Renowned percussionist Daniel Cauchi will this weekend perform at the highly-anticipated Modern Music Days concert. He chats to Jo Caruana about his life of rhythm and drums.

On the list of instruments most parents probably want their children to start with, I would ima­gine the top picks to be gentle varieties, like the piano or guitar. Thankfully, though, for future top-percussionist Daniel Cauchi, his upbringing was all about the drums from an early age – after all, his dad had a drum kit at home, so it was only natural that he would start having a go on it.

Thing progressed speedily after that and Daniel recalls that he would play the drums all the time, leading him to join the Malta Youth Orchestra (MYO), where he focused his studies on classical percussion instruments.

“After my audition for the MYO, I was asked to join the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, which gave me the opportunity of playing alongside percussionists from Italy and the Czech Republic. It was a breakthrough that introduced me to a whole new world of percussion techniques.”

And it’s certainly something that stood him in good stead, as Daniel has gone on to become one of the island’s most successful percussionists – he is now the principal percussionist with the MPO, a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta, and the founder and leader of the popular Big Band Brothers (BBB).

“As a musician, I like to explore different genres, music realities and lifestyles,” he explains. “Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the big band setup and sound, and that has provided with so much inspiration for my career, and of course, the inception of BBB.”

However Daniel’s interest in culture doesn’t stop there, as he is also particularly captivated by the Maltese language and its traditional songs and history. “Over the past 10 years I have produced a number of related productions, including Ftakar, Kelma Kelma Nota Nota, and Klaċċ u Brejk. With a team of artists, we have explored the idea of marrying the three aspects together and creating a contemporary take to traditions from a musical and performance perspective. I have also recorded two albums in Maltese – Ftakar with BBB and Lukanda Propaganda with Kafena, as well as recorded the music of Maltese contemporary composers in­cluding Joseph Vella, Christopher Muscat and Ruben Zahra.

And it is collaborations like these ones that have led him to his next production – a performance in Zahra’s Modern Music Days, a concert dedicated to 20th century and contemporary music.

In it, Daniel and other percussionists Luke Baldacchino and Michael Camilleri will present three works: Trio per Uno by Nebojsa Zivkovic, Surprise! composed by the Dutch ensemble Pulse Percussion Trio, and compositions for percussion by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri.

Thanks to Modern Music Days, anyone interested in music or the arts in general can now listen to and experience the music of our own time

Meanwhile, pianist Tricia Dawn Williams will present music written specifically for piano and video, combining a musical dialogue with a visual narrative and score. The grand finale will be a contemporary rendition of the iconic ballet Parade (which recently played to rave reviews at the Manoel Thea­tre), featuring the music of Erik Satie to a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau, with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso.

“I think it’s fantastic that Zahra has put Modern Music Days together so that anyone interested in music or the arts in general can have the opportunity to experience the music of our own time as well as repertoire from the 20th century. This will help us understand the artistic development of today and feel part of what will be history in the near future. I believe that, through its approach and presentation, MMD makes contemporary music more accessible.

“It has enabled us as performers to collaborate with local and international artists and composers, while giving the audience the chance to experience it. That can only be a very good thing.

“Coupled with the very strong line-up, good programming and an innovative presentation, I trust this will be a fantastic and memorable pro­duc­tion,” Daniel adds.

Modern Music Days is organised by Teatru Manoel, the Malta Association for Contemporary Music and the Valletta 2018 Foundation as part of the culture programme for Valletta 2018 – European Capital of Culture. The concert will take place on Saturday at the Valletta Campus Theatre, Valletta, as part of the Evenings on Campus programme.;