‘All radio stations should play Maltese songs’

Ahead of a concert with fellow singer Corazon on July 11, veteran singer-songwriter Walter Micallef speaks to Teodor Reljic about the past, present and future of Maltese-language songwriting

Walter Micallef (left) will once again be performing with Corazon (right) on July 11
Walter Micallef (left) will once again be performing with Corazon (right) on July 11

At what point did you realise you wanted to pursue a musical path? What were some of the key motivating factors?

Song and Music have always been in me. As kids we used to go for walks and sing aloud as we go along. It all came naturally. There were quite a few people who encouraged me to write, from teachers at school, priests, friends and others.

How did your ‘sound’ evolve, and how did you integrate your influences into your work?

At first my songs were mostly simple love songs. However this all changed when I heard a song in Maltese, ‘Hondoq Ir-Rummien’ by George Cassola and it gave me something to aim for. The lyrics are so beautiful and I always include it in my concerts. I was always fond of the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens who, among others who I also appreciated, both wrote songs which had a deep meaning, which inspired me to emulate their style.

What are some of the most recurring themes for your music, and why do you think they are so important to you?

I like to write about the things that are of concern to everyone: about life, the environment, domestic violence, the beauty of love and its pains too; as well as children’s songs. My songs reflect what I feel… and I feel what everyone else feels.

How would you say Maltese song writing has evolved over the years? And what stage do you think it’s at right now?

I believe that the song, written and sung in Maltese, has been progressing steadily for the past 30 years. The quality not only of the recording and of the artists, but also of the lyrics and overall product has improved considerably. However we fall behind as far as following is concerned. A huge portion of the Maltese public still needs to associate itself with the Maltese song. Wherever you go abroad, one hears young and old alike singing in their own language. Not so in Malta. We still have radio stations that do not play songs in Maltese. We have radio stations who only dedicate a half-hour program for Maltese songs, but are not on their daily playlist. This needs to change.

What do you think of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

I feel that most of the local music scene is dominated by bands which do not use the Maltese language. Their product is of a high quality and there is a lot of very good talent out there. We do have a few very good young local bands and artists who use the Maltese language and I would love to see the number and the following grow.

What’s next for you?

Apart from performing with Corazon Mizzi at her upcoming concert on July 11, I will also be performing with other local Maltese artists in Gozo at the end of that same month. Top priority after that is an upcoming project – an album of children’s songs. Finally, I would like to ‘get the band back together’ for a few concerts…

Walter Micallef will be performing alongside Corazon at Pjazza Teatru Rjal on July 11 at 20:00. Bookings: www.ticketline.com.mt