Very recently Radio Gibraltar has turned 65, a pensionable age, but its youthful profile keeps it relevant and young in outlook and output. A much younger James Neish now the current CEO of GBC has also hosted the series of hour long weekly programmes ‘Made In Gibraltar’ whose remit was to seek and put out on air the musical labours of upcoming and established local musicians. To keep listeners abreast of the local music scene. Ben Lynch and Jonathan Sacramento have also presented the series in the past. Just six years ago James Culatto took the reins for MIG and has continued the legacy of the popular Radio series and improved its local library by asking artists to submit all their recorded work for consideration, instead of just their latest singles, CD or latest press release.
I sit across James one early morning for coffee while raiding his Churros (Papitas in this case) hoping to gain more insight into how this well-established local talent programme continues to prosper and what its aims might be for continuing into the future. “When I first knew that the presenter slot for MIG was to become available, I sold myself to Ian Daniels (Head of Radio) as I was already working there as an audio visual assistant. I had already worked on music Journalism and I love the interview side of that. Anyway I got the programme and at the beginning it was very difficult getting a pool of songs together, as previously artists were only submitting limited content into the programme. I wanted to expand that and gradually they began to send me more material that I could use in different shows and at the same time build up a local library. Nowadays bands send me everything and I try to mix and match as many different genres of music and artists as I can in order to create more diverse shows.”
One thing that MIG has that other shows haven’t got, is that there is no special consideration given to ‘Radio-friendly’ material. James Culatto insists that this Radio criteria should not apply to local music and local artists. The musical palette is multi coloured and independent of commercialism or trends. “You might tune in to hear MIG and it can feature very commercial sounding music at the beginning but later hear some ‘off the wall’ tracks that you would not hear anywhere else. The show is 55 minutes long and if there is an interview in it maybe 20 minutes is given to it. The balance is musical content and links (intros and outros) so the format varies all the time according to content.”
I wanted to know whether James could highlight some memories of his six year stint in MIG. “Really I haven’t had many surprises and that is good because it shows that I have been deeply immersed in the local music scene and keep myself abreast of trends.” Indeed James has been in various bands as a guitarist and front man vocalist during the last 25 years and there is no one better placed to take the local musical temperature than him. He is seriously curating the radio series and earning it new plaudits at the same time.
“There have been people like Jazz guitarist Eli Massias whom I would not have come across as he lives in New York, but other mainstays of local music like Paul Isola, Giles Ramirez, Gavin Garcia, Jeremy Gomez, The 500, Gabriel Moreno and others are regularly featured in my shows. I would like to think that because I play their music and have featured their interviews in MIG, many people are now more aware of local and expat artists. So in that sense the programme nowadays is more varied, well informed and up to date.”
“I would say that nowadays there are more singer songwriters than bands who want to promote their work. It’s less hassle I suppose if you are on your own. Every so often we get requests that I play a ‘Dead City Radio’ song (James Culatto’s band). I don’t have so much time now with family commitments and work. I still write songs and try to put the odd gig on in the summer and I think that Radio Gibraltar will always have a commitment to local music and I would like to carry on MIG as long as people are still listening to it. As long as we have the demand for it I am happy to do it. Based on interaction and feedback I know that there are people who listen. Every week I know that there are people listening and nowadays expat artists like Alexeij Vallejo and Chloe Martinez regularly feature, as does Jesse Maclaren, and Jeremy Perez too although he has now settled here.
“I expect a lot of new material from students this summer and I think that Gibraltar is producing very good lyricists nowadays. I have to mention Denis Valerga, Leo Sanguinetti and Gabriel Moreno and that I mix their talents with all the other genres of music that local artists are making. That is what the show must represent. We need more people to listen to local music otherwise it’s never going to blossom. It’s a privileged position to be in, to expose these talents to the community. Put another way it gives the upcoming musician a bit of a leg up the ladder.”
Since James Culatto started to host the show six years ago, home recording technology has ‘improved dramatically’ and his careful and informed curating of the material that gets played on the show has set higher standards of quality. Any old kitchen table recording will not do. Artists know that they have to aim to produce a properly recorded and mastered song that will stand up to scrutiny and plays well over radio. I have a good feeling that in the hands of James, MIG will continue to grace the airwaves for a few years more, at least as long as our local musical talent pool doesn’t dry up. There are no signs of that happening yet and that makes me very happy.
Tune in to ‘Made in Gibraltar’ with James Culatto on Thursdays at 7pm on Radio Gibraltar Plus and help to keep local music alive by being aware of who’s who and what’s what in our world of Yanito music.