Stand Tall is available at:
27th November, 2015
FOR today I get to focus on an act from a part of the world…
That has produced a lot of great music. Malta may not seem like a musical hot-spot, yet there are plenty of great Maltese acts making stunning music. I have been a long-time fan of Chess Galea- a Pop/Soul artist based out of Surrey- in addition to Dana McKeon- a London Beatbox act- and Chloe Boleti. The island has fostered a great deal of amazing talent and it is not hard to see why. The wonderful weather and climate- combined with the friendly people and great music there- is inspiring and compelling new acts. A lot of the best Maltese acts are based in the U.K., yet the island still has a great number of native musicians. Too long I have been solely focused on U.S. and U.K. acts and have been neglecting other areas. When you look further afield and stretch your imagination, you can discover some terrific music. In addition to Malta, areas such as Sweden and France are producing some stars of the future. Before I introduce my featured act I wanted to talk about male solo artists and 2016 music. The male solo realm is showing some inconsistencies at the moment. I remember around the period 2002/’03 there were a lot of great U.K.-based acts coming out. As the decade continued, more tremendous solo acts came through to show what they were made of. For my money, the past few years have seen very few great (mainstream) male acts. The likes of James Bay and Ed Sheeran seem to be indicative of the mainstream- two artists I am not fond of at all- and there is an awful lot of bland and clichéd music coming through. Aside from the Folk/Pop artists, there are few great Urban acts; scant cause for celebration in Rock and Indie- where are all the great solo men? It seems there is a drought at the moment and it is a little concerning. Even in the underground I have seen fewer great male acts come through lately. It is hard to produce something unique, original and meaningful- what with the competition and weight of music out there- yet artists need to expand their horizons. Too many solo acts tend to play the same genres, and whilst this is okay and acceptable, there is not enough variation when it comes to subject matter and projection. Bahjat is one of the most promising new artists coming through and is showing a great amount of heart and passion. Separating himself from the mass of rather insipid musician coming through, it is refreshing to see someone with their own identity and direction. Let me introduce Bahjat to you:
“Hello! Nice to ‘meet’ you. I’m a 20 year old guy living in a beautiful little island in the middle of the Mediterranean. I’m a very optimistic person when it comes to life. I appreciate little things that other people would not notice, because I think that it’s the little details that matter, in everything that we do.
I remember when I first picked up a guitar when I was 13 years old, learning how to play it was not a plan of mine… until I strummed one that I found in an empty hotel conference hall. I did not know anything about it, but I knew that I connected with it. I wrote my first song that night.
Writing and singing music is remedy to me. If I’m feeling terrible about something, and I write a song about it, the moment I finish the last line, I’d immediately feel better. It’s weird. I write about things I go through or stories that impact me, whether it be something positive, negative, exciting and pretty much anything that has to do with feelings. My friends tell me that I hide things away from them because I usually never speak about my personal life, but they don’t know that I just poured my heart out about something the night before. I kind of get over it, you know? It’s like writing in your diary but with melodies and chords.
I have been dreaming of calling music my full-time job since that day I wrote my first song. The idea of being able to share your music to the world and have it help people get through something, or just simply put a smile on someone’s face is, for me, the ultimate feeling. Performing to people who will forget about the things that affected them that day, and sing along with you until the very last note is what I want to do every single day of my life.
There is a lot more that I want to say, but I’ll save it for other times. I hope that you’ve managed to know me a bit better. Thank you for making me happy and I hope that my music makes you feel something.
Oh and I forgot to mention…. My name is Bahjat”.
The next year will be important one of new music. The mainstream is not really emphasising too many standout acts right now so there is a great opportunity for the underground musicians to steal some focus. Bahjat is at the start of his career yet has potential to go a long way. Whether an E.P. or album is in his mind I am not too sure. What is for certain is there will be demand for him to perform in the U.K. Whether he will want to leave the beauty and sunshine of Malta- for the rather inclement weather over here- we can only hope. This coming year is a little tough to call and I am not sure what we are going to be witness. It is clear there will be some interesting bands coming through and artists I have reviewed- those established and making new plans- are shaping-up to be very busy indeed. It is those brand-new artists I am curious about. I hope we do see some great talent produced and make waves, although if this year is anything to go by, the mainstream will be a little underwhelming. New music- musicians flying under the radar- will be more reliable and let’s hope some smashers come through. Bahjat is taking each day as it comes but surely will have his eyes set to wonderful horizons.
Most of Bahjat’s past material has been cover versions, so it is hard to compare it with original material. Stand Tall is a young man discovering his personal voice and lyrical style. The best thing to do really- if you are a new fan of Bahjat- is to look at his YouTube channel (link is at the bottom of the review) and discover the artists that inspire him. From the likes of Adele, Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris; Bahjat has covered a spectrum of artists: taking on their music and making it his own. Over the past few months his voice has grown in stature and confidence. There is an extra flair and determination in the vocals to my mind. Whether inspired by the subject matter- or just a natural progression in his voice- the latest cover versions show a shift and improvement. If Bahjat had begun his career with Stand Tall– and not tackled the cover versions- the vocal and performance may not have been as strong and confident. Having cut his teeth with some modern-day Pop numbers, he has had the opportunity to find his own voice and hone his talents. Across every cover version you get a new perspective and insight- the original artist didn’t convey- and Bahjat’s versions are stripped-down and soulful. Take the likes of Ellie Goulding and Jessie J and you have artists that rarely strip back their vocals and attempt something that tender and still. Bahjat takes fiery and energetic songs and makes them more passionate and pure. Stand Tall is a song that continues this vocal style and applies it to something new and different. Demonstrating a natural affinity and talent, Bahjat has unveiled a song that is both contemporary and classic. Stand Tall could fit into the Pop/Folk scene- although it has greater merit than most songs of the moment- yet has shades of past glories.
When it comes to the song in question, it begins with atmosphere and intrigue. Tender and sparse electronic notes create a twilight and odd sense of danger. Cosmic and velvety, there are contradictions and contrasts in the opening seconds. At the heart of things is that sense of beauty and tranquility that makes the song gripping from the off. When Bahjat arrives at the microphone, his voice is firm and committed. Demonstrating no lack of intention and urgency- although it is soulful and measured- the early words cause speculation and curiosity. “We have our differences sometimes” seems to be directed to a lover or friend. Perhaps a ruction or argument has ensued- that has inspired these words to come out- and there is a sense of demure and apology. It is clear the duo have different minds; they have unique perspectives and directions in life- making me think a relationship is being attested. Whatever the proclamation relates to, that vocal-and-composition combination creates some passion and spark. The vocal is resolutely dedicated and soulful whilst the composition marries rushing beats and harder-edged electronics. Inspired by the likes of Calvin Harris- and contemporaries of Electronica and Dance- there is an edginess backing the lyrics. Whilst our hero is laying his messages out there- and stating he and his heroine stand at different corners at times- he will always need her by his side. There is a fondness and passion that radiates through the composition- as the song progresses it gets more hard-pressing and pummeling. Punchy beats and hissing percussion builds that underlying tension and urgency as Bahjat lets his voice flow. As the song becomes hotter and faster, those declarative messages begin to pour. It is said “I tried to do it without you/but I couldn’t do it alone” is perhaps the song’s core message. Knowing that his heroine will be there to catch him when he falls; you cannot deny that intensity and passion. Letting the vocals weave and quicken and it is hard to deny the pure intention and romantic lust coming through. The composition itself expertly supports the vocal and inspires its plight and direction. The “roof that keeps me sheltered”, you start to picture scenes and possible conversations. Maybe the hero has been down on his luck and doubting his own mind. Whatever the turmoil and storm, there is someone there to catch him and make sure he is okay. Without any cynical edge or negativity, Stand Tall is a song dedicated to the solid bond and loyal passions we all can experience. Whatever storm is raging and however bad things can be (the duo) will always stand tall. I am not sure whether the song is based on real events- and reflect on current bond or romance- yet there seems to be a lot of meaning and reality in the words. It will be intriguing to discover the origins as Bahjat has never sounded as meaningful and urgent as he does here. Past the 1:00 mark we get some wordless vocals and funky/bongo-style percussion beats that create a hypnotic rhythm and swirl that gets inside the mind. Perhaps representing that effusive comfort and delirium; you get caught in the swirl and smoke of the beats- as our hero lets his voice sway and drift into the atmosphere. Before you get invested in this parable, the song changes course once more and back to its original motives. It is said (once again) the two have differences and different hearts. Although they are defined by their own personalities- and have their own course in life- at the end of things they will support one another and come together. Although our man must embark down a dark road- as we all do at some stage- he will keep the promise he made “from the start”. Whether this was a promise relating to love or something simpler, you are committed to the song and where it will go from here. By the time the chorus comes back around the composition and vocal becomes more intense and pressing. That chorus explodes into life and hits the ceiling with its emphatic voice. Whatever crap is being thrown at the duo- and for our hero especially- that union and bond is the thing that will get them through it. As compelled as you are by the vocal and lyrics, the composition creates its own gravitational force. Fixing electronics and rampant beats whip up a compositional storm that aptly backs the song’s passionate blood flow. There are so many little details in the composition; it may require a few listens to get to the core of things. Celebratory horns and tribal beats spar with vocal chants and a bustling carnival atmosphere. Those wordless vocals and energy makes the song endlessly arresting and addictive. Not succumbing to the worst instincts of modern Pop- the need to Auto-Tune the vocals or make the composition sound processed and plodding- and you have a song that is natural and open. The heroine lights up the dark and is the treasure chest to which Bahjat clings. The imagery and pictures mix teenage-like sentiments with something mature and intelligent. It appears the lovers may be separated or in different places. Perhaps the duo is in different parts of the world but they will always find a way together. In the final moments, you get more of those rousing trumpet/brass notes that give the song such a sparkle and vitality. Although our leads may sometimes be apart, by singing that particular song- something that is special and unique to them- they will find their way together. The final seconds see Stand Tall get more rushing and urgent. That composition augments and bursts as our man lets his voice press and spark through the notes. Together the two will stand tall and fight everything that comes into their path. That redemptive message is the last thing on the song and a terrific way to end things.
It is pleasing to hear a young artist embark on original material with such confidence and conviction. Having covered a range of artists, Bahjat is a musician that knows the current scene and the type of sound favoured. Rather than truck to market forces and come up with a carbon copy (of Adele etc.) we have a song that brims with original voice. Whether based around a personal relationship- or casting his net to fictional realms- you cannot escape the energy and intentions of Stand Tall. That redemptive and hopeful core is what separates the song from a lot of current fare. Bahjat has created a song that shows a proud and hopeful heart. The composition is one of the busiest and more complete I have heard in a while, whilst that central voice expertly highlights the words and sentiments of Stand Tall. Throw in some wonderful production values and a vibrant core and you have a song that should gain radio play and serious attention. There have been few stand-out Pop songs in 2015 so it is great to hear an artist that could be a contender in 2016. I will be interested to see how his career progresses and what songs are on the horizon. Take time out to discover a fantastic new artist that could well be a radio fixture in years to come.
Stand Tall is not only a statement of intent but a message to the listener and fans out there. With its redemptive and inspiring codas, the song is sure to resonate with a lot of people. Bahjat is an artist who always promotes love and kindness- his social media feeds pay testament to this- and it is rare to hear a musician lacking in cynicism and negativity. This does not dampen the appeal of Stand Tall; there is music to recommend and be proud of- a song that stands among some of the best of the last few months. It will be exciting to see what the next year holds (for Bahjat) and where he goes next. The music scene is packed and competitive so it is tricky determining which acts will survive and which to look out for. The following year should see some change and mobility in music- one can only hope at least- with the new musicians taking some market share from the mainstream acts. B.B.C. have just published their list of names to watch in 2016- glad the likes of Billie Marten are among them- and this shows how much eager talent there is out there. How that talent adapts to the mainstream and what they will produce is anyone’s guess. The likes of Bahjat will be keen to get their name out there and keep the momentum going. I can see him- in a few years perhaps- rubbing shoulders with the best up-and-coming musicians so we should keep our eyes in his direction. I opened by looking at the male solo arena and the music of Malta. The men of music are lacking behind their female peers. The girls are the most innovative and original out there; the lads are falling behind slightly. I am not sure why there is that gender gap. Too many male musicians pick up an acoustic guitar and sing about love and struggle. Scan around the mainstream, and how many artists fit in this mould? There are a few exceptions, yet as far as I can see, there are too many that are narrow and predictable. Even new music is seeing a mass of similarly-themed songs/artists emerge. The girls are showing more direction and individuality so it is probably apt the boys have a look and take inspiration. I hope this ‘trend’ and imbalance is rectified in 2016 as music needs a bit of an overhaul. Nobody can deny how much passion and intention goes into music; this is epitomised by Bahjat. One of those male artists that surpass expectations and peers, I will be interested to see what the next year holds in store. I love reviewing British acts- going across to the U.S. too- but it is great discovering something international and different. Malta is that little corner of the globe that should not be overlooked or underestimated. When I see the likes of Chess Galea and Dana McKeon do such great work- with two very different and unique styles- it always makes me proud. In addition to the exotic and stunning beauty, you get artists with a flair for originality and upbeat; something incredibly passionate and committed. You cannot accuse Maltese artists of lacking energy and commitment. At the heart of the music is an optimistic message and something redemptive on the whole. Before I sign-off it is worth looking at Stand Tall and what comes next for Bahjat. A relatively new artist to my ears, it has been great discovering something with potential and soul. I hope he plays some U.K. gigs and comes see the fans over here. To that end, perhaps an E.P. will come along in 2016? Whatever is being planned it will be an exciting time for the young Maltese artist. Stand Tall is a song that cannot really be overlooked and ignored. Surpassing the efforts of (most of) his peers, you have a musician with a great future ahead. With 2016 fast approaching, it is heartening to hear…
THE year go out with a bang.