Zomaar, rap.

Het is laat, we zijn al een eind in de volgende dag. Een mug zuigt enthousiast het bloed uit m’n enkels, de linker en de rechter. De ramen moeten open want het is warm, en dan hoor je ook de krekels beter zingen. Ik slaag erin de mug dood te meppen.

Mijn lieve lief slaapt al een tijdje maar ik werk nog aan een opdracht die morgenvroeg geleverd moet worden. De opdracht is vandaag (gisteren zo u wil) niet afgeraakt, aangezien we om 17 uur onze woning verlaten hebben om een kleine, lokale manifestatie bij te wonen tegen het Israëlische geweld in Gaza.

Uiteraard heeft dat weinig “zin”, concreet gezien. Terwijl er met vlaggen gezwaaid wordt en er slogans gescandeerd worden, blijven de bommen vallen, huizen in elkaar zakken, mensen sterven. Moet je dan niet gaan betogen? Is het beter om honderden foto’s en status-updates te delen op Facebook, posts te liken, tweets te retweeten? Of doen we gewoon alsof er niets aan de hand is en blijven we van onze biosmoothies en frappucino’s slurpen? Met hippe en belanchelijk dure drankjes ga je de planeet ook niet redden. Sommige van de uitspraken en spandoeken zijn op het randje van het dubieuze, maar als mensen met vuur en passie spreken, word ik altijd emotioneel.

Na de betoging genieten we van Valletta, onze hoofdstad. Klein maar prachtig. Het is een cliché maar ik kan er maar niet genoeg van krijgen. Oude gele huizen omringd door blauwe zee en lucht. We nuttigen een lekkere maaltijd al fresco in een restaurantje dat we al langer op het oog hadden en trekken dan naar het jazzfestival. Drie dagen in juli, een festival van wereldklasse, voor een fractie van de prijs die je in Den Haag of Gent zou betalen. Een festival dat werd opgericht door Charles ‘City’ Gatt, de oom van mijn lieve lief, een lokale levende legende die ook vanavond achter de drums kruipt.

En dan kom je thuis. Het is warm dus je doet de ramen open en verliest bloed aan bloeddorstige insecten. De computer moet aan want die opdracht moet af, en dan verneem je dat Israel een grondoffensief gestart is tegen Gaza en dat een passagiersvliegtuig van het sowieso al onfortuinlijke Malaysian Airlines werd neergeschoten boven die andere puinhoop, Oekraïne. What the fuck man?

On top of the world. (Really, that’s what they call this place near Għargħur, Malta.)

On top of the world. (Really, that’s what they call this place near Għargħur, Malta.)

Welcome to part five of the Maltese video week!

Today we have a Maltese hip hop film. (A Maltese hip hopera?)

It’s nearly 20 minutes long and that’s perhaps a bit too much if you don’t understand anything that’s being said. But the quality of the production is really high and the story seems quite dramatic.

Is it telling us that if you’re a girl in a boarding school, you should stay away from creepy dudes with a beard? Or that, in general, better sexual education is needed? 

It’s quite a hot topic these days here in Moltah. This year is the first time that there are mixed secondary schools! But boys and girls can still be separated during sex ed classes “so as to avoid embarrassing situations”. There are many debates on the subject, on TV and on the radio, but they seem a bit silly when they call upon the expert advice of … a priest. Just this week, Malta was one of just four countries who expressed reservations about a call by a UN Commission to promote equality for women and better sexual education for adolescents, together with other progessive champions such as Qatar, Pakistan and the Vatican. (Malta’s objections specifically concerned the sexual education.)

One must not forget that this is still a hyper-catholic, conservative country. Right now, president George Abela is refusing to sign the civil unions bill (aka the introduction of “gay marriage”) on “moral grounds”. (Which is really a shame - we liked George, we thought he was cool, not a cretin like most other politicians here. But anyways, we’re getting a new president next week, and she’ll probably just sign it.)

Anyway, Maltese hip hop yo! If you want something more condensed than the epic video above, you can try Sempliċiment Tat-Triq’s video for “Iswed tnejn zokkor”. Their band name means something like “simply from the street”, and in the video you will see some street scenes from their hometown Rabat. Featured in the video is the legendary pastizzerija “Crystal Palace”, which, despite its glamorous name, is an extremely grubby place, hole-in-the-wall style, full of hunters, but supposedly it sells the best pastizzi (traditional super cheap, super greasy, super yummy snacks: filo pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas - highest amount of calories you can get anywhere for 30 cents) on the island. Not sure what the dudes are rapping about, they sound quite angry, but with my limited knowledge of Maltese, I can tell you that the title means “black with two sugars”.

Mela, that’s it for now for the Maltese video week! If i find more good stuff, I’ll share it with you. Peace.

Welcome to part four of the Maltese video week. Today we’ve got a video for Jeffrey Lewis’s track Cult Boyfriend.

Obviously, Jeffrey Lewis is not Maltese - so why is he featured here then? 

This an unofficial video, shot in Malta in September of last year, when Mr Lewis performed in the unprobable location that is the local band club in the village of Ħamrun. It was a great gig, with, amongst others, a blistering rendition of WWPRD, his protest song about the arrest of Pussy Riot. The video features live footage of that gig, but more excitingly, some parts were filmed at Popeye Village, a theme park built around the film set for Robert Altman’s Popeye from 1980, shot here in Malta. I haven’t been yet but it’s high on my list of places to visit!

The video was made by Ian Schranz, a kind of local indie superhero, who plays in band such as Beangrowers, Bark Bark Disco, The Shh and Godzilla Power Hour. (He has probably started two more bands in the time it took me to write this entry.) He likes to make videos featuring naked boobies and was very recently described (by himself) as “the mogul of hand-drawn bouncing breasts”. Proof: here and here.

More videos tomorrow!

Welcome to part three of the Maltese video week!

Today I haven’t got a music video, but a short, beautiful documentary about the disappearance of the traditional Maltese buses.

Whenever I talk to people in Belgium who have been to Malta, they ask me: “Do you still have those amazing old colourful buses?” The answer, unfortunately, is no.

At some point, the government deemed it necessary to have a more “professional” bus service. Enter Arriva (the UK bus company), in July 2011. The old system, whereby the drivers were usually the owners of their bus, was done away with. Together with them, the beautiful, antique (some would say decrepit), often customised buses disappeared from the roads - to the regret of many. They were replaced by a fleet of modern buses brought in by Arriva from the UK.

But the whole thing was a disaster. Arriva never quite seemed to manage to make the whole thing work. The service was erratic, leading to the classic joke that “Arriva non arriva”. The buses were unfit for the narrow, winding Maltese roads, and often got stuck, or worse, damaged historic buildings. The company was making huge losses, of up to 35 million euros a year. To top it all off, last year three of their bendy buses caught fire in as many days, and the company had to withdraw them all from the roads and hire coaches instead to make up for the capacity. All in all, it was a shambles.

So in January this year, Arriva decided to give up and ceased its operations on the islands. The government has taken over, providing more or less the same service, with the Arriva buses (but without their logo), while waiting for another operator to take over. But who will dare to step into this adventure, after seeing Arriva’s failure? 

Many people are nostalgic about the old buses - although they were far from perfect. (The rudeness of some drivers was legendary.) They were certainly beautiful though, as you can see in this documentary. It paints a nice, mellow picture about something that was an essential aspect of life here.

Another interesting thing brought up in this film is the disappearance of the old city gate to Valletta. The whole entrance to the city is being redesigned by Renzo Piano, with a controversial new Parliament building (affectionately called “The Cheesegrater”) and a new city gate. I quite like it, it feels more open, but many people seem to hate the new design and lament the destruction of the old gate. The new gate, it has to be said, is not so much a gate as much as a gap in the wall, with slanted edges - rather minimalistic. You’ll have to come check it out for yourself, see if you like it …

I found this video through the Tal-Ostja website, which is a great source of information about all kinds of “alternative” things in Malta, be it artists, restaurants/bars, music, events, etc. A great page!

More videos tomorrow!

Part two in our Maltese video week! 

As far as music goes, there is a lot of metal in Malta. Really heavy, brutal metal. Bands such as Beheaded, Abysmal Torment and others will assault your senses with heavy riffage and blast beats until your brain explodes. Not always my cup of tea I must say.

Loathe is considered one of the best metal bands in Malta, and are also brutal as fuck. A whole album of theirs is probably too much for me to bear, but their video for their track “Bucketlove” is just, well, hilarious - in a good way. I rarely feel tempted to watch a music video more than once, but this one just always gets me in a good mood. And the music kicks ass too.

Does this video shine a light on any aspects of Maltese culture? It’s got a hunter in it, which is funny. But this hunting thing in Malta is far from  funny, it’s deeply tragic. I’ve hinted at it before, I’ve been meaning to write a longer piece about it (the whole issue is too large to include here, in a video caption), and the usual heated debates will kick up a notch again now that the spring season is coming soon. But that article will have to be for another time.

In the meantime, just enjoy this rocking video. PLAY IT LOUD! Hopefully it will cheer up your day. More music by Loathe can be found here.

Tomorrow I will have a non-music video for you.

I would like to introduce to you: the Maltese video week! Because I have nothing better to do, ha. Or to show you some aspects of life here in Malta, more often than not through music.

I would like to kick off this series with a video for a track by nosnow/noalps called “Cherry Tree”. Faithful readers of this blog with a good memory might remember this cheerful little tune, which I included in my 2013 Christmas Mixtape that I shared with you a while ago. It was also one of the first bands I got to see in concert after moving here, and they seem like very nice guys and girls. (I recently met the drummer and he confirms this impression.)

In the video, will you see some images of the market at the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk, in the very south of Malta. A village which has become somehwat less picturesque after the skyline was ruined with the building of a powerplant at the edge of the bay, and which may become even less picturesque if they build a gas storage facility for said powerplant which will include a jetty and a gigantic gas tanker ship, permanently moored in the bay. (Formal approval for this controversial project was given today.)

In this video, you will also see something very rare: a Maltese person on a bicycle! This curiosity is explained by the fact that the members of nosnow/noalps lived in Copenhagen for a while (that’s where the cycling was filmed), where a bicycle is seen as a totally normal, everyday way of getting around, and not as a certain deathwish like here in Malta (unless you go out riding on Sunday morning in full spandex outfit and assorted high-tech gear).

Enjoy the tune, check out nosnow/noalps if you want more, and tune in again tomorrow for another video!


Youth of Yangon

A fascinating look into youth culture, skateboarding, and the politics of public space in Myanmar.


There are 50 million skateboarders world wide. There are 15 in Myanmar. 

Official Selection Byron Bay Film Festival 2014
Nominated for Best Documentary at the International Skateboard Film Festival in Los Angeles 2013
Official Selection Newport Beach Festival Los Angeles 2013

Related Post:

Planning places for young people

Cool vid.

I discovered the panoramic function on my cell phone camera.

Nilo’s 2013 Christmas mixtape: the Chameleon edition!


So! My dear friends, it’s time (actually I’m running a little late), for what has somehow become a little tradition, namely: Nilo’s Christmas mixtape! I proudly present to you: the 2013 Edition!

You know the deal: another round-up of my favourite tracks of the past year, not necessarily actually released this year but which I listened/danced to a lot (or just enjoyed quietly).

So what have we got? We start off with Belgian heroes Castus, with the opening track of their second album Megalo (awesome, awesome album – get it!) and end with our old, equally Belgian friends of Tomàn. In between, we’ve got the usual: some fun indie pop, some cumbia, some African bangers. Also some Africanesque indie stuff with Goat. Cool funk/soul/jazz/hiphop sounds by BADBADNOTGOOD and Hiatus Kaiyote. A little piano ditty by Chilly Gonzales and more piano wizardry by Tigran, an Armenian jazz musician with another awesome awesome album (Shadow Theatre – get it!).

Overseas is an indie all-star band responsible for another one of my favourite albums this year (just called Overseas – yes, you should also get it), so they are on here too. Boards of Canada, with their grand return, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, subdued yet powerful, Future of the Left severely tongue in cheek. Motorpsycho released another album this year, probably not their best ever, but the opening track Hell, Part 1-3 (and especially part 2) is prime rocking out/air guitar material.

We’ve got a Maltese track as well, by the cheerful boys and girls of nosnow/noalps, and we’ve got a sweet little tune about all things Maltese by Stanley Brinks (of former Herman Düne fame) – he really likes Malta apparently). We saw his anti-folk buddy Jeffrey Lewis perform here in September, and his kickass track about Pussy Riot is also on the list. En nog veel meer.

I did things a little differently this year, there’s no part one or part two, no quiet/exciting part, no sun and moon or any of that. (Although, you might want to know that there are “sun consonants” and “moon consonants” in the Maltese language, as in Arabic - but I digress.) However, if you would like to split up the playlist in two parts, I would suggest doing so after Chilly Gonzales/before Goat.

I know I should get on with the times and post this in a Spotify playlist or something, but I’m just not that modern I’m afraid! (Also, Spotify doesn’t work on this here island.) So you’ll have to make a little effort too and download the whole thing.

Click here to get it (link to a zip file on Dropbox). 

But why the chameleon, you might ask? Well, a chameleon, because I finally saw one, on Christmas day, the bestest Christmas gift ever! (Although I didn’t get to keep it, of course. We named him Gerard, in case you want to know.)

So here’s to Gerard, to baby Jesus, to all of you, my dear friends, and to 2014! Enjoy!

Brussels >>> Malta.


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