Quite likely Malta's top world music act, Tribali are most commonly known for their pulsating live performances, brimming with positive energy and vibrant colour. It is however, also worth mentioning that perhaps their biggest (and most overlooked) achievement is that of successfully bringing ethnic sounds to the Maltese masses. proof of which are the significant crowds that turn up at each and every one of the band's concerts. Further to a series of foreign summer festival appearances and a triumphant Beer Festival performance at Ta' Qali last month, the band will be playing its last concert for the summer at Boiler Wharf in Senglea on Saturday, August 29. Michael Bugeja caught up with Tribali's Peter Paul Galea to talk about the band's recent international experiences, their next album and what is so special about the upcoming concert.
What, in a nutshell would you say the band's main activities have been in the 3 years since your last album?
Every year presents different trials and tribulations, as well as moments of revelation and excitement. The past three years have seen a couple of significant line-up changes, namely with Eliza becoming our official singer and Nik coming on board on didgeridoo. Moreover, this year we started to manage ourselves, and of course, all these changes brought with them new challenges, which we have faced head on. Looking back, we're extremely thrilled with the way things have turned out. All these experiences have brought us closer together and inspired us to experiment with new sounds and ideas, taking our musical journey to a whole new level.
Bearing in mind the wide-angled musical trajectory mapped out in each of your albums to date, how would you describe the band's new material?
Putting together an album is hard work and we've been taking our time to experiment before deciding on which prospective songs to focus on. We've written a good number of new tracks, some of which we've already performed live this summer. The challenge comes while attempting to find the right balance of sounds, feeling and structure in order to develop the songs into a flowing musical journey in the space of the album. While we always make it a point not to forget our roots, we're also interested in going a step further, deriving the essence of those roots while projecting them towards new directions. Song-writing is one of the most exciting aspects for Tribali and we're extremely grateful for the fact that even after so many years of writing music together, we're still as excited to write new music as we were when the band first started.
With a fair amount of local and international success behind you, and the challenge to meet and overcome expectations, how difficult does finding new angles, elements and sounds to feed your imagination become with each album or project you undertake?
We try our best not to put too much pressure on ourselves. After all, we're doing what we love. As a band, we follow our instinct and listen to what we're feeling, and let it flow naturally from there. Somehow, when we don't dwell too much on the process and listen carefully to the sounds we create, it is the music itself that directs us. The key is to always keep an open mind.
This year has been particularly special and busy for Tribali, having played more foreign festival performances than ever...
Yes, this year was definitely the best for Tribali so far. We've worked extremely hard in order to network with key figures in the international music industry, further to which we were offered great opportunities that led us to focus on the European market.
How different were these festivals, bringing you in touch with new audiences, when compared to playing in Malta to fans already familiar with your music?
We acknowledge that over the years our performances in Malta have bred a certain familiarity, and this has created a very special connection between the band on stage and our audience. In contrast, the lack of familiarity whenever we get to perform abroad does cause some anxiety, but more importantly it drives us to work even harder on preparing and polishing our performances, and finding new ways to present it. That said, we have been extremely blessed whenever we've travelled to bring our music to new audiences. The crowds' response has exceeded our expectations each and every time, connecting to our music and dancing like crazy. The joy this gives us is too great to describe in words.
I'm sure you had some standout moments during your festival appearances this year...
We had the opportunity to perform at some great international festivals this year. If we had to pick a few outstanding moments between Turkey, Hungary, Finland and Sicily, we'd have to go for our performances in Hungary. Headlining the Everness Festival was an amazing experience, and the great feeling the jam-packed crowd gave us that night was unforgettable, to say the least.
Your final summer concert for this year will be your biggest production to date. What's the story behind what promises to be a memorable concert?
We've had a fantastic summer of performances, and the concert in Senglea is our way of bringing it to an explosive end. It should be memorable for a number of reasons, primarily because of the significance of the location it is being be held at. The Malta Drydocks is a place of immense historic importance to our country and I’m sure the energy of the place will help boost our performance. Secondly, we're preparing a set-up like never before in collaboration with a number of artists who design and decorate carnival floats. Donpe', the company responsible for the design is renowned for the great work they do in this field, and they've been working on a moving tribal art concept for this show. Last, but definitely not least, all profits from this event will be donated to INSPIRE, an organisation that helps children with mental and physical disabilities. We strongly encourage people who have never experienced our show to come along and join in the fun. We promise they will not regret it.
Tribali in Concert will be held at Boiler Wharf in Senglea on Saturday, August 29. Tickets cost €10 each in advance and €15 at the door, with a limited number of VIP tickets at €25, all of which are available online at www.ticketline.com.mt. Entrance is free for under-14s.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta' ESCAPE magazine (16 August 2015)
Photo by Viktor Vella