Roderick Bovingdon, also known as Rigu, is a noted Maltese author residing in Australia. Born in Attard, Malta in 1942, he emigrated with his parents to Australia when still a teenager. Other than many publications on Maltese linguistics, he is also known for a number of songs he released in vinyl or compact disk. These include Bejn il-Ħbieb (Between friends), which was the “B” side of the first ever Maltese language pop song recorded in Sydney, Australia in 1974. The music was based on the traditional Maltese għana (folk music) but for the first time ever it was embellished with electric guitars instead of the traditional catgut instruments as well as the modern percussion instruments (symbols and drums).
The lyrics were written by Rigu Bovingdon and sung by the lyricist, while Joe Galea played the lead guitar. The name of the instrumental group was The Diplomats. Their involvement with the local Maltese community was merely accidental when they agreed to back Rigu and Joe Galea musically for the purpose of recording their Maltese song.
Ironically it was this “B” side which made the greatest impact on the local charts. It became an instant hit both in Australia as well as in Malta where Joe Galea and Bovingdon presented it “live” on stage at the Malta annual Mnarja show in Buskett in 1976. A black and white film recording was taken by the Parisian CNRS.
The significance of this recording is that, it being the first ever pop Maltese sound recording in Australia when such a phenomenon was considered by the community itself as anathema, it instilled within the Maltese community of Australia a sense of pride and identity. It provided a significant point of cultural identity. As a direct result, Maltese pop groups sprung forth overnight in Sydney and Melbourne where the larger Maltese colonies exist to this day. This new point of national identity furthermore expanded to create a vibrant local market for Maltese popular singing. It also encouraged the Maltese to take pride in their language and musical traditions. The record was released by EMI, Sydney.
Il-Blata (The Rock), lyrics by Rigu and musical score is a result of Rigu's initial theme in its crude form and later worked on by both him and Joe Galea. The title Il-Blata is reminiscent of his homeland Malta. Released by EMI, Sydney.
Maltin u Għawdxin (Maltese & Gozitans) was Rigu's first solo recording following Bejn il-Ħbieb as Joe Galea chose to “go it alone” after their first phenomenal success. This song in traditional march beat is a patriotic appeal to my fellow country people. Again it became an instant hit to the extent that for quite a long while in Malta, it was adopted by the national broadcaster as a kind of signature tune to the beginning of the day’s broadcasts. The flip side was a mere frolic in traditional folk music, also very popular but with a general appeal rather than specific patriotic notions. Released by EMI, Sydney.
Ridt niżżewweġ (Looking for Marriage) has Rigu's lyrics and traditional style melody. Two added innovations on this recording were (i) his whistling to break the monotony of a repetitive traditional beat and (ii) yodling in the background. The group which recorded this song with him were all Maltese youngsters by the name ofThe Cyclone (as in the above song also). They were one of the many pop groups which emerged as a direct result of their initial phenomenal success with the first ever Maltese pop recording in Australia. - EMI, Sydney.
Ħabbejt (I have loved) featured Rigu's original words and music to his first love song. In addition to percussion instruments he added a violin and a saxophone. The theme was a solemn cabaret style. This was the “A” side of the old vinyl 45rpm recording. But it was the “B” side which made the hit. The Vikings were the backing group. Released by EMI, Sydney.
Tfuliti f’Malta (My childhood in Malta) was the “B” side to the above. It ran for 5 minutes duration and the lyrics revolve around Rigu's childhood memories of growing up in a typical Maltese village. The melody was his original composition, sung in octets in a quasi tradtional style. This was also backed by The Vikings. – EMI, Sydney.
Aħfirli (Forgive me) was a cabaret style, easy swing, single recorded solely as Rigu's entry in a competition held at Sydney Town Hall between Maltese singers in Australia and those back in Malta. Another love song. Along with all the rest of my total repertoire, this song was later released on an LP, a cassette tape and a CD by Kanangra Recording Studios.
Xalata fuq il-baħar (A boat picnic) is a cheeky frolic in song, with the lyrics alluding to my youthful love conquests. A waltz tune adapted to Maltese traditional style. Another big success. Words, music and singing by Roderick (Rigu) Bovingdon. This time a keyboard was added to the run of the mill pop instruments. “B” side with the accompanying band being The Mifsud Brothers. Released by EMI, Sydney.
Bil-mod il-mod (Slowly, slowly) – “A” side of the above song. A love song. Original own lyrics and composition. This particular song marked the zenith of Rigu's professional singing career in lyrics, musical composition and singing. An added feature was his falsetto. A good cabaret tune. Both sides were extremely successful. Mifsud Brothers accompanied. Released by EMI, Sydney.
Ejjew ningħaqdu (Let us unite) was recorded after Rigu's return to Sydney from Malta, where he had been following a full time University course (B.Educ.) to specialise in Maltese. This course was provided to him by the Maltese Government as a special scholarship. Unfortunately Bovingdon had to return to Australia while still half way through his course due to my father’s terminal illness.
The theme of the song is entirely patriotic reflecting his genuine feelings towards Malta as at the time, the local political climate had polarised the Maltese populace. This was Rigu's appeal to forget the past and move on in unison. The tune chosen was again one of a march beat as this traditional style, adopted from Malta’s British colonial past, appealed greatly to the Maltese sentiment. The backing group were The Cyclones. Released by EMI, Sydney. Tfajla tal-widien (Valley girl) was recorded with formal permit, on the melody of Chris Christofferson’s “Help me make it through the night”. Own lyrics love song. Very well received. – Backing group The Cyclones. Released by EMI, Sydney. Il-wegħda (The promise) is an easy swing love song. with Rigu's own words and musical composition with the backing of The Mifsud Brothers. It was on the “A” side of a 45rpm also released by EMI, Sydney.
Issa jew qatt (It’s now or never) – “B” side. - Adaptation in Maltese of the Elvis song but not a translation. Again formal permit to record obtained, with Mifsud Brothers backing. An EMI, Sydney release.
Four releases backed by the 'Philip Vella Recording Studios, in Mellieħa, Malta are Ħalluni (Let go of me), which is a highly emotional sad lament with his own lyrics and melody; Is-sigriet (The secret), with Rigu's lyrics based on the musical score of Paul Anka’s “All of a sudden my heart sings”; Busni (Kiss me) Rigu's lyrics based on Peggy Lee’s melody of “Johnny Guitar” and Sliema (Hail Mary), being the only Maltese language version of the Hail Mary (Ave Maria). This is Rigu's own musical composition.