Unlikely music duo join forces

At a time when Greek music is experiencing hard times – creatively, in terms of album releases, as well as on the club circuit – the long-serving and enduring singer Dimitris Mitropanos is not afraid of going against the tide. Unlike most of his colleagues, his latest release does not comprise songs and lyrics provided by a variety of contributors, a common approach favored by most to maximize commercial appeal. For his new album, Mitropanos has opted for work by a single composer. Moreover, the singer’s selection for a songwriter, the former pop idol Stefanos Korkolis, is a surprise himself. Korkolis does not have a background in popular Greek music (laika), the style that has established Mitropanos as a household name for close to three decades. «I dislike albums with 12 different versions of the same song. That’s what happens when too many people get involved,» contended Mitropanos. «I prefer a single person’s work, because I want the songs to have continuity.»  Featuring 11 songs with lyrics by Nikos Moraitis and Rebecca Roussi as well as an instrumental, the Mitropanos-Korkolis album, titled «Pes mou t’alithina sou,» is «essentially laiko,» as the singer himself told Kathimerini. Nor are the songs the stereotyped zeibekika (a laiko sub-category) often rendered by various songwriters for the widely popular singer’s appealing and much-loved vocal delivery. «If you’re not familiar with Korkolis, you can’t really imagine what the songs are like. I believe there’s something different here – both laika and ballads that carry a certain texture linked to the songwriter,» said Mitropanos. «Stefanos is talented, and possesses a musical education, inspiration, and musical versatility,» the singer added. This versatility, it ought to be said, has confused listeners. Korkolis emerged as a pop idol in the early 1990s, but appears to have wildly deviated from the scene. «I made my choices between 1997 and 2004. I no longer write for those I don’t know, just the ones I love. At the same time, I’ve made efforts abroad and am continuing to do so,» said Korkolis. The Greek songwriter has played piano alongside Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes for some 400 shows over the past four years. He has also worked at home, including with popular singer Alkistis Protopsalti. Other projects in the making for Korkolis include an Astor Piazolla opera directed by Stavros Tsakiris, with whom he had worked on a Greek National Theater production of «Don Quixote.» It’s all a long stretch away from the songwriter’s new album with Mitropanos. «I don’t know if I’d compose laika for another singer. Mitropanos takes you along roads that remind one of Akis Panos [late, legendary and prolific songsmith],» noted Korkolis, referring to Panos, a working-class hero in Greece and the country’s diaspora. «As a young boy at music school, I would stop and listen to him being played from the apartment block on the other side of the street. I’d simply stop, no matter what I was doing, as if he mesmerized me from a distance,» the composer added. Returning to the present state of Greek music, Mitropanos said truly creative songwriters had been overrun by their conveyor-belt counterparts, a situation which he partially blames on the collaborative choices made by popular singers seeking to keep up with the new beat. «The mistake we made is that we contributed to their disappearance. Initially, we believed we were acting constructively, but now that we’ve been left without material of any worth, the mistake is obviously clear… Creative individuals have stopped producing, and rightly so, while the other side’s causing havoc,» said Mitropanos, referring to the country’s contemporary pop scene that dominates media – including all-important TV – morning, noon and night. «It’s our fault that we helped the record labels reach today’s impasse. Now, we’re battling any way we can,» he added. When asked to comment on the future of Greek music, Mitropanos was clear and relentless. «Things aren’t going well,» said the seasoned singer, «and they can’t get any worse.»