Quality keeps two friends going, audiences coming

The similarities between them seem to exceed their differences. Both surfaced in the 1990s; represent the healthier side of contemporary Greek song; have nothing to do with the current, visually inclined pop scene; were chosen by composer Mikis Theodorakis for vocal deliveries of his work around the same time last decade; and are two of the younger generation’s more popular vocalists. Yiannis Kotsiras and Dimitris Bassis, then, have every reason to be working together, considering that, besides these common traits, the artists are united by a strong friendship which resulted from their first collaborative effort two years ago. Early last month, Kotsiras and Bassis embarked on a 40-show residency at the Sfendona Club in Athens which is scheduled to run through February 3. Additional dates are, at this point, considered likely by the venue’s management. Apart from their own work, the duo have also made some surprise selections for their repertoires. Musing over their aforementioned similarities, Kotsiras was able to spot a difference, from his vantage point. «I haven’t recorded as many laika (popular) songs as Dimitris,» he said, while adding that the overall aim of their joint effort was to present a repertoire possessing both character and variety. «It’s what we’re after, without resorting to selections of overplayed songs. That’s why we’ve chosen some laika songs which, in a way, have been neglected, songs that aren’t on the front line,» Bassis commented. The choice of quality songs was the common denominator that would support and unite the wide-ranging repertoire’s incongruous nature, Kotsiras said. »When you’re dealing with good songs, any choice you make can be combined with the total body,» Kotsiras said. Besides lifting work from their own albums for the Sfendona Club shows, Kotsiras and Bassis have also included material by the late master composer Manos Hadjidakis, his peer Mikis Theodorakis, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Akis Panou, and Manos Angelopoulos. Both Kotsiras and Bassis have so far avoided releasing pop material catering to easy-listening audiences, a path already taken by many of their peers and older performers, but would consider taking such a direction should they feel comfortable with the material. «If we’d found something of interest, we wouldn’t have a problem,» Kotsiras said. Interestingly, a comparison of listener demands at music stores and concert halls seems to reveal a discrepancy which offers support to the notion that music with substance is timeless. For example, composers such as Fivos – who has penned numerous top-selling albums and singles for many singers active on the local pop scene’s glitzy hit parade – seem to sell nicely at stores, but it is the more enduring material of artists such as Hadjidakis, Mimis Plessas, or veteran singer Poly Panou that have far more impact at live shows. Commenting on the seemingly inevitable ephemeral fate of trash-pop, Kotsiras took this thought a step further. «Demand for records isn’t greater. They’re just discussed more by the mass media. There’s a difference between demand and discussion. Besides, each year brings its new phenomenon, before the next one surfaces the following year,» Kotsiras argued. «Creators of quality song have no need for fads. They’ve sold well in the long term.» Yiannis Kotsiras, Dimitris Bassis, Thurs.-Sat. 10.30 p.m., Sun. 8.30 p.m. Sfendona Club, 22 Alexandras, Athens, tel 825.3991-2.

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