Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Where have all the sailors gone

Verzjoni integrali tal-intervista ma Ray Mercieca tar-Rifffs. Partijiet minn dan l-artiklu kienu gew iccensurti ghal ragunijiet li lanqas Pacik Fenech, li llum jghodd mal- 85 u ghadu jinhasel fl-ilma imbierek ma jista jasal jifhem.

One more F for the Riffs

“Where have all the sailors gone?” Ray Mercieca sings for The Malta Independent.

“So I knocked at their door and this weird, dodgy looking guy opens up. He gives me a suspicious look and goes: Whatd’ya want mate?

I want you to have a good listen to this demo.

Well, allright, leave it here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I do.

No way. You have to listen to it NOW.

Now? What do you mean now?

I mean I am not moving until you listen to this tape.

Is that right? And why should I listen to it now?

Cause that’s the best f…… thing you’ll ever gonna hear”

That’s Ray Mercieca for you. Ray L-Ingliz (Englishman Ray). Larger than life couldn’t fit his small frame any better. The meeting in question dates back to 1981 London. The dodgy looking bloke is none other than an executive (whose name Ray can’t remember) for Alternative Music Records.

“I was THAT naive man!. I thought you’d just go around knocking at doors and they would give you a deal right there on the spot.”

“As it turned out, that’s just the way things went. He slid the tape in. “Dance Music For The 80’s Depression” comes on. He listens then stops the tape seemingly overlooking the other tracks, turns to me and goes: “Awright. What do you want?”

Ray is looking rather pleased with himself. Few (if any) local musicians since can boast of such feats. 25 years on, the mischievous wide-eyed kid from Hackney (East End London) seems so have lost none of his spark. The purple streaks may have gone in favour of a more conventional crop and a few wrinkles are gathering round his eyes but the cockiness, charisma and enthusiasm are still in overdrive. Same goes for his mouth. The man can talk! He generously offers me a beer that I neglect in favour of coffee and we pull a cold metal chair outside Santa Lucia’s Bocci Club on a chilly Saturday afternoon. So what then? What the heck happened?

“Oh man! The chances of The Rifffs not making it were only a million to one. Even John Peel had endorsed the re-recorded single for “Dance Music”. We were generating enough buzz for the label to consider us their babies. Then the impossible happened. We couldn’t have had a worse streak”

Uuuu….hold your horses for a second. Let’s backtrack a bit. It wouldn’t make sense documenting The Rifffs phenomenon without further digging. Ray is only too eager to oblige.

Born in London 1961 to Maury, his Irish mother and Emanuel, Ray was brought up in the rough neighbourhoods of Hackney. “Mum left the roost when I was barely 4 years old. I never heard from her until 25 years later. For the best part of my childhood it was just me, my dad and the rest of Eastenders. And I’m telling you man, it looked nothing like what you are accustomed to see on BBC Prime. The place was a s…hole full of county estates accomodating the various Chzecks, African, Polish and Maltese immigrants with gangs marking their own particular territory. Going to school six blocks down the road meant tresspassing at your own peril. Violence was a way of life. After 3 or 4 scraps a day you tend to get used to it. By the time I was 8/9 I was already hardened and streetwise enough to deal with it. That was about the same time my dad decided to return to his homeland”

“It was one hell of a culture shock! Worlds away from what I was used to. Everything was so nice! People were so forthcoming. It was all too peaceful really. I just couldn’t deal with it. Funnily enough, the musical bug was waiting for me right here”.

“Dad had shipped all our stuff from England in a container he eventually parked in the middle of field a few hundred metres away from our house. The Dragsters, a local covers band fronted by one Mike Spiteri (yes, that Mike Spiteri) had asked for his permission to use it as a rehearsal place. Dad held the keys so one day I stole them and broke into the container”. Ray is getting carried away. “I was completely fascinated. The smell was the first thing that struck you. Instruments and equipment have their own unique smell. It was so exciting. The rush was incredible. I knew straight away that was it. That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a musician. So I told Dad (himself an accomplished musician) who proceeded to show me a couple of elementary chord structures on his old Hoffner semi-acoustic. I picked it up immediately. I wouldn’t stop playing. Dad could barely keep up with me after a few weeks”

At age 13, Ray decides to flee back to England relocating in Essex with his uncle. Here he hooks up with old pal and fellow music enthusiast Adrian Aquilina St. John who introduces him to a host of live wire, weird (at the time) acts such as The U.K Subs and Chelsea. Ray couldn’t have enough of the fierce, punk influenced acts emerging during the mid-seventies. “I went bananas”. The words are delivered in a pronounced accent that cracks me up. Whether or not he’s being calculated, the charm is undeniable. “It sounded so fresh. So far removed from the countless, self-indulgent guitar bands churning out formulaic, cliché ridden rock music. Every night Adrian and me used to go down to Kinsbury to booze and catch up on the hottest bands. We were determined to set up our own outfit but it wasn’t to be. I was too much of a handful. My uncle had enough of my countless antics so he sent me packing back to Malta.”

I am scratching my head trying to picture a budding 14 year old Punk trapped in an island were Nazareth, Slade and Dom Mintoff ruled with an iron fist. “It wasn’t that bad actually. People had nothing but they were nowhere as stressed out as most folk today. Even kids. They had no gadgets to play with but they were creative. They used to build their own toys out of the simplest things imaginable. A far cry from staring into a monitor for what seems like an eternity”. My mobile rings and I have to interrupt Ray for two minutes. Every doting mother worth her salt needs to know if her son will make it to dinner. Ray reaches for a cigarette, offers me one and a couple of drags later we’re back on track.

“Then I met Vince (a.k.a Il-Manglu) from Paola who suggested we start a band. I said sure we’ll start a band so we got this band going. Samstag. Manglu on bass, Ray Farrugia (Il-Cooks) on lead guitar, myself on rythm guitar and Edward “Spits” Spiteri on drums. My jaw drops as he lets slip that the drummer went on to become a notorious preacher. It can’t be the same Edward Spiteri of praise the lord fame I enquire. “That’s him. That’s your man. That’s Spits”. He snickers “I got to be honest with you, he was quite a bit different in those days!” Amused, Ray recalls rehearsals. “The chemistry wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Playing Fleetwood Mac covers wasn’t really my thing. I couldn’t for the life of me copy someone else’s style so I always tried to mess it up a bit. It didn’t go down well with the others who quickly replaced my amp with a smaller one in order to drown out my playing. Being the youngest, shortest and skinniest of the lot didn’t quite help me stamp any authority. Anyway, the big day finally arrives. Our first gig! The opening of The Tarxien Playground. Thing is, I learned about it a couple of days too late. Me fellow bandmates kept everything under wraps and gave it a go without their “prized asset,” opting instead to replace me with someone else. I was furious. The bastards! They rehearsed in my garage, on my equipment and they shoved me aside like a rag doll. God I was pissed off. And that was it. That was the end of Samstag for me”.

“At this point I decide it was high time I visited London so off I went. And again, I re-discovered my penchant for leftfield music, gorging myself on then relative newcomers The Cars and Television but the turning point came just as I was about to return to Malta. A band emerged out of nowhere taking the music world by storm. They changed everything. They sounded like nothing I had heard before. Everything about them was so right. I was bowled over”. He is of course referring to The Sex Pistols who had just unleashed “Nevermind The Bollocks”. Ray recounts this like the second coming that it must have been. Off went the locks making way for a ruffled, bleached hairstyle complemented with obligatory leather trousers, Doc Martens, and neck chains. I got myself a Les Paul copy (which he later confides selling as an original to a clueless kid, earning Lm200 in the process) and returned to Malta dead set on becoming a bona fide rock star”.

I am left dumbfounded. “Doesn’t returning to Malta on a quest to become a rock-god sound like preparing for the New York Marathom by shooting yourself in the foot?”

“Yeah it might sound that way but Malta had its pros too. For one, it was much less distracting than London. It was the perfect place where I could focus on my ideas before returning to London to claim my share of fame and fortune”.

Upon setting foot back on the rock Ray strikes a musical partnership with one Nicky Falzon, an experimental keyboard player with stints in B3 & Mirage. The pairing is baptised “Jade”. Ray recounts a highly amusing incident from this period. “This kid who thought we were onto something really big offered to manage us. He was from a renowned bourgeoise family and looked like he could easily afford it so we didn’t hesitate to accept. Soon enough we were showered with cash, which we spent on the finest equipment we could lay our hands on. We couldn’t believe our luck. Well one fine day we’re playing in our garage in Paola and someone comes knocking at the door. I open up and find our “manager” and his father’s lawyer (a Prime Minister in the making) standing beside him. The lawyer proceeded to enquire about the legitamacy of our equipment. It turns out the kid was stealing cash from his father to finance our musical indulgencies. We obviously denied any association with our manager and since all issued receipts were under my and Nicky’s name we got to keep all equipment. Ray grins. He obviously relishes this turn of events. Sticking it to the man was always what Rock N Roll was supposed to be all about right? Playfully, I enquire about his academic achievements “School? We avoided it like the plague. All we did was play music and goof in the whereabouts of Addolorata- our favourite haunt. We had a blast but the band’s days though, were numbered”. Ray cites lack of ambition as the reason behind the split. “I guess Nicky felt safer here. I always wanted to take things further”. His next musical allegiance though, would prove fateful.

“Back from another spell in London I bumped into Cooks (Ray Farrugia), an old mate of mine from Samstag. He asked me whether I was interested in joining his band, The Riffs, who were practicaly defunct following their vocalist’s departure. Seeing as they were into the punkier side of things I didn’t think twice about joining. that’s how The Riffs became The Rifffs. I was then introduced to Ray “Humbalance” Tabone (keyboards) whom I had known for a long time but never really had the confidence to speak to. Cooks also said he had this rock solid drummer from Marsa, Twanny, better known as “Najju”. I vividly remember our first jamming session. You could tell straight away there was something special going on. At first we sort of concentrated more on a defining sound rather than songwriting. The chemistry was palpable. We eventually tried playing a song and I remember the choice falling on a Prince Buster number called “Gangster”. Prince Buster was a 30’s Kingston born musician who developed the sound that would be later defined as Ska. We loved the genre’s rythmic movement and thought it would really sound interesting speeded up with abrasive guitars thrown in for good measure. It felt right so we stuck to this formula. Everyone was extremely comfortable with the sound and songs appeared out of nowhere. In a matter of weeks we had already written some 50 tunes. We were beyond excited and couldn’t wait to prove ourselves in front of a live audience. Our first gig was arranged at Caesar’s in Bugibba (then run by Rolf Harris) but there was one problem that still needed sorting. I thought we were in dire need of a second guitarist but the chances of finding a kindred spirit who dug the very same stuff we did were next to none. Then one fine day I am on the bus heading to St.Julians and I spot this lad in perfect punk attire”. Ray laughs. “We stuck out like sore thumbs. We just looked at each other in disbelief for a while. Then I approached him: You don’t see too many punks round here heh? So what’s your story mate? He introduced himself as Rayvin Portelli. I learned he had spent some time in London and moved back to Malta where he was living and working as (hold your breath) a banker!! I thought it was the most hilarious thing I had ever heard. I went into fits of laughter. A Punk Banker! You? – It was obvious we would get on like a house on fire. I almost wept when he told me he couldn’t play any instrument. He was perfect for the Rifffs. So perfect in fact, I asked him to join anyway. So next day at rehearsals I tell the others I think I found someone. Think I’ve got the man for the job. Cooks goes is he any good? I say erm….well, not really – actually he can’t play at all. But I will teach him. They thought I had lost it. So I gave Rayvin the mother of crash courses on guitar and in two weeks we had a half decent rhythm guitarist. Now the fact that Rayvin was the only one holding a job and the only one in a position to cough up rent money did go some way in persuading the others to let him in but you have to believe me when I tell you that he learned to hold his own on rhythm duties in a mere two weeks. It was one of those things. It was meant to happen. He fitted in perfectly. Everyone loved him. I had a whale of a time driving around in his beaten 4 door Cortina we used to call the Punk Mobile.”

“When our first show at Caesars came up we honestly didn’t know what to expect. Pink Floyd cover bands were all the rage so I wasn’t quite sure what they would make of our sound.” Ray comes across as quite a narrator and the build-up is particularly impeccable. Your correspondent is on his toes. So what? What was the reaction?

He gets all fired up: “I am telling you man, the crowd went Bananas (there it goes again) And mind you these people weren’t even remotely familiar with punk or ska! Far from it. They all looked like the average guy/girl next door…but I’m telling you, they went mental! It was a resounding success. Way above our expectations. Word of mouth was strong and people were curious as to our next show. We wanted to capitalise on the vibe and a demo felt like the natural thing to do. Tony Scott (then a budding sound-engineer) offered to record us so we went over to his house to lay down a couple of tracks. We asked him whether he had a recording studio. He said no but I’ve got equipment at my house,just come over and we will fix something. So we go to his house and the guy’s arsenal turns out to be a two track recorder and a host of prehistoric dodgy looking equipment, all crammed in a room the size of a toilet. We weren’t very impressed but none of it really mattered to us. We gave it our best shot with somel gusto (we were like a bunch of little kids-everything was exciting)…and god! The guy didn’t have much to work with but he really knew his stuff and knew exactly what he was doing. That was the first time we recorded Dance Music, we also laid down Sust, Pushy Pushy Mama and Hijack. Tony really put his heart into it. He loved us. We didn’t even have a tuner, so guitars were slightly off but somehow the end product worked. It seemed to give our music more character, more edge. We felt it sounded really good so we went to Xandir Malta and played it to Noel Mallia who loved it and got behind us giving The Rifffs some much needed airplay. The band swiftly gained notoriety and things started to take off. We tried to think of adequate places were we could play a proper gig. Rayvin came up with The Ambassador in Valletta. Such estabilishments weren’t too keen on rock music. We had to mislead the owner into thinking we were organising a Classical Concerto complete with violins and fat sopranos”. I can’t help laughing at the owner’s naivety. “We told quite a few porky pies. Tony offered to take care of the sound system but there weren’t any proper PA’s at the time. He cobbled a sound system that he practically built himself with the aid of a friend from Gzira who had a couple of big speakers and bass bins. It looked frightening but somehow it worked. I remember Scott looking rather suspicious of the set-up’s trustworthiness but sound check went smooth. The Ambassador was a pretty big cinema and we weren’t confident about the turnout.” I enquire about admission fees in those days and am surprised when he tells me that tickets cost some Lm1.50 back then. “We went home after the soundcheck, had a shower, prepared ourselves. Upon arrival at the Ambassador we weree met by our mates outside who told us that the place was practically dead. I was pretty upset. Disappointed I made my way into the cinema and blimey!!! The place was jam-packed! I looked at the guys and you could see it in their eyes. This is it man. This is the real thing. People were screaming! We got onstage all hyped up ready to bring the house down. I hit the first chord and…nothing! The PA dies. There was complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to remain cool whilst thinking to myself this was going to be the worst day of my life. Somehow this setback only worked in our favour. We opened a bottle of wine while a panic ridden Tony tried to fix the fault and the crowd somehow thought it was all an ingenious set-up, it was part of the show! They actually thought we were THAT cool! Scott managed to fix the PA and suddenly we were hot again. So I hit the first note and man…I will never forget the scene. The place went wild!!! I had never seen anything like it. I doubt anyone did locally. It was electric. The curtains were ripped the seats were broken. The commotion was incredible. We did not make a dime out of the concert. What we made in ticket sales we had to pay in damages but it didn’t really matter to us. What mattered was the incredible response to our music. It was probably the first time that a local rock outfit relied on it’s own material and the response was overwhelming. I would say that gig was the highpoint of my musical carrer and the Rifffs’ moment of grace. Everyone talked about The Rifffs after that gig. We became minor celebrities. Another gig followed at The Savoy (just a couple of doors down the Ambassador) and the same rampage ensued. I remember Television Malta trying to film it and the cameramen having to make a run for it as soon as the first song started! It was chaos. Again we did not make a dime due to crowd damages. By the time our 3rd gig came along it was impossible finding a venue due to our havoc wreaking reputation.”

“Another demo was recorded at Tony Scott’s and I said to the guys listen, I am going back to London to get a record deal and I need to know whether you are with me on this one. I need to know right now whether you would be willing to move to England should I get this blessed deal. Everyone was in agreement. Not a single one of us doubted the band’s potential. We had immense faith that we would make it so off I went.”

And so the story goes. The sought-after deal was struck and Dance Music was re-recorded in London for release as the band’s first single. The song was picked up by radio stations and endorsed by some of the industry’s holiest of cows (John Peel for one) The Rifffs were solidly heading towards fame and probable fortune. So what the heck happened Ray?

“Cash strapped Alternative Music records went belly up. A major was in the process of buying out our contract so we still stood a chance but a legal wrangle between the labels’ partners froze discussions and the buzz soon fizzed off. To further complicate matters a delicate family affair forced Cooks and Najju back to Malta. That was the final nail in the coffin. The Rifffs were over. I told you, we couldn’t have had a worse streak.”

Ray remained in London for a while and the seeds for The Characters were sown. But that story is for someone else to write. As far as I’m concerned The Rifffs were the real deal and listening to Ray’s escapades I cannot for the life of me fathom how this Rock n’ Roll Rebel would later lend his name to The Characters. Ray is very diplomatic. “Well I don’t really mind if you don’t like The Characters. You are entitled to your opinion. I happen to think otherwise. There may have been a couple of songs I would have scrapped but I am not apologising for it. I am comfortable fronting The Characters as much a I was fronting The Rifffs. It’s just an entirely different beast that’s all”

On a final note I can’t help asking him whether he’s bitter about missing the boat.

Ray sits up, looking genuinely shocked. “Missing the boat? I am still there man. I am still there. As long as there’s life in me I will still be there.”

Cynically I ask him how many 45 year olds who managed to break into the music biz does he know of?

“I might as well be the first….oh..and watch out for my new band. We’re called The Applebees and an album is on the way. I think you’ll like it”

I smile, turn my Dictaphone off and glance at his watch. Five o’clock. I may be home in time for dinner after all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Waddab Guz

Nhar l-Erbgha 7 ta' Settembru ser issir il-launch tas-cd tal-Lumiere - il-grupp li okkupali l-attivitajiet extra-kurrikulari ghal dawn l-ahhar hames snin.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time" (ghax hekk jismu s-cd) inhoss li huwa xoghol importanti hafna fi hdan ix-xena rock Maltija kemm fil-kontenut muzikali (li ghalkemm okkazjonalment ifalli il-mira xorta jibqa interessanti) u kemm fil-produzzjoni tieghu. "It seemed....." huwa album doppju rrekordjat u prodott minnha stess minghajr l-ebda ghajnuna finanzjarja. Lanqas sold. Iffinanzjajnih kollu minn butna f'mument kritiku meta l-ebda membru ma jaffordja impenn ta'din ix-xorta u issawwar kollu kemm hu bejn weekends, il-granet rari meta stajna niehdu l-leave, u wara l-hin tax-xoghol - imsakkrin go kamra li wara xahrejn saret reminixxenti tas-sala cinematografika fejn Howard Hughes kellu breakdown kbir (kif propost f'Aviator ta'Scorcese) sa hinijiet li mal-umanita xejn m'ghandhom x'jaqsmu. Din l-istqarrija tista tigi nterpretata bhala strategija makakka ghal fini ta'simpatija sabiex inbieghu izjed albums - u probabbilment fl-ahhar mill-ahhar hekk hi kollha kemm hi.

Nittama li min minnkhom ghandu minimament ghal qalbu x-xena muzikali Maltija jindenja ruhu jiccekkja (ghallinqas ghal darba f'hajtu) miz-zobb huma dawn il-Lumiere ftit qabel jisfaxxaw minhabba ragunijiet li m'huma taht il-kontroll ta'hadd. Il-prezz tad-dhul huwa Lm2 (Lm7 jekk fi hsiebkhom tixtru ic-cd ukoll) u b'wicci minn quddiem nghid li niswew kull centezmu li ser thallsu. Jekk xi hadd ghad jindenja jiddokumenta l-istorja tar-Rock Made In Malta, mhux ser niddejjaq nghid li ftit li xejn hemm kandidati li jistghu jikkompetulna ghal dak li hi genwinita, impenn, professjonalita, attitudni u ezebizzjonijiet.

Ghal darba.....halluni nixrobha.

Nittama li narakhom il-Poxx Bar (St.Julians) fis-7 ta' Settembru.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Shabi bhas- Shab

Bhal daz-zmien sena bdejt naqra l-ewwel kapitlu mill maestuz "Earthly Powers" ta' Anthony Burgess - ktieb li b'misthija kbira jkolli nistqarr li ghad ma rnexxielix nispicca. Ragunijiet hemm bosta izda t-tkarkir huwa primarjament dovut ghal fatt li l-ktieb kien moghti lili mill-unika mara li qatt habbejt. Ma niftahx pagna li ma ninhakimx mill-ispirtu ta'Awissu 2004. Forsi tghidu bejnkhom u bejn ruhkhom gejja xi bloggata ohra minn dawk sentimentali minsuga mill-lirika li mal-hajja milbusa xejn m'ghandha x'taqsam. Forsi ghandkhom ragun ukoll. Ma nafx. Naf biss li llejla ftakart fl-ewwel kapitlu ta' "Earthly Powers". Kapitlu memorabbli li fih, Kenneth Toomey (il-protagonist) jammetti li minkejja li z-zwieg tieghu mac-cinizmu sawwar fih hdura nkallata, minkejja dan, ceru kliem kien ghad fadlilhom is-setgha jroghdulu saqajh sa ma jnisslulu demgha. Ghal Toomey, il-kelma li tholl u torbot hija "Faithful". Fedelta.

Fi kliem Toomey/Burgess: "Faithful, Faithful" I was ready to weep again, the word was so loaded. I remembered poor Winston Churchill, who, at about my present age, would weep at words like "greatness". It was called emotional liability, a disease of the senile.

Illum gie f'idi ritratt mehud ftit tax-xhur ilu. Ritratt tieghi, xurban, Rothmans ahmar f'idi l-leminija waqt li bix-xellugija nidher inhaddan wiehed minn shabi. Shabi. Hemm hi kelma li bhal "faithful" ghal Toomey u "greatness" ghal Churchill ghadha kapaci taghsarli demgha mill-fdalijiet ta'qalbi. U niftakar. Niftakar fi zmien mhux daqstant imbieghed fejn is-semplici vuci taghhom offrietli farag, u dellhom kien il-wens kollu li xtaqt u li ridt f'hajjti. U l-fallimenti kollha li kelli u li ghad ikolli ma setghu qatt ihassruni. Ma setghu qatt ikaghbruni. Ma setghu qatt jinfduni. Ghax kelli lilhom. Ghax fi hdanhom qatt ma hassejt il-bzonn kiefer li nahbi. Qatt ma hassejt gheruq il-misthija jsammruni mal-art. U qatt ma importa dak li m'ghidtx. Ghax dak li m'ghidtx qajla seta' jholl ir-rabta li tant xtaqt tjassarni ghal kumplament ta'zmieni. Hassejt dak kollu li ruh konfuza setghet qatt titlob li thoss. Hassejtni maghdur u hassejt li l-moghdrija taghhom setghet taghmel minni bniedem ahjar. Bniedem inqas egoist. Bniedem inqas egocentriku. Bniedem twajjeb.

U llejla shabi bhas shab.

Is-shab li jaf jaghti miljun sfumatura lix-xemx u elf wicc lill-qamar. Is-shab li jaf meta ghandu jifrex dellu fuq l-istilel fiddiena u jinduna meta jasal il waqt li jikxifhom sabiex ipaxxik bi gmiel li fl-ebbusija ta'rasek iccahhadt minnu. Bhas anke fl-ehxen swidija huwa mifqugh bil-hajja.

Bhas mat-tqanqila ta'ziffa, lebbet il-boghod b'heffa li toqol riglejja ma setghu qatt joholmu li jilhqu.

Jigu granet meta s-shab nahsbu tant vicin li kwazi kwazi nittanta nohrog idi u b'subghajja nmellsu........

Shabi. Hemm hi kelma li tnissilli certa dieqa u tqanqalli demgha.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It-Tmiem ta'Monarkija

Il-Madunna Joe!!

Ara naqra. Isa..... igri huris barra t-tiqa. Il-madunna kemm hemm! It-triq invazuta.

Mar!! Mar!!

Ara uqghud ettent int u hierig!

Bhall-guvnott imsejjah ghal lieva, kontra qalbi fittixt l-armi ghal battalja. Il-flokk griz car tat-Tarkett li b'ghageb kbir izommni frisk f'dawn il-jiem ta'hedla, il-qalziet tal-linen imkemmex li ma jiflahx izjed ghal ezigenzi tieghi, bicca "sangwicc bit-tunn taz-zejt", tazza Orange li f'dan l-istagun jiehu post l-imqaddes te tal-iljun u l-baskett zghir li fih ingorr kollox minn siltiet letterarji improvvizzati sac-charger tal-mobile u is-cd tal-gurnata. Jien u infittex il-papocc taht is-sodda stajt nisma lill-missieri li issa inghaqad bi hgaru fit-tbarqim t'ommi. Xejn stramb kieku. F'dan il-mument sagrosant tal-gurnata, x-xjuh tieghi nilqaghhom bhall ma nilqa pillola tal-ugiegh taz-zaqq. Mario ftakar li trid thallas lill-mechanic, Mario itfa' ftit fwieha ghax tinten, Mario qaxxar dik id-daqna minn hemm ghax qisek bodbod. Izda dalghodu donnu li l-inkwizizzjoni harbet ghal btala. Imkahhlin mat-tieqa tas-salott sibt lill-ommi u missieri, halqhom miftuh jiccassaw il-barra - kien ilni ma narahom daqshekk vicin ta'xulxin. Sellimtilhom u terraqt lejn il-bieb ta' barra, Il-kurzita kilitni. Ridt niltaqa mal-fenomenu li dalghodu laqqa' l-igsma t'ommi u missieri fi profil li kien ilni ma nara xi sentejn.

"Attent min-nehel" nisma l-ommi tghid hekk kif griet mis-salott ghal kcina minn fejn l-ghaziz binha kien hiereg imnikket. Ostra ghadha hafifa ommi. Izjed minn nemes li kien irabbi missierha - In-Nannu Brakk - ragel sew li minnhom m'ghadhomx jaghmlu........u nizzi hajr lill-hanin Alla li fih ma nemminx, ommi ghandha hafna minnu.

Attent min-nehel? X'nehel huma? hekk kif ksirt haddejja ghal tbissima bikrija.

Hemm it-triq invazuta. Nehsib li harbu lill xi hadd ghax ghudni kif rajt wihid bil-bejta f'idu jippruva jigburum"

Ghajni miftuha ftaht il-bieb u l-erbgha, tlieta ta'Awissu ma baqax l-erbgha fost il-Gimgha.
L-erbgha tlieta t'Awissu rajt xena inkredibbli. Nahal mal-arblu tal-gvern, nahal fuq il-hwejjeg minxura, nahal mat-twieqi u nahal fuq is-soqfa tal-karozzi.....nahal......nahal....nahal....jittajru u jissabbtu qishom zerrieghha tal-gheneb mibzuqa minn halq kbir invizibbli. Ftakart fl-Egittu u l-ghaxar kastigi. Tghid ma jitfaccax xi hadd bid-demm tal-haruf halli jcallsu mal-bieb? .....mmmmm......imma dawk m'ghadhomx jigu mill-elezzjoni tas-86 l'hawn.

Is-sitwazzjoni kellha toghma apokalittika izda minn kliem iz-Zija Grace - li kienet kuragguza bizzejjed biex toqghod titpaxxa b'din ix-xena bibblika, ir-raguni kienet ohra. In-Nahla Regina hallietna. Ir-Renju ntilef.....u din ma kienet xejn ghajr dimostrazzjoni ta'luttu minn poplu mifni.
Ir-ragel fil-kappell tat-tiben resaq izjed vicin u gholla l-bejta f'idu. Mafkar xieraq ghall-biezla regina li b'ghaqal kbir mexxiet lill-haddiema taghha. U dawn tal-ahhar stejqru, u ntebhu li posthom kien hemm. M'hemm l-ebda tifkira isbah mit-tkattir tax-xoghol li l-mahbuba hakkiema kienet tqassam b'tant sengha. Il-hlewwa tal-ghasel tizboq il-mirra tat-telfa u wiehed wiehed u wahda wahda irritornaw lura lejn darhom, lura lejn xoghlhom, lura lejn dak kollu li ghamel minnhom Monarkija prosperuza u rispettata.

U min-nahal li rritornaw fil-kaxxa, qalbhom imnikkta izda spallithom wiesgha, hadt ezempju. B''wicc qalbieni u sider mimli startjajt il-Fiat u rhejtilha ghal Santa Venera.

Imbghad hsibt bejni u bejn ruhi - Imma dawn wara kollox......jaghmlu hajjithom jitbawzru ghal ghasel biex imbghad jigi xi poxt bil-kappell tat-tiben u jghasrilhom frott hidmiethom go vazett zghir li forsi jolqot iz-zewg liri. Phu ghar-regina.....phu ghal haddiema.

Gurnata kbira t-tlieta t'Awissu tas-sena elfejn u hamsa.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Day Of The Dead

Qatt ma bsart li kont ser nara xi haga simili.
Ghalkemm dejjem xtaqt, ikolli nammetti li qatt m'ghamiltha mad-dekadenza u l-vari kugini taghha.Bhat-toqba tas-serratura li minnha toghxa tara l-ohtok tinza' f'dik li tista minghajr ebda misthija tissejjah l-ewwel esperjenza sesswali, nhar is-Sibt sehhet epifanija. Il-Footloose - The Number One Fun Bar in Paceville offrieli dak li l-maqdes forma ta'bajda taqsam ir-rahal minn nofs qatt ma seta joffrili. Purtella miftuha berah fuq il-genna u l-infern - KONTEMPORANJAMENT!!
Gurnata tal-imgienen is-Sibt. Wara l-kuncert li tajna l-Farsons Great Beer Festival (li minkejja l-aspirazzjonijiet kbar ta'ismu huwa ftit izjed minn defile ta'-push chairs u nisa tad-dar insodisfatti jibilghu l-kebabs) kont qieghed inhossni xiber izjed sodisfatt biha nniffsi. Is-sound kien verament tajjeb u ghal darba l-udjenza ma tfixklitniex ma borza pizelli tal-friza. Fuq nota personali hassejt li tajt wirja tajba u kien hemm mumenti meta sahansitra gharraxt l-illuzjoni li l-udjenza kienet taht l-influwenza tieghi. F'kellmtejn hadt gost. U x'hemm isbah mill-Belt biex tikkumplimenta l-gost. Qattajna sa xi s-siegha w nofs ta' filghodu l-Bridge Bar immecilqu l-karawett u nerdghu l-flixkien tal-luminata waqt li zeffinna fin-nofs lill-kulhadd. L-Albanizi, Il-Liberjani, Il-Malta Jazz Festival, lill-Renzo, Ir-Russi, it-twiqi tal-aluminju, il-wirdien u ovvjament...L-avukati. Il-kumpanija ta'Sandro, Il-Galea u d-D hija tahlita beninja ta'sugu tal-hawh u acidu qerriedi bl-accent fuq l-acidu. Ghal kuntrarju tas-soltu fejn ta'spiss inkun l-ewwel wiehed li nibda naghti b'rasi nhar is-sibt kienet il-bella kumpanija li dehret maghdura.
Fuq mewga ta hena (u ghax NOBGHOD insuq wahdi) offrejt li nwassal lill-Sandro f'dak li mill-llum l'hemm ser nibqa nirreferei ghalih bhala s-subborg ta'Bugibba. Kienu xi s-saghtejn u fi triqti lejn id-dar kelli vizjoni. Paceville, hamallagni u s-sottoskritt f'kantuniera jmaxtar il-Whiskey, jidhak u jwebbes zobbu. Fis-saghtejn u nofs ordnajt l-ewwel JB. Ma nafx ghaliex izda bhall donnu l-birra m'hix bizejjed ghal Footloose. Il-Footloose ifakkarni fit-Titty Twister (bar leggendarju minn "From Dusk Till Dawn" ta Robert Rodriguez) - nisa shan izjed mill-magma ta'Pompei u firien bla grazzja lesti biex jilqghu dak kollu li l-mizbla twaddbilhom. Okkazjonalment tfigg xi fjura qalb ix-xewk li qaghdet tiehu l-battikata li tidher decenti. Tipo, dublett twil tal-linen, basket minsug mill-idejn, zebgha mpittra b'pinzell flok is-soltu "spray gun" u movimenti ritmici meqjusa- galassji l-boghod minn koreografija li tfakkarni f'kollaborazzjoni falluta bejn Heather Parisi u l-Incredibile Hulk. Is-Sibt kien hemm vibe izjed mis-soltu. Post imballat u igsma jizzegilgu ghal Alla u ghal Corporate Pop li okkazjonalment inessik ir-rieha ta'bewl taqsam hierga mil-loki tal-irgiel. Il-pjan kien li ninheba f'kantuniera u nahdimha tal-voyeur sa tlugh ix-xemx. It-tfajla Spanjola tizfen ftit metri l-boghod kien qisha qahba f'xalata. Iccaqlaq kull roqgha ta' gisimgha (kieku setghet anke widnejha kienet iccaqlaq) waqt li tittanta x-xemx ghadejja u tissimula s-sess ma kull proxxmu fortunat jew sfortunat bizzejjed li ghazel li jghaddi minn hdejha. It-tattika kienet din: Harsa fl-ghajn, strettament minghajr tbissima, tlabliba bl-Ispanjol, idejn itiru fl-arja u b'sengha kbira s-sorm jitla u jinsel waqt li jgharrax il-periferiji ta'Jeans issikat jew three quarters abjad. Okkazjonalment tintreda pero ma stajtx naghraf ezatt b'liema diskriminazzjoni kienet qieghdha taghmilha ghax l-ewwel klijent kien pjuttost gustuz waqt li t-tieni wiehed kellu l-forma mkissra minn Alla nnifsu. F'nofs dan ir-rit sa rajt il-qalzie ta taht taghha jtir f'nofs id-"dance floor". Impressjonanti. Xi zzobb jaghmlu bih Basic Instinct. Nahlef li kont qieghed nistenna esorcista jitfacca minn hin ghall iehor........forsi qieghed nilghabha daqsxejn tad-dejjaq issa ghax il-gost li kont qieghed niehu kien ilni ma ntoghmu xhur twal. Gost b'differenza. Il-gost pervers ta'lupu li minghalih sar naghga wara erbgha diskursati mqanqla taht qamar kwinta. Hassejt in-nejbiet jispuntaw u s-suf jidritta ghall-okkazzjoni. Kwazi hassejtni xxukkjat biha nnifsi. U izjed ma jikber ix-xokk dovut ghas-sejba mill-gdid tal-affinita tieghi ghal hammallagni....izjed il-gost jirvilla gol vini. Minn taht il-ghajn rajt lill-bahnan li kien ilu jipprova jghabbi volpi spanjola (ohra) xi siegh u nofs. Ikkalkulajt li kien diga nefaq mat-tminn liri f'xorb u fuqha minghajr ma mesah ilsienha. Hekk kif dawwar harsti lura insib lill-Basic Instinct ezatt ma wicci. F'kemm ilni nghidlek refghatli idi li dak il-hin kienet iggranfata ma'Red Bull, resqitha lejn halqha u harget bicca ta' lsien li ma jaghmilx ghajb lill-dak tas-Sur Boa Constrictor. Ilsienha, twil, ippuntat, baqa diehel dritt go halq il-flixkun waqt li ghajnejja xwewni mal-kantuniera li maghha serraht dahri. Wara din il-wirja qalbiena kelli sahansitra l-privilegg ta'encore. B'inkejja kbira dahlet subghajha f'halqha u wara li taqtet xi haga bl-ispanjol lir-qroqqa li kien hemm hdejha harget subghajha minn halqha u ghaddietu b'certa vjolenza minn fuq hadejja l-leminija. B'sorpriza kbira bqajt ferm kompost waqt dan il-mument drammatiku u b'kalma kbira hadtilha d-drink li kien ghadha kif gabitilha r-qroqqa. Budweiser mifqugh bil-Vodka. Legligtilha nofsu u f'kemm ilni nghidlek m'ergajtx rajt ilsienha. Izda l-inviti ghad dekadenza gon-number one fun bar ma waqfux. U jien hemm bqajt imsahhar, affaxxinat, sas-sitta ta'filghodu. Hekk kif battal il-hdax il-lira l-bahnan irnexxielu jolqot il-likk.

F'xi s-sitta u kwart hrigt minn hemm. Mghaggeb bid-differenza, bl-energija, bin-nuqqas ta' inibizzjonijiet. Hlift li qatt izjed ma kont ser nara xenarju izjed annimalesk minn hekk hlief forsi f'kaz ta' gwerra nukleari jew ir-ritorn tal-"Vibes" kif konna nafuh fil-bidu tad-disghinijiet.


Fid-dawl tax-xemx li kienet diga telghet. Rajt merhliet ta'zaghzagh....anzi....tfal........ minn kull rokna tal-Ewropa, mitluqin ma l-art, min jidhak, min jibki, min jaqla' izda kollha kemm huma b'nofs hwejghom imnezzghin jew inkallati. Mixhuta hemm qalb munzelli ta'fliexken, bottijiet u karti, taht dawl neon li fis-sakra ma ndunax li l-lejl kien ilu li dabbar rasu. Fi triqti lejn il-karozza nilmah zewg sakranazzi ta'eta avvanzata ikaxkru gisimhom ghal tul it-triq f'moviment (jew nuqqas tieghu) imnebbah miz-Zombies ta' Romero. Ostja proprja "Day Of The Living Dead" ghidt bejni u bejn ruhi. Paceville il-hadd filghodu huwa l-eqreb li wiehed jista jasal ghal Malta post-apokalittika.

Jekk qatt ma kontu xhiedha ta'dak li qieghed nirrakkonta titilfux hin u araw b'ghajnejkhom stess. Forsi tiddarsu, forsi tiddejqu, forsi tishtu......izda hemm cans wkoll li tibqghu affaxxinati u aghar minn hekk - hemm cans tiehdu gost.

Minkejja r-rivoluzzjonijiet edukattivi, r-rivoluzzjonijiet xjentifici, r-rivoluzzjonijiet Industrijali u kull forma ta rivoluzzjoni li giet u ghad trid tigi.................Il-bhima hemm ser tibqa'. Tonfoh fuq ix-xwiek, mgewwha, herqana ghal bukkun li bi dritt kellu jkun taghha.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hobb l-ghajrek daqsxejn inqas milli thobb lilek inniffsek

Ir-riabilitazzjoni tas-Sur Mario ghodda waslet fi tmiema.

Wara zelqa fin-nixfa tal-imhabba passiggiera, l-harba mill-impjieg u t-tmiem tar-recording tal-"magnum opus" tal-Lumiere kien imiss lilhom. Snieni u xuxti - li ghal dawn l-ahhar sitt xhur kienu zdingati izjed minn novella ta'Burgess li suppost lestejt naqra s-sena l-ohra. Ghaldaqstant is-Sibt li ghadda ghamilt appuntament mal-hairdresser Awstraljana li xxejjer l-imqass fil-"basement" privat taghha xi zewg blokki l-boghod minn Triq Vitale. Ghadha helwa mnejjka. Minkejja b'dispjacir nnutajt li sormha donnu qabad t-triq li twasslek ghal warrani Malti, il-geddum kwadru a la Sophie Ellis Baxter ghadu jirbahni. Ghandi relazzjoni stramba hafna ma din il-proxxmu. Ghal xi raguni dejjem nispiccaw nifflertjaw bla misthija. Forsi l-fatt li hi taghtini attenzjoni ndividwali meta tqarwizli xaghri jghin. Xi xhur ilu sahansitra hrigna niehdu Pizza flimkien. Kien perjodu daqsxejn imcajpar ghall-Awstraljana. Kienet qieghdha thossha fgata mill-mahbub taghha li bejn trinka ghal 'conduit' u bozza tal-40W kien ta'spiss ihuf fl-akkwati taghha sabiex jaccerta ruhu li l-qrajjen ghadhom ma spuntawx. Niftakarni nispicca l-appartament taghha f'xi t-tlieta ta' filghodu. Niftakarha taghmilli bela' te verament hazina u l-kanal ta'sormha jsellimli hekk kif tbaxxiet sabiex tilhaq l-ahhar cd ta'Jennife Lopez li xtrat minn fuq il-Monti. "I'm still I'm still Jenny from the Block!!!" Mario kellu jpoggi t-tazza lura fuq il-mejda. Mario kellu jinza l-qmis "pinstriped" u jarmiha warajh fl-akkwati tal-lampshade. Mario kellu jahtafha minn dahra u jigbidha lejn il-kilba kkoncentrata fuq xuftejh u bnadi ohra. Mario kellu jaghmel dan u hafna affarijiet ohra. Mario xorob it-te f'nifs wiehed, sellmilha u HARAB jigri l'barra Minn dakinhar l'hawn qtajt xaghri xi hames darbiet ohra. Il-possibilta li wara l-Cappriciosa nippruvaw il-Margerita qatt ma regghet issemmiet. Il-haga hi li fil-hanut tax-xaghar din it-tfajla tiehu dimensjoni ohra. Kull mossa, moviment u kelma minn fommha donnhom huma mfassla sabiex janimaw gisem mitluq wara t-tbahrida tal-Gimgha filghaxija (l-appuntamenti ghal xaghri dejjem habtu s-Sibt filghodu ghal habta tal-ghaxra) Fuq sfond mibdul, il-hlewwa ma hallietx it-toghma mixtieqa.

Din id-darba qtajtu qasir u tlabtha tkarkar idejha izjed mis-soltu waqt il-hasil tax-xaghar. Is-swaba jahdmu fuq il-qurrieghha jaghtuni pjacir ta' baghal. Harist fil-mera u approvajt. Ergajt intbaht li wara kollox kont "tifel" pjuttost gustuz. L-ghajnejn johorgu izjed meta naqta' xaghri qasir u qabel nibda nixrobha ha naqta' fil-qasir u nghidilkhom li spiccajt nixxemmex il-Mistra fil-kumpanija prezzjuza ta'Anita. Kien hemm qrempucu jismu Owen mitluf jilghab b'huta li qabditlu ommu, ilventa izjed minn serduk tal-kina. Owen nesa l-ballun fil-bahar u l-mewg beda jigbdu helu helu l-barra. Anita harbet tghum warajh. Mario baqa jixxemmex u nnota li zaqqu bdiet tinhall mill bjuda izda mhux mir-roti. Anita giet lura flimkien mal-ballun. Owen kien ghadu "jilghab" mal-huta. Anita qalet xi haga u harbitli dahka. Rajt wiccha jinbidel f'harsa qarsa u widnejja xeghlu hekk kif staqsietni: "Isma....kemm ilek ma tahsel snienek?" Tliet xhur kont pront wegibt hekk kif ergajt kxifthom ghal encore. Intfajt ghal tuli fuq ix-xugaman u ntlaqt ghal bewsa taz-ziffa u c-cafcif tal-mewg. Qabel ghalaqt ghajnejja harist lejn il-ktieb ta'Burgess li ghal darb'ohra safa maghluq bil-marker mwahhal fuq pagna 125.

"Illejla nahsel hasla snieni ghidt bejni u bejn ruhi"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dwardu, l-imrietel u r-Rappers

Fi kliem il- moqziez president taghna, is-santita tieghu "Edward" Fenech Adami: "Il-Malti ghandu daqsxejn ta' krizi ta'identita"

L-ewwel impuls ihajrek taqbel ma din l-istqarrija, ovvja, skontata (biex nuza l-Maltjan li jifflagellawna bih l-istudenti tal-ligi)

U hekk kif ghoddni sturdejt mill-martellata ta' Dwardu, ftakart fir-rappers. L-uniku mizien li bih ghandha tikejjel l-identita Nazzjonali. Ir-Rappers li minn Detroit u Los Angeles xerrdu z-zerriegha (x'kumbinazzjoni hux!!!) taghhom fuq l-ghoxx niedi Ewropew sabiex issa nistghu ingawdu Rappers Parigini, Rappers min Nicosia, Rappers minn Liverpool (timmaginaw il-fish and chips tissostitwixxi l-Big Mac?), ohrajn minn Ruma (minn Gladjaturi ghal Rappers!! Fejn hu Darwin?) u sahansitra Rahal Gdid. Min hu dak il-falda li saq tractor u f'dadiegh anti-global inkaljah go l-ewwel Mc Donald's li sab? Ir-Rappers IGGLOBALIZZAWNA mhux l-ostja Happy Meals!!! Minn BMW sa Ford Fiesta sa Van tat-twelve passengers (tafu liema?) il- Black Eyed Peas ma jiehdux prigunieri. Ara "Don't Phunk With My Heart" aqalla.

Imghad ftakart ukoll fit-Taljani bil-glandoli jqattru ghal prezentaturi u zeffiena extra komunitari (basta ma ssemix Albanija) , l-ghajnejn ileqqu mal-hoss tal-lingwa Ingliza, l-imprenditur Ingliz sormu mimli bl-ahhar glekk ta' Versace u r-ristorant Taljan gdid li skopra fil-kwartieri ta' Leeds, Il-Parigini burgizi ossesjonati bil-Bongos, strumenti ritmici Afrikani u kull forma ta'dimostrazzjoni umanitarja li ttaffilhom mit-toqol tal-gheruq Burgizi taghhom. Il-Germanizi li nsew l-Iscnitzel Prima u fgaw fil-Kebabs Torok u f'accent Anglo-Amerikan tassew stramb.....imbghad hemm l-Ispanjoli imma dawk ghadhom joghxew bil-Corrida u l-Flamenco ghaldaqstant inhalluhom barra mis-somma ghalissa. Insomma......nahseb tlift il-fil ta' hsibijieti pero x'imkien ridt nishaq li minkejja t-tahlit tal-ingredjenti jafu joholqu froga jew babuljata, l-essenza xorta tibqa' ttoghma. Li ridt nghid fi ftit kliem huwa li ma nistax innizzel li l-Malti m'ghandux jew tilef l-identita tieghu meta anke jekk tkun trux u ghami, Malti xxommu minn seba mili l-boghod. Qatt ma kontu ghaddejjin Traflagar Square u smajtuhom. L-isturnell minn Birkirkara. Gol-irkejjen ta'Cologne....t-tellerit Xlukkajr. Ir-Ramblas ta'Barcellona.....ic-cawl mix-Xewkija. Kollha jistunaw flimkien, kullimkien fi shaba ta'caqciq li Thurston Moore ghad irid johlom li jivvinta.

Issa jekk intom skomdi bil-kwalitajiet li jidentifikawna dik bloggata ohra.

Izda din li l-Malti m'ghandux identita tistona daqs Rapper bla Choker.

F'gieh Alla Dward!!! Int li ghal meetings ikollok tattendi jmissek taf ahjar.

U ser nieqaf billi nipproponi li l-George Cross jitpartat ma flixkun Kinnie.

Fejn hu d-D halli jghid tieghu?

Kif naraha jien, id-dinja qieghda ssir hanzira wahda b'hafna ucuh.

Jekk tikkwotawni taf kemm nonfoh sidri!!