CULTURE

Back home with foreign acclaim

Roughly a year has elapsed since Greek artist Kristi Stasinopoulou’s last domestic shows, but the break has proven to be anything but idle for the singer and lyricist who is set to return to the capital’s live music circuit with one show this Friday. Over the past year, Stasinopoulou’s world-friendly material – an electro-Greek folk-rock amalgam – may have not cracked into the country’s musical mainstream of mostly ephemeral, prefabricated pop, drawing instead attentive listeners on the fringe, but it does seem to be finding receptive ears abroad. The singer and lyricist’s most recent album, «Echotropia,» Stasinopoulou’s fourth, which was released a little over two years ago, has garnered a string of favorable foreign reviews, several of which came from influential publications or websites. Reflecting the wider interest it generated, the album, released locally by the high-caliber Greek label Lyra Records, was also made available on the North American market last May by an independent label, Tinder Records, through a licensing deal. Besides favorable reviews and distribution in the US, Stasinopoulou and her band, which includes songwriter Stathis Kalyviotis who wrote and arranged most of the material on «Echotropia» and its similar-minded predecessor album, «Yfantokosmos,» have also taken their work to festivals in the UK, Germany, Spain and North America. Moreover, «Echotropia» recently made it to number six on the album charts of World Music Charts Europe (WMCE). The chart does not indicate album sales but is compiled on the basis of monthly votes that are cast by radio producers from numerous European countries. Across the Atlantic, «Echotropia» has also paraded high on various college charts. Bolstered by the encouraging activity abroad, Stasinopoulou and her associates will be returning to their customary haunt in the capital, the An Club, for one gig only – on Friday night. But it will most likely be their final show there. The modestly sized venue which holds no more than 300 people, and has hosted thousands of gigs – literally – by indie acts from all over the country for well over a decade, regardless of stature, and, at times, talent, will most likely be closing its doors permanently within the next few weeks. Apparently, the An Club is being taken over by its next-door neighbor, a popular rebetika club whose booming business requires additional space. For the seasoned Stasinopoulou, a figurehead on the local indie scene who has played the venue on countless occasions as a member of various lineups, the An Club’s prospective closure makes her domestic return – after all the heartening developments abroad – a less gratifying one. «It’s a shame that historic venues such as this are being left to close down without any support. And, they’re being taxed like the bigger clubs,» remarked Stasinopoulou in a telephone interview. «But the State’s [cultural] subsidies are kept for plusher concert halls. The An Club has nurtured so many groups and musicians. It has enriched this city’s cultural life by standing out amid an entire pack for unfailingly offering its stage to local alternative acts,» she added. Recently, the premises had been refurbished, and in their bid to keep it afloat, the management had also begun booking acts beyond the rock circuit, including top-selling Greek performers. But, for Stasinopoulou, one of the local scene’s more worthwhile fringe acts who has steered clear of the capital’s glamorous nightclubs, the local pop industry hype and all it is – or is not – worth, the An Club’s imminent closure will only narrow the already limited options available to acts of her attitude and stature. «It’s funny, we come back from big festivals abroad and almost feel like we don’t have anywhere to play here,» Stasinopoulou said. Friday night’s repertoire will be dominated by tracks off her last two albums, but will also include several new songs scheduled to appear on a forthcoming album, which Stasinopoulou expects to be released by next summer. Despite interest in her work from abroad, Stasinopoulou appears level-headed. In fact, the artist pointed out that she considers performing to local crowds a more demanding task. «Playing to foreign audiences seems to work up grit inside you, a kind of pride for the country you’re representing,» Stasinopoulou said. «At home, fans may have followed you for years. They’re more familiar with what you do, and, ironically, that can make things more difficult.» On Friday at 10.30 p.m. Kristi Stasinopoulou will be playing the An Club, 13-15 Solomou St, Exarchia, tel 330.5056. Tickets also at the door.