Olivari's Sound and Vision

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Sunday 11 April 2010 (Michael Bugeja - The Sunday Times of Malta)

Guitarist Antonio Olivari is one of those musicians for whom time seems to be an adversary. He is involved in several projects and is constantly on the look-out for new challenges and collaborations. Video games, radio, theatre and TV series and programmes; you name it, he’s probably done it. He’s also played with countless bands, among them Akustika and Symphonik Choir, and his latest work is the music score for the second series of popular Maltese TV drama Gheruq. Olivari talks about his passion for music and the various challenges and opportunities it has brought him face to face with.

Your name is pretty much synonymous with the guitar. Have you ever thought of playing other instruments?

When I started playing at 14 years of age, the acoustic guitar seemed like the most portable and least neighbour-annoying option, so I stuck with it… until the neighbours themselves started being noisy and I had to switch to electric guitar to compete. After that came a whole bunch of other musical instruments, most importantly keyboards and sound modules, and with them the ongoing battle to find the right sounds for the right music.

Although guitar is my main performing instrument, I’m rather attracted to the idea of trying to be a music maker of some sort in a holistic way. Music as an idea or a feeling is there irrespective of the instrument one plays and then it’s just a matter of choosing the best medium to express it.

In the years you have been musically active, you’ve played with various bands and artists, even various genres. Do you feel the same passion for all of the individual projects/genres or are there ones you prefer more than others?

Performance in my opinion is mostly about group dynamics, and I’m happy about the fact that I’ve tried various set-ups and got on with different people from diverse musical backgrounds. With the Symphonik Choir for example, which includes a normal rock band set-up there is a four-voice choir, it is especially exciting when you listen to your songs with a full choral arrangement. And since the group is considerably large in number, around 25 people, you also tend to enjoy the social aspect of it all. However, I also enjoy performing in small settings such as duos or trios as the freedom to experiment and improvise is much greater.

As a regular participant in the Ghanja tal-Poplu festival, how important do you feel this event is to you personally and to Maltese culture in general?

On a personal level, writing songs in Maltese for me comes very natural and it has absolutely nothing to do with being patriotic. Maltese is my first language, and it’s the one I express myself best in.

L-Għanja tal-Poplu festival is the perfect vehicle for songs written in Maltese. Furthermore it’s all live and the atmosphere is really friendly between singers and musicians. Last year, for example, our percussion player ended up playing with another band at the last minute – he simply tried the song on the morning of the festival and joined the band for their performance that same evening. I also had written alternate lyrics for the song Attent, which Justin Galea managed to sing as a laugh when we performed the song the second time after placing third. It’s all good fun and I really do hope the organisers manage to keep it this way.

You’ve also released a free-to-download album, Dark Ages via Pinkpube.com...

Dark Ages came about as a series of ‘DIY’ songs and instrumentals I’ve recorded over the years, which by 2006 amounted to around two or three dozen. They are too slow and peculiar to use in any other way, and so the idea of releasing the better ones online for free is suitable since at least they are out there. The album has been described as spacey dream pop, both majestic and brooding, marked by mournful vocals and shimmering waves of guitar feedback. Not exactly the most cheerful of music…

Writing for TV and film must present a very diverse challenge than conventional compositions...

Writing the music for Gheruq was a lot of fun to do as you are presented with a situation, a story and your role is to try and enhance it through music. Conceptually the idea of creating music is totally different from creating a three-minute song to be played by a band. It has also been a learning experience for me, since I’m not exactly a fan of local fiction TV. I now appreciate more the work everyone puts into such productions, sometimes with stretched resources.

I’m really looking forward to create more music for TV, especially drama as it proved to be a very satisfying experience. I would also like to collaborate with more singers and bands, along with trying to keep the current ones in my diary. Making music is the best thing in the world.

Antonio Olivari at MySpace