With a handful of performances on the island to his name these past few years, it’s safe to say that despite the long distance, Maltese-Australian artist Nicky Bomba is fast becoming a household name within the Maltese music scene. As comfortable behind a drum kit as he is upfront singing, playing the guitar or ukelele and leading the way, Bomba is a man of many talents. He has played with various bands and collaborated with many artists over the years, among which is a long-standing presence in the John Butler Trio, which band he left fairly recently only to focus on his own career, more particularly his two main bands Bustamento (which he brought with him to Malta this summer) and Melbourne Ska Orchestra, who have still to grace our shores with their presence.
At the heart of both bands, the bubbly Bomba has been experiencing increasing success, not just back home in Australia where both bands are firmly established, but also internationally. In fact, his last visit to Malta earlier this summer was linked to performances by both of the above-mentioned bands in Canada and the UK, the latter including very well-received performances at the much-respected Glastonbury Festival. In typical Bomba fashion, the charismatic artist took the opportunity to share with the huge crowd that little old Maltese ditty Lanca gejja u ohra sejra (Ghamillu Karta) and, if the available YouTube footage is anything to go by, pulled it off without a hitch.
Born in Malta but raised in Australia since he was a toddler, Bomba’s connection to Malta has remained steadfast. He may not speak our language fluently (although he does understand more than he lets on), but his heart is as much glued to Malta as it is to Australia, which probably explains why he’s visited the Maltese islands so often. NICKYBOMBA will be back on the rock this week for a special appearance at this year’s Rockestra concerts, ahead of which he speaks here to MICHAEL BUGEJA.
You were in Malta just a few months ago, and here you are back again sooner than anyone thought....
Well, the more I come here, the more connected I get with friends, music and the island itself. Malta feels more like my spirit home, and besides I love to go swimming at San Blas so any excuse will do, eh! (laughs)
In between visits you’ve performed some significant concerts in the UK and Canadawith the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Bustamento, as well as an unforgettable gig down at Zion in Marsaskala...
It really has been a whirlwind year and so many positive things are happening. We had our first UK show in Camden, London and that was sold out so we were off to a great start. Also, playing Glastonbury was such a buzz and a spectacle in itself, and I must admit pretty out there too. The Canadian shows were truly amazing. We played to over 60,000 people in Montreal as well as huge events in Toronto, Sudbury and Quebec City. It really took us to a new level especially from a performance perspective, and made us feel like a great international touring band. Then again, with 25 players travelling together, it was always going to be fun.
You’re performing at Rockestra next week, which is a first for you. What was it that attracted you to be part of it?
Well, some of my friends in Malta are extremely active in the music scene and have a philosophy of sharing love through music. Rockestra is a great way to raise funds for people in need via the joy of music. I was very honoured to be asked to perform with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. I just know it’s going to be a complete buzz.
Your flair for livening things up onstage has become a given. Any pressure there, and what should we expect on the night?
I always love having fun with audiences and yes, I do like to liven things up a little. From what I hear there’s going to be some Ska on the menu, to which I feel I can only add that everyone had better start getting fit and ready for some serious dancing!
What other plans are there for the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Bustamento when you get back home? Another Malta visit, perhaps?
I would personally love to bring the whole orchestra to Malta, as I know that would be somuch fun. We could hire bus and do a Bomba guided tour, possibly taking the bus down the hill at San Blas too (laughs). Once I’m back in Australia, I’ll be picking up where I left off as we’re presently in the middle of mixing the new Bustamento album, which is due for release in November. As for the rest, next year is already looking good, so I’m ready for more adventures in music. Bless!
ROCKESTRA 2014 will be held on Saturday, September 27 and Sunday 28 at the MFCC in Ta’Qali. The Saturday concert is sold out but tickets for the Sunday performance are still available either from San Anton Palace (Attard), The Palace (Valletta) or online at ooii.com.mt. For more information, visit the ROCKESTRA 2014 event page on Facebook.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (21 September 2014)
Photo by Michael Bugeja