10 LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ETNIKA
* Etnika started off as a research project in 1999.
* Frans Baldacchino 'Il-Budaj' wrote some of the lyrics for Etnika.
* The band has played in more than 15 different countries, its first foreign concert being in Gibraltar in September 2002.
* Etnika performed at the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in 2004.
* The term Etnikafe' was conceived as a fusion of Maltese folk, jazz and flamenco, the 'fe' coming from the Spanish word for conviction or faith.
* The first Etnikafe' was staged in 2001 at the Opera House ruins in Valletta, one of the first events to be organised on that location with the idea of reviving the capital culturally.
* Etnikafe' events sometimes featured up to 30 performers onstage.
* Il-Budaj, It-Tommi and Il-Ħammarun, the three main sources of inspiration and knowledge on Maltese roots music have all featured in various Etnikafé shows. Il-Ħammarun was 85 when he took part in the first edition in 2001. Sadly they have all passed away.
* Electronic DJ/producer Owen Jay collaborated with Etnika in 2002, using samples from the Malta's Lost Voices albums.
* Footnotes is Etnika's 7th show in Malta (there have been 6 Etnikafe' concerts to date).
Nafra, Żifna, BumBum, Il-Ħolma Ġgantija... each of these represents a key period in the brief history of Malta's fabulous folk band Etnika. Founded in 2000, Etnika's first public foray, focusing on the revival of traditional Maltese instruments was an instant success. By the time the band released second album Żifna, its sound had evolved, embracing a wider range of influences to produce a jazz-infused collection of songs with a cross-cultural Mediterranean timbre that made the band more popular than ever, locally as well as abroad.
Dormant for the past 8 years as its members pursued individual projects, Etnika was recently brought back to life. Talk of a reunion had been ongoing for some time, but with its members located all over Europe, busy with other projects and bands, it took longer than they had hoped for to set the ball rolling, but... they did manage and here we are, with a fresh formation of the band, a 6-piece line-up that now goes by the name of *etnika.
The 6 members, namely Alison Galea (voice, guitar, keyboard), Francesca Grima (dance, percussion), Andrew Alamango (oud, guitar, voice, tanbur), Walter Vella (tenor sax, flute, fifra), Andrej Vujicic (cajon, percussion, bijambo) and Oliver Degabriele (double bass), have been hard at work putting together a new repertoire, which effectively involved stripping down the band to its essentials and focusing on selected tracks from previous sets for practical reasons that would enable the band to tour abroad. So far, the new formation has already performed in London and Rome, and later this month, *etnika will be giving its first performances in Malta.
The band has ambitious plans for the future too, with every intention to record a new album once the necessary funding has been secured and of course, seeking to tour abroad as much as possible. Meanwhile there's new material to be written, a repertoire to be expanded, and myriad new influences and instruments waiting to be discovered and explored. It's official, Malta's fabulous folk band is back, and they're more fabulous than ever!
*etnika Footnotes will be held on Friday August 21 and Saturday 22 at Blue Box at M Space in Msida. The concert starts at 9pm. Tickets are available online at www.bluebox.com.mt. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/etnikamalta.
This article was first published on Littlerock.com.mt (10 August 2015)