CULTURE

Dimitra Galani culls songs from global circuit for her latest album

From way back, Dimitra Galani has been more devoted to the interpretation of foreign songs than any other Greek female singer. These include covers of songs by the likes of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles. Galani is one of the few established local singers on the lookout for new things. She likes to stay informed and does not limit herself to the local circuit. Subsequently, her new album, «Dama Koupa» (Queen of Hearts), an international musical journey featuring mostly contemporary material from Italy, Spain, Greece and Cape Verde, comes as no surprise. The songs here include material composed by songwriters such as Teofilo Chantre, Vinicio Caposella, and David Torrens. Three local acts, Chrysostomos Mouratoglou, Costas Baltazanis and Theodoros Papadopoulos, also have contributed songs. There’s also a melody by Erik Satie with lyrics by Lina Nikolakopoulou, Galani’s longtime collaborator who provided the Greek lyrics to most of the covers on this album. Is this album’s release in any way related to a shortage of good new Greek material? No. Worthy material exists in Greece. I’ve combined disparate things in the past, ranging from Jacques Brel to Vassilis Tsitsanis… One could say that this is the summer of ethnic music. It’s like the world is discovering the world. Yes, there really is an interest out there. Especially on the Internet, where it’s huge. The number of independent releases confirms this. With a few exceptions, the mass media has failed to understand what’s happening. On the other hand, listeners are looking for, finding and buying this sort of music on the Internet. It’s obvious that the mainstream has become unbelievably saturated. Have you come across any interesting new projects? Every day, I feel surprised by the things I hear. The Internet is a platform for the free movement of ideas, and it feeds tremendous interest in the fields of music, literature, video, and visual arts. I’ve been shopping from the Internet for five years now. I’m a subscriber at emusic, which is one of the biggest portals for independent music. How much time do you spend a day on contacts, searching? If I don’t have rehearsals, I can spend eight or nine hours, with breaks, of course. There’s lots of rubbish, but a lot of good things, too. I found, for example, a record on which Gershwin and Weill sing during the rehearsals of a musical they were preparing to stage. You can improve your knowledge and find new things, such as Babylon Circus, who were formed in Lyon in 1995. I also saw them in Berlin – incredible energy with multicultural color. They mix German, English and French. Once you’ve experienced something like that, the continual reproduction of the stereotypical pop star is a very sad picture. Does the type of musical energy you’ve described exist here? If I go out to the Bios venue in my neighborhood, I’ll see it. Waiting lines form outside small clubs for good productions. So we don’t need to whinge. Look at what’s going on at the Hellenic Festival. Lila Downs is coming to perform. There’s both an audience and activity. These are the people who get their information from radio stations such as Kosmos or Deftero Programa (state-run radio), whose programs are not based on playlists. I think that we’re at a transitionary stage. One of the songs on the new album, «Se Miso» [originally sung by early 20th century star Sophia Vembo] is both delicate and direct, qualities that are missing today. It’s elegant straightforwardness, compared to today’s kind of vulgar ways. A potent song. Love is the dominant theme on this album. Can artists continue to address love in fresh ways? There’s always a fresh approach. It’s like asking me if there will ever be an end to poetry. It all has to do with what’s lost, what’s ended… Communication and contact are the essence. Is the intensity of love the same at all ages? Was it the same for you at 30 and 40? Definitely not. There are different factors at play. Age causes changes in what you’re willing to give and take. There’s also the factor of what you’ve absorbed growing up. I feel happy because I’ve completed two cycles of relationships. I’ve loved and been loved strongly, with substance, and I continue to live close to these kinds of people. The fact that I met them during my lifetime and continue to exist for them, and vice versa, because of love, is a wonderful thing. My expectations are high because I’ve lived complete relationships – the beginning, middle, demise, and, of course, the passion. But if it does happen, I’m right here. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be involved in a relationship just for the sake of it. I’m 55. And how do you feel? Very well. Not even I know how I got here. Don’t you ever feel the loneliness, hardship? I don’t know what loneliness means. I’ve never felt it. Not even during my angst-ridden youth. I was always able to share. As for intentional detachment, I’ve felt that, but I like it. I like to be alone. I have a few friends, but I also like to be alone, which is why I don’t perform at times. I feel the need to live. And when I step out onto the stage again, it has all got to be fun… So that’s why I haven’t made fortunes like others. Growing older, do you feel less absolute, more open? I’m not as condemning with others. I forgive more easily. On the other hand, I don’t like to make it too easy for myself. These two aspects often come into conflict. I’m friendlier to others. I used to be hard with others. Now, I’m strict with myself. And this will be the reason I will stop working – when I become so difficult that everything seems sour to me.