CULTURE

Alkinoos Ioannidis: Not just some guy with his guitar

Alkinoos Ioannidis is 32 years old, talented and successful. He has an avid following and made a hit early on in his career with his first album «Stin Agora tou Kosmou» (In the Marketplace of the World). Since then, he has shown that he is ready for greater challenges, and risks not normally taken by performers of his age. His last big performance, at the Lycabettus Theater on September 9, demonstrated his adventurous nature: He appeared on stage, alone, furnished with his guitars and without the support of an orchestra, backed only by a set designed by his father, Andy Ioannidis. And that was not the first time he had taken on the audience solo. The first time was at Athens’s Metro Club a few years ago. «I wanted to re-experience the songs from the start. In their simplest form. Naked,» explained the young singer-songwriter in an interview. «I wanted to relive that feeling I had when I played guitar alone in my room. The feeling of the first concerts – to see if the music was keeping in step with me and if I was keeping in step with it. I wanted to see the strength of the songs in relation to the public.» How did the audience react? Many friends came because they felt they had to. «So what, we’re just going to see some guy with his guitar,» they said. It sounded old-fashioned. That was the real wager. To save the program from being dubbed as old-fashioned and to make it something new. In the end, people liked it. I saw that they were moved with that feeling you get when you hear an unarmored song. What do you mean by old-fashioned? Inner energy is what makes everything worthwhile in its own day and age. Therefore, something becomes old-fashioned when it starts losing its inner energy, and in effect, its purpose, and functions merely as a catalyst for nostalgia. When it has the strength of youth, it cannot be old-fashioned. It seems that your fans want more than impressive scores and special musical effects. Wagner wrote impressive scores. The point is that simply making an impression should not be the goal. The problem nowadays is that everything stagnates on the surface. Elements which should lead to something more substantial are given a dimension beyond themselves and become the focus. I don’t have a problem with impressive shows; I am not afraid of large orchestras and productions. On the contrary, I like them, as long as they serve a precise piece of work. How does it feel to be a lonely troubadour trapped between nouveau riche pop and the art-music players? The artist feels just like a listener who is desperately trying to find a contemporary album that will impress him and rarely does. He is looking for something important within himself which he can narrow down into something tangible and transform into a song. He rarely finds this, because the age we live in lacks specifics. It’s hard to have a clear opinion about things. I’m not talking about politics, but about the daily humdrum of life. You can’t develop a self which is completely solid, but one which is a bit of everything. We all have a bit of this and a bit of that, we like this, but we also don’t mind that… Do you prefer writing music or lyrics? I don’t distinguish between the two. A song is like a child whose conception is achieved by two people, but it is not half its mother and half its father. It is a new and complete entity that results from the union. With your vocal range, you could sing anything from French Renaissance songs to modern Greek rock-tinged ballads such as those by Manos Loizos or The Beatles. Did you have to work very hard on it? It is all about listening to many different types of music that I loved and had been learning ever since I was little. I attended a conservatory and studied classical music, I joined bands when I was a teenager, I played the guitar alone in my room, became familiar with the laiko repertory of popular live music clubs such as Harama alongside Dimitra Galani and Eleni Tsaligopoulou, and later, I created a band with a group of top-class jazz players, even though I never had a jazz background. These experiences gave me the opportunity to take in a lot and allowed me to express myself through many different genres. You often use your father’s paintings on your albums. Your brother is a poet. Is this some kind of masculine bond within your family? There is a bond, but the reason why I work with them is not because they are family – I would never do that. It’s artistic. There is a spiritual as well as a physical bond between us. It makes me happy when my songs acquire an image. A prolific artist Alkinoos Ioannidis was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus. He studied classical guitar and music theory at the European Conservatory, and in 1989, at the age of 20, he moved to Athens. Four years later, he signed on with Universal Music and has since released five individual albums as a singer-songwriter, all of which went gold or platinum. His first two solo releases «Stin Agora tou Kosmou» (In the Marketplace of the World) and «Opos Mystika kai Isika» (As Secretly and Quietly) were the product of his friendship and collaboration with composer and lyricist Nikos Zoudiaris. As a singer-songwriter and producer, he has released two albums: «O Dromos, o Chronos kai o Ponos» (The Road, the Time and the Pain) in 1996 and «Anemodiktis» (Weathervane) in 1999. In December 2000 a double live album was released, under the title «Ektos Topou kai Chronou» (Out of Place and Time). Ioannidis collaborates on a regular basis with the Manos Hadjidakis Ensemble, and he has often performed with leading Greek orchestras and ensembles, including the ERT Symphony Orchestra, the Athens Camerata Orchestra and the Mikis Theodorakis Orchestra, among others. Ioannidis’s music is deeply influenced by traditional Greek and Cypriot music, though it also contains elements from the Greek composers of the last decades, classical music, jazz and rock. During the last few years, he has paid frequent visits to Mount Athos, where he studies Byzantine music.