Maltese Youth and Musical Exploration: A Chat with Karmaġenn

Maltese Youth and Musical Exploration: A Chat with Karmaġenn

Karmaġenn, is a project that brings together an array of underground Maltese musicians in  an explosion of experimental sounds that tantalise the ears and liven the soul. 

This concoction of varied melodies and rhythmic patterns is paired with fundamentally Maltese lyrics that discuss the antics of everyday living on this weirdly wonderful and densely populated island. 

Noah Fabri’s the voice and lyricist behind this project. He is a young university student whose music is growing alongside him. Noah’s brash story telling of quirky Maltese youth characters, details what it means to be a young generation in Malta and in this political climate.

I got in touch with him to get some more insight on his inspirations and song writing, Karmaġenn as a project, the music community and what it means to form part of Malta’s youth culture. Check it out: 

Who is Karmaġenn and what’s the mindset behind the project?

Karmaġenn is a project between different artists and musicians and we work together to present stories of everyday life as we live it in songs, artworks and performance.

What genre or amalgamation of genres do you associate your sound with?

The genre depends on whoever I’m writing with and what kinds of music we feel like exploring; I hope that the more people I collaborate with, the more the sound will reflect the different kinds of genres explored by the different bands in the alternative scene. But jazz, singer-songwriter, punk and hip-hop are the ones I find myself attracted to the most.

What got you into music and song writing?

I started writing songs as jokes when I was finishing school and accidentally wrote an album. 

Are there any musicians you draw inspiration from?

Little Simz is an incredible artist, her music is full of energy and incisive commentary; Stella Donnelly writes really sharp, witty and beautiful songs; John Coltrane’s records are great to headbang to; Bowie and The Beatles are classics I grew up with, and Brodu another brilliant local band) are always the best.

What’s your creative process when it comes to writing lyrics and creating music? 

Recently I’ve been working around a story for each album. I try and put together ideas that I have while messing around on guitar or piano or put down a melody I think of. Waiting until bits come together can be frustrating but it’s satisfying when it works out. Lyrics are the last thing I add to the song, and once again there are certain lines that I start with, and putting a whole thing together takes time for the lines and connections between them to fit in.

What are some themes that your music touches on? 

I look at everyday life, what me and my friends get up to, and I’m interested in how complex social class is, based on real people who live a much more fluid reality than straightforward paradigms represent. I’m also interested in our generation and economics, in our relationship to money and owning things, and in the institutionalisation of art.

Junior College/ Sketch by Martina Farrugia

It feels like your lyrics give some great insight, with very specific references detailing what being young in Malta’s like. What’s your take on Malta’s youth culture? 

It’s impossible to generalise what young people in Malta do, but there are (at least there used to be) really interesting spaces where people from different social backgrounds mix. Although it’s being gentrified there’s still a strong underground scene where everyone is so close, collaborating with and supporting one another. To get a broad picture of Maltese youth though, I guess you should look more at so many people whose stories rarely get told without being stereotyped or patronised, if they’re recognised at all. 

Your music narrates the story of an array of vibrant characters, are these stories based on real life events? 

Most of the characters are based on different people I’ve known, things I’ve heard, stories people have told me, and events I was at. I find it’s important to be real, not just for people to recognise what I’m talking about, but also because there are so many incredible groups of people and spaces that don’t normally get talked about, and to talk about them I find it’s important to be honest about who we are and how we relate. 

Jimmy Bartolo (guitarist for Brikkuni) playing alongside Karmaġenn

Last December Karmaġenn released a collaborative album, featuring a number of local musicians in the community. What’s it like being a musician on such a small island? 

The alternative scene in Malta is genuinely special and made up of incredible and lovely people who have a really close community. Everyone’s willing to help one another to put up events, and there’s always such a rush of energy at gigs, parties and in garages, where genuine people come together with a genuine love of music.

You’ve just released a new album, “il-​Ħsibijiet ta’ Martina” (Maltese for Martina’s Thoughts), could you tell us what it’s all about and how it differs from your previous work? 

Il-Ħsibijiet ta’ Martina is about five individuals bumping into each other at a party. Martina is the curator of an art gallery, who has spent the morning preparing for the opening of a solo show of works by Giulia. The art gallery is beside an old garage where Sammy spends his retired days. At the party, Martina meets Liam, a delivery driver whom she knew growing up. He introduces her to Sarah, an office worker who’s getting over her ex-girlfriend, and the two have a chat. I guess if Karmaġenn was a coming-of-age story, this is about twenty-somethings and jobs and art and insurance and shit.

Have you got a particular track from your albums that you keep close to heart? And if so, how come? 

‘Martina’ is the first song in a while with which I felt I had a new direction to go in. But ‘Nassaba’ from the first album is dearest to me, because it was the first song I recorded for it, at the instigation of Mark iz-Zizza, who really got this project off the ground, as he has with so many other bands in the scene. I always knew it was going to score the climax of the story and I’m really honoured that Zizza and Jimmy collaborated on it.

Nassaba: 

Would you like to add anything for our readers? 

I’m curious to see how the scene is going to hold up in Corona. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, but I really hope that the sense of community carries on and gets stronger in whatever way things will have to change

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“Today I showered, cooked and cleaned and I feel lame” – Karmaġenn exhibition. 

All proceeds collected for Il-Ħsibijiet ta’ Martina will be used to support Ġugar:  a local hub spot for musicians, artists and activists in the heart of Valletta, to help get them through these trying times. 

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Images Courtesy of Karmaġenn