Feeling more balanced than ever, but just as passionate

When he formed his ensemble Speira Speira late last decade, it was a period of reflection, said Stamatis Kraounakis, the popular composer with a penchant for cabaret-tinged work. These days, the artist says he is experiencing the most balanced period of his life. Kraounakis said he felt free. A multifaceted personality, Kraounakis is a high-energy character, excessive and one of the country’s most prolific artists. Active in music, writing, lyric writing, directing and singing, Kraounakis is passionate about everything he takes on. A couple of months ago, Kraounakis excited theatergoers with his music for a production of Aristophanes’ «Thesmophoriazusae» at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. Also this past summer, his perspective of dance theater impressed followers at the Little Epidaurus Theater. This production, titled «Eternally in the Service of Beauty,» based on writings and selections by K.C. Myris, is back for another round of performances. It opened last night at the Athens Concert Hall, or Megaron Mousikis, with a second performance taking place tonight. Plans for the show, which started off as a seminar program run by Speira Speira last year, now include possible performances at festivals abroad. «The idea was that through the words, music could come, too. I collaborated with Christos Sterioglou, the choreographer Frosso Korou, while Nikos Touliatos offered some lessons in percussion and rhythm,» said Kraounakis. Four composers working as part of Kraounakis’s team were later joined by several more, including Evanthia Reboutsika and Stefanos Korkolis, who all provided music for 22 chorales as part of a unified story. Kraounakis is already at work on his next Speira Speira production, titled «Big Slaves,» scheduled to premier in mid-November. «Slave stories from various regions and eras, a spectacle of laughter and tears,» was how Kraounakis described his forthcoming project. On another of his many fronts, Kraounakis is also set to release soundtrack music for «Dying In Athens,» a film by Nikos Panayiotopoulos. Then, following the festive season, he will also release «The Next Dreams,» an album of material written over the past five years. Responding to the global music industry’s changes, Kraounakis will try the effectiveness of distribution via the Internet for the soundtrack album. It will be made available on his website, as well as at just two conventional music stores, in Athens and Thessaloniki. «Pretty soon everybody [domestically] will be doing it. That’s the way Europe and the US are headed. It may seem like a mountain for some of us, but the Greek housewife mastered the microwave, so why not the Internet as well?» questioned Kraounakis. «As for the record companies scrambling in their dark panic, they’ll be led where they deserve,» he added. These are tough times artistically, too, as the majority of aspiring acts are turning to reality shows for their initial exposure. «We all know that these are tough times we’re living in. Restless youngsters do exist… But they’ve just got to cease waiting for a [major] label to launch them. They should just start by playing their guitars in basements and see how many people turn up and listen,» said Kraounakis. «On the other hand, let’s admit it, we [older generation] have waved our fingers at the youngsters,» he added. As for the songwriting craft, that is another story. The majority of work is nothing more than conveyor-belt music. «How’s the spontaneous song supposed to emerge when you’re thinking about writing the one and only? This is why the chances of spontaneity [in songwriting] are being eradicated,» contended Kraounakis. Besides the formula-based pop music being churned out on the Greek music scene, Kraounakis was also critical of the «phony,» as he called it, images of artists being created to back the work. «There’s no pleasant change in our lives, such as whistling a good melody in the morning,» he said. Kraounakis feels attracted to the less exposed side of things, or the faces and realities being neglected, which is why he makes an enchanting and touching speaker when hosting radio shows in Athens. A recent show of his, dedicated respectfully to Tassia Vera, a neglected master singer of Greek folk music, or demotika, served as a prime example. Kraounakis’s presentation of Vera came as a stark contrast to the trash television shows that all too often end up disgracing their guests.