And here we are, presenting to you all another monthly Maltese awe-inspiring tune. Riflessi (Reflections), sung by Karen DeBattista and composed by Mark Scicluna to the lyrics of Emil Calleja Bayliss is my next choice following Tema 79, reviewed in July. This song participated in last year’s Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza. Although it did not make it to the very top, it was surely a magnificent stepping stone for DeBattista, following her triumph in this year’s Għanja tal-Poplu with Jien ma Naħdimx (literally, I don’t work).
The song’s vocab at the very beginning is predominantly marine and this reminds me of the first seconds of another successful song penned by Calleja Bayliss, Poeta Bla Kliem (Lost Muse), with words like nixxiegħa (spring), ilma (water), fond (depth) and riflessi (reflections) all related to water. She finds herself stepping in this spring without managing to catch a glimpse of her own reflection, an absence which urges her to keep on insisting and go into another world, what she calls the surreal.
This is alluding to the incredible capacity we all have to immerse ourselves into another world, a world of our choice, doing away with our bitter reality and retreating into a better place, maybe another place of our own creation. Following her going into another world, her own reflections reappear, hinting her encounter with her very own self. Troubles with how her life might be unfolding become more evident and explicit by means of this stanza:
Din ħajti paradoss,
Għajjat bla ħoss
Kemm se ndum mitlufa nħuf?
Qed nitkisser f’elf biċċa
Qed inħossni nispiċċa
which suggests a life of opposites, a complete paradox (paradoss), ironically without any sort of life whatsoever, as implied by the mute screaming (għajjat bla ħoss) and her being literally shattered (nitkisser) in a thousand of pieces (f’elf biċċa). However, the comparision that follows, to a hopeful (ma nieqaf qatt nittama)boat in the middle of a storm (bħal dgħajsa f’maltempata) symbolises the strength of her very own persistence:
bħal dgħajsa f’maltempata
ma nieqaf qatt nittama
Confirmation to my interpretation of the reflections at the start of this review materialises close to the end of the song, previous to the very last chorus:
Kemm bkejt u kemm ħlejt żmien
Infittiex jien min jien
Ma kelli l-ebda ħjiel
Kif negħleb dan ix-xkiel
Imma issa sibt it-triq
Dak kollu li nixtieq
Riflessi ta’ min jien
She is now face to face with who she really is (riflessi ta’ min jien), and the reflections she could not perceive with her eyes at the beginning of the song are now well visible at its final seconds, hinting a hopeful ending. However, one could well easily ask, but is she still in a surreal world, where everything is possible? And if she still is, what would happen should she return to the real, cold world that wipes out all reflections of who we are?
Karen DeBattista, a year ago, gave an outstanding interpretation to this song and adding this up to her accomplishment at the 2014 Għanja tal-Poplu I believe that she’s surely one of the best emerging artists at the moment.
Media,Link Communications launched a talent search to merit an upcoming artist the opportunity to perform within the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza and following in the footsteps of Simone Gauci is none other than Karen DeBattista. The young female artist has been dubbed as to having the voice of an angel and many could easily denote why as she gives a sterling rendition of the song Riflessi composed by Mark Scicluna with lyrics by Emil Calleja Bayliss, the escflashmalta.com Head of Communications. Below, our editorial board devised a set of questions in order to get to know Karen a little bit better whilst Chris and Moira have also heard all of the entries in order to comment on them. With regards to Karen, they stated that 'she has a lovely voice and good stage presence' ultimately awarding her with five (5) points, meaning that they weren't too fond of the track.
Passport 2 Indifest is a talent show organised by Spiteri Lucas Entertainment in conjunction with the organisation board of the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza with the aim of giving a brand new artist the possibility to compete in the esteemed competition. The initial trial took place last year seeing to the performance of Simone Gauci and her entry Id F’Id composed by Renato Briffa to the lyrics of Keith Zammit and this time round, it will be you, Karen DeBattista. Back when you submitted your application, did you believe that you could triumph and how would you describe your journey towards obtaining the wildcard?
I have to be honest - I applied for the competition with the intention of gaining experience and exposure; winning was just a thought in the back of my mind. I still wanted to give my utmost with regards to performances, and I believe I did so, but my main aim was to have fun, meet new people and take as much as I could from the experience. After making it to the third phase of the competition (which was quite a surprise since only four singers had to be chosen out of ten), I realised that I had as much chance of winning as much as the other competitors, so my approach changed with each stage of the competition.
We were quite a bunch of energetic singers, and despite being a competition, we grew closer as friends. The final was exciting and scary at the same time for various reasons - the first being that I was extremely looking forward to performing a classic Maltese song, the second being that I was only a step away from winning my very first competition and obtaining an automatic place in the final of the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza (which I have been following ever since I can remember) and the final reason being that I was competing with a very close friend of mine - Marie Claire Attard Bason. She is an extremely talented singer and I wanted her to win as much as I did myself since we both worked hard and we both deserved to win. I would like to say thank-you to Mark Spiteri Lucas and his band for the amazing job they did on every song and for their hospitality. It surely was an experience to cherish.
The track that you will be performing at this years’ edition of the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza is entitled Riflessi with music by Mark Scicluna and lyrics by Emil Calleja Bayliss. It is important to point out that you did not have a say in the choice of the track with the initial jury appointed by the committee of the showcase making the selection on your behalf based on your vocal capabilities. When you heard the track for the very first time, what were your initial thoughts and did you want to make any changes?
My very first thought was ‘WOW!’. I just loved the flow of the music and the depth of the lyrics. I usually go through a process before deciding on a song, meaning that I look for what I like and what I don’t like in a song. This time I didn’t have that option. I was slightly sceptical and anxious about the judges’ decision since I was afraid that it would not be suitable for me, or maybe it wasn’t to my liking. I can gladly say that I was mistaken on both counts. I am extremely happy with the team and the song, and I have a feeling that it is going to be a wonderful and exciting journey.
In 2011, you reached the finals of the Malta Hit Song Contest with the song Memoirs composed by Mark Scicluna with lyrics by Daniel Muscat and ultimately also had the opportunity to perform a duet with Thea Garrett who had just been at the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of months before. Therefore, with that in mind, this will you be your second major experience in a local competition but the first in such a magnificent venue. Did you always wish to join the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza and how are you preparing for the live performance?
I am fairly certain that for anyone who follows the Maltese music scene and wants to make it in music locally, one of the competitions which they look forward to taking part in is the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza. The competition has long been established as a major event in the Maltese music calendar, and as all aspiring singers, I have longed for the day when I could take part and perform on that stage. Luckily enough, this year I have the opportunity to do so. The Malta Hit Song Contest was an excellent stepping stone since as mentioned, apart from gaining experience with regards to a televised competition I also had the opportunity to sing with the wonderful Thea Garrett who was extremely helpful and supportive. Now I look forward to a new experience - performing in front of such a large crowd this coming September. Preparations are on track, with me practicing the song together with my vocal coach Gillian Zammit so that I can give the best performance possible and other decisions being taken as a team together with the composer and author of the song.
The Malta Eurovision Song Contest is the most predominant music competition in the country noting that the winner gets the opportunity to perform in front of millions of people all over the world. You showed interest this year by submitting a song, one entitled Cold Whispers composed by Mark Scicluna with lyrics by Emil Calleja Bayliss. The track which did not get through to the semi-final stage of the competition was never unveiled. Do you intend to submit the track once more in 2014 as the journey towards Denmark commences or will you be working on new material?
Yes, I will definitely submit the song again this year! Making it with the top 69 songs on my first attempt at the Malta Eurovision Song Contest was a great achievement for me personally. Despite not making it to the semi-final stage of the competition, I still believe in the song, and that is the main reason for submitting the song again this year. I would love to work on new songs for the said competition, but unfortunately, due to personal reasons I cannot do so this year. I am still at the beginning of my musical career, so I know that I have ample time to come up with new material, and I look forward to whatever the future may hold.
Would you like to say anything to our readers at escflashmalta.com?
I would like to encourage them to continue to support Maltese artists and anything that has to do with the Maltese music scene. It is thanks to their continuous support that local artists and music can continue to grow and flourish.