Joking his way into the deeper essence of things

«There’s a madness about me,» musician Pantelis Abazis warns. Anybody who has ever seen him perform will understand. With a tour of various Greek cities already under way and a new album – his third, just days away – featuring both live and studio recordings, Abazis appears determined to take his humorous bedlam as far as it goes. Describing his work as «music with a smile,» Abazis says the objective is to extract «smiles from embittered lips.» And he is not alone in his pursuit. Cartoonist Yiannos Logothetis, one of several contributors, has provided his touch to the musician’s shows with props highlighting Abazis’s merry disposition. Prospective concertgoers can expect a wide range of material from early 20th century rebetika – including the work of Nikos Gounaris, Panagiotis Tountas and Markos Vamvakaris as well as their prominent successor Vassilis Tsitsanis – to Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis. Then there’s the show’s cheekier side with songs made to amuse and loaded with connotations, in most cases sexual, such as «Hi There Evzone» (Gei sou tsolia mou), «I Climbed onto the Pepper Stalk» (Anevika stin piperia), «Varvara,» «Black Ford,» and «Do You Like the Greek.» «It’s a postmodern, satirical production expressed through music – humorous, good-natured songs with a smile,» said Abazis. «In other words, we don’t play grim songs that we all love but have grown tired of listening to. The stuff we play is well known but doesn’t get played on the radio, which is dominated by playlist material,» he added. Admittedly, many of the songs culled by Abazis tend to be associated with the pop frivolity of their corresponding eras. Even so, the performer contends that it is through lightweight matters that core issues can be tapped. «Lightness leads you to the depth of things. These are songs in which the connotations played an important role. In essence, our repertoire is like an anthology of all the eras,» said the 41-year-old musician, who studied mathematics at the University of Athens but was eventually drawn to the capital’s nightlife as a young man in the late 1980s, when he started writing his first songs. Early the next decade, Abazis began performing at various venues, often billed with some of the country’s better-known performers, such as Costas Makedonas, Pantelis Thalassinos, and Vassilis Lekkas. He put out his debut album, «Pantelos heiropoiita» (Totally Handmade) in 1996 and released a follow-up a year later.

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