CULTURE

For once, singers stage shows without all the razzmatazz

It’s on again for the worshiping fans of Socrates Malamas, the singer-songwriter who gained fame on the strength of potent recordings and performances, not industry-crafted publicity games. Back in Athens from his remote rural base, wedged somewhere between the capital and Thessaloniki, for a limited number of shows that probably fall short of meeting public demand, Malamas is already midway through a 10-date series of shows at the Stavros tou Notou club (37 Tharipou & Frantzi, Neos Cosmos, tel 210.922.6975). Interestingly, and quite intentionally, Malamas has divided up his 10 appearances into five Monday and Tuesday runs, an initiative aimed at drawing truly interested listeners and not Saturday-night party seekers. All tables, a club official noted on Sunday night, are booked with only standing-room space available for the next few shows. The last of the 10 shows is scheduled for February 17. Though it is not his intention to be a straight-out entertainer, Malamas, a deep-digging existentialist songwriter, is, nevertheless, a commanding performer whose ability to connect with fans is arguably unrivaled on the domestic circuit. Malamas, who emerged in the early 1990s and has gradually gained considerable popularity and abundant respect from colleagues and critics, is endowed with a rare ability to establish rapport with his fans, mostly by simply being himself. There are no elaborate stage setups, light shows, dancers dangling in midair, or smoke machines, as seems to be the norm in the local circuit’s glitzier image-obsessed – and dependent – circuit. Depending on how he feels on the night, or during its course, the simply clad Malamas will either remain absolutely silent, share a joke, or tell a tale between numbers. Should the evening’s chemistry work right, Malamas is known to occasionally go overtime into impromptu extended sets, without the accompaniment of his band. Malamas’s low-key approach was emphasized further early last year with the release of a sparsely arranged, dark-toned album, «Ena» (One), his most recent. It was recorded using mostly two guitars and Malamas’s rugged, low-pitched delivery. Over a course of eight albums to date, Malamas has developed a unique songwriting style that mixes subtle elements from the West into a more dominant Eastern framework. His material ranges from melancholy balladry to sturdier outbursts in the form of old-school Greek. One of his collaborators on some of these albums, the vocalist Melina Kana, who emerged through her work with Malamas, is also currently performing dates of her own in Athens, at the 13 Fengaria Club (61 Aghiou Meletiou & Patission, tel 210.865.5100), She will be there until the end of February, but, unlike Malamas’s early-week shows, Kana is performing Thursdays to Saturdays. Kana, who has just put out new work, began winning fame as a recording artist in the early 1990s, following the release of «Tis Imeras Kai Tis Nychtas» (Of Night and Day). The album’s delicate material was written by Malamas and sung mostly by Kana. She had also sung a limited number of songs on Malamas’s previous album, 1991’s «Paramythia» (Fairy Tales). The association with Malamas also led to a collaboration with one of his close friends and associates, Thanassis Papaconstantinou, one of the country’s finer songwriters of recent years, who, like Malamas, lives a low-key, away-from-the-city life. Based in Larissa, Papaconstantinou has provided enchanting work, some of it fragile-sounding and in need of a sensual vocal delivery like that of Kana’s. Her collaborations with Papaconstantinou include fronting the albums «Tis Agapis Gerakaris» (Falconer of Love), in 1996, and «Lafyra» (Loot), two years later. A considerable part of her current repertoire for the 13 Fengaria Club includes songs by Malamas and Papaconstantinou. Besides selections from other albums of hers, Kana, who is backed by a very competent band for her latest shows, has also culled favorite older laika numbers.