Life and music on Athens streets

Needless to say, Athens this August promises to bear no resemblance to the hot summer month’s customary picture of close-to-total abandonment. The imminent Olympics, due to be launched with Friday night’s opening ceremony, will keep a large percentage of the capital’s population in town – for Olympics-related work, pleasure and curiosity. Athens Municipality, in its bid to generate a festive mood in the streets of Athens for locals and the visitors on a nightly basis, when the competitions are over, has prepared an extensive arts and culture program titled «The City Celebrates.» Involving the participation of over 600 artists – musicians, painters, sculptors, and dancers – both Greek and foreign, activities will be spread throughout the city at 22 locations, in parks, squares and along pedestrian walkways, every day between 8.30 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. The fiesta, which begins this Friday right, will run right through to the end of September to cover the Paralympics as well. During a recent speech announcing the event’s agenda, the mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyannis, noted that concerns expressed by international media regarding security during the Olympic Games would not spoil the party. «Athens will have the maximum level of security. At the same time, however, life will go on. We will dance. We will sing. On our squares. In the streets. Along our walkways. We will celebrate. We will relish the return of the Olympics to Athens. We will live this great moment,» said Bakoyannis, as part of her campaign to get the capital’s jamboree rolling. The event’s nightly performances, mostly music, will range from jazz, rock, rembetika, world music, Latin, pop, electronica, opera, and Byzantine hymns. Besides the abundant number of participating Greek artists from various parts of the country, «The City Celebrates» will also include performances by over 100 foreign acts as part of the organizer’s bid for a multicultural atmosphere. The appearances by visiting performers were organized by Athens Municipality in cooperation with 34 embassies and cultural institutions operating here. Besides the music, the event will include a massive outdoor art exhibition. Dubbed «Athens by Art,» it will showcase 85 works by eminent Greek artists along the city’s long promenade beneath the Acropolis comprising the pedestrianized streets of Dionysiou Aeropagitou, Apostolou Pavlou and Ermou. The main squares of Syntagma, Omonia, Koumoundourou and Monastiraki are also on the outdoor exhibition’s itinerary. Exhibitions will also be staged by the city’s cultural centers. Returning to the music, the objective set by organizers is to present the local circuit’s various current trends through low-budget productions for a street-party feel. Some of the country’s better-known contemporary acts will be appearing at Omonia Square. They include Michalis Delta, formerly of the locally influential electronica trio Stereo Nova in the early 1990s, for a series of ambient electronica sets over several nights. (Most performers have committed themselves for multiple shows at the one location.) Also headed for the Omonia stage will be Raining Pleasure, a competent local English-language pop-rock band that recently overcame years of obscurity after one of its songs picked for a heavily aired TV advertising campaign provided it with considerable exposure and a nationwide following. The Omonia stage will also include shows by two less-celebrated yet interesting acts. Occasional Dream, an Athens-based fusion ensemble, packs diverse styles into its mostly acoustic sound. The other act, Dubient, a dub-and-ambient act, as the band name spells out, includes in its ranks one of the country’s more spirited electric guitarists, Cleon Antoniou, who has enjoyed critical acclaim and a growing reception abroad with one of his other projects, the Greek folk-jazz fusion band Mode Plagal. While on the subject of fine local guitarists, another great from a generation earlier, Notis Mavroudis, will be performing on the Irakleidon and Apostolou Pavlou streets’ stage. Proceedings at Koumoundourou Square will focus on traditional Greek music, rembetika, and laika, or popular Greek, from fine acts including Sotiria Leonardou and Babis Tsertos. Stelios Vamvakaris will perform tribute sets to his late father Markos Vamvakaris, a monumental figure in rembetika earlier last century. Besides all the aforementioned locations, other stages featuring worthy acts will be set up at Aerides Square in Plaka, Aghios Thomas Square, Andrianou Street, Avdi Square (in Votaniko), Fokionos Negri Square, Mesolongiou Square, and at the Museum of Popular Instruments.

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