Music from the islands of the Aegean

Some of the more worthwhile recent local album releases have followed tradition with folk songs from the Aegean, Crete, as well as more distant places such as Syria and Armenia. One of these, Apo ton Pounendi (On the West Wind), presents 15 traditional songs from various Aegean islands, including Imvros, Samothrace, Symi, Rhodes, Samos and Kythira, in a unique fashion. Rendered by a 15-member band and 40-member choir, the traditional material’s interpretation here moves beyond the more customary (and often dull) faithful reproductions of folk music, without disregarding its spirit. The album, a coproduction by the Center for Aegean Folklore and Musicological Studies (KALME) and the Bank of Cyprus’s Cultural Foundation division, features a prominent vocalist in Nikos Papazoglou, who sings the title-track, a traditional song from Imvros, and Yiasemi Saragouda. Also included is KALME’s Aegean Choir and its soloists. An informative bilingual booklet – in Greek and English – containing information about Aegean music, instruments, dances, bibliographies, lyrics, and more is included. Another commendable release, Yeraz (Dream), by Haig Yajdzian, an Athens-based Armenian who was born in Syria, brings out this artist’s prowess as a musician on the oud, as well as his expressive vocal delivery. Continuing the trend of his three previous releases, Yajdzian offers his versions of instrumental themes and songs from Armenia, the broader eastern Mediterranean region, as well as his own compositions, which bear the influences of his heritage. A cast of gifted musicians, whose improvisational flights of fancy meet and mingle, play an important role in creating this album’s beauty. Stin Dini ton Anemon (In the Vortex of Winds) offers Cretan traditional songs by Mitsos Stavrakis, primarily a lyricist, but a composer as well, whose career stretches back some 35 years. Stavrakis, who provides vocals with Spyridoula Toutoudaki, is joined by a regular collaborator, Ross Daly – the Greek-based Irish musician who has delved into Cretan tradition, as well as other eastern musical modes for decades – for the material’s arrangement. Other contributors include lauto virtuoso Giorgis Xylouris, a sibling of one of Crete’s other masters, the lyra instrumentalist Psarantonis, percussionist Angeliki Xekalaki, and Rachel Cogan on flute. Also from Crete, lyra player Tassoula, one of composer Yannis Markopoulos’s regular stage collaborators, has released a new album Mou Leipeis (I Miss You) containing new compositions inspired by Cretan tradition. Tassoula also provides vocals to her own lyrics as well as those of others. Inspired by the late antique tradition, the exhibition is a collection of stained and enameled objects representative of a flourishing period of Islamic art, as well as later glass objects originating in Persia and India. The exhibition, which will be organized thematically and in chronological order, will present major categories of glassware – blown glass, mold-brown glass, mosaic glass, cut and engraved glass, gilt and painted glass – demonstrating the wealth of shapes, designs, techniques and exquisite colors used by the various artists.

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