CULTURE

There’s hope for local music

At a time when hopeful young performers are stampeding toward a brief moment of glory in reality television shows like «Fame Story,» «Super Idol» and «Pop Stars,» or any other ploy employed by the music and television industry to flesh out new singing talent, there are still those who have chosen a different way of going about it all. They also want fame, not by flaunting their image, but on the merit of their vocal capabilities. A recent example is the second round of auditions organized by the Mikri Arktos recording company, an independent label involved in publishing music and art books, and directed by songwriter Paraskevas Karassoulas. The first audition, held in May 2002, invited only singers and the select few who made it through the selection process were recorded on an album that circulated that same year. Results from the second audition also went into circulation recently, though this time around the auditions were for 15 song/music writers and 11 singers. The album that emerged from this round contains 17 songs (not all of them gems) which give some hope for the future of the domestic music industry. «Our goal,» says Karassoulas, «was to bring together young singers and songwriters, because the first round showed that singers can do little without good material behind them.» However, in times of such artistic turmoil in the music industry, it appears that everyone is out there looking for new talent. «There are two basic schools in the Greek music industry,» explains Karassoulas. «On the one hand, there are those who believe in quality music and songs, based on strong lyrics and a powerful melody. On the other are those who see music as a mere industrial product.» Karassoulas makes the distinction between the genre that is known in Greece as entechno, which is a more refined form of Greek music that follows academic lines of creation and production, and pop. Between the art culture and pop culture there is a world of difference. Pop culture, according to Karassoulas «operates like a commercial product, and that is why it is so expandable. It self-destructs through the very logic that propels it, the logic of the industrial product that goes from the creation stage to the consumer at lightning speed.» Mikri Arktos, in contrast, is out to find songs that are in themselves works of art, not ignoring the fact that even so-called «art» singers have committed their fair share of crimes against music. «Of course, there are a number of mediocre artists even in this genre of music; it would be weird if there weren’t,» says Karassoulas. «But these are especially dangerous times because the corporate music industry and television are a firm influence on the domestic music scene. Image has upstaged the quality of lyrics.» Indeed, one may even argue that the way in which the music industry works in Greece today it is actually prohibitive to young artists who show vision and initiative. «All the time, we see artists who are just making variations of existing material, this is why we see CDs losing so much respect.» So what interests young artists these days? «From the two auditions, we have a sample of around 1,000 artists, 600 of whom are songwriters from Greece and abroad,» says Karassoulas. «They gave us quite a good idea of what is going on out there and I must say it was a pleasant surprise. We saw young people writing very beautiful songs with good lyrics.»