In the past couple of years, the local music scene has been taking a brand new direction, one which greatly shows the country as one advancing when it comes to the subject of production, and songwriting. Nevertheless, one thing that Malta had been praised for a large number of years is the talent which it has managed to show to the rest of Europe through the Eurovision Song Contest noting that the Public Broadcasting Services has proudly supported the competition since 1991 as well as another three years prior to that. Today, escflashmalta.com has managed to find a couple of minutes to bring you an interview with one of the artists who has made a name for himself both locally and abroad. I am talking about none other than Ludwig Galea who represented Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2004 alongside Julie Zahra. He talks to us about his experiences in the past and his current career when it comes to music.
Speaking to a number of local artists, it has been somewhat of a characteristic that vocal technique starts early noting that the mind seems to have been set on achieving the best possible training as early as possible. You are one of those artists who also knew what he wanted and thanks to your uncle, Reverend Alberto Borg, the former Maestro Di Cappella of St. John’s Co Cathedral, you managed to grow in talent and courage, achieving a stunning vocal prowess which many aspire to have. Looking back at the beginning of your training, did you think to yourself about having a different plan just in case it did not work out and should you have not been singing, what do you think that you would have been doing instead?
Good question J Frankly speaking it has never occured through my mind what I would have become if I didn’t sing. Nevertheless my family are either musicians or in the Catering business. Funnily enough I love to cook when I have some free time. At one point in life I was thinking of becoming a chef but then again I opted out and went for a Bachelor in Education Course and an ACTL diploma in musical theatre. Music and especially voice is something you’re born with. One cannot study to become a singer. The raw voice has to be there; born with. If you then have it or like in my case my uncle noted it, then yes study and polish.
Your success within the local music industry was mainly based with none other than the wonderful Julie Zahra noting that you attempted to represent Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest for the very first time in 2003 with the track My Number One composed by Philip Vella and penned by Joe Julian Farrugia but despite winning the support of the public, the judges were not as feasible so to speak and therefore sent you in fourth place. You did not give up though and returned the following year with the song On Again .. Off Again composed by Philip Vella and penned by Gerard James Borg. Would could you tell us of your experiences on both occasions during the actual Malta Song for Europe competition?
I remember clearly when we sang My Number One, it was the first year the maltasong committee opted for the MFCC tent at ta Qali. Atmosphere wise it was amazing having all those people cheering and shouting. Hands on My Number One was one of the favourites to win the contest however that year controversary took over. It was a rainy and cold night with rain entering our dressing rooms. It was the year when televoting wise saw us, Lawrence and Olivia head to head as previously had happened in the Maltese Song festival. Odds wise Lawrence was favourite and fair enough I admit it was his year. Olivia and ourselves still gave him the “Cavallo di Battaglia” but everything then changed when the results came out. We were all shocked in away. Till the very end we didn’t got the grudge of what was happening with the judges points. At one point we were thinking that the least scores were the best and the tens and twelves were the worst ha ha ha ha. That was a festival I will never forget.
Things changed in 2004, a new committee with fresh ideas and a new chairmperson Ms. Grace Borg. Looking back I believe we had “The Song” . We, alongside Olivia with the beautiful song “Take a look” were favourites to win. Organization wise it was top Knodge. Everything seemed to have fallen in place for us really well. It was Valentine's Day, a romatic atmosphere at the MCC all made the ambiance favourite for us. It was the never ending festival since a particular telephone company had some mishaps with the televoting system and hencforth the night prolonged. Once again it was tight between us and Olivia. Just one point difference till the televoting. Seven thousand votes difference gave us the ticket to Istanbul 2004.
You went to Istanbul in Turkey alongside Julie to represent the country in the prestigious music event and you were actually the very first to be experiencing the semi-final system which had just been implemented. Despite the expectations of an entire nation above your should, the history had proven positive for the country and therefore, it seemed as if nothing could go wrong and indeed it did not, when Malta was announced as a finalist and then ultimately managing to secure a place in the following years’ final as well. Looking back at the trip and the performances, was there anything that you would have done differently in terms of staging?
Let’s start from the changes. Today I would have opted out for the “dance moves” ha ha ha ha ha ha ha having said that I believe everything on both nights went well. We were very well prepared, focused throughout and determined to get the results we’ve got. The Committee’s targets were two; to pass the semi finals and place in the top 12 positions to secure a place for Malta for the following year. Although on the odds we were favourite to pass the semi’s there were speculations that On Again Off Again was a very difficult song to be sung and surely enough it was. I remeber we had alot of press coming during the first rehearsals to see if there perceptions were correct. Infact they weren’t. Headlines on Eurovision Song Contest sites all said that Malta were singing and hitting top notes. On the semi’s final rehearsal Julie’s mic did not work hence before we started off we were abit concerned however we got the results targeted for.
The very first time that you emerged as a solo performer was actually back in the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza of 2001 with the track Ħalluni Ngħanni composed by Philip Vella and penned by Joe Chircop. It was the beginning of a brand new artist for the country and one who really showed a lot of promise. Despite not ranking in within the top three during the evening, it was definitely one to remember because apart from the excitement of the first time, you were performing in the Maltese language. What could you tell us about the importance of such competitions which support such an important part of the local heritage and would you consider returning to one in the future?
There's no business like show business indeed and the music industry does not sleep at any times noting that artists have to put in the effort to succeed otherwise the achievements will be somewhat minimal. It is imperative to note that sometimes, the public have the ball in their court when it comes to the coming together of an individual career and this very much seems to be the case with Julie Zahra, whom many will surely recall as being a former representative for Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest joining then partner Ludwig Galea for a stunning rendition of the track On Again ... Off Again which reached the finals finishing in twelfth place when competing in Istanbul, Turkey. Nevertheless, Julie started her career as a soloist before joining forced as a duet coming up with some great tracks along the way.
Going back twelve to thirteen years ago as the dawn of a new millennium was breaking in, Julie Zahra had competed in the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza, Festival Internazzjonali tal-Kanzunetta Maltija and also the Malta Song for Europe on her own but unfortunately, it seems that she did not hit the right notes throughout failing to impress the public at hand in those days. The first time in this period that she made a nationwide appearance was during the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza in 2000 with the track Jum Wara Jum (Day after Day) composed by Renè Mamo and penned by Walter Micallef. She would ultimately return with her original composition in 2001 as she entered the Malta Song for Europe competition with the track Eternity composed by Renè Mamo and penned by Joe Julian Farrugia. Both songs unfortunately did not score well in the long term but nevertheless, they did prove that Julie would be a force to be reckoned with noting the strong chops of Eleanor Cassar and the sweetness of Karen Polidano in her vocal range.
During the year, she would ultimately have to fill in for Adelina Attard in the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza due to the fact that the original singer was stuck abroad after the tragedy of the Twin Towers in America. The track entitled Ma Jixjieħ Qatt (He Will Never Get Old) was composed by Renato Briffa and penned by Joe Chircop. Nevertheless, things did look up for the artist making the finals of the Festival Internazzjonali tal-Kanzunetta Maltija with the song Ħdejk (Near You) composed by Renè Mamo and penned by Joe Julian Farrugia. The fact of the matter remains that Julie had a lot of faith in the young composer, one who would work with a number of local artists including the likes of Fiona and Annabelle Debono. Her last appearance as a solo performer in a local competition would come in the Malta Song for Europe of 2002 when she performed the track Secret to Share composed by Marco Debono and penned by Fiona Cauchi. It was not her track originally and she took it up because it's original performer had another two songs to perform and that was the limit.
Julie Zahra did join forced with Ludwig and finished fourth in the Malta Song for Europe in 2003 with the track My Number One composed by Philip Vella and penned by Joe Julian Farrugia before winning with the aforementioned On Again ... Off Again composed by Philip Vella and penned by Gerard James Borg. The duo went onto achieve many accolades in international competitions together but once they both went their separate ways, they seem to be looking more into their individual niches once more noting that whilst in the United Kingdom, Julie has been exploring her Jazz side coming up with tracks such as No One In Heaven. One has to add that such a style would definitely be welcome in the local music scene should it be taken up. Stay tuned to escflashmalta.com for more of such features.
Source: escflashmalta, YouTube