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Music, Keyboards, Technology

THE STORY

I came to the world on October 20 1965, in Sliema, Malta. My parents say I used to sing before I could talk, so I guess I was lucky to be born musical! I started piano lessons at the age of five with a teacher called Mary Vella, who lived down the road from my house. I was not a very good student as I never used to look at the music books, playing from memory and unfortunately giving my own interpretation to the pieces! This made me a hopeless sightreader but very successful in my oral tests! I took exams till Grade 5 with the Associated Board (UK). At the age of 12 I decided I was tired of music lessons - I was not enjoying scales and playing pieces I did not like. This was maybe an immature decision, but as my Dad agreed, what was the point of doing it if I did not enjoy it? "Playing music is only a hobby, not a profession..." (we were in Malta, after all). At the age of 15 I started studying music theory with May Lawson and this time I had more patience. I went on to grade 8 and got the diploma A.Mus.L.C.M. from the London College of Music. By this time I was studying advanced theory, harmony and orchestration with Maestro Carmelo Pace, a well known composer in Malta.

What music did I listen to in my teen years? Bee Gees, the Buggles, ELO, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Genesis (particularly!), Santana.... At around 17 I really got into jazz and fusion and listened to most of the greats. Influential artists were Al Jarreau, George Benson, Miles Davis, Yellow Jackets, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Larry Carlton, Level 42.... I opened up a lot to soul and r&b stuff that I had been snobbish about in my Genesis days.. When I was 15 Dad spent a fortune buying me a Yamaha SK20, which was the only polysynth in Malta!. I got playing with my first bands. One was called Dune with friends of mine at school - John Wood, Steve Camilleri, Clive Zammit and Bert Borg Cardona - we would mainly jam on rock riffs, had a great time, and drove neighbours mad! We never actually did a gig, and I only played with them for a few months, although a few years later they performed once at a concert in a school. After that I played with a band called Crux Ansata for a few weeks, and went on to join a band called Avatar - Ivan Scicluna, Jesmond Psaila, Carl & Sean Griscti and Lucia Micallef - , doing prog rock, only original numbers. We actually became pretty famous in Malta and played concerts in the biggest venues.

By 1984 we were much more soulful and even had a guest brass section, the Bond Horns. I still collaborate with my dear friends Ivan Scicluna, bassist and now owner of the studio D-Art Productions , and Jesmond Psaila, guitarist. I play with them occasionally when I visit Malta, and am part of the D-Art team, arranging and programming music for the company even over the web when I can't be in Malta. I also played a few times with another band called FOG - we were about 15 musicians and occasionally it was quite a confusion, but we had a great time and made some cool music. Some of the musicians in the band were: Mario Ellul, Paul/John/Peter Portelli, Joe Zammit, Toni Vella and Kevin Drake.

In 1983 I finished school and tried getting into Malta University to study medicine, but notwithstanding my top A Level grades I was refused entry for political reasons (my family, as many other thousands, was blacklisted by Dom Mintoff's socialist government. The University Selection board was presided by Alfred Sant, who now leads the same political party). 

I spent the next two years playing in hotels and at BJ's jazz club to earn some money. When I finally moved out of Malta in 1985 it was mainly so I could live somewhere different...! I got into university in Rome and studied medicine, but I was soon playing with other musicians here in my spare time (not that there was much of it...). My performances with campus friends became quite a legend at med school! Around three years later I had already played solo in discos and clubs around Rome, using an Ensoniq ESQ1 synth and a Roland TR505 drum machine. In 1989 I met a drummer, David Nerattini through Marco Fullone, a "nightfly" DJ at Radio Centro Suono, and we set up a band "10 P.M. BAND" with a kind of West Coast sound, playing mostly covers. Costantino Ladisa - sax, Riccardo Sinigallia - voice, Niccolo' Fabi - bass, Francesco Zampaglione - guitar, Giuliano Ciccotti - trumpet. We played at most clubs in Rome and also in Bari.


      

Niccolo' later decided to go solo and Giuliano left the band. By 1991 the band was called Sei Suoi Ex and we had a contract with Emergency Music and BMG, playing original Italian songs. That year we reached top placing at Castrocaro festival on Rai TV and our first single "Fino A Dove Inizia Il Mare" (coproduced with Marco Rinalduzzi) did pretty well.

Two more singles followed, and we did some tracks with producer Claudio Fabi, and a year later we had an album ready, in a very powerful cross between soul and grunge rock (sort of Fishbone). The songs were great and the album was high level in every sense, but BMG let us down and decided it was too uncommercial. Later loads of similar stuff came out from other bands, but we were eons ahead. Go figure... Anyway, the band split up due to all the tension. Some songs finished up in the soundtracks of Italian films... All through this time I occasionally played with Niccolo' s band at places like Classico and Big Mama.

1993 saw the start of a new band, with Niccolo' Fabi on vocals, Alessandro Benedetti on bass, Lorenzo Salvatori on guitar, Leonardo D'Angelo on drums and Eleonora Benedetti on backing vocals. We did soul pop covers in clubs all over Rome, and Niccolo' and Lorenzo came up with the name ADIKA PONGO.

1 day after graduation (pic by Darrin)..  ahospitalia2.JPG (15892 bytes) acapelli.JPG (14348 bytes) ...The HAIR days.... Niccolo' had a hit song about this...!

In the meantime I was still struggling through my medical course and graduated in October 1994. Niccolò at that time went off solo again and was replaced by Baruch "Darling" Chadwick, a singer/dancer from LA with a truckload of experiences. Adika Pongo broke up in 1995 for a while and at that time I worked in Buenos Aires and Madrid with Claudio Fabi on various projects, for Fernando & Manuel Carrillo, Hector Dona and Jesùs Bola.

Claudio Fabi, myself, Fernando Carrillo (THE soap opera star!), Juan Cebrian and daughter living it up in BA (picture by Jane Rose)

The band reformed in summer with Costantino Ladisa on sax, after a phase without me, and the name "BAA BAA BLACKSHEEP".... Soon we were touring outside Rome and started playing our own songs. Lorenzo and Eleonora moved out and Adika Pongo became a 5 piece band without a guitar. I did a lot of clavinet stuff around that time.

Adika Pongo kept me busy most of the time (we gave over 130 concerts in 1997, and worked on our album-to-be), but the band were most kind to allow me to work on another project, the new album by FUNKY COMPANY "Everytime", featuring Jenny B. My role was as artistic co-producer, arranger, keyboard player and programmer on nine of the thirteen tracks. I also co-wrote two of the songs, "Love So Free" and "Hurry Up". The album came out  with the label Family Affair and did pretty well in Italy, considering the limited market for Acid Jazz style releases.

I also worked on a couple of film scores with composer Pasquale Filasto', as keyboardist, guitarist and programmer. The films are "La Bruttina Stagionata" and "Figurine". I doubt whether these films will ever be released outside Italy, but "La Bruttina Stagionata" was pretty successful here. The great experience was playing with the orchestra at Forum studios, home of most of the famous Morricone recordings. Playing to a conductor straight to tape is a daunting but wonderful experience - luckily I was not the cause of any retakes, but I had nightmares about having dirty looks from a whole orchestra after screwing up 5 minutes into the closing theme...!

1998 was reunion time with Niccolo' Fabi - we did a great live TV gig on the popular music program "Night Express". Max Gazzè featured on "Vento D'Estate".


Adika Pongo played in most important venues around Italy. We spent the time we have in Rome preparing new songs in our studio.

1999 was very gig intensive and we released a single "Wordy Rappinghood RMX 2000", our version of the Tom Tom Club hit, for New Music International. We also had two songs on the Album "Gli Occhi Miei" by Erèsia on the Sony RTI Italia label.

In  2000, we toured with the singer Mike Francis ("Survivor", "Friends" and a load of other hits around the world) .

In August 2000 I was lucky to tour with Mike Francis as his pianist/keyboardist and musical director - we gave two sell-out concerts in the Philippines, at Areneta Coliseum (Manila) and Waterfront Ballroom (Cebu City). Over 20000 people roaring people came to the shows! The gigs were double features with the wonderful Fra Lippo Lippi from Norway. Perr and Rune of Fra Lippo are great musicians and really nice guys - we all had a GREAT time there !


THE STORY GOES ON IN THE NEWS SECTION!

 

(c) 2005 Dr Aidan Zammit Lupi

PIANO MENU BAR and images (C) 2005 Aidan Zammit Lupi