Summer concert highlight captured on double CD

Late last summer, on September 19, local radio station Melodia 99.2 FM aired a live broadcast of a show in Athens featuring three of the country’s leading performers, Haris Alexiou, Socrates Malamas and Alkinoos Ioannidis. The event, organized by the station, a focal point on the local FM dial for quality Greek music, was staged to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Both the show itself, which was held for two nights at the open-air Lycabettus Theater, and the broadcast sparked a considerable response. Excited listeners called the station to commend the move, while both nights drew capacity crowds for a total of 13,000 concertgoers over the two nights. A further 9,000 fans attended Thessaloniki’s Palais de Sport when the show was taken to the northern city a few weeks later. The event has been recorded on a new double CD, «Live At Lycabettus.» So what’s the aftertaste from those September shows? S.M: I have a sense of fulfillment because a dream at least 30 years old, to work with Haroula [Haris], came true. It was a repressed desire. But – what do you know? – it finally happened. So what’s the moral of the story? When we have persistent thoughts and strong desires, they will materialize. A.I: Something along those lines goes for me, too. I’d write songs and in the back of my mind there were thoughts about Haroula singing them at some point. But I was too shy to make the proposal. I’d sing them myself on the records. H.A: I wanted to hook up with the guys because – in the minds of older people – there’s always the fear of not being accepted by the younger ones. I’ll speak openly about what happened. I walked out onto the stage and, when I saw the young crowd below, thought: «Now, are they going to like the songs of Alkinoos and Socrates if they don’t hear them from them?» In the end, all went well… Getting this show organized I surrendered, for the first time, to the control of others. I wanted no control in it. A.I: It was unexpected for us to see somebody who’d been totally self-reliant for decades show absolute faith in us. Haroula, the time has come for you to find out. We were petrified. These days, there’s a trend by the mass media, as well as the record labels, to dampen, if not eliminate, differences in types of music. In reality, could there be no differences? H.A: Of course, differences do exist… Quite simply, at some point, the entechno [a supposedly more sophisticated form of Greek music] tag became annoying, which led to changed perceptions in the field, such as the rejection of dividing lines and the acceptance of quality in some commercial music. S.M: There are differences which sometimes don’t make us feel like we’re colleagues of many people in the field. I’ll put it in simpler terms. Somebody opens a restaurant on a quick-profit policy. He or she cooks using terrible ingredients and there’s no respect for the clientele. Further down the road, somebody else opens a taverna with full commitment – body and soul. «Whoever comes by my shop will at least know that I’ve offered a piece of myself,» this person would say. In both cases, they’re restaurateurs… Does bad application of your music bother you, like, for example, listening to one of your songs on the radio in between skylotragouda [tasteless Greek music]? A.I: I honestly don’t care. I’ve made up my mind that, from the moment a song is published, everybody can take it and use it as they please. If my song’s not strong enough to survive and retain its essence in the context you described, then it means that I haven’t done my job properly. Does inspiration come from social experience? And, if so, why don’t the overwhelming majority of songwriters express themselves socially? S.M: Who says that social references aren’t being made by songwriters? There’s a satisfactory number of songwriters who address issues that concern us deeply, both on personal or social levels, even if it’s done in a less direct fashion when compared to other periods, such as the post-junta era. But focus is needed to pick up on these things. Over the past 30 years or so, we’ve been living in a supposedly perfect environment, where things lead us from one celebration to the other. Any material that goes beyond this celebration is considered to be questionable or… too sophisticated. Songs that address problems, then, do exist. Let’s not forget hip-hop, which sometimes speaks very harshly about modern-day reality. A.I: Through an American-language type of music. Since we’re talking about musical languages, such as hip-hop, would you, Haroula, ever sing this type of song? H.A: Yes, why not? But only if I felt that I wouldn’t turn into a caricature. That is, if my soul really wanted to do it and the song itself needed me. To be honest, I have written a song that could be sung this way. I’ll keep it as a surprise. But, then again, I don’t think I’ll ever release it. The world of politics usually fears art. Are there any reasons for such notions today? S.M: I don’t think so. After all, whenever there is artistic reaction, politics finds ways to eliminate political expression. A.I: I believe that politics has always used art. We’ve already clearly seen how this happened in the case of rock music, a rebellious form of music from which multinationals and powerful vested interests have made millions – and continue to do so. The same way leading Hollywood studios are raking in millions by shooting films about Che Guevara. It often happens that things we liked as youngsters seem kitsch today. Do you feel any anxiety about what time could do to your songs? S.M: No. Why should I worry in advance about something that’s going to happen in the future? Consider a child that’s just learning to write and scribbles a wobbly-looking form of the word «cat.» Even so, this word conveys all the child’s innocence and joy that leads to its gradual discovery of the world. Is there any chance that, 20 years on, this individual will look at those old texts and wonder, «What kind of nonsense was I up to back then?» What next after this live album? S.M: Alkinoos and I are going to be together this summer for shows. We’re going to cover all of Greece. H.A: I have been unfaithful to them. I’ve decided to do a major tour performing only the songs of Manos Loizos. It’s the 25th anniversary of his death and I feel the need to repay an obligation. As for the guys? We’ll run into each other somewhere on our tours. I’ll cover up their concert posters! This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s color supplement, K, on April 1.

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