• Michael Bugeja

10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT MANATAPU


They're one of the most sought-after live acts on the island, and with good reason too, because the minute ManaTapu take the stage, they unleash a ball of energy that bounces back and forth off the audience, gathering momentum with each song they play. It's worth mentioning that the band has only released a few songs, all of which can be found on the versatile and rather pleasant Timpana EP. With three gigs lined up over the next fortnight, here are 10 things you didn't know about Mana Tapu to get you in the mood for their live performances.

The whole "band" thing actually happened by mistake.

What started out as two guys playing guitar together snowballed quite uncontrollably into what is now ManaTapu. And you know, maybe it’s for the better! These days, it seems too many bands get together with the specific aim to sell records or ‘make it big’. It’s like saying “OK, it’s time to go out and find my soulmate”. Everyone knows life doesn’t work like that.

Not all the members live in Malta.

Well, not currently anyway. They had all been living here for years until last summer, when Tete had to go back to Spain for work and life happened for Jogy, who was forced to make a move, eventually landing up in Switzerland. It’s no big deal though - the band is a family, and despite the diverging paths, they've found a way to make it work.

The Timpana EP was supposed to have been recorded in Ibiza.

Having won the Rookies Battle of the Bands, the band's prize was the recording of a 6-track EP in Ibiza. The trip turned out to be an absolute disaster as, despite the engineer being a nice guy, he had no studio. Instead of recording, the band spent its time drinking beer, playing video games and looking for other ways to avoid getting bored. The silver lining to the story is that they eventually recorded the EP with David Depasquale at Spine Splitter Studios in Naxxar, and they're super happy with the result.

The band won two Battle of the Bands competitions in three months.

Against all odds, but yes, it’s true, though they willingly admit they're shocked they even managed to win anything at all. The first competition was held at Rookies in December of 2012, and the band played the final with Andrew on drums, who had only joined them ten days earlier. The second one was the Hard Rock Rising competition at Hard Rock Cafe just a few months later. The band concedes they were severely outgunned talentwise, and attribute their victory to the pure energy and vibe that their fans helped create on the night.

Collectively, the band speaks (about) 6 languages.

Yes indeed. Pupachile speaks French, Tete speaks Spanish, Fran and Dario speak Maltese, Jogy speaks German, and we all speak English. That's five there, but Andrew speaks French too, although he speaks Canadian-French, which is kind of like a bastardized version of the real thing, so, for posterity, we’ll count it as a separate language.

The band sold out its first run of EPs in one night.

Unbelievable as it may sound, the band did in fact sell all 100 copies of its EP in one night. It happened after their show last year at the Sliema Street Art Festival. Looking back, they could've probably sold more, but they'd only printed 100 copies. Fortunately, the EP is now readily available once again.

The band members have other side-projects.

While ManaTapu remains their first priority, the band members are busy with other projects. Bassist Fran is one-half of MC duo Freedom Fighters, who throw awesome reggae parties on the island. Drummer Andrew is still involved in his old Montreal-based hardcore punk band Humanifesto. Having recorded a drum track for their song Elegy at Temple Studios here in Malta, last winter he flew to Montreal to record a full-length album for their new project Addington Lennox, titled At Sixes and Sevens. Pupachile is also part of Pon Di Corner, an international collective of locally-based hiphop artists who’ve recently released two music videos, a bunch of songs, and played a few shows too.

The band's popular live closing song Jah Gringo is actually a cover, not an original.

Contrary to what even the band's most dedicated fans may think, Jah Gringo is not a ManaTapu original. The song was written by German artist Martin Jondo, whom the band are huge fans of. ManaTapu's version however has been somewhat customised, with a whole bunch of the original lyrics replaced by verses the band came up with, so really it's quite different to Jondo's original version.

All of ManaTapu's songs have lyrics in more than one language.

It was not intentional at all, but it just happened that way, the band insists. They admit their songwriting process is a bit messy, but the idea is to give everyone a time to shine in every song they write, with the result being the mishmash of styles, languages and tempos. As Pupachile would say, it’s 'original style'.

The band is planning to release a full-length album by Spring 2016.

Since the Timpana EP was written and recorded, the band has written enough new material to fill two full-length albums. They're working on them now, with recording sessions scheduled to start sometime in January.

ManaTapu will be playing at the Malta Street Art Festival in Marsamxett on Sunday, July 26; the Farsons Great Beer Festival on Sunday, August 2 and at the Gozo MuzikaFest on Friday, August 7. For more information or to order the Timpana EP, visit www.manatapu.com.

This article was first published on Littlerock.com.mt (21 July 2015)

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