New live album by Maria Farandouri pays tribute to a century of Greek song

Maria Farandouri’s sole concert at the open-air Herod Atticus Theater in Athens last summer, a magical evening that featured an eclectic range of mostly older songs, has been immortalized on a live album, Enan Aiona Ellinikou Tragoudiou (A Century of Greek Song), which has just been released as a double-CD edition by the local label Legend Records. For the show, Farandouri was backed by the Athens-based Orchestra of Colors. We had a good time during the summer, recalled a typically good-natured Farandouri at a recent press conference in Athens for the album’s launch. Besides commenting on the selection process for the show and the ensuing live album, the artist, whose epic vocal delivery established her internationally as the ideal interpreter of composer Mikis Theodorakis’s politically charged work, also elaborated on her views on the future of Greek song. For six months we tried finding songs suited to my voice. I became acquainted with songwriters of so-called ‘light’ music. I wouldn’t characterize their work as light. I heard exceptional voices and was astounded. The puzzle eventually grew clear, remarked Farandouri, whose choices included both original work and reinterpretations of songs by others. Her criteria while selecting material, Farandouri said, were mainly subjective. Feelings from the soul, memories of Sunday afternoons spent with friends, wine and song, Farandouri recalled. An anthology of special songs, which also pay homage to Greek song and its creators, she added. Material that was eventually culled for the show and live album includes legendary rembetika artist Markos Vavakaris’s Dyo Gyftoules, Vassilis Tsitsanis’s rembetika classic about war-torn Greece,Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki, Dionysis Savvopoulos’s Thalassographia, Manos Loizos’s Gero-Negro Jim, originally sung by Farandouri, Thanos Mikroutsikos’s Thessaloniki, and more. Interestingly, the album’s content steers clear of contemporary material written over the past two decades, whose output, according to Farandouri, has yet to find its place in the history of song. I believe that these songs are gradually making their way into the collective memory. I didn’t want to be unjust to anyone. Later on, I’d like to do a tribute to contemporary Greek song, Farandouri said. There are plenty of musical styles which need to be researched. How did you manage to work in the same theater in the last 30 years, without actually owning it?

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