So we were contacted by the editor-in-chief of AirMalta’s magazine, Il-Bizzilla, who, it turns out, is a big fan of ours. Of course, we were totally thrilled to hear this, and even more thrilled when she proposed to conduct an interview with us, which has just been published in the latest issue, which you can flip through here.
Many thanks to Kristina Cassar Dowling, and everyone at Il-Bizzilla magazine, for the beautiful 3-page spread! We love you right back 🙂
MANATAPU: GLOBAL AMBASSADORS OF MALTA’S FAST-MOVING, MODERN, MULTICULTURAL MUSIC SCENE
Interview by: Kristina Cassar Dowling
After a well–deserved break from ‘Il–Garaxx‘ (the band’s rehearsal studio, and home away from home) ManaTapu is back on Malta’s summer festival circuit, much to the delight of its die-hard fans… ….myself included! I got in touch with this cultural & stylistic melting-pot of a band about doing an interview, and, I had the privilege of sitting in on the most exclusive of gigs.
If you’ve never heard of ManaTapu, you’re missing out. Your first assignment today is to hop onto your favourite music browser and queue up the songs from their debut album, Timpana, a title sarcastically inspired by a traditional Maltese street-food. Featuring the trademark ManaTapu sound – a potpourri of musical styles peppered with multilingual lyrics – their songs have been touted as a direct result of Malta’s fast-evolving multicultural music scene.
Our encounter together was basically as win-win as they come. Star struck at first, my meet-up with the band turned out to be an ultra-chilled chat about their vision, the way they aim to represent locally, and internationally, and their unprecedented love for the art of music. This is what went down…
HOW DID THE BAND COME TOGETHER? WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
We get that question a lot! Understandably too if you consider that, between the 6 of us, we hold passports to eight different countries and speak about 6 different languages. Dario and Aaron are Maltese, Jogy is German / Swiss, Andrew is Canadian / Irish, Pupa is Chilean / French, and Tete is Spanish.
The four of us who aren’t Maltese emigrated to Malta separately between 2010 and 2012. We all had pretty extensive backgrounds in music, and the fact that we all hung out at the same bars and venues here is ultimately how we all met 5 years ago, and started playing. It’s been an absolute blast. We love it here, and Malta has definitely become home.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME MANATAPU? DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING?
The inspiration for the name comes from two separate but closely linked words, ‘Mana’ and ‘Tapu’, which are rooted in Māori culture and spirituality. “Māori” are the indigenous people of New Zealand, so, ‘Mana’ translates loosely to respect and prestige and power while ‘Tapu’ is a traditional concept referring to someone or something as sacred. There’s a kind of magical energy which ties the two concepts together. Kind of like the interaction we have between us, and especially with our fans when we’re playing live. Anyone who’s ever been to our shows can attest to the fact that there’s a palpable energy there.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR SOUND?
Between us, we have a pretty eclectic and diverse set of musical tastes, from reggae, to funk, to blues, to rock, to punk and even hip hop, so it’s fair to say our sound is a mash-up of our respective influences. We’re pretty democratic about our song-writing too, so that has resulted in numerous songs featuring four different voices, in four different languages.
We got lucky with four singers who all compose and sing differently, and who sound really distinctive. Add to that the different languages, and you know, we suppose the result is the ManaTapu ‘sound’. One thing is certain; our ‘sound’ is in constant evolution.
WHO CALLS THE SHOTS?
Everyone takes turns taking lead when it’s necessary but there definitely isn’t one leader per se. It’s a very democratic thing we’ve got going on here. We all contribute equally in our own ways. Luckily, we’ve got a solid set of skills which allow us to do everything we need as a completely self-managed band. And that’s a LOT more than just writing and playing music…
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE LYRICS?
There’s definitely synergy with the lyrics, even if they appear in multiple different languages per song. Our songs generally start off with a few core lyrics and/or riffs, and we’ll have a quick chat about the general idea or message, translate as necessary, and everyone will write their own thing. After a lot of blood sweat and tears, if we’re lucky… …BOOM… …we’ve got a song!
WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE?
Well, we’re not the preachy types, and we write and play for ourselves, so if it sounds good and if we’re having fun, that’s what counts. But if there was a message we wanted to put out there, it’d be that we’re proud to be Maltese! That no matter where we’re all from, Malta is home. We feel that we’re a direct result of a new, dynamic, multicultural landscape here, without which, we’d never have gotten together. ManaTapu is as much a part of the modern Malta, as the new modern Malta is a part of ManaTapu.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
We’re at our best when we’re busy, and busy we are! In the near term, we’ll be playing some big shows here in Malta. You can catch us live on closing night of Earth Garden (Sun, Jun 4th, Ta Qali National Park), and headlining a night at the Farsons Beer Festival (Wed, Aug 2nd – Ta Qali National Park). We’ll also be announcing a few other fun shows later this summer.
We’ll be hitting the studio in the fall to start recording two albums worth of material, and we have a few music videos lined up too. With a few tours and appearances at foreign festivals in the works, there’s a lot to be excited about… …and to be grateful for.
We’re just humbled to have such strong backing from our supporters and fans, without which, none of this would be possible. It’s an honour to be representing Malta on an international level, and to be doing our part in putting Malta’s music scene on the map!