What brings together a graphic designer, a drummer, a restoration and conservation specialist, a medical student, a physics teacher and an EU agency employee? The answer has to be music. As once noted by the American singer, songwriter, activist, and humanitarian, John Denver; “Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what colour we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” This happens to be the underlying foundation of the leading local band, The Travellers. Indeed all members of the Gozitan band have a passion for music. Yet that is not all. They all share a common goal of trying to create something different in an already diversified local music scene.
We met up with The Travellers on a windy Monday evening in their studios, which are situated in the very heart of Il-Handaq Industrial Estate. After walking by several dark and gloomy garages of sprayers, panel beaters and mechanics, we came across a door beyond which we were greeted by several members of the band. They were not all present, some were absent due to studies, whilst others were still stuck at work. For many members of the band, music is not their full-time job but rather a passion to which they have committed, notwithstanding the hours and other personal constraints. One of which is the frequent travelling to and from Gozo to Malta. Their regular travelling has been a source of inspiration to their name, The Travellers.
They got together in 2013. Bassist Clayton, trumpeter Joseph, main vocalist Chris and guitarist Andrew have been in the music scene from a very young age. Saxophonist Sylvano and drummer Michael joined the rest of the band later in 2013, and thus The Travellers was born.
Over the past years, the band has been working on a mix of contemporary music incorporating brass and Maltese lyrics, with the band experimenting on how the melody would sound when combined with the Maltese language on contemporary rhythms. Their debut single ‘Semplicità’ was a success, and was followed by other singles which topped the local charts, ‘Dak li Int’, ‘Xemx u Xita’ and ‘Hafi Paci Kuluri’. The band also issued two albums; ‘Xemx U Xita’(EP) in 2016 and ‘Iljuni Fis-Silg’ (Full Album) in 2018.
The Travellers’ decision to produce songs in Maltese has sparked a debate in Malta on the lack of songs in Maltese. Over the past few years, commercially-successful songs have mostly been in English, with very few songs in Maltese making it to local airwaves and even fewer actually topping the charts. We ask the band what encouraged them to opt for their mother tongue. “While working on new material for our EP, we often found ourselves shifting to writing in Maltese and after some deliberation, we decided to focus solely on writing Maltese songs.” They clarify that, “We just wanted to produce something different in an already diverse music scene, although at the time we had no idea we would end up producing songs in Maltese. Our niche turned out to be in our mother language!” Andrew adds,
“We believe that feelings are transmitted better when you hear songs in your native tongue.” Writing songs in Maltese does not come without any challenges. Andrew points out, “The hardest aspect about writing lyrics in Maltese is finding a way to make the lyrics sound fresh. Yet what comes without a challenge?”
The language is not the only hurdle the band has to face on a day-to-day basis. There are also financial, personal and operational challenges. Their friends and loved ones have at times also questioned whether their efforts are worth the time. Yet their bond is stronger than the challenges they face, and in hindsight, their efforts are slowly giving the desired results. They note, “It’s a question of perseverance, good time management and being target oriented. If your goals are clear and the foundations are based on a strong friendship, any challenge can be overcome. At times it turns frustrating and you question whether it will work in the long term, but today we feel our efforts paid off.”
They point out that one of the major challenges is financial constraints. Yet they insist that luckily today there are government funds available, which ease the financial pressure. They refer to the newly-redesigned Malta Arts Fund, which offers research support, project support and also a Multi-Annual Grant. Such funds have been very helpful. They clarify that funds are there to be used. It all depends on the individual or entity to look for them and
benefit from them.
We also ask the band whether they feel there is a better appreciation towards local bands. They note that it is a fact that Maltese people listen more to foreign music. Yet, the fact that today their songs are being heard on all radio stations is certainly a break through. “Is that enough?
Certainly not, but it is a good start which lays a stable foundation on which we can develop further.” One clear action they point at is the need to create a culture which appreciates local music. They insist that this culture has to start at school level where children should be exposed to pop music and other genres. “We should present music not as a boring subject but rather as fun and in line with what contemporary music offers. They admit that progress has been made and the fact that several schools have contacted them to use their work, including a school in Sicily, is certainly a sign that things are changing.
It is time for us to conclude our interview with The Travellers and return back into the cold, yet before calling it a day, we ask the band a final question on what we should expect from them in the months to come. “We have come a long way at a pace we never expected. We have certainly laid a solid foundation on which we plan to grow further. We are working on several projects which will be launched later on this year. As Frank Sinatra once noted, ‘the best is yet to come’.”
© 2019 – VIDA Magazine