The rush of being nominated for a Grammy Award must be sweet for any musician, regardless of whether he or she is just a participant in the act or album up for the prestigious distinction.
This is definitely the case for Eleni Arapoglou (https://www.eleni-music.com/), the 31-year-old Greek singer and musician. The New York-based artist is a member of the all-female vocal ensemble Rosa, which has lent its distinctive Balkan color to the title track “Ona” on the album of the same name by Croatian-American vocalist Thana Alexa, in the running for best jazz vocal album and improvised jazz solo at Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
For Arapoglou, the rush comes from a sense of achievement to be part of such a meaningful project, but also from the prospect of good things to come.
“We became very close with Thana Alexa while recording,” she tells Kathimerini. “The project is about female empowerment and in Croatian, ‘ona’ means ‘she’,” she says.
“Although we only appear in one song, when we heard about the nomination we felt it as a group achievement; we felt that we were a step closer to something of our own too” Arapoglou adds.
Rosa is dedicated to exploring the traditional songs of Serbia and the Balkans and comprises a group of female vocalists who met at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the United States. It is not, however, Arapoglou’s only project.
Apart from Berklee, she also studied theater and dance at Tufts, runs workshops at Carnegie Hall and is a teaching artist for its program Lullaby Project, works with El Sistema Greece and has performed at such venues as Lincoln Center and the Park Avenue Armory.
She is also looking forward to releasing an album at the end of the year in collaboration with composer and pianist Jake Sherman. It does not have a title yet and, if Arapoglou had her way, it wouldn’t even have to be put in a specific style.
“Given my influences, I have come to terms with the fact that the album will not belong to a specific genre and this is something incredibly liberating,” the Greek artist says.
“Of course, it needs a genre title so that the album can be produced, sold and put up on iTunes, so if I had to, I would use the terms world music, jazz and souls,” Arapoglou says.
“When you finish Berklee, there’s always a fear if you’re doing things right. No matter how much you learn in art, there’s a specific formula between right and wrong you still linger with after college. There can also be a clique, in jazz especially, which will question whether your music is interesting or complex enough. The point, though, is not to try and impress but to play and write songs that bring you joy and peace,” she adds.
Collaborations with Sony Music Mexico’s Leonel Garcia on the piece “Ella,” as well as her references to fados, flamenco, Argentinean and traditional Greek music, confirmed the mix that Arapoglou is after.
“With so many platforms offering music from all over the world so effortlessly, no wonder we all have a fusion of sounds inside us,” she says. “I see a lot of artists getting in touch with others individually, through social media and not at the initiative of the recording labels. So, what we get is a mishmash of many different art worlds.”
And as for that joy and peace mentioned earlier, Arapoglou gets that in ample quantities from her work with young mothers, refugees, homeless people, people with speech impediments or autism, etc.
“Helping a young person with a stutter or a mother trying to sing her baby to sleep makes you come out of yourself a bit,” she says. “Some of these projects are obviously a way to work, but I have decided that if there is somewhere I can help with my voice or my ideas, I will be there.”