Need for better archiving of Maltese music – M3P initiative

Toni Sant's brainchild M3P aims to archive Maltese music through open-source 'wikis' - a more than necessary initiative, according to its creator.

The Malta Music Memory Project (M3P) – the brainchild of musician, blogger and academic Toni Sant and officially launched during Notte Bianca in September 2010 – held its first conference at St James Cavalier last month, in conjunction with a series of live music events emphasising the importance of sustaining the local music scene and associated arts. Given the recent launch of the National Cultural Policy, the initiative speaks to a particular need to archive musical material that may be of intrinsic cultural value for the identity of the nation. “The M3P operates in harmony with all the essential elements of the national cultural policy. Firstly it relates directly to what Malta Council for Culture and the Arts executive director Davinia Galea calls the “soul of the people.” "Secondly it takes a long term view take on a long-term view on making Malta’s heritage accessible to the public at large. The third aspect concerns culture’s direct impact on the economy, especially in the new realities with intellectual property rights,” Sant said, while adding that the initiative also recognises the impetus towards improving the “cultural literacy” of the country – an aspect of the Policy which focuses on education in particular. “I see the M3P contributing to each of these aspects of the national cultural policy, and pledge to collaborate with the pertinent authorities as needed to ensure that the policy is enacted successfully in the coming months and years,” Sant added. Essentially a ‘wiki’ site – an information hub that allows users freedom to create entries and modify existing ones – M3P aims to prolong the shelf life of Maltese artists by creating an easily searchable and accessible archive. “There is a glut of uncollected documents and data relating to Maltese music and associated arts, which have increased exponentially with the recent proliferation of digital technologies and the internet,” Sant said. “M3P aims to provide an inclusive repository for this type of data, and ensure that it is kept in posterity for current and future generations.” Asked whether he thought that the Cultural Policy would facilitate M3P’s overall goals, Sant emphasised the importance of taking a “long-term view.” “Some of the weaknesses with Maltese strategies in relation to culture come from the fact that they are dictated through political cycles that are rarely longer than a couple of years. The areas where continuity and a sense of development over a decade or more are very few and far between,” Sant said. “Furthermore, there are a generation or two’s worth of bad policy (or rather lack of policy) to be undone first. Then again, this undoing may happen faster than predicted if a strong vision is implemented by structures such as the MCCA, without direct intervention from parliamentary secretariats or ministries, which are run by transient leaders who are hardly ever culture industry professionals,” Sant added. Alex Grech, a founding member of M3P and a social media expert, said that while the project is at its early stages, he is hopeful that it will find a niche. “It’s essentially Toni’s baby, and a fusion of his two loves... music and academia, and because the wiki is such a fluid medium, it can allow for both of these elements to flow seamlessly,” Grech said. M3P is running in conjunction with a variety of related initiatives. One of them is Muzika Mod Iehor, a weekly podcast manned by Sant with the aim of giving wider exposure to local artists, as well as the concert series ‘You Rarely Hear This On the Radio!’ a series of gigs featuring non-mainstream Maltese musicians and supported by the Malta Arts Fund of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts. These gigs are being filmed and archived through the M3P to ensure that non-mainstream music from Malta survives into the future. With such initiatives underway – and powered by the internet – Sant believes that Maltese music can mature more substantially. “I believe that the Maltese music scene will change radically by time the next generation comes of age,” Sant said.