Kristi Stassinapoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis
cdRoots Code: sst-tug1065 -
Let me start by saying 'Highly recommended." This Greek duo returns with a thoroughly rootsy and yet completely modern take on Greek folk music that includes ancient instruments with modern technology. I usually try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum, but this is quite brilliant.
From the artists:
The invented term 'Greekadelia' perfectly captures the far-out spirit of this album. First, of course, Kristi and Stathis are both Greek and draw their central artistic inspiration from their homeland. Second, the pun on 'psychedelia' relates to the duo's ability to create music that shape-shifts, twisting and turning their listeners' expectations, and plunging them deep into a new world of expression.
Their head-turning approach of playing old demotika songs, mixed with quirky samples, Kristi's vocals, a traditional Greek lauto, an Indian harmonium and various frame drums, all underpinned by live looping, is sacrilege to some conservatives on the folk scene. Undeterred, Kristi and Stathis are keen to break away from the preservationists and explore something fresh and, importantly, resolutely Greek. They speak with concern that the youth of today – including those with their ears clued in to the supposedly 'underground' scene – are relishing copycat English and American indie bands over home-grown Greek outfits. This album is intended as an antidote to the situation, hopefully inspiring the youth to support contemporary Greek arts and to rediscover their roots … before it is too late.
Kristi and Stathis' musical partnership goes right back to 1989, when they began to play together and formed the ethno-punk fusion band Selana. The urban, attitude-soaked style of their first band has undoubtedly crept into the aesthetic of Greekadelia. 'Rodo Tis Protanastasis' includes a thumping sampled bassline that wouldn't sound out of place in a dance anthem, while 'Me Gelasan Ta Poulia' is a dark and relentless dance about the inevitability of death that echoes the feel of much fast, hard-edged punk characteristic of the early 1970s. Undoubtedly, though, the fundamental inspiration for the album is traditional demotika songs and dances from rural Greece.
Kristi and Stathis have travelled all over Greece, learning the songs via osmosis from village locals and pulling inspiration from the sounds they heard along the way. The opening track on the album, 'Matia San Kai Ta Dika Sou', begins with a recording of a captain announcing his boat's arrival at an island. Nowadays, microphone-shy captains are spared the task, and have been replaced by recorded announcements that herald the vessel's arrival at the touch of a button, with perfectly calculated enunciation. But, as Kristi explains through laughter, for many years the sounds of mumbling captains – speaking first in Greek, then in often somewhat hilariously incoherent and English – was synonymous with travelling to any Greek island by sea. So, with this first humorous track, Kristi and Stathis launch their musical voyage through Greece, each track taken from a different island or region of the country.
The haunting sailor's song 'Anamesa Nissirou' is from the Dodecanese Islands. The song tells of a ship in dangerous waters and of the crew's prayers for help. Kristi's vocals leap and linger on mournful phrases, while Stathis' lauto loops slow, resigned phrases. In the second half of the track, the sampled sound of cresting waves is heard, adding a cinematic depth to the work. In a similar tempo, 'Erhomai Ki Esy Koimasai' is a slow patinada, a tune sung while walking, from old Asia Minor. On this track Stathis also uses samples of sounds from nature, this time including the fleeting, sharp tweets of birds at night. The dislocated tweets layered on top of a lauto riff, spacey electronic effects, harmonium figures and Kristi's sliding, melismatic melody line add to the heady, trance-inducing ambience of the work.
A common theme in the songs included here, and in the demotika repertoire, tells of a longing for a love who is far from home. In 'Halassia Mou', a song from the northwestern region of Epirus, the speaker yearns for their absent beloved: 'My blue-eyed one, you've been away for so many years.' The music is meditative, with a low drone anchored below a gentle, rippling interplay between lauto and percussion. 'To Ponemeno Stithos Mou' tells of a pain, 'because my heart weeps within'. Such strong words are matched by dramatic musical gesture – we hear a pounding frame drum, accented strums on the lauto, deep brooding harmonium chords and Kristi's pained vocal sung in high range.
The subject matter of the Thessalian song 'Kato Sta Dasia Platania' tells of a darker side to the old village way of life. The song tells the tale of Diamandoula, a young girl who was raped in the forest. As the song plays out, she admits the dark truth to her brothers. The track opens with a simple two-note oscillation layered across instruments and effects, before a lauto solo takes prominence. Kristi sings accented vocal phrases across a harmonium drone and cyclical lauto loops. The haunting mood of the song is conveyed by Kristi's expressive, pained vocal.
Kristi and Stathis decided to record this album as a duo in order to retain the gentle intimacy of their live performances. Here, Kristi sings, and plays percussion and the Indian harmonium, a free-standing keyboard instrument. She bought her harmonium in India, inspired by the Velvet Underground's Nico, and the beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, who used the instrument to accompany poetry readings. Kristi's influences give an insight into the bohemian music scene that so inspires her, an influence that is manifest in the music heard here. Stathis plays the lauto, a Greek lute, and uses a groove sampler and live-looping techniques to unfold his intricate electronic style. With minimal instrumentation Kristi and Stathis carve out a unique soundscape, and present their own truly original, and entirely beautiful, take on the folk music of Greece.
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