Well, here’s a quick look back at the characters who are now new Avengers.

Scarlet Witch

If you saw Age Of Ultron, you’re pretty familiar with Scarlet Witch by now, given that the film included her backstory. Played pretty effectively by Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlet Witch is, as she was termed in Age Of Ultron, an ‘enhanced’—a mystic superhero created by Hydra experiments and meant to be a sort of anti-Avenger.

We may not have seen all there is to know about the Witch’s background. As noted recently by HitFlix, the Marvel comics are still changing her background and parentage. However, the Cinematic Universe seems to have settled for depicting her (and her twin brother Quicksilver) as a refugee child who gave herself up to Hydra to gain power to avenge her parents (who were killed in an attack conducted with Stark Industries weaponry). Now, however, she looks like a pretty valuable weapon for the Avengers. Having demonstrated powers that in ways might exceed those of all the other heroes, she’s officially a good guy, after watching her brother die defending the Avengers. Expect to see her as a main player from this point on.


What, exactly, is Vision? Well, if you’ve seen Age Of Ultron, you still may not be entirely sure, because that whole part of the film asked fans to take quite a bit for granted. Basically, he’s a super-sophisticated humanoid piece of artificial intelligence, designed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (with help from an Infinity Stone) to combat Ultron. The part of Vision was played by Paul Bettany, who, as Business Insider  remarked in an interesting article about how the role came to be, steals every scene he’s in.

Now, about that Infinity Stone… Given that these are the objects super villain Thanos seems to be after, and that future Avenger projects Avengers: Infinity War parts I and II are already announced, it seems the Stone will keep Vision relevant perhaps through the duration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

War Machine

The character who should be the most familiar of the new Avengers feels strangely forgotten, perhaps because he’s been played by two different men (first Terrence Howard, now Don Cheadle). Still, when you think back to Iron Man 2, he really was a pretty integral part of the action. War Machine appears on the cover art  of the film, and is even paired with Iron Man in a Betfair Casino, a video game based on the setting and events of Iron Man 2.

For those unfamiliar with the game, it employs comic art directly from the film to make its slot machine content more interesting, and it’s actually a surprisingly sharp reminder of how big War Machine’s role really was. He’s the silver Iron Man with a machine gun mounted on one shoulder.

Still, all that was a while back. Believe it or not it’s been five years since Iron Man 2, and while War Machine also featured in  Iron Man 3, he feels a bit lost in the shuffle at this point, and a couple forgettable scenes in Age Of Ultron didn’t quite stand up to the loud introductions of Scarlet Witch and Vision. Still, Cheadle has always been a fun foil to Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, and seeing them on opposing sides will be interesting moving forward.

Anthony Mackie’s Falcon character is the ‘new Avenger’  about which we seem to know the least, by a fairly wide margin. He actually had a pretty strong role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as a soldier who admires Captain America and ultimately becomes a sort of sidekick. Basically, he’s Captain America’s War Machine.

Judging by comments from Mackie before the release of Age Of Ultron, Falcon might continue to be a sort of fringe character moving forward, because even Mackie seems utterly unsure of where and when he’ll appear in future Marvel films. Although, if we are going to see more of him, a chunk of it will probably be in Civil War, since it’s technically a Captain America film and Mackie comes from that branch of the Cinematic Universe.

Craziest of all is the fact that Marvel isn’t done adding Avengers. Even later this summer, Ant-Man will be introduced and will likely appear in future Avenger films. But for now, these are the new Avengers, and we’d all best get used to them moving forward!


Life, not as we know it http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/05/08/life-not-as-we-know-it/ Fri, 08 May 2015 13:57:29 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4707 Staġun Teatru Malti’s upcoming production, Sibna ż-Żejt, presents a future Malta with more than one political difference. I interviewed script-writer Wayne Flask – an edited version of this interview was published on the Sunday Times of Malta.

The year is 2036. Joseph Muscat is still in power, more so than ever in fact. Democracy has morphed into what sounds like a benign dictatorship-cum-voluntary monarchy.
Oh, and former premier Dom Mintoff is also available for conference calls from the other side, as it were. The good news? Malta has finally struck oil and… err, well, that’s about it.
But don’t panic. This is not one of Angelik’s prophecies for our island. The scenario is the result of script-writer Wayne Flask’s imagination, him of Satiristan fame.
Satiristan, the Facebook page with the 3,000- strong following, was known for poking satirical fun at everything and everyone.
Now, through Sibna ż-Żejt, Flask turns that incisive wit to the theatre with a script that reads like a marriage between comic fantasy writer Tom Holt and Italian satirical show Blob.
How do you describe Sibna ż-Żejt?
It shows a future Malta, slightly dystopian, with the heavier focus being on comedy on politics – however, I didn’t want the message to be lost in too many layers of surrealism.
The script was created with the idea of making people laugh and anyone can follow the story.
Although the setting is political, the audience doesn’t need to be particularly conversant. Of course, beyond the comedy there is the message. I don’t hold back and, to put it in the vernacular, ma nħobbx niġbed is-saqajn meta nista’ niġbed il-widnejn.
Loosely translated, I don’t waste time with flippant jokes, when I can use well-targeted barbs, instead. The whole point of satire is to home in on its target.
The amusement factor is important, but if things stop there then there’s no point for it. Having said that, it is also possible to take the script at face value.

How did you get into satire?
Like many Maltese, I was brought up on a diet of Italian television. Some of my favourite shows were the satirical ones on Rai 3.
The journalists called a spade a spade; they didn’t shy away from attacking all political figures without fear or favour, despite the fact that the channel was owned by the party.
Then, the Berlusconi era hit and the way the press reacted when he tried to control the media was priceless. I admired this Italian cultural movement – it was not too highbrow, or pretentious.
On the contrary, it was extremely accessible and reached everyone. They weren’t part of ‘the accepted system’. I didn’t want to be part of this system either, and that’s how my passion for satire was born.
Sibna ż-Żejt is probably the first local fictional work to refer to current, real life personalities by name.

Do the potential repercussions worry you?
I discussed this at length with Mario Phillip Azzopardi, who is producing the play and Sean Buhagiar, the director.
At one point I did consider using fake names instead, but then we all realised that it would defeat the point of the play. I’m not really worried about it though… after all, it would be rather ironic were any negative consequences arise from it.
Though I have to say that the prospect of being exiled somewhere like Lanzarote has its appeal.
On a more serious note, though, one thing that I learnt when writing this script is that you have to learn to ‘love’ your ‘victims’. At one point, when writing, I realised that I was coming across as too angry.
Too much anger can alienate people. So I took a step back and decided to look at the story from a new angle.



Do you feel that the Maltese audience appreciates satire?
Yes. There was a time when I did feel that local satire was targeted towards the privileged few, those numbers who would ‘get it’. I wanted to avoid that and make the story accessible to the masses.
The humour is off-centre, true, but it is very approachable. Even if you’re only there for the laughs, you will still enjoy it.

Is it only politicians that are targetted?
No, because politics does not happen in a vacuum, even though many politicians seem to think that it does. I criticise the media, journalism, society and its workings…
There is a lot beyond politics that affects politics. One of the characters is a blogger and no, it’s not the obvious name, but a descendant.
This is more than 15 years into the future, after all. There’s also the Curia involved, the business class, some foreigners… and yes, China is there, too.
The main character remains that of Joseph Muscat, of course, played by Mario Micallef.

What was the biggest challenge when writing?
I started working on Sibna ż-Żejt about a year ago. Act 1 pretty much wrote itself, but in the second act I did have some niggling doubts.
Throughout the whole process I liaised a lot with Alex Vella Gera and there was one particular scene where we just couldn’t agree. Eventually, it fell into place on its own.
I have a fondness for the way the second act turned out. All the characters have established their quirks, but there is one particular one… let’s just say that were I ever to act, it would be the kind of character that I would write for myself.
He is all those people who mean well, those who are not tied down by petty party politics, all those who rise above the corruption.

What’s next for Wayne Flask?
A break. The idea is to eventually resume work on my novel, which will not be as heavily political as Sibna ż-Żejt.
Sibna ż-Żejt runs between May 15 and 24 at 8pm at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta.


Marmalja’s album launch http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/04/24/marmaljas-album-launch/ Fri, 24 Apr 2015 08:05:50 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4699



Marmalja’s debut album, titled Demm Ġdid Vol. 1 Dissett, has just landed. I caught up with the hip-hop outfit to hear about which toes the no-holds-bar duo have been stepping on.

When Claude ‘il-Lapes’ Agius’s and Andrea ‘Drinu’ Delicata’s daily hangouts in the Santa Margherita area of Mosta evolved into breaking beats and rapping together, they had no idea that years down the line their passion would have grown into Marmalja, one of the main names on Malta’s hip-hop scene.

“Our roots are truly under-ground. At first we only rapped for friends, on the street, at Higher Secondary… our following was a street following. Then, one day, I attended an open mic and this led to a collaboration with Jon Mallia, of No Bling fame. Suddenly our name was out there. We took part in the No Bling project Cafe Kristall and we became motivated to take Marmalja further,” il-Lapes tells me.

And take it further they did. Four years down the line they have just launched their debut album, Demm Ġdid Vol. 1 Dissett, which the duo describes as a “a mixture of tracks, some controversial, some nostalgic, some a powerful social commentary that will undoubtedly sting the people they are targetted at”. The album, which is supported by the Malta Arts Fund and produced by Niki Gravino, was preceeded by a single, Pressjoni, and accompanying video, which Marmalja produced together with Fabrizio Fenech and Crew.

“The whole album is the result of our efforts. Every single job related to Marmalja, we try to do ourselves. And if we have to outsource, like with the video, we collaborate with young, emerging artists. We like to work with like-minded people, particularly those who aren’t part of the mainstream,” says Drinu.

The video for Pressjoni is available online, as is Demm Ġdid – for free. While this might be an increasingly popular strategy with foreign indie artists, it is a departure from the current Maltese trends. What made them go for this option?

“We will be distributing a number of hard copies for free during our upcoming concert, but it’s a very limited number. We preferred making the album accessible to all those who are part of the underground scene and even anyone who might not be familiar with hip-hop yet.

“Also, the album is in Maltese, the language of the street, which remains so unappreciated from an artistic perspective that we also decided to raise awareness about this,” il-Lapes says.

This language thing is a sore point with the guys from Marmalja. The contemporary musicians and bands who use Maltese for their music are there, they acknowledge, and some of these also come with a strong following, albeit not necessarily on the mainstream scene. And here is where the problems start.


“Most radios refuse point blank to play songs in Maltese – it’s actually part of their policy. One of the directors of a popular station even went so far as to state this on television.

“Why does this happen? What is the reason that radios refuse to support our own language? The album also addresses this questions and others that, perhaps, have never been addressed so bluntly before.

“Demm Ġdid is also about the issues that require a voice. We wanted to provide that voice through a medium that we are passionate about – hip-hop, ” says Drinu.

And, indeed, the first time I hear the album this is the first thing that strikes me – the duo’s passion about the issues they talk about in each of the 12 tracks.

Santa Margherita is perhaps the least controversial one, the one that gives an intriguing explanation about where these guys are coming from and where they see themselves going.

It’s a track that all Mostin will certainly identify with and love, even if underground hip-hop is not quite their thing.


Then there’s Pressjoni, and even upon a first hearing I can see why il-Lapes and Drinu chose this as their first single. A heartfelt indictment of everything that is wrong with the system, it tells the listener – using beats that are sometimes melodic, sometimes harsh – about the duo’s disappointment with the way government operates without thought for the man in the street, the way capitalism is the new god of society, the way pre-packaged music receives the awards, while more creative artistes remain unacknowledged…

The track feels a bit like Marmalja are firing at every single way Maltese society every let them down.

Another strong entry is Din l-Art Ħelwa, a call-to-arms (in the metaphorical sense, of course) that uses a re-interpretation of our national anthem as its basis.

Again, the element of social commentary is strong and the track touches on various problems that mark the generation of new millennials.

These are but three of 12 entries that make up an album that is not afraid of showing its roots. The language is explicit, but not needlessly so and the impassioned pleas ring truthful.

“Underground rap gets bad press. Maybe because we like to express ourselves strongly, but that’s mostly because hip-hop is all about defending the underdog. All the tracks have that one element in common. And, of course, the underdog does win in the end, on our album anyway.

“The second album, which we are already working on, will be released in the near future and will have a more mellow sound,” the duo concludes.

Marmalja’s new album can be downloaded for free here.

Marmalja will be performing on April 25 at The British Legion, Valletta. They will be accompanied on stage by Dean Montanaro, Pete Galea, Glenn Montanaro, Nadine Fenech, Mandy Vella and Chris Vella. More details here.


Rock the South 2015: bigger & better http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/04/20/rock-the-south-2015-bigger-better/ Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:25:44 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4688 AIM

A review of the Friday and Saturday performances from this year’s Rock the South. With many thanks for the cover photo of RAS & other photos that were used on the Sunday Times of Malta to Sarah Falzon. 

To read reviews from Thursday click here and from Sunday here

Now in its fourth edition, Rock the South festival – bringing together a substantial amount of Malta’s top names from the indie and underground music scene across genres, together with some foreign names – enjoyed its biggest and busiest year so far this past weekend.

For the first time, the festival was held over four days instead of the customary three, kicking off on Thursday and going strong until Sunday night. Once again, the festival was held at Zion Reggae Bar in Marsaskala, which has established itself as the go-to place in this part of Malta for these kind of events. From an organisational perspective, the festival – organised by No Sweat Productions – has matured considerably and not only in terms of being longer and more diverse.

I found the setup this year to be significantly more effective and convenient. There were two stages, Orange and Blue;  bands alternated between one and the other, so that there were never two bands playing at the same time and those who wished to could actually follow every gig. The Blue stage this year was located at the very back of the grounds, which meant that sound checks did not even interfere with the ongoing gigs.

Another innovation was the introduction of the Silent Disco area, organised by Hedon Crew, with DJs performing in a small tent that was located away from the main stages. Why ‘silent’? The concept, where everyone listens to the music on wireless headphones,  is a simple but effective  one that has gained significant popularity in cities like London.

I believe that this is the first time it took place in Malta and I loved being able to remove my headphones and actually talk to others whenever I felt like, instead of having to shout over the decibels like at a normal club. I have to say, though, that I didn’t appreciate the amount of selfish souls who insisted on sneaking a smoke inside the limited space of the tent – though technically an outside area, let’s just say that it was not the height of etiquette.

for stings inn

For Strings Inn

My first day at the festival was Friday, when the Blue stage was mostly focused on bands singing in Maltese.  Our first language is really gaining ground on the alternative music front and any initiative that encourages this development is definitely to be applauded.  I missed Mistura, but Sempliċiment tat-Triq received as enthusiastic  a feeback as they had enjoyed during last year’s festival, with the audience – many of whom were not necessarily well-versed in hiphop) lapping it up loudly.

The next band I caught was Brodu, whose album Ħabullabullojb was one of this year’s revelations. Played live, their tracks lose none of their poignancy,  on the contrary, there is a certain added pathos, occasionally lightened by well-timed banter from the band.  I was also struck by the fact that so many audience members were mouthing the words to every track, despite the album being a relatively new release and despite the perceived language barrier.

China were on right after on the Orange stage, whose sound has developed beautifully from the early days of almost punk-derived energy into a  super-dreamy, electronic pop that took the audience on a wave of multi-layered soundscapes. Their set for Rock the South was on the more mellow end of the spectrum, which went down perfectly with the vibe right after Brodu.

Bass Culture then took over the Orange stage with a set that alternated between thumping bass and more melodic dub, which went down very well and kept everyone’s dancing shoes firmly on. On the other side of the venue, Silent Disco closed off the night with Electro-Swing Malta versus Chris Radium in a concurrent ‘face off’ on different channels. The former played a mix of modern swing tunes, as their name suggests, while the latter was spinning a set of funk and rock’n’roll tunes that had everyone grooving. Part of the fun was trying to figure out which set other people were dancing too – everytime someone next to me mouthed the words to my jam it was an added bonus.

Saturday brought with it more goodness. I arrived in time for Bark Bark Disco on the Orange Stage – the band that is the epitome of  lo-fi in Malta put on their ‘festival’ vibe with an energetic set that saw Yasmin Kuymizakis (aka Yews) join in towards the end. A seamless performance that had the audience singing along to favourites like Song for Lovers.


DJs Fre + Chris Radium

DJs Fre + Chris Radium

Areola Treat,  always edgy,  gave a very tight performance with vocalist Lisa Grimaud in top form complemented by some serious guitar and drum work, once again justifying their position as one of the top  post-punk bands in Malta.

The energy dial turned up a notch or two higher with For Strings Inn right after; this quartet’s brand of alternative rock is particularly addictive, with the focus being not only on musicianship (though that in itself is pretty impressive) but also on fun, with the crowd really letting it rip on the dancefloor.

A return gig by Friday PM followed – this was definitely a highlight for many old-timers who remember the alternative scene from years ago. The band hasn’t gigged for about 15 years, if I am not mistaken, but it still holds the respect of many and for good reason. For this one-off reunion, it was made up of three ‘originals’ – Tonio Pace on vocals and guitar, Trevor Kissaun on guitars and Mark Mifsud on bass – and Brandel Scicluna on drums. Their set was like a trip back in time, a good one that brought to mind the rawness and honesty of the first-generation Maltese alternative music scene.  These guys definitely still have it and the inclusion of the younger Scicluna on the lineup worked extremely well, with many clamouring for more Friday PM gigs in this present reincarnation.

Finally, Italian band AIM closed off the live bands for the evening with a set that combined raw rock with Italian showmanship in a set that had the audience moshing enthusiastically, even as band members left the stage to join their fans in the pit. No new name to this festival, AIM this year presented a set from their new album Finalmente a Casa in a bass-heavy, high-octane performance that hit just the right notes for a Saturday night finale.

After-hours continued with a set by newcomers on the electronic scene Crux and DJs I.YOU versus Fre and Chris Radium at Silent Disco. The latter duo pushed up the nostalgia factor with  punk and post-punk hits that kept the dancefloor buzzing not-so-silently, despite the headphones.


Hunting for satire http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/03/30/hunting-for-satire/ Mon, 30 Mar 2015 07:49:33 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4673 Steve1

The jury might still be out for spring hunting, but when it comes to witty campaigning there’s no contest.

Well, if there’s one aspect that the Spring Hunting Referendum really brought out beautifully, this was the no camp’s altogether wittier approach to campaigning, in particular the online and newspaper cartoonists’. This was in stark contrast to those who still insist that shooting endangered species out of the sky on their way to their breeding grounds is a human right.  A right that’s safeguarded by the European Union too, the particularly dense specimen pertaining to the yes camp are claiming, go figure.

So while the yes camp were busy spraying obscenities on public walls, carrying out terror campaigns on Facebook and generally making pains of themselves, those who would still like our skies to have the occasional bird fly through in the next decades took to the drawing pad and came up with dozens of reasons to vote ‘no’.

Like Steve Bonello’s timely reminder about the FKNK’s telling faux pas, referring to the referendum as “a war”. It says a lot about some hunters’ approach to conflict, when their first reaction is to declare war.

Seb Tanti Burlo makes a brilliant point  in his cartoon which depicts two hunters in their dura, in a future Malta when many species of birds will have become extinct thanks to the FKNK’s insistence that these people be allowed to practice their ‘hobby’ with nothing to regulate their excesses. “Thank god we still have spring hunting,” says one. “Yes, but I’ve forgotten what we’re hunting for,” is the sad rejoinder.

PullusIt makes you think, doesn’t it, when such a powerful lobby can’t even reason out the natural conclusion to their demands. Continue on this road and, no matter how many referenda you win to safeguard your hobby, there will be nothing left for you to shoot at. My personal favourite from Tanti Burlo’s repertoire, however, illustrates everything that is wrong with Maltese politics. “Vacancy: opposition leader. Chickens need not apply.”

I would add another vacancy to that – a prime minister who actually does his job, as opposed to someone who washes his hands and puts it to the people when things get too hot to handle. We all know that the Pontius Pilate story does not come with a happy ending.

As for those who keep insisting – rather disingenuously, because it’s pretty clear by now that they’re wrong – that a no vote will obliterate hunting in its entirety, Pullus’s bloodstained pie chart goes a long way towards putting things back in perspective. It’s just three months out of 12, people. Guess what the hunters will be doing once spring is over? That’s right. Littering our countryside with noise pollution and RTO signs.

Seb3Mark Schembri beautifully pours cold water on all ridiculous claims of “you the next” (don’t blame me, blame the genius ‘yes’ camp marketeers), which would have us believe that regulating spring hunting opens the way to banning other hobbies. All you stamp collectors our there can chill. Your hobby is safe, because guess how many living creatures die because of it every year. Zero, that’s right (death by extreme excitement doesn’t count, sorry).

While on the subject, do head online and click the following link: https://muzikarti.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/snieter-u-qaddisin/.  You’ll get your morning dose of endorphins as you guffaw out loud at the ridiculousness of the ‘yes’ camp.

But let’s not be too negative. Those who can’t give up three months of killing things out of the 12 at their disposal without accusatory cries of ‘fascists’ had their artistic moments too. These consisted mainly in photoshopping text onto photos of myriad celebrities in skimpy clothing who probably are not that sure whether Malta is a country or a new brand of skinny latte.

10887646_10206149942337817_9209918083971803983_oWhat did the text say, I hear you ask. Ah, but herein lies the genius. Each badly-photoshopped image presented literary gems along the lines of “You the next!”, “Hunting is not a sport, it’s a calling to something greater” and even, just to make sure that the Catholic camp is also reeled in, a lengthy quotation from Genesis (the holy book, not the band) featuring a springer spaniel pup.

If you really, really, really can’t make up your mind for this referendum, take a look at these cartoons. Each cartoon tells a story that is based not on emotion, but on facts. For every lie propagated by the ‘yes’ camp, there is a logical reply that pours cold water on it.

So, as Nadine Noko put it far more amusingly than I can, carpe the f**k out of that diem and vote no on April 11.

An edited version of this opinion piece appeared in the March issue of Sunday Circle.


Click to view slideshow.



Saints, bikinis and doublestandards http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/01/28/saints-bikinis-and-doublestandards/ Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:13:06 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4670 bikinis

Malta gets a lot of accolades along the lines of Most Beautiful Place, Paradise on Earth, Most Stunning Beaches etc etc. What it hasn’t been awarded so far, at least as far as I’m aware, is the gold accolade for double standards.

Which is very strange really, considering what professionals we’ve turned out to be at that sort of thing.

Just think about it. A Muslim lady tries to have a swim in a burkini and gets banned on grounds of hygiene. The same standard, however, fails to be applied to anyone who wears normal shorts and a t-shirt, or who fails to take a shower before dipping their stinky toe in the pool.

An arts festival gets shot down because of ‘noise’, while petards at 7am or 11.30pm get rounds of applause.

The latest spectacular display of double standards happened on Saturday at the feast of Stella Maris (read all about it here:http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20140824/local/woman-fined-for-running-dancing-in-bikini-near-religious-procession.533053), where some hapless woman wound up with a conditional discharge for running around in bikini while in a less than sober state.

Excuse me? Judging by all the photos that are uploaded every weekend to showcase every village’s patrun, being half naked and drunk is sort of obligatory if you want to attend one of these shebangs. If formal invites were given out, I’m pretty sure that the part where is says dress code would read: drunk and half-naked.

When Ċetta tal-kantuniera emerges in all her glory for the marċ ta’ filgħodu, wearing obscenely tight leggings, a bra top and enough vodka fumes to kill every living thing within a 10 mile radius, no-one calls the boys in blue to request handcuffs pronto.

No, they offer her another beer or whatever, hoist her on their shoulders and continue shouting in honour of the poor patruna, who is probably face-palming away in embarrassment beyond the pearly gates.

When Pawlu taż-żebgħa starts puking right in front of the titular statue, no-one calls ‘blasphemy’. And when the whole parish youth centre starts screaming obscenities against the rival każin (!) it’s all shouts of encouragement.
But lo and behold, when a foreigner indulges in similar behaviour it’s heads a-shaking, tongues a-wagging and għarukażijiet aplenty. How’s that for double standards?

This poor woman’s only fault was to turn up early at the party. If only her boat had docked a couple of hours later she could have behaved in exactly the same way during the marċ, which is the catholic equivalent of the after-party. And no-one would have noticed her because they’d have all been doing way worse.

As it was, because she was inconsiderate enough to get the party rolling before Ċetta and Pawlu, they called the police on her. Mind you, this comes from a catholic community that supposedly prizes helping out the neighbours above all else.

Judging by all reports, this woman was not being aggressive. She was just being a bit silly in her bikini – and bear in mind that this happened at the Sliema ferries, where people running around in their bikinis are not exactly thin on the ground (every pun intended).

The only thing that any half-decent person would have done was to take her aside gently and encourage her to continue her song and dance away from the centre of things.

A real catholic worth his salt would also have ensured she got home okay. Instead, they called the police. Well done, you law-abiding citizens, you. That must have really scored you points with the patruna up there – not.

And finally, just to score the trifecta of double-standards, this poor woman was not only hauled up in court on a Sunday (something typically reserved for rapists and serial killers) and slapped with a two-year conditional discharge, but the courts also forgot to put a ban on her name.

You get charged with molesting kids, it takes a full-blown appeal just to lift the ban on the name. You have a bit of a dance in your bikini, and just because a religious statue is involved your reputation is shot to pieces across the country.


Take that, gender quota http://www.ramonadepares.com/2015/01/28/take-that-gender-quota/ Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:55:54 +0000 http://www.ramonadepares.com/?p=4659 We can do it!

Fear not, I’m not about to launch into some annoyingly positive mantra, the likes of which litter politicians’ social media accounts on a daily basis, making me want to reach for a bucket in which to express my feelings for such fake jollity.

And, although this post is related to the MEP elections in some ways, I won’t bore you with the obvious – ie, how something is rotten in the state of Europe, with a bunch of right-wing loonies increasingly gaining ground.

Malta has six MEP seats, four of them soon to be occupied by women. Given that usually we’re quite lucky if we get one woman elected, I’d call this a spectacular victory for female participation/empowerment.

Two years ago, when reverse-discrimination threatened to raise its head amidst calls for mandatory female quotas across the EU, my immediate reaction was; are you kidding me?

Giving women preferential treatment undermines this whole ‘equality’ thing and cheapens the achievement of those who got there on their own steam.

Most disagreed vociferously. Many, apparently, still believe that women need allowances to be made for them. What rubbish. Open the door a crack for a smart woman, and she will turn it into a full-blown opportunity, achieving things that some men can’t ever hope for.

On the other hand, offer her a role just because of her gender and because a quota needs to be met, and you are undermining her position and her potential achievements from the get-go.

Who will respect the decision of a CEO, if she only made it there due to some quota? Or that of an MP, an MEP, a director or whatever? When I posed these questions on my column, most of the replies were along the lines that women would not even make it to these positions without a quota.

If there is one good thing that came out of these MEP elections (and do take my quantification literally) it is this; all the naysayers who believed that women cannot succeed without a little bit of help have been proven wrong.

Roberta Metsola, Miriam Dalli, Therese Comodini and Marlene Mizzi. All four have one thing in common. They made it, not because there was a quota to fill, but because they beat their male counterparts fair and square. Well, as fair as any election can be, that is. But that’s a whole different can of worms.