CULTURE

New challenges lie ahead for the ever-evolving Eleftheria Arvanitaki

Eleftheria Arvanitaki is the type of singer who constantly evolves, and one of her generation’s more fortunate ones. Her repertoire of choice, delivered by some of the country’s leading songwriters, has stood up well, with plenty of hits coming her way too. For years now, Arvanitaki has successfully fused the traditional side of popular Greek music with contemporary modes and, at times, has even discreetly dabbled with pop. Activity last winter included Arvanitaki offering her version of material by the late Manos Hadjidakis, while just days ago the popular singer was the evening’s main act in the summer-long Athens Festival’s opening production, focusing on film music by Hadjidakis. Her summer schedule will be busy. Arvanitaki has lined up a 30-date national tour with recent hit-maker Manos Pyrovolakis by her side. Moreover, she will also take part – with a singing role – in a production by songwriter Nikos Xydakis and poet Dionysis Kapsalis at the Little Theater of Epidaurus based on dirges for women that also include performances by three stage actresses, Olia Lazaridou, Lydia Fotopoulpou and Aneza Papadopoulou. Arvanitaki’s next album will be based on songs by Xydakis. Beyond Greece, Arvanitaki enjoys great popularity in Spain, where she frequently performs. She was there for a show just a few weeks ago, and will return for another on July 21. Doesn’t the prospect of a show at Epidaurus with a theatrical dimension make you feel nervous? In reality it’s a musical project; a composition by Xydakis comprising five solos and four musical parts. It is based on five of Sophocles’ heroines who lament the loss of loves ones. You’re the third singer taking part in a production with actors, after Savina Yannatou and George Dalaras. It’s not the same. I’m not taking part in a tragedy but in a performance involved only with chorus works from tragedies. My role’s clearly a musical one. If it were an acting role, then I can’t hide the fact that it would have scared me. Lately I’ve heard an increasing number of your colleagues flirt with poetry-based songs. And your forthcoming album with Nikos Xydakis due next fall will be a part of this. It will comprise eight poems by Sappho translated by [Odysseus] Elytis, three poems by Dionysis Kapsalis, and a chorus by Euripides translated by Costas Georgoussopoulos. We often say that our era lacks quality, but fans cherish poetry. Greeks read poetry. It’s nothing new for me. I’ve done something similar with Dimitris Papadimitriou. Caution was used there, too, but the album proved a success. There is an audience out there for poetry-based music and it’s a challenge to connect with it. After 26 years in the music business, what interests you most, organized performances, the studio, or impromptu collaborations like the one with Philip Glass? Live shows are my main strength but I’ve begun seeing the work done in the studio from another perspective. I’m going through a phase where I want to focus on that. My plans for ensuing releases don’t include just one style, but four different styles. Do fans follow an artist into new things or do they prefer their established style? The fan seeks what he or she grew to love; what sounds familiar. The unknown and new are a break from security. The ties between fans and artists are like human relationships. You get bored with something, but when something new comes along, you don’t really like it and end up preferring what you already had. The issue is how you feel about the relationship. Do you feel that you are getting old? Yes. At times, I feel scared by both the image of it and the possible loss of ability. Have you ever tried writing your own material? I’ve written the melody of my first song and it’s going to be recorded. I was hoping it would happen, and now that it is, I feel moved in a strange way. Does the recording industry’s future belong to independent productions, as many expect? Internet is the future. We’re going to reach the point where an artist will come up with two or three songs and make them available over the Internet. Abroad, bands are starting to become well known just over the Internet. A new reality is coming, whether we like it or not. A fundamental change is coming. You can’t just sit in a corner and cry over it. Do you know that, at present, the biggest profits for record companies are being generated by mobile telephony, not CD sales? All the ringtones and songs you can download. The Greek record industry is in a quagmire, as is being pointed out by many artists, who, incidentally, have been joining forces in recent times. I’ve heard a lot of interesting things. Rodes isn’t the only good group around. The generation of artists in their late 20s has found their place. It’s boiling and creating. Not all youngsters are your television-oriented [reality show] type. If one takes a deeper look where things are created, one will see that songs loaded with social unrest continue to exist. Take rap: Didn’t it articulate a political message for this era? Something’s coming… We must take a look around us. There are so many studios in Athens, thousands of them. That’s no exaggeration. Nobody questions how they maintain themselves and what their purpose is. The interesting thing here is not just the new kids that are beginning and being tested, but those that have other jobs and find release through music: Lawyers, architects, entrepreneurs, taxi drivers, mechanics, who all love music, unite, play and record their own things.