Greek Song Festival stands up to new ways

THESSALONIKI – The revived Greek Song Festival in Thessaloniki, back for a third edition last week after appearing and disappearing in the past, opened last Thursday faced with the task of pitting contemporary Greek music production against a scene dominated by reality TV. The event’s organizers, ERT (state TV and radio) and the International Fair of Thessaloniki, can consider their latest venture a solid step forward. The festival, at a jam-packed venue in Thessaloniki’s Pylea district, closed joyfully with a concert by the popular Greek act Fillipos Pliatsikas backed by the ERT orchestra, while its contestants, all hopefuls, walked away knowing that they had acquired unique experience. The festival also gained a third co-organizer, the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry, which will join in the effort next year. Now, how these youngsters will manage to find their way on the local music circuit remains the real problem. «We don’t expect anything. We came along to play our song, present our work. Whatever happens, happens. The important thing is the journey, not the destination,» agreed the competition’s prize winners, from Crete, Rhodes and Larissa. Their songs may never be heard again, as is the case with the material of past winners. A variety of reasons could be cited. A seminar, held on the sidelines of the festival, examined problems encountered by domestic music production, including the role of television in promoting it. «Not only are the private TV stations doing nothing for Greek music, they are in fact doing all they can to exterminate it by promoting rubbish as music,» remarked veteran lyricist Lefteris Papadopoulos. «At least state TV, whose role needs to be educational, cares about Greek music and is active,» he continued. Johnny Kalimeris, the executive manager at ERT, described the state broadcaster as «Greek music’s last remaining bastion.» Pliatsikas, formerly of the top-selling Greek pop group Pyx Lax, noted that «there’s no outlet for young songwriters on TV. The situation is leading to a contraction of Greek music.» A leading local industry official, Dimitris Yiarmenitis, head of the Greek branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) as well as president of Sony-BMG, argued that music and society go hand in hand. «Contemporary Greek music production runs parallel to social development. Record companies cannot really influence society. The level of optimism in Greek society, education, and culture runs parallel to that of Greek music,» he contended. The bottom line, now that the festival is over, is not only whether the new songs and their artists will survive, but which institutions will stand the test of time amid the music industry’s new market conditions.