Fostering musical synergies | Renzo Spiteri

Teodor Reljic speaks to veteran percussionist Renzo Spiteri as he takes the helm of the first edition of the Malta World Music Festival, forming part of the cluster of cultural activities associated with Malta’s EU Presidency, and for which he will serve as Artistic Director

Renzo Spiteri
Renzo Spiteri

What was the main impetus behind setting up the Malta World Music Festival, and how did you go about implementing it?

Right after last year’s maiden personal experience as Artistic Director of the re-named Ghanafest Malta World Music Festival, I knew that this event needed a bit of a shake-up. Among other issues, I felt that the festival had a bit of an identity crisis – two festivals in one, if you like. One part was focused on ghana and and another focused on foreign acts working within the world music and/or folk genre. I thought that both deserved their own attention and their own platform without the problems of co-existence and one upstaging the other. 

I also felt that ghana needed its own specific context, an intimate setting to be experienced in a more authentic manner while the bigger world music acts that I have been and will continue to engage needed a bigger infrastructure and technical requirements. And this is how the all-new Malta World Music Festival was born. 

World Music is sometimes criticized as a genre that’s non-threatening and lacks edge and specificity; how do you feel about this, and how would the Festival seek to address this?

I don’t quite agree with such definitions and therefore they don’t present much of a concern in curating such a festival. I like the particular energy certain synergies bring about on the performing circuits of world music festivals and how cultural connections are created.

Maltese act Brodu: “Modern ghannejja”
Maltese act Brodu: “Modern ghannejja”

What has your own experience of World Music taught you about the genre’s potential, and the best way it could be developed?

I have worked with numerous world music artists in many countries and festivals and I’ve always believed that the more generous and open-minded I approach such projects, the more beneficial and rewarding it will be. I always research a lot when I’m about to embark on any project and fusing my qualities with other world music artists is no different. 

I am hoping that such acts as the ones I am programming for a specific world music festival will be an inspiration for Maltese artists to delve more into our musical roots and think about how these can be fused with other cultures and re-interpreted.

West African virtuoso Sona Jobarteh
West African virtuoso Sona Jobarteh

Could you tell us a little bit about the acts we will be seeing at the Malta World Music Festival? How were they chosen, and what do you think each of them contributes to the festival’s programme and direction?

Yes, sure! I chose six acts that have their own very particular energy, dynamics and identity on stage. Friday, May 19 kicks off with local band Brodu. I like ‘no frills’, content-driven bands like Brodu and I see them as contemporary ‘ghannejja’. 

The highly-energetic Tsuumi Sound System from Finland follow right after and, to close off the opening night, we will see the mesmerising Algerian/French rock-folk band Tiwiza. 

The opening act on May 20 is The Khoury Project, a highly-refined and very respected band from Jordan. This band has some of the finest virtuosi musicians from the Middle East and will definitely be a treat. The beautiful Sona Jobarteh will then take the stage. She is the first female kora virtuoso to come from a highly-esteemed West African griot family and those attending this concert will find out why! 

And to close the night and the festival we have BandAdriatica who will bring all the energy of southern Italian brass and folk sounds. Their live act has been described as a “blood transfusion invigorating the souls and leaving people with a smiling face”.

The Malta World Music Festival will be taking place on May 19 and 20 at Fort St Elmo, Valletta. Bookings:

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