Charles Calls The Tune

It is dark in the garage in which Charles Busuttil forged his international reputation for restoring and repairing string instruments, but the mood is light.

Mr Busuttil counts a raft of international stars among his past clients, yet he can be found in his modest garage workshop every weekday evening and Saturday morning.

Alongside him always is his equally affable father Felix, a former mechanical engineering tutor who owns the garage and the house above it, which he mostly built himself on a quiet Żabbar street.

“I’ve been coming down here since I was a little boy helping my dad fix cars,” Mr Busuttil said.

“I grew up building and fixing things – we would never throw things away or pay someone to do repairs. My dad always taught me that if someone else could fix it, I could fix it.”

Since 1992 the garage has hosted Band Aid Music, which services, repairs and restores string instruments, as well as selling guitars and amplifiers.

Mr Busuttil started the business after building a strong word-of-mouth reputation for fixing instruments in his university days.

Band Aid Music is now well-known among musicians in Malta and beyond, with Bryan Adams, Jethro Tull, Zucchero, Tom Jones, Ronan Keating, Michael Bolton and Riccardo Cocciante just some of the many international stars who have sought Mr Busuttil’s services while visiting the island.

He also receives instruments from collectors as far away as the UK and US, who trust Mr Busuttil more than restorers in their own countries.

Although he has attended courses overseas, Mr Busuttil is largely self-taught, using books, the internet and his own nous.

While the bulk of his work involves repairs, Mr Busuttil has restored some rare and important instruments over the years, including a violin by renowned Italian luthier Giuseppe Guarneri, dating from 1714.

The painstaking restoration took him and his father two years to complete.

“When we heard it played for the first time we cried – it was such a beautiful sound.”

Besides the expertise of Mr Busuttil and his father, what sets Band Aid apart is its personalised service.

“We give customers a coffee or some wine, have a chat; I’ve made many friends through this business,” Mr Busuttil said.

A science teacher by profession, he also moonlights as a session musician with well-known local bands and a backline and instrument technician during big concerts.

But despite his love for instrument repairs and restoration, Mr Busuttil does not want to give up his day job.

“The balance is perfect at the moment; I don’t want to expand because I would have to employ more people, and the personal service I’m known for would be lost.”

Mr Busuttil wanders among broken guitars and half-finished lutes, talking animatedly about the work that needs to be done and the tools – many of them designed by his father – he will use.

A child-sized drum kit belonging to his six-year-old son Luigi stands amid the debris.

Also the father of two-year-old Gianluca, Mr Busuttil hopes his children will grow up spending time in the workshop so they learn the value of fixing things themselves.

“My eldest one already loves coming down here and helping us out. He has a strong connection with his nannu – my dad is his hero. Mine too.”


Kindly reproduced from Times of Malta, 8th July 2012.


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