Wirdien - Il-Masgar, Mtarfa, 02/10/2010

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Wirdien - Il-Masġar, Mtarfa, 02/10/2010 {Dean Muscat}

After having been postponed due to bad weather, the Wirdien event was finally held last Saturday at the increasingly popular Il-Masġar venue, with folk outfits Plato’s Dream Machine, Stalko and Brikkuni all featured on the bill.

Plato's dream machine were the first to take the stage. The band finally seem to be fulfilling their collective musical potential, and sounded daring and convincing on the night. Robert Farrugia Flores’ gravelly vocals juxtaposed with the shouts and harmonies of other band members were spot on, and on songs such as Recession Street and Sugar in Your Poison they began to resemble some sort of bizarre didactic street rabble one might see in a village festa; the theme of their ravings being social unrest however and not saintly patronage.

The Maltese penned songs in PDM’s set, Fabbrika fuq l-Għolja and two new songs not featured on their debut EP, were where the band really came into their own. Flores emoted and enunciated better when singing in his native tongue, consequently allowing the lyrics to come across with endearing passionate credibility and authenticity.

While Brikkuni and PDM evoke an air of defiance and an ‘us-against-the-world’ disposition, second band of the night Stalko come across as the more charming, romantic brethren, and the least cockroach-like, of this nu-folk, movement. They opened with Flotsam and followed with Il-Mara ta’ fuq il-Bejt.

Apart from the piano, acoustic guitar, violin and bass that form the core of Stalko’s instrumentation, the four piece also made use of a number of other instruments during their set, including a xylophone, harmonica, accordion, ukulele and even a melodica, each adding delicate brushstrokes of colour to the band’s minimalist canvas.

Stalko could have been tighter as a unit in places and their harmonies need some fine-tuning, but with the help of their ambitiously crafted songs and the friendly banter of lead vocalist and pianist Tim Ellis, they received a very warm response and are beginning to garner quite the loyal following.

It would be fair to say that the majority of the people who attended Wirdien specifically went to see the live ensemble jamboree that is Brikkuni. The crowd greeted the band on stage as heroes of sorts. They wasted no time warming into their set, jumping straight into favourite Kollox Suġġettiv, which in its own way sums up why Brikkuni are so popular.

First of all there is its music, a sound that despite its various noticeable strings of international DNA is still somehow unmistakably Maltese. Kollox Suġġettiv’s opening guitar strumming and drawn out vocal melody hint at traditional Maltese għana, and its chorus has the sort of melody and drive that could be easily translated into a festive march for a local banda, which gets the crowd at Wirdien bouncing along accordingly.

Secondly there are Kollox Suġġettiv’s lyrics, a commentary tale on stars-in-their-eyes Malta. Mario Vella’s vocals drenched in sarcasm during lines such as “għax kulħadd inpestat bit-talenti,” one second theatrically comical, next vehemently truthful. Listening to the crowd at Wirdien sing along word for word, you realize how well this song unapologetically voices what previously most people only dared to think.

Unfortunately Brikkuni’s set was cut severely short by the police, due to complaints from nearby residents over the loud noise. Vella, who made it distinctly clear what he thought of the situation and the attendant policeman (several times in fact), urged the crowd to sing as loud as they possibly could and give the band a memorable last number on Gadazz Ġiljan.

After this the plug was pulled on the front-of-house sound, but still the band persisted on stage. With just their onstage amplifiers and monitors they managed to deliver a seventh and final song Kontra Kollox u Kulħadd - an apt title given the circumstances – relying on the boisterous crowd to keep the noise levels booming. In truth, the turn of events will do no harm to Brikkuni’s anti-establishment notoriety, even if they probably would have preferred to play their full planned set for their paying devotees.

Maybe it is because of a growing disillusionment with how all that is hi-tech and corporate has drastically taken over music during the last decade, or maybe it is just another one of those cyclical trends, but folk music has had a renaissance of sorts in the international music scene. The UK has critically acclaimed Mumford & Sons and Bellowhead. The US has Fleet Foxes. Arguably Malta has Brikkuni, who have not only revived folk music on the island but also made Maltese penned songs relevant and current. PDM and Stalko are as yet in their infancy as bands, but a few years down the line might prove that they too will leave their own respective marks on local music.