Funking Cold Mdina

It’s Saturday, and very nearly time for a riotous cavalcade of song. Or, to most casual observers, an upmarket sort of karaoke. But first, a trip to the historic walled city of Mdina.

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It’s busy today, with plenty of tourists and unusually for this place, a few cars too. The narrow streets are filled with history and some really nice small restaurants and coffee shops. In fact, there’s absolutely no need for the long face.

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Mdina looks almost as impressive from the outside as the inside.

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But instead of reading more about its fascinating history, or scouring its newly landscaped ramparts, John leads us around the back of a car park and down a steep lane to search for what looks like a tramp’s lunchbox. Yep, it’s another geocache. Imagine coming all this way just to rummage around in walls for Tupperware containers.

Back in Valletta, they’ve upped the ante on this year’s Christmas decorations.

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This actually turns out to be celebrations for the feast of St Paul. But being a fiercely Catholic country, Malta has a festival for just about every saint, and unless said deity is from your town, you don’t get involved in the party. On the other hand, it means quite a few parties across the year.

And so to Maltasong, held in huge tent next to the national football stadium. The event is televised and watched by just about everybody, including about 3,000 people in the arena. And it lasts for about three hours.

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There are two main areas – the front stage and the green room, where all the acts await their voting fate. The votes themselves are cast by a combination of judges and public telephone poll. Once the show is underway, the acts warble their way through ballads, throwbacks and some rather jolly pop tunes. Chris Grech performed last year, though to be fair, he could come from just about any year in the late 70s or early 80s.

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One of the big stars of the show is Gianluca Bezzina – last year’s winner. The doctor turned singer is co-hosting the contest with another previous performer.

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Whilst the votes are being counted, the rest of the musical Bezzina family do a version of Pharrell Williams’ Happy – and they certainly seem happy enough backstage.

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In the end, the winners are a band called Firelight with a song titled Coming Home, though to be fair it could be just about anything by Mumford and Sons. Even Eurovision has got the folk rock bug.

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It’s gone midnight, but although the show is over it’s far from the end of proceedings. Maltese Television lay on a generous bar which is just about drunk dry by performers, journalists and guests. By the end of it all, everything’s a blur. And the main hall is a cleaner’s nightmare.

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