Hidden musical gem resurfaces for shows

Mariza Koch, one of the country’s true musical gems since the early 1970s who is credited with helping revive interest in Greek folk music, is set to resurface with two shows in Athens this Friday and Saturday. Koch is a uniquely gifted vocalist who has maintained a low profile and often donated funds to charity over her long career. She has mainly focused on promoting traditional Greek folk music both at home and abroad with numerous shows on all five continents, and she will present traditional folk songs from the Aegean islands and Asia Minor at the upcoming shows. Also on the agenda is a song cycle composed by Koch based on the poetry of Sappho, to be dedicated to the artist’s slightly older peer, the late Flery Dantonaki, a key vocalist on several Manos Hadjidakis albums, including «CNS Cycle» and «Magnus Eroticus,» who passed away three years ago aged 61. Both shows will begin with screenings of a short documentary film on Dantonaki by Antonis Boskoitis. On recent albums, Koch has rechanneled her personal interest in traditional Greek music toward younger listeners in an effort to bring them closer to their traditional roots, as exemplified on a recent release, «The Mermaid Takes Little Alexander For a Ride.» Released in 1997, the album combines music with storytelling, which takes the listener on a journey throughout many parts of Greece. Koch followed the album with another child-oriented album, «Songs and Playsongs,» which appeared two years later. Koch, who was born in Athens and raised on Santorini, arrived as an artist with an obvious interest in Greek folk music, as well as an offbeat willingness to experiment with this age-old material. Her debut album, 1971’s «Arabas,» presented listeners with a collection of traditional Greek folk songs fused with modern sounds derived from electronic instruments. Koch’s progressive «folk-rock» sound was enthusiastically received and led to several more albums with experimental inclinations before the artist began receding to more familiar grounds for unadulterated renditions of Greek folk songs. Other projects in Koch’s 30-year career include a self-titled album in 1977 based on poems by the late sea-loving poet Nikos Kavvadias, who had passed away two years earlier, as well as collaborations with leading Greek composers. Back in 1976, Koch took a heavy political message to the pop-oriented Eurovision song contest by performing a protest song against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, «Panaghia Mou, Panaghia Mou.» Koch has just rereleased an older vinyl-only album, «Ta Paralia,» which dates back to 1987, on the CD format, which she has dedicated to the album’s late violinist, Stefanos Vartanis, also a regular member of the artist’s performing band. It features traditional songs from the Asia Minor region. «This recording carries the traits of a live performance because we had performed these songs at concerts on numerous occasions with Stephanos Vartanis on violin, Costas Pitsos on laouto, and Giorgos Gevgelis on percussion,» Koch noted in a press release, referring to the album’s cast. Friday and Saturday, Athina Mousiki Skini, 3 Poseidonos Ave, Neo Faliron, tel 210.481.3605.