Edmond Jackson’s passion for music is a family love affair spanning several generations and three countries. His father was an Irish musician stationed in Malta with the Royal Irish Fusiliers during Malta’s years as a British colony, while his grandmother was Scottish. When Edmond’s father fell in love with a Maltese woman – later to be Edmond’s mother – he did utmost to stay in Malta and eventually settled here.
He played several forms of bagpipes, and passed on his knowledge to Edmond, but he never learnt the Maltese bagpipe called the ‘zaqq’ (stomach). He used to tell Edmond of a man he knew while in the army who was the only person he’d met who knew how to play the zaqq. He used to help this musician out, supplying him with cane drone reeds which the man used for making instruments. Unfortunately, over the years, Edmond’s father lost track of him and in the end could not even remember his name.
Edmond was determined to find the bagpipe player in the hope of learning how to play the instrument himself. Despite the smallness of Malta, his search proved a massive challenge. Bad luck and wrong leads meant his search lasted over 25 years. Until one day, a friend of Edmond’s told him that he may have come across the person he was looking – a man nicknamed Il-Hammarun – living in Naxxar.
Edmond and Il-Hammarun soon struck a very strong friendship. An old photo did indeed reveal that the elderly musician was the person Edmond’s father knew all those years before. Il-Hammarun then took it upon himself to teach Edmond how to play the zaqq. The zaqq which he used was made up of a part of a British military plane which had crashed over Zabbar in 1975, a bull’s horn shaved with glass so it was wafer thin, and sheep or calf skin to make the bag. When he passed away two years ago, he left this instrument to Edmond. Nowadays, Edmond attaches his father’s military musician badge onto the bagpipe.
Music is an essential part of the Jackson family. Every family member plays an instrument. Edmond and his son, Anderson, play the zaqq; the tambur (Maltese frame drum, which is played using several parts of the body including knees and elbows); the zavzava (friction drum); the flejguta (a Maltese instrument similar to a flute and made from local cane); and the zummara (reed pipe made from cane derived from Maltese valleys). His two daughters play the tambur and the zavzava, and his wife also plays several instruments. Together they form the group ‘Jacksons of Malta – Zaqq u Tambur’, a pipe band which is also registered internationally.
The band, which includes some non-family members as well, participates in various cultural festivals and events around the islands, such as this spring’s strawberry festival in Mgarr, February’s carnival, various village feasts, and events organised by local councils. Edmond gives music lessons in Marsa that have a particular focus on traditional Maltese instruments. If you’re interested in lessons or learning more about the instruments and the family’s performances, email Edmond at: firstname.lastname@example.org.