CULTURE

2007 Greek music highlights

Every orchestra is marked by the vision of its artistic director. Myron Michailidis dreamt of a new era for the Thessaloniki State Orchestra and his dreams are now becoming reality. After 48 years of wandering in unsuitable venues – the orchestra was founded in 1959 – the Thessaloniki State Orchestra finally acquired its own rehearsal hall, in the center of Thessaloniki, where the Pallas cinema once stood. The contract was signed in July 2006, construction was completed in July 2007 and the opening took place at the end of November. Thessaloniki Orchestra An experienced professional and one of Greece’s top maestros, Michailidis also has an important presence abroad. His sensitivity and modernization efforts as well as his feeling of responsibility toward the Thessaloniki audience signal a new beginning for Greece’s music life. Enduring Act The enduring Himerini Kolymvites deserve more of our attention. This group, which emerged 26 years ago, refuses to change amid an era where everything is changing – all too often for expedient reasons. It took a new album – «To Perasma Sou» – by this act, whose presence is sporadic, to remind us of its uniqueness on the domestic circuit. Himerini Kolymvites, who release new work every five to seven years, approach their music in a laid-back, amateurish fashion, but the results really are professional. Most of the band’s members work full-time in specialized non-musical fields, including architecture and law. This musical oddity of an act – whose distinctive style includes clear references to old rembetika and cantades (early 20th century Greek serenades), usually topped with jazz-inclined improvization – has apparently never been totally satisfied with its apt band name. But the act remained stuck with Himerini Kolymvites, or Winter Swimmers, after using it for the 1981 self-titled debut album. These gentlemen, most in their 50s, whose music embodies Greece’s alternative music scene of the 80s, would not be able to tell you how many albums they’ve brought out. They totally shun the industry’s game of competition, their music has remained multifaceted and uncompromising, and the strong dose of humor – for which the band is renowned – remains firmly intact. The new album features music to 20 poems, excerpts from works by Shakespeare, and, as the album’s finale, a brief first-year high school essay written in 1954. «To perasma sou» sums up a band that is loaded with substance, remains out of the spotlight, is self-sarcastic, self-paced and totally real. Golden Prince For Philippos Pliatsikas, 2007 was a great year for many different reasons. His album «Omnia» posted strong sales and it was also circulated in an English edition abroad. Furthermore, he enjoyed a string of sold-out concerts all over Greece – at the Lycabettus Theater in Athens he was slated for one night and ended up playing three – while radio stations seemed to be in the grips of Pliatsikas-mania. Even blogs dedicated a good deal of cyberspace to the Greek singer/songwriter, with comments and analyses of his work ranging from rave reviews to unfavorable comments such as: «Why does Philippos Pliatsikas get on my nerves so much?» Even though some may question the artistic quality of his work, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Pliatsikas is the only former member of Pyx Lax who managed to survive commercially. His career is showing a steady upward momentum as he seems to have found the right crowd-pleasing recipe. His songs have decent, simple lyrics and, combined with straightforward melodies, are easy to remember and even easier to sing along to. He is also the only singer/songwriter of his age group to have made such an effort to strike the proper balance between a classical orchestra and an electric band. The album from Pliatsikas’s concert at the Athens Concert Hall, where he performed with the ERT Symphony Orchestra, was a resounding success. Pliatsikas maintains his low profile and enjoys the respect of his peers. In 2007, his genre, so-called entechno music or arthouse, found its golden prince. Constantinos Vita For composer and musician Constantinos Vita, 2007 was the first year he saw a personal album enjoying significant sales. The success of «2,» a sold-out dance performance by Dimitris Papaioannou, swept the accompanying album composed by Vita along with it. Is the success of this unconventional artist enough to earn him a spot among the most successful personalities of last year? No. But his success comes as a reward after years of solid, unadulterated work. For the past 15 years, Vita has created imaginative and intellectually enticing musical landscapes which transcend time and space and strike a masterful balance between hardcore electronica and poeticism. He has a steady fan base that packs out any venue at which he performs – as was the case at Pireos 260 during the summer’s Athens Festival – and which will pick up anything new he puts out without a second thought. With the end of 2007, Vita celebrates 15 years on the music scene, during which he has given us sweet memories and a promise of even more beautiful musical journeys.