Eric Montfort talks to Joe Chetcuti about the success of his radio programme Marċi u Bandalori, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Over the years, Radio 101 has given due prominence to band marches and feasts and Joe Chetcuti has played a vital role in this. His programme Marċi u Bandalori celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

It wasn’t the first programme of its kind on this station. However, it has certainly endured, and has become one of the longest-running programmes on Radio101.

“It all started in the late 1990s when I proposed this programme and it was immediately accepted by the then-head of Radio 101 Noel Mallia,” says Chetcuti.

The programme sought a different direction to that of its predecessors. It focused on feasts, even secondary ones, as well as some history, and served as a guide to the activities held during such feasts.

“I am aware of the importance of feasts and do my utmost to provide relevant information. However, besides these titular feasts, there are also various secondary feasts that should not be ignored,” adds Chetcuti.

Marċi u Bandalori isn’t Chetcuti’s first experience on radio. He was also a sports correspondent on Radio 101 for four years before giving it up to host this programme.

“I felt I had to give more time to Marċi and Bandalori once it was accepted and included in the schedule.”

Now, complemented by its Facebook page, Marċi u Bandalori has garnered a large following.

Chetcuti is practically a one-man show and he co-ordinates everything and also finds the time to write a related, detailed, weekly contribution in the daily newspaper In-Nazzjon.

Though not a very long programme, Marċi u Banda-lori nonetheless requires a lot of preparation as contacts with various organisations, from parish offices, to band clubs and musicians are made. Putting the show together in the height of summer can be quite a headache, with sometimes six or more feasts held every weekend.

Village and town feasts are often a source of controversy, explains Chetcuti.

Band clubs, particularly those in the same village, sometimes even in the same parish, are often identified with particular social and political groups and time and again, rivalries escalate during feast week.

This behaviour intrigued academics, notably the veteran Jeremy Boissevain, who con-ducted a detailed study about Malta’s feasts.

Chetcuti, on his part, sees that his programme maintains a good relationship with all his listeners: “The last thing I want is appear partial to particular band clubs.”

At the same time, he feels that, notwithstanding the rapid changes Maltese society has undergone over the past three decades, band clubs and philharmonic associations are here to stay, even though they will have to undergo some serious changes.

“Some of the most organised societies have been hosting schools in order to teach music to young people and have essentially become youth clubs.

“Others have also become more active than ever before in sports; however, the key factor to philharmonic societies is their reputation, both as an organisation as well as its individuals.

“The vision and inspiration of a few veterans as well as the enthusiasm of many other young people could help preserve a tradition that in itself is also at a cross-roads in an ever-changing social and economic climate,” he says.

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