As usual in such campaigns the needs of our youth are being forgotten amidst tablets and a 101 other promises meant to draw the adult electorate by hook or by crook.
The young are a particularly vulnerable sector of society in Malta, often having neither the experience nor the financial independence to enjoy and develop their talents to the fullest. This applies in particular to those involved in the musical scene. Many youths lack the basic resources and space needed for practice and as a result we have many promising bands from all musical scenes, from rock to folk, struggling to make ends meet, let alone get a break.
Those in authority should stop encouraging our mentality of ‘Eurovision takes it all’, where mainstream music, more often than not monopolised by older established singers, is allowed to choke out more creative alternative genres. Having been an avid follower of the metal music scene in my teenage years, I have heard various truly amazing bands perform in countless concerts, and more recently it seems as if folk music is undergoing a revival as well. Yet to date the only springboard to fame for aspiring musicians of whatever genre remains the Eurovision. Why should all musicians face the choice of either being filtered through the funnel of pop-music criteria or consigned to relative oblivion?
So what can we do to tap this local talent? First of all, the establishment needs to update its definition of culture. For the government, ‘culture’ has simply become a nationalistic buzz-word meant to evoke knights, auberges and pastizzi. At a time when today’s young musicians are given little to no incentive, perhaps because the government has been too busy running after errant DJs, student newspaper editors and local writers with truncheon and handcuffs, it seems evident that the meaning of culture is being hegemonised from above and that our youth are simply being excluded from participating. Culture without dynamic change and agitation becomes however an empty shell. You cannot have the cake of apathy and repression, and then eat it as well.
A system of soft loans to help musicians for instance, such as that which AD is proposing, would go a long way toward galvanising our music industry. Youth in particular should be helped, perhaps even by reducing utility bills and subsidising rent on garages used for practice.
For another, national broadcasting should give more space to the alternative music scene. Flowering talents have from time to time been given their opportunity to perform on television, and that is a good start. Most youths must however, like me, find the lack of diversity astoundingly mind-numbing and off-putting. Though modern music has its own version of mcdonalisation, MTVisation, in which every talent is drowned in a sea of irrelevant corporate blandness and no sound can be truly called distinct, there are countless other scenes free from big business interests in which Maltese bands can easily compete with the rest.
The Maltese alternative scene has enough variety, originality and youthful zest to be able to rivet our generation’s attention, replacing the current sense of alienation and ‘cultural ennui’ experienced by most of us. Of course, from the same national channel still caught up in a 1960s frame of mind which refuses to give fair coverage to a third party, I guess all we can expect for years to come is more of the same.
A third but not final solution would be the operation of non-exclusive youth centres all over the island. Such a project, even to the ambitious extent of having one in every locality as proposed in AD’s electoral manifesto, is not half as daunting as it may initially seem. With the right kind of help, local councils should not find it exceptionally hard to set up and run such centres, which would comprise of a number of halls or rooms made available upon booking to other youth voluntary organisations, young musicians and other artists. Such centres would first and foremost serve as a recreational hub for youth, something severely needed in a country where the average 17-year old has already grown jaded and tired of the same old stale new nightclubs selling the only relief from their tedium at prohibitive prices in Paceville, which has long stopped being the exhilarating Mecca of old. Secondly, how can we ever expect to get out of our current rut unless we provide a much needed space for our local talent? As if it weren’t enough being cooped up in some ugly modern flat where just tuning your guitar is guaranteed to disturb some ten other families living above, below and around you.
Letter to the Editor, published MaltaToday 10 February 2013
ADZ Chairperson and AD spokesperson for Youth