CULTURE

Elli Paspala breaks silence with new CD

Raised in New York City amid a wide musical landscape of classical music, jazz, rock, rebetika, and laika (Greek popular music), Greek-American vocalist Elli Paspala’s musical education was invariably shaped by the diversity. Even while pursuing classical studies in music, Paspala would supplement her training with frequent performances of modern Greek songs at a small venue in the Astoria district. From her early days as a performer, when she had already decided to focus her efforts on music, Paspala felt that forging close ties with audiences was essential. Music, she often contends, exists for this very reason, a stance which perhaps explains the singer’s relatively limited number of albums. Paspala has just released a new album, «Se Poion Theo Na Pistepso,» whose majority of tracks were written by Stamos Semsis with lyrics by Nikos Moraitis. Giorgos Hadjidakis Theofanopouos contributed two songs. You rarely release new albums. Why is that? There are three reasons. Besides the fact that I prefer playing live, it’s also difficult to find good new songs these days. Moreover, I despise the process of recording. This album was recorded at Stamos Semsis’s home. Studios make me feel very nervous. The irritating cut-and-paste thing seems totally unnatural to me. The point is to do a song from beginning to end, exactly as it is performed. And, to a great extent, Stamos and I managed to avoid editing between phrases and words. What were your intentions when work began on the new album? The only rule I had set myself, one that’s also a great need, was to sing simple and direct songs. I’d reached a point where I realized an excessiveness, which I needed to abort. From then on, [the album’s] sound and themes were something that would take shape as the project progressed. Besides, the album took three years to complete, and during this period, the mood of many songs changed. The project comes close to what we could call a concept album. In other words, it’s characterized by a certain overall texture and atmosphere even though the songs differ greatly. They range from being very lyrical to electronic, but all are based on Greek melody. Have you ever thought about composing your own music? You’re scratching a wound here. Of course I have given the idea thought. It’s both a secret and open desire. But writing a song is like opening a sack and not knowing what will be revealed. I’m not afraid of coarse or ugly results. It’s mediocrity that frightens me. Do you feel that the standards of Greek music have fallen today? To a certain degree, yes. There are, of course, songwriters who produce fabulous songs, but they don’t generate the response others did in the past. What annoys me most of all is the egocentricism that exists. Take «Fame Story» [the reality show], for example. Those youngsters may love music, but above all, they adore themselves. Moreover, there’s the generalized notion that «we’re all artists.» They’re applying the term artist to describe everybody signed up with some record company. Our artists, they say! I’m sorry, but there are very few artists. Do you think the potential exists to export Greek music abroad? It’s very difficult because of the language, and also because the language itself contains musicality, which also remains unknown. The tsifteteli is most exportable because it does not only belong to Greeks. It also contains Eastern elements. I’d very much like, one day, if [Dionysis] Savvopoulos were known abroad as we know people like Leonard Cohen – individuals whose lyrics have made huge impact on their lands. I’d very much like it if songsmiths like [Socrates] Malamas or [Orpheas] Peridis were heard abroad, for the language and the sound of language inherent in their work. Even [Manos] Hadjidakis had great difficulty in staging a major performance abroad. Isn’t it a shame that Theodorakis performs only symphonic pieces and that «Zorba» is never missing from his performances? Ultimately, we need to teach foreigners to listen to our music.