Walter Micallef

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Walter Micallef

Walter Micallef (born 24 October 1955) is a leading Maltese singer songwriter. He hails from the central Maltese town of Birkirkara and has composed well over a hundred songs, nearly all in Maltese.

Childhood

He spent his childhood in Birkirkara, Malta's largest town, at a time when his family home was requisitioned by the state to make way for a public convenience. Like other Maltese boys of the age, he revelled in driving around the island and on visiting the neighbouring islands of Gozo and Comino. Three of his earlier songs, all still unreleased, are Ġewwa Marsalforn (In Marsalforn), Erġajt Sejjer Marsalforn (Going back to Marsalforn) and Xagħar Iswed (Black Hair).

The first two are both played on the reggae beat and have only been performed in Valletta in 2004 and in Xewkija Gozo in 2005. The track Xagħar Iswed, written when Micallef was only seventeen, bears witness that the artiste was always romantically inclined and recurring phrases in his lyrics still comment on the beauty he admires in simplicity. A literal translation of a stanza taken from Xagħar Iswed, written in 1972, goes as:

Black and wavy hair, beautiful lips, mellow smile, it's our love that I seek, I admire her and she knows all this.

It is thought that these three songs may feature in his forthcoming third album, expected to be released in 2013.

Musical Influences

He has cited the Italian Giorgio Gaber, Gino Paoli and American Jim Croce and James Taylor as his major musical influences, although at times he has also played Cat Stevens songs. Critics, however, believe that Micallef has also the fiery Bruce Cockburn spirit in him and the Lou Reed cynicism in his lyrics. Lil Malta may after all be his equal to Reed's Last Great American Whale.

Micallef has maintained that as a Maltese counterpart he mentions Manwel Mifsud, unfortunately barely known in the musical field. Graziana Axisa has played as a supporting act in a major Marsascala concert in 2006. Axisa has also sung Micallef's song Għaċ-Ċkejkna in the 2005 Għanja Tal-Poplu festival, placing a creditable second.

Artistic works in Maltese are minimal since there is no national strategy to assist or promote performers singing in their mother tongue. European Union funds are hard to acquire considering that Maltese is an official EU language, and not a minority one. Micallef has lamented about this shortcoming many times [1].

Musical career

Micallef has won the major artistic awards that Maltese singing provides. He has won the Għanja tal-Poplu festival, founded by the Youth Travel Circle in 1973, several times. In 1979 he won with Ġuvni (Young Man), followed with success in 1992 with Iż-Żmien (Time) and in 1994 with In-Nofsinhar (The South). He has also won best lyrics in 1994 with Le (No), in 1999 with Sieħbi fil-Cupboard tal-Kċina (My friend in the Cupboard), in 2005 with Għaċ-Ċkejkna (For the Little One) and in 2006 with Lil Malta (A Song for Malta).

Writing in Malta Today on 23 March 2001, critic Miriam Dunn remarks that "listening to the intelligent usage he makes of the Maltese language in his work, it is difficult to imagine that some years back, Walter made a conscious decision to switch his songwriting from the English language"[2].

Although he had been around since 1973, it was in February 2003 that he released his first album, after a chance meeting with Radju Malta world music presenter Steve Borg. The first album was entitled M'Jien Xejn (I am Nothing). Already considered as a classic release, it contains fifteen tracks written between 1981 and 2001. Awwissu (August) remains his most popular track from this album, and has even been used, albeit to his surprise, as an advert for an air-conditioning brand on Maltese television. He has lamented that his lyrics have, at times, had a lukewarm reception by the Maltese public, perhaps due to the islanders' inbred conservative upbringing and years of political polarisation.

With Maltese society opening up to self-appraisal and criticism, he has been embraced by a growing band of devotees who follow him to all his venues. He has given memorable concerts at The Labyrinth in Valletta, The Beachclub in Marsascala, The George in Bugibba and Marsalforn Sajf in Gozo.

Walter Micallef in Marsascala, Sept 2011

On the 18 March 2004 he launched his Walter Micallef u l-Ħbieb band, including Etnika's double bassist Oliver DeGabriele, as Malta's representative in the UNESCO Suisse charity event One World Beat [2]. This was followed by four concerts in July 2004 at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta, featuring his sextet.

He has also made appearances on German television stations ZDF and Bayerisches Fernsehen and on several regional French stations. He is regularly played on Maltese radio stations and on ethnic Maltese radio programmes in Australia.

Micallef was shortlisted for Best Male Artist in 2004 for the Malta Music Awards, and has continued to win acclaim and awards for his prowess in writing Maltese lyrics complimented by original melodies. He was awarded the Julian Manduca Cultural Award [3] in July 2006 at Gianpula in Rabat for his proactive environmental songs, aimed at raising social consciousness on these issues.

On the 23rd of March 2007 he released his second album, Ħamsin (Fifty) in front of a packed house at the Powerhouse Theatre [3], Valletta Waterfront in Floriana.[4] His modern folk [4] sextet includes WOMAD performer Renzo Spiteri on percussion, Eric Wadge on bass, Pawlu "l-Bibi" Camilleri on harmonica, Albert Garzia[5] on accordion and piano and Jes Psaila on acoustic, semi-acoustic and electric guitars. Ħamsin includes twelve tracks, with thematic content ranging from romantic songs such as Wara l-Ħajt (Behind the Wall) and Min Hi? (Who is She?) to pro-environmental songs like L-Aħħar Sekondi (The Final Seconds) and Lil Malta (A Song for Malta). The musical arrangements are by Renzo Spiteri. Lil Malta is fast becoming Malta's environmental battlecry against building speculation in an erstwhile over-built island state.

On 6 May 2007 the album was on top of the D'Amato Music Best 20 Malta hit parade. Unlike many Maltese musicians, Walter Micallef does not have his hotel spot as an entertainer. He is after all, a performer and as such the requests he accedes to are those pertaining to his vast repertoire. He prefers to play live and avoids playback.

In 2009 Micallef, together with Corazon Mizzi, won the Għanja tal-Poplu festival again with the song Tal-Aħħar. He is also currently rehearsing on performing some of his Maltese songs with the Cosmos Wind Quintet featuring guitar, bassoon, flute, clarinet and oboe.

In July 2016 Walter took part in the L-Għanja tal-Poplu 2006 – (Festival Kanzunetta Maltija) with the song Ħanini penned and composed by himself. He passed from the Semi-Finali held on Thursday 7 July, 2016 but he did’nt made it,for the Final Night held on Saturday 9 July, 2016.

Songs

  • Willie (1970)
  • Xagħar Iswed (1972)
  • Ma tħobbnix
  • Lil Hilary
  • Simpatija u Ħniena
  • Ħmistax
  • Ġewwa Marsalforn
  • Inħobbok (1974)
  • 5 t'Ottubru 1977 (1977)
  • Ħrafa u Ereżija (1978)
  • Ġuvni (1979)
  • Ġebla Niexfa
  • L-istorja ta' Dej
  • Mqar
  • Il-party
  • Inċedi
  • Inħobbok (oħra)
  • Ma Temminnix (1980)
  • In-Nofsinhar (1981)
  • Lil Dil-Povra Kreatura (1982)
  • M'Jien Xejn (1988)
  • L-Aħħar Sekondi
  • Iż-Żmien (1993)
  • Le (1994)
  • Tihom Widen (1995)
  • Awwissu (1996)
  • Blues (1997)
  • L-F.M.
  • Dan l-Aħħar (1998)
  • Kif Deherli Jien
  • Gianni (1999)
  • Żgħira
  • Sieħbi fil-Cupboard tal-Kċina
  • San Blas waqt il-Programm (2000)
  • Nemmen
  • Elfejn u Għoxrin (2001)
  • Il-Kejl
  • Wara l-Ħajt (2002)
  • Kelba, qattusa u kanarin
  • Ħajja tan-Nejk
  • Ċirku
  • Il-Fjamma
  • Ċanfira
  • Ħażin (2004)
  • Tard wisq
  • Qiegħ il-flixkun
  • Ħelu u tal-Ġenn (2005)
  • Min Hi?
  • Għaċ-Ċkejkna
  • Pino
  • 'Il Fuq
  • Lil Malta (2006)
  • Ir-Rebbiegħa (2007)
  • Ħielsa (2007)
  • Bix-Xemx Warajja (2008)
  • Tal-Aħħar (2009)

References

  1. Fading Notes, The Malta Independent, 22 August 2005
  2. Words with Meaning, Malta Today, 23 March 2001.
  3. [1]
  4. Music Matters, The Malta Independent, 1 April 2007.

Other references

External links

See also

Category:Walter Micallef Photos