The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

XFactor and Maltese culture

Francis Zammit Dimech Monday, 4 February 2019, 09:41 Last update: about 15 days ago

Many of us tuned in last Saturday week to watch the final of the first Maltese edition of the internationally syndicated show ‘XFactor’.  I had the honour of attending the show as I did for many previous Eurovision events, particularly when I was Minister for culture.  The show was spectacular, with truly high standard performances dominating the night, and showcasing Maltese and Gozitan musical talent. 

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The crowned winner of the show - Michela Pace from Victoria Gozo who just turned 18, has shown us that ambition is a virtue.  As I could express to her personally right after the result, my renewed congratulations and best wishes to Michela. A humble yet determined person is now not only in the race for the Eurovision Song Contest prize, but has also acquired a record deal with Sony Music Italy.  This opportunity will give the Xfactor winner a chance to become a professional artiste. 

A highpoint of the show was the duet performed by Michela Pace and Maltese tenor, Joseph Calleja.  In a sense, the performance symbolised artistic progression. Here we had a Maltese world-acclaimed Grammy-nominated artist singing along with Ms Pace, who is at the beginning of her singing career. 

Joseph Calleja, an Ambassador of Maltese talent and offers us the ultimate proof  regarding  the real possibility of making it big in the music industry, has shown us that the fear of failure stemming from the notion that we come from a small island should not stand in anyone’s way.  A person who truly believes in improving our music industry as he particularly manifested when he reacted positively to the copyright reform.

I am proud to have supported this reform within the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament.  This reform seeks tosafegaurd the interests of artists and Calleja went so far as to endorseit, affirming “the crucial issue here is that without this law the music recording industry faces extinction”.  As Joseph Calleja had expalined, this reform ensures that young artists like Michela and others will continue to have these recording opportunities in the future.

As politicians, it is in our interest to boost Malta’s cultural sector.  Throughout the years, I have prioritised and continue to give great value to the strengthening of our arts scene. One initiative that I remain proud to have championed is bringing to Malta the Isle of MTV concert, which has boosted our artistic visibility, particularly with the younger generation. 

Culture creates a sense of community, which is crucial for a healthy society.  The New European Agenda for Culture, for which I was the EPP Group Rapporteur, focuses particularly on this factor. 

Speaking recently in Rabat, our Nationalist Party Leader Dr Adrian Delia argued that local artists should receive adequate remuneration for their work.  Dr Delia talked about the need for funding Masters courses in Arts, and affirmed the need for our artists to have more foreign exchange opportunities. 

These are all measures that I am working on at the European Parliament, measures which I believe to be life changing for our artists. Over the next weeks I promise to keep on pushing for Maltese artists and creators to be paid by YouTube for their work. I also strongly believe that there should be more funding for festivals and initiatives such as XFactor.

Additionally, we should also be looking at creating more avenues forour songwriters and lyricists.  I say that even in the context of the new format adopted for our choosing Malta’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.  Once we identify our best singer for the occasion, we need an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the winner is given a song that best matches the winner’s singing capabilities, and I am certainly open minded enough about whichever procedure for that purpose. Having said that, we need to identify more than ever other opportunities for composers and song writers – be it in through another Maltese talent festival or other options – since our music industry very much depends on them as well.

Culture is what makes us and shapes us as Maltese and Gozitans, the defining element in our way of life.  It is significant that we keep on offering such performing outlets that highlight talent and open up new opportunities for our artists.   Culture should never be subject to political divide, on the contrary it is an unmistakable opportunity for all to unite  together and continue shaping our unique identity.

Francis Zammit Dimech is a Nationalist MEP

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