Maria Farandouri sings jazz

There are many out there who would envy her success on the international stage. For more than 40 years, Maria Farandouri has been tested in nearly all musical genres, though she is mostly known for working with Mikis Theodorakis in songs of protest. Yet whether she’s interpreting rebetika in London, works by Manos Hadjidakis at the National Glyptotheque in Denmark or making an appearance alongside Zulfu Livanelli and the Munich Philharmonic, she has her own way of opening up new roads. Her recent appearances at the Stavros tou Notou with Mode Plagal and Martha Frintzila can attest to that. At the Athens Concert Hall tonight, the artist will take her audience into the rich, wonderful world of George Gershwin. Accompanied by the Orchestra of Colors, conducted by Miltos Logiadis, as well as by baritone Tassis Christoyiannopoulos and pianist Tassos Pappas, Farandouri will interpret popular works and Broadway classics (In the first part of the concert, the Orchestra of Colors will interpret Gershwin’s Rhapsody No. 2 piano concerto). This is the first time Farandouri has been involved with this kind of music to such an extent. Though she has always enjoyed Gershwin’s music, she admits that she has only just discovered its dimension. «He was a special case, a man far ahead of his time. He wrote gorgeous melodies, used novel rhythms, both sensitive and electrifying. He created a musical space offering great opportunities for interpretation,» she said. Though in the minds of many Farandouri remains identified with songs of protest, her choice of music is broad. «I always listened to jazz, now it’s for pleasure. I carry with me extraordinary experiences, like going to clubs featuring remarkable singers. That was when I was touring abroad when I was younger. I remember going to jazz clubs along with the musicians. During those outings, I was lucky to catch the acts of the greatest jazz and blues singers out there: larger-than-life women such as Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald.» These artists, says Farandouri, have nothing to do with today’s standards. «The whole music scene is different now. The music industry burst into the field of creativity and together with the image and advertising industries, imposed their own models. Voice is not as important as appearance. No one is looking for legends among the younger generation. Many of them have good elements but no one has longevity. After all, no one is after longevity anymore, they are all looking for something temporary, the kind of style first introduced by Madonna, which is now mimicked by her bad imitators.» That is not to say that Farandouri does not believe in the young. What upsets her, however, is the desire for a quick career, paved with money, but hardly any sweat. «Of course things are quite different abroad, even on the pop music level. In this country, we are still working according to our tribal rhythms. If something succeeds, so much the better. Take Helena Paparizou, for instance. She is an attractive girl, yet whatever she has achieved so far is thanks to the kind of professionalism she learned abroad.» Farandouri has been busy the last few months doing different and unexpected things. On the recording front, there were three releases: «Amorgos,» featuring music by Hadjidakis to lyrics by Nikos Gatsos, «The Memory of Water,» with Livanelli and, more recently, «Erimia,» featuring music by Mikis Theodorakis and lyrics by Lefteris Papadopoulos. «Made up of love ballads, ‘Erimia’ is doing very well commercially. This means that even though a lot is being said about Greek songs, and there is justified concern, there are people out there looking for material which does not copy television logic.» So what do Mode Plagal and Martha Frintzila have to do amid all this? «I like their style,» said Farandouri. «Frintzila’s work shows character and makes a suggestion. As for Mode Plagal, I was taken by their innocence and their rock outlook.» What’s more, she had fun with all of them, though she is no longer up to going out to clubs: «While I was playing with them I was going to bed at six in the morning.» They are set to go back on stage together again, performing in Kalamata in March, while more concerts are to come in the summer. «What we did was very well received, perhaps because we went beyond the expected repertoire. The public was surprised by the Brazilian rhythms.» Meanwhile, Farandouri is keeping up with the international side of her career and is planning a collaboration with Konstantin Wecker, a leading German vocalist. Together, they are planning a Central European tour in 2007. For more information see What’s On.

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