Reliving the halcyon days of progressive house music. It’s rather difficult to push the boundaries…
Photo Credits: Lisa Sant
Malta has an extremely fascinating history, so before we dive into the music, let’s look back at how this island came to be. Various civilizations ruled the territory over a span of 7,000 years. With Megalithic temples scattered around dating as far back at 3600 BC and a unique language that has traces of Italian, French and Arabic it is evident that they had an arduous past. However, the Maltese established their own culture and most importantly they were able conquer their island to become sovereign. In 1964, Malta became independent and in 1979 they became totally free from the British. As time went on and more people discovered the beauty of this country, with its pristine turquois waters and sunshine, tourism became the essential business for the island, with two million tourists visting and generating 1.95 billion Euros, as reported in 2017. This massive increase in tourism was due in large part to Malta joining the European Union in 2004. Since then the island has seen major improvements in developing the country to become a jewel of the Mediterranean. Proof of this came in 2018 when the capital of Valetta was selected as the European Capital of Culture.
Music and culture go hand in hand, so whether it be jazz, opera or techno, Malta has something for everyone. With such a young and vibrant population that loves the nightlife, various promoters have built festivals that pack the summer schedule full of entertainment. In July you will find Malta Music Week, with the Isle of MTV being the main event, along with boat parties and other events around the island. August is when techno takes over with Glitch Festival, and Summer Daze, another homegrown event which also hosts an impressive line up from across the electronic music spectrum. Along with the festivals you’ll find outdoor night clubs such as Uno Village, that is home to various club nights like Gringo’s, hosted by one of Malta’s best DJ/producers, Carl Bee. Other al fresco locations include Gianpula or Nine Lives, where you can find more local talent like DJ Ruby, a veteran of the music scene in the country. The island is also home to the only other Café del Mar outside of Ibiza. This gorgeous venue with its infinity pool overlooking St. Paul’s bay hosts various parties from April until October and it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset into the Mediterranean Sea.
To keep you dancing throughout the year head to one of the two main techno clubs in Malta, Liquid in San Gwann or Playground in Paceville, the main nightlife district. The scene is thriving and for some fanatics the party doesn’t stop when the clubs close at 4am. They head to other locations around the island for private events or Clique, the only official after hours nightclub.
During my visit I had the chance to meet with Robert Babicz aka Rob Acid, who now calls Malta home. He was tempted to relocate by Guy J, who moved here a few years ago, but Robert isn’t new to the island. He was the first electronic live act to play here back in 1995. Back then he saw a scene that was booming with packed danced floors ready to be taken on an experimental journey of new sounds. There was a period in between where it quieted down but now the scene is alive again, as he said ‘it’s raw and not super commercial’ so he is happy to be a part of. The music scene in Malta was given a big boost when Dr. Konrad Mizzi became the Minister of Tourism in 2013. At the age of only 41 he has already done a lot to put the country on the map and thanks to him many promoters are getting the support they need to host their events.
International promoters have also been welcomed to the island to attract new tourists and give the locals a chance to dance to world renowned brands, such as Elrow, which has been a sold-out event at Uno Village the past few years. These promoters have seen the appeal of hosting events in Malta, with its affordable prices and unique landscape, making it a perfect alternative to Ibiza. Festival’s such as Annie Mac’s Lost & Found has been held here every May since 2015 and a year later in September of 2016 the International Music Summit began holding a new annual event at the Intercontinental Hotel. IMS College brings together key players from all aspects of the electronic music industry to coach up-coming talent and to give peers a chance to learn from each other. The fourth edition of IMS Malta took place September 13-14th, 2019, which was an intimate gathering compared to the main IMS event that is held each May in Ibiza. With a smaller group it was easier to make new friends and engage with the experts on the panels, who welcomed the open dialogue.
The first day started with keynote interview with Phil Sagar from Armada Music who gave advice on how to approach record labels for submitting tracks, starting your own label, branding and identity. It should go without saying but quality always rules over branding. He advised to still be prolific and put out as much music as you can because it is so competitive out there. Also, when sending tracks to labels keep it simple, state the facts and be truthful, those who aren’t will get caught and that happens far too often.
The second session of the day was from Mark Lawrence of Black Rock Publishing, who gave a crash course in publishing 101. This is such an important topic to ensure that royalties are being paid out to the producers, even when other DJs play them in clubs or festivals. The technology is there to support this, but everyone needs to get on board to make sure it’s being used. Performing rights organizations around the world have been formed to support these efforts. So if you are a producer, make sure your tracks are being published, read your contracts closely, and don’t rely on labels for all aspects of your track releases and royalties. You also don’t have to wait for the track to be signed to get it published, do it straight away and learn about your rights as a producer.
The day continued with panels on branding, running a DJ collective, producing for syncing opportunities, and other topics geared towards producers such as a track deconstructions session from Carl Bee and a workshop by Point Blank Music School hosted by Marco Faraone (Uncage, Rekids, Drumcode).
The second day continued with more technical sessions and production clinics but the standout topic of day two was on mental health awareness, with a panel discussion titled ‘Survive and Thrive in Music Industry’. This is a topic that we have been hearing more about in recent years as people have become open about their struggles in this industry. There are staggering statics on depression and suicide, making this such an important topic to discuss. Tips were given on how to balance your life to be healthier both mentally and physically, and Joost Toast addressed the importance of ear protection and how Tinnitus can be avoided or managed. If you need advice on any of these issues there are several organizations that are ready to help, such as Ibiza Loves Ears, Music Cares, Help Musicians UK or the Big White Wall.
The day finished with a keynote interview with Nic Fancuilli and his manager, where they discussed their relationship, his back to back sets and tips for up and coming DJ/producers. As he said “you should want it because you enjoy it, not because you want to be like everyone else. Get your inspiration from everything you love but create your own sound”.
Nic later played a beautifully energetic set at Elrow to conclude the festivities. IMS College was an inspiring two days spent learning from peers and experts laced with a lot of fun in between. I’d recommend anyone who is seeking out career in the music industry to attend an IMS event.
A big thanks goes out to Listen Up and the Maltese Tourism Authority for inviting Electronic Groove to be a part of IMS College and we look forward to working with you again in the future.
Lastly, for those who haven’t been to Malta yet, I hope you do so in the near future, as you will be amazed in so many ways!
For more information about IMS Malta click here.
Photo Credits: Daryl Cauchi