‘Life’s a party; we’re invited’

As things stand in the local music industry, new fresh music rarely emerges, as the major labels all too often limit themselves – when it comes to younger artists – to offering just pretty faces and echoes of fine material. Avid listeners should feel thankful for the existence of small labels these days, which are sometimes set up by the artists themselves as personal vehicles for their own music. Sometimes, the results here can really be quite good, as is the case with «Maraveyas Ilegal» by Costis Maraveyas which was recently released on Cantini, a label run by the musical duo Panayiotis Kalantzopoulos and Evanthia Reboutsika. His album charms with its freshness, spontaneity, energy, humor, intelligence, playful and rich sounds. Maraveyas, who is drawing fans, is preparing for a series of weekly shows in Athens. The impressive thing in the case of Maraveyas is that, besides the quality of his album, for which he wrote the music and lyrics, sang, arranged and played, he is also an amazing performer. On stage, there’s something uncommon about him as he performs and dances with the accordion strapped to his shoulders, or whatever other other instrument may be within reach. Maraveyas’s on-stage disposition is unfailingly bubbly, whether he is playing as a member of the band with Kalantzopoulos and Reboutsika, or fronting his own group, Maraveyas Ilegal, which takes its name from the album and the frontman’s surname, which, in Spanish means «miraculous.» Despite all this, Maraveyas is a qualified statistician. He studied statistics and obtained a PhD in quality control. He was born and raised in the provincial town of Agrinion, western Greece, before spending time in Bari, Italy, where the student began discovering his musical self. Well-acquainted with Bari, a port city on Italy’s eastern coast, from his childhood because his father ran a transportation company that handled lines linking Greece and Italy, Maraveyas was mainly drawn to the Italian port city by a brother who also studied there. Maraveyas formed a band at university whose members hailed from various parts of Greece and, through this project, came into contact with musical aficionados from other parts of the Mediterranean, including Arabs and Italians. That exchange led to the formation of a multicultural group, with Maraveyas on board, called X-Darawish, through which its members played and fused native sounds. X-Darawish played anywhere it could. The group felt perfectly happy to be performing at venues, but also in squares, parks and streets. The multicultural student group managed to put out an album, which it called «Una fatsa una ratsa.» Besides his studies in statistics, Maraveyas continued studying music in Italy. He had begun taking music lessons as a youngster. «My parents would drive me to and from the conservatory in Patras,» said a smiling and appreciative Maraveyas as he recalled this frequent trip, over an hour long each way. Maraveyas’s student days in Bari lasted until October 2000, when he returned to do his military service. Once discharged, he joined veteran singer-songwriter Dionysis Savvopoulos’s band for two years and then joined forces with Kalantzopoulos and Reboutsika. When not working with the popular duo, Maraveyas performs with his own band. Maraveyas attributes his multifaceted sound to two things: firstly, his student days in Italy and the cultural exchange there, «not only on a musical level, but also in terms of culture, background, experiences, gastronomy, sociopolitical problems, and so on,» and, secondly, to the multicultural parts of today’s downtown Athens, which he enjoys wandering through. Though his songbook includes ballads, Maraveyas’s material is dominated by rhythm «because that’s the way I am as a person,» he explained. «I like dancing, energy – it’s in my nature. When I go to parties, I dance just as madly as as I do when playing music on stage. I like this kind of Dionysian condition that brings you to a point of feeling happy, living in a colorful world, and doing positive, beautiful things.» The approach comes as a stark contrast amid the era’s dominating gloom. «That’s exactly why you need to overturn things – go out and have a good time. It’s the only way you can with all the dark and depressing things that are happening,» said Maraveyas. «I believe that life is a party and that we’re all invited. And I try to find joy in little pleasures – a ride on a bicycle, a good meal with friends, a glass of wine.» He likes to believe that there is an indirect political undercurrent in his work. «But I don’t want this to teach or be morally excessive. I don’t like that at all. I’m more interested in the stance of the artist in life rather than in his/her work.» Costis Maraveyas will perform a series of weekly shows, every Friday, at the Prova venue in Psyrri, Athens, beginning March 14.

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