Updated: Jun 7
Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more humane world. - Andre Maurois
The music scene in Malta has always been a vibrant one. We have never seen a shortage of local artists gracing the stages at festivals, concerts, halls and bustling bars. Our current music scene boasts artists across different genres such as punk, electro-fusion, rock, folk, ska and jazz among others. Adding to this, the bi-lingual nature of our country helps everyone to engage with and access the local scene. Malta has become the base of several homegrown artists who are venturing into all art forms: from visual to technological to theatre, and music.
If exploring the music scene, one's attention naturally draws to Red Electrick (also known as REK). Their name is the first on many people’s lips when we mention the current scene. The five men behind Red Electrick first fired up the Maltese airwaves with their bouncy debut single The End of it All and ever since, have graced Malta with endless successes. At the core of this household name lies a genuine love for music; five individuals with diverse tastes who come together to empower in a cohesive, rhythmic sound. Their work to date is proof of this, as REK continues to sell out countless shows and headlines local festivals.
Their latest album Tragic Optimistic clearly places them as key stakeholders in the industry. The album boasts an eclectic mix of 13 songs that range from the classic REK radio hits we all love to sing along to, to new contemporary sounds. They never fear to
venture into new territory; yet every single time they push boundaries, REK seem to come up with yet another; their album launch concert was evidence of this. REK delivered song after song effortlessly, ceasing the audience by surprise as they took to the revolving stage (which one might add was a first on the Maltese islands), supported by top notch staging, live recording, and sound and light design. The concert, I believe, opened a new chapter for the Maltese music industry. One based on sheer professionalism, and commitment to the passion that individuals and the collective possess.
It was wonderful to witness so many avid fans supporting the arts in their entirety. As their set drew to a close the audience cheered on for an encore. The launch showcased their professionalism and the growth of their timbre, and bore testament to how showmanship has become as crucial as musicianship.
Unfortunately, within cultural sectors in Malta, artists have grown too used to being compared to their foreign counterparts. Our socio-political circumstances have come a long way (despite the political situation we are currently faced with), and it seems unfair to compare every production, concert or performance to those across our shores.
Perhaps it’s because we are a young nation- consider that Malta achieved its independence only 50 years ago. British influences still resonate, and Malta is still finding its feet in terms of cultural identity. Even today we struggle with a local arts scene that seeks to mirror those in the West.
What worked in Malta 50 years ago under the British governing, won’t necessarily work in independent Malta 2020, so we must give our artists the space, liberty, and support to express themselves in the way they wish. The voice they create for themselves will be a result of the socio-political climate they grew up in, their history, their hardship and their own experiences. The work created becomes more personal and easier to connect with, as we have seen over the last decade or so, where more and more local work in the music scene is foregrounding the personal.
In these same troubled socio-political times, we look towards our arts and culture scene not solely as a means of escapism but also as a way of fuelling our energies, feelings, and frustrations and, as a way of engaging others to listen to the story that unfolds before our eyes, in the hope that in the future we can evoke meaning or growth from this stark and dark present. Our present and future artists are bestowed with a duty towards venturing into pastures new, discovering themselves and their cultural identity along the way.
Our cultural heritage is a strong one - diverse, vital and intrinsic- despite the small stature of our island. It is pertinent to keep moving forward - we look to our past for guidance but hold our heads high for the future. Only then can we truly become masters of our art and engage the people around us to listen and learn from the stories we tell.