Joe 'Bibi' Camilleri

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Photo by George Abdilla
Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri at the Malta Jazz Festival. Photo by George Abdilla

Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri born on 18 March, 1952 in Capital City of Malta, Valletta.

Early life and Career

He attended Bavaria School for his early education and continued his studies at St. Albert College in Valletta, where he completed his schooling up to Form 5 by the age of seventeen.

Known as ‘Bibi’, he inherited the nickname from his father, a name that became an enduring part of his identity.

His father, Frank Bibi Camilleri, was a skilled pianist who consistently provided him with great encouragement. Being one of the renowned pianists in that vibrant area at the time, he was a source of inspiration. Before specializing in piano, Frank played the accordion and drums. He was Joe's first instructor, setting the foundation for his musical journey. Joe vividly recalls his first encounter with the drums at the age of around 7, while accompanying his father to the Kenner Bar on South Street, Valletta. There, he observed and listened keenly to the music's rhythm and sounds, which seemed to fill the space. Raphael Dowling, a true gentleman, led this bar where they frequented nearly every morning. Sometimes, they worked when ships were docked at the port. Later on, he began performing at the Lucky Wheel bar in Strait Street owned by Ġiliardu Mackay. This became the pivotal starting point of his career.

Throughout his career, Joe performed in numerous venues across Valletta and various renowned Maltese hotels. He played with the Val Valente band at Dragonara Group venues, entertained at places like Preluna, Hilton, Mellieħa Bay Hotel, Phoenicia with Sammy Galea's band, and his father's band at the Casino. Furthermore, he performed at various nightclubs such as Kenner Bar, Toby Jug, Sacha, Nigret Night Club, Roadhouse, Tigulio, Caravel, Cherry Tree, and Incognito."

Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri on the Drums

Besides learning from his father, he had an enriching experience starting his piano lessons with the esteemed Bice Mizzi. At the age of fifteen, he embarked on a cruise ship adventure alongside his father, trumpeter Tony Camilleri, and three other musicians. The ship's captain honored him with a certificate for being the youngest musician ever to perform on board. They spent approximately four weeks touring Europe, entertaining passengers along the way. During that period, he began studying music theory with Maestro Carmelo Pace. Subsequently, he continued his studies under Professor Charles Zammit, earning his Diploma (A.L.S.M) in percussion from the Lancashire England School of Music.


In 1982, he joined the Armed Forces band as a drummer led by Maestro Anthony Chircop. and later under the guidance of Mro. George Debono. In 1989, following an audition, he became part of the National Orchestra housed at the Manoel Theatre, directed by Mro. Joseph Sammut, taking on the role of a percussionist. His musical journey continued with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, where he served as the principal percussionist under the batons of Mro. Michael Laus and Mro. Brian Schembri. His involvement with the National Orchestra extended beyond Malta, marking memorable trips to Rome, Palermo, Arezzo, and a remarkable visit to China. In November 2018, he traveled to Poland with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of conductor Mro. Mark Agius. Presently, he is an integral part of The Malta Concert Orchestra, directed by Mro. Joe Brown and Mro. Paul Abela. With the latter he also played in a Jazz Festival in Sicily.

Throughout his illustrious 26-year career, he mastered various percussion instruments, including timpani, snare drum, xylophone, and held the esteemed position of principal timpanist for several years. In 1994, he was selected by Charles 'City' Gatt to participate as a drummer in the Malta Jazz Festival alongside renowned American singer Joe Lee Wilson. Additionally, in 1996, he performed at the Malta Jazz Festival this time with singer Caco York and collaborated with various other international musicians. In addition, he was involved as a percussionist for over fifteen consecutive years, leading in the National Eurovision Song Contest until the competition shifted away from live orchestral performances. Meanwhile, he established his own band, performing at numerous events including weddings, dances, and various other functions. Though he retired from his main profession, he continues to teach part-time. Occasionally, he also participates in orchestra performances. Recently, had the privilege of playing alongside the orchestra at L-Għanja tal-Poplu Żagħżagħ 2019, providing an invaluable experience for budding young singers who had the opportunity to perform accompanied by the orchestra. Over the years, he encountered numerous prominent celebrities throughout his career. Notably, he shared moments with renowned Italian singers such as Gianni Morandi, Andrea Bocelli, Riccardo Cocciante, Lucio Dalla, and jazz singer Al Jarreau, among many others. It's worth mentioning his collaboration with Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja.


For approximately fifteen years, he dedicated himself to part-time teaching, imparting his percussion expertise to Maltese teens at the Johann Strauss School of Music. It was a fulfilling period that brought him immense satisfaction. Presently, he continues his teaching journey at the new Malta School of Music. Throughout this experience, he found immense satisfaction in nurturing a talented crop of percussionists, some of whom have made a notable name for themselves. Individuals like Luke Baldacchino, Daniel Cauchi, Alex Debono, Melchior Busuttil, and his son Joseph stand out among those who have flourished under his guidance. Additionally, Joseph pursued further studies in London, following in the footsteps of others who continue to excel in this field.

Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri at his home

Joe is married to Doris. They got married on 27 August, 1978 and got two sons.

I'm a keen follower of the music scene, and today, there's an abundance of talented musicians and singers. To the aspiring students, I urge them to approach music seriously, dedicating time to study and practice. A musician's growth hinges on this dedication.

He wishes to express gratitude to those who, though no longer present, were instrumental in his journey—his encouraging parents who instilled unwavering support; the numerous musicians, bands, and groups from whom he gleaned invaluable lessons; conductors and singers who shaped his path; and his ever-supportive wife and children, who stood by him as music became our family's livelihood for many years. He is grateful for the continuous backing of music enthusiasts whose unwavering support and attendance at our organized events have been a source of inspiration and encouragement.