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Rockin' Malta This July
Rockin' Malta this July
In this edition of OhMyMalta, we speak to Rock the South Malta organiser Nick Morales to learn more about this year’s festival, taking place 8–10 July at Zion Bar in Marsascala
In just over a week, the country’s foremost alternative music festival, Rock the South Malta, returns to Marsascala for three days of concerts featuring both legendary and emerging artists. This year’s iteration of the festival sees a wealth of homegrown and international talent appear at the legendary Zion Bar, also known as Malta’s ‘chillest beach bar’, which has grown from humble beginnings as a beach shack more than ten years ago to a bustling summer hangout.
Nick Morales, a prominent Maltese musician and recent member of the well-known Maltese band ManuTapu, shares his experiences organising Malta’s Rock the South festival, and what to expect from the island’s premier rock and alternative event.
WHAT FIRST INSPIRED YOU TO START ROCK THE SOUTH MALTA?
You could almost say it started by accident. I was organising some performances for some friends from Italy — a band called Aim — and, with help from Keith Decelis of Bass Culture, decided to organise a mini-festival at Zion bar in Marsaskala. That was the first edition of Rock the South, and was really quite a spontaneous thing set up to help those friends from Italy. However, even from the first edition I could see that the festival was a great success, and so I decided to repeat it and could actually see it growing year-onyear, which was great. The festival has become a real staple in the alternative scene — bands look forward to it and the event continues to attract new people.
HOW HAS THE FESTIVAL GROWN SINCE ITS FIRST YEAR IN 2012?
One of the main signs of growth has been the size of the audience, which has increased each year. We are now seeing people not only from the alternative scene, but also people who might otherwise be interested in more mainstream music — those who may not choose to attend gigs showcasing this kind of music, but will come to Rock the South. One of the special things about the festival is that, despite its growth and the size of the event today, it retains a very underground spirit and is still very much for musicians, by musicians. Of course, growth is very important and remains a key objective for the festival, but it is important not to forget your roots.
AS A MUSICIAN YOURSELF, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE WELCOMING SO MANY FANTASTIC ARTISTS FROM ABROAD TO THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL?
I love seeing international artists myself, and I think it’s very important for local musicians. Of course, it’s now very easy to be able to attend music festivals overseas, but I think there’s something special about bringing artists to Malta — it helps people here make more contacts, and also influences them musically. It’s also very important to be able to show musicians from overseas what is going on in our country; we have so many talented artists and so many great bands here, and I think connection is always key.
THIS YEAR WELCOMES IGGOR CAVALERA, A RENOWNED BRAZILIAN DRUMMER AND FOUNDER MEMBER OF THE WELLKNOWN BAND SEPULTURA. HOW DID HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE FESTIVAL ARISE AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO WELCOME SUCH A WORLDWIDE ARTIST?
It’s a great honour for us to be able to welcome Iggor Cavalera to Malta for this year’s Rock the South festival. I’ve actually been listening to him since the age of 14, so this is very special to me. We originally were in discussions to bring his band Corroded Spiral to Malta this year, but due to certain logistical challenges we decided to invite him on a solo basis.
I’d seen some videos of him performing modular electronic sets, and asked him if he would like to perform in that capacity for Rock the South. He agreed, and we’re really looking forward to welcoming him to the festival. I think this is going to be one of the first times he will have performed this particular set, if not the first time, so it’s going to be a very unique experience for Malta and Rock the South.
THE EVENT’S SILENT DISCO TENT INCLUDES AN INTERESTING ARRAY OF ARTISTS FROM VARIOUS GENRES, INCLUDING ELECTRONIC, AMBIENT AND EXPERIMENTAL. WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS?
When I was in festivals abroad, I came across the concept of silent discos and thought they were great fun. Also, as the space at Zion is not that large, I was trying to see how we could create a second area that would be able to keep going at the same time, and so the idea of a silent disco seemed perfect. This year, the silent disco is mostly going to be singer-songwriter and electronic acts, with DJs at the end as well. This year was a real challenge to include all the artists as so many people wanted to play, so this gives us an opportunity to add even more acts to the festival.
MALTA BOASTS A TALENTED AND COMMITTED UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE, WITH ARTISTS APPEARING AT ROCK THE SOUTH VERY REPRESENTATIVE OF THIS. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT THE COUNTRY THAT PROMOTES SUCH CREATIVITY?
I think one of the main reasons is that Malta is such a mix of people. That really helps as, in bigger countries, it’s perhaps much easier to identify with only one type of music — for example, metal — due to the size of the country and therefore each individual musical genre having a larger fanbase.
Additionally, since we have so many people from abroad coming to Malta, we have so many opportunities to be exposed to different music, different sounds and different ways of playing. It also goes hand-in-hand with Maltese culture; we have such a mix of different cultures represented in our history and there’s a great energy in Malta.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
The last thing I’d like to mention is that we really put a lot of effort into our merchandise as well, and we’re very excited to be featuring a very nice line of merchandise this year. I’d also like to thank the whole crew working on Rock the South.
It’s hard to mention everybody, but one of the main reasons this festival is such a success is because of the crew. We’ve created a family of super-passionate people who really go out of their way to make this festival happen, and, of course, I must thank the audience for their support and what they bring to the festival. They’re amazing, we’re very thankful to them and we’re sure they’re going to enjoy what we’re putting on this year.