CULTURE

Music without compromise

Some CD releases never make it to the shelves of major music stores. Made with labor-of-love spirit and uncompromising will by musicians who, in most cases, do other jobs for a living, these local indie releases fail to reach the ears of the masses. Obscure acts on equally obscure labels, their work is usually experimental and demanding for the listener. None of these acts put their photographs on album covers, and most don’t even bother displaying them in the inside cover. No Photoshop-treated smiles can be found here, in total contrast with the artificial joy that typifies the painless music industry. These fringe-scene releases are not shabby. They cost money to produce. Even so, the amounts are spent even if the small indie labels know that some will never make it to music store shelves. Pure in concept, most of these releases have little to do with market forces. Artists and labels here expect no support from radio and television shows, nor do they feel a tendency toward enterprising ways or lofty declarations. If there is a common characteristic that binds this independent scene, it is a love for music. Styles vary from traditional, classical and jazz to pop, rock, and electronic music. The overall approach is free and creative, with concepts of musical journeys. ‘Far West, Tribal Dances’ One of the most interesting releases of the year that passed, «Far West, Tribal Dances» (Hitch Hyke) is a project by Sotiris Debonos, a 45-year-old musician from Cephalonia. An innovative effort, it combines tradition with avant-garde ways. Mandolins and choirs – recorded by Debonos in tavernas and streets of Cephalonia’s Argostoli – are fused with electronic sounds. Debonos’s bond with the mandolin began at the age of 14, a development that soon led him to other stringed instruments. Having studied under the tutelage of G. Miliaresis and K. Telakis, the musician’s artistic curiosity led him to theater – he was a founding member of the Stigmi theatrical group – and film. He wrote music for the short films «To tragoudi ton portokalion» and «Kleise ta matia kai chromatise» by G. Leontaris, and provided the score for the film «Tou charou ta dontia» by K. Hatzimichailidis as a collaborative effort with Antonis Livieratos. As a solo recording artist, Debonos, a doctor, debuted with an album titled «Ourakas.» «Far West,» which was co-produced by Livieratos and features the renowned vocal artist Savina Yiannatou on the album’s only song with lyrics, sounds like a cross between Cephalonian musician-composer Fotis Aleporos and Tom Waits or Nick Cave. ‘Elephant’ Released in provincial Kavala, northern Greece, by Alkis Zopoglou and his backing group, Kontrabando, «Elephant» (Elephant Music) contains nine instrumental compositions based on traditional Greek music as well as Mediterranean countries. A successfully made Mediterranean journey in jazzy rhythm, it brings together zournas, electronica, clarinet, cello, electric guitar, oud and kanonaki, the 40-year-old Zopoglou’s main instrument. Born in Kavala, where he lives and works in the jewelry business, Zopoglou began playing music at 14. He studied kanonaki with Goksel Baktagir, Halil Karaduman and Ahmet Meter, and has a degree in Byzantine music. A member of the ensemble En Chordais, Zopoglou has collaborated with various acts, including Chronis Aidonidis, Haik Yazdjian, Stamatis Kraounakis, Nikos Saragoudas, Ara Digjian, Imane Homsy and Hossein Omouni. His own group Kontrabando is made up of gifted musicians who do other jobs for a living, including a notary public and publisher. ‘Drom’ «Drom» (Kathreftis) by Nikoletta Anastasiou is yet another case of musical interest. Anastasiou was born in Epirus, northwestern Greece, and, in her own words, learnt to sing «in the open seas and fields,» where she says she continues to practice. She studied social work, theater, and singing, stages musical performances and has a weak spot for «constructing musical performances for natural grounds.» Anastasiou, who studied prosody – rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech – with Aris Retsos, musical theater with Stamatis Kraounakis, reading with Fivos Taxiarchis, and traditional music with Domna Samiou, first tested her material on stage before recording it. «Drom,» which means road and course ahead in the language of the Rom, is a bright and fresh listen with theatrical elements from a gifted vocalist and songwriter who chose to cover 10 songs by Gypsies from Europe. «Na Ypotheso ti matia» (64 Millimeters) by Tasos Rosopoulos has seven instrumentals and two songs that provide a thoroughly engaging listening experience, despite the deceptively sparse-looking CD cover which features just the album’s title and artist against a plain blue backdrop. It was preceded by «I Methodos ton Trion,» a collaboration with G. Koropoulis and Eleftheria Arvanitaki. The 34-year-old songwriter, who studied topographic engineering at Athens Polytechnic, as well as music at the Greek Conservatory and the Nakas Odeon, Rosopoulos has written music for theater and film. He has also provided music for advertising, does shows for state radio’s high-caliber Trito Programma, and co-founded the label 64 Millimeters with Tasos Bakasietas. This release seems inaccessible at first but gradually draws the listener with its fusion of natural and electronic sounds. Classical, electronic, and rock tinges slowly give way to more accessible Hadjidakis-like guitar melodies. The song «Apenanti» stands as one of the more pleasant and dreamy moments on the album.