10 years of silence is broken

From the very beginning of «Ma’issa Sellini» (Moon, You Enchantress), respected singer-songwriter Nikos Papazoglou’s first album in 10 years, you immediately pick up on the down-to-earth freshness that distinguished his landmark debut, «Ekdykisi tis Gyftias» (Gypsydom’s Revenge). That groundbreaking effort had arrived in the late ’70s as a scandalous jab at the period’s dominant political rigidity in music. Papazoglou appears to feel similarly about this comeback album. In its liner notes, the artist describes the overall vibe at his own Agrotikon studio in Thessaloniki, where the recording sessions took place, as something «I haven’t experienced since the recording of ‘Ekdykisi Tis Gyftias’. There was no fuss or grumbling, no tension, and not a single drop of rotten luck.» It’s not at all simple to keep things cool while working in a studio, especially when it’s been a full 10 years since his previous sessions there. Any extended absence from the scene can lead to heightened anxiety as the disappeared act attempts to make up time by pushing to express all. Results are not always optimal when in such a state. It’s happened repeatedly, but fortunately not in Papazoglou’s case. Listening to his new work elicits his weathered essence that was gradually developed over a 10-year period and transformed into inspired music. Even Papazoglou’s choice of lyrics makes an impression amid the contemporary scene’s overwhelming hollowness. The album’s lyrics, provided by a team of lyricists, confront the Greek language as good literature does. The two fields fuse into one. The project’s lyricists – Pygi Kafetzopoulou, Stella Helander, Maria Armefti, Dimitris Babaous, Yiota Drakia, Michalis Pasiardis, Mimis Kasteras, Kyriaki Beioglou, Giorgos Vatousiadis and Polyxeni Veleni – have conjured up deep-rooted work far from the ephemeral. The lyrics strike the listener as novel, sensitive, and poetic, but don’t forsake the directness that’s imperative in laiko, or popular Greek music. Papazoglou’s latter albums were all laiko-oriented, but this latest one is full-blooded. It pays homage to two mythical laiko figures, Markos Vamvakaris and Vassilis Tsitsanis, as well as the traditional styles of Smyrneiko, Nisiotiko (island folk) and Ipirotiko, all fused into one, or the trademark sound of this intriguing musician. As for the 57-year-old artist’s vocal delivery, it must be said that 10 years don’t go by without a wrinkle. At first, it feels slightly unsettling that the voice isn’t as perfect as in the past, but this mild concern quickly fades into a secondary issue. In the end, such quibbles are totally forgotten amid the singing’s expressiveness, sensitivity and longing. Papazoglou reminds us that, ultimately, the most essential way of being modern is to be real.

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