Greek mu­si­cian never stops ex­per­i­ment­ing with sound

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Richard Bur­nett

THERE is an an­cient Greek the­atre on the south­ern slope of the Acrop­o­lis in Athens called the Herodes At­ti­cus The­atre, built by the Greek aris­to­crat Herodes At­ti­cus in AD 161.

Some 1,800 years later, an­other Greek, the mu­si­cian Yian­nis Hryso­ma­llis — bet­ter known by his stage name, Yanni — would sell out the 5,000-seat the­atre and make mod­ern mu­si­cal his­tory: The record­ing of his 1993 concert there — Yanni Live at the Acrop­o­lis — sold more than seven mil­lion al­bums and more than a mil­lion videos, mak­ing it the sec­ond-best­selling video concert of all time.

Yanni re­mem­bers that Septem­ber night as clearly as if it were yes­ter­day.

“Re­turn­ing home to Greece for this concert was a very spe­cial, once-ina-life­time sit­u­a­tion,” Yanni re­calls. “It was the first time that my par­ents were go­ing to see me per­form and it was at a venue that has been al­most myth­i­cal to me since I was a young boy. There was so much en­ergy and a lot of nerves, but be­ing able to per­form for my mother and fa­ther was the best feel­ing I re­mem­ber from the concert. They were in the au­di­ence and they had a light on them for the shoot­ing, and I could see their faces throughout the show.”

Yanni, who per­forms at the Cen­ten­nial Concert Hall Sun­day, is hailed as a na­tional trea­sure in Greece.

“Well, that state­ment is quite a com­pli­ment,” Yanni says, “and I hope I live up to that. I think that an old Greek say­ing in re­sponse to this comes to mind. Loosely trans­lated, ‘A per­son should not de­rive hon­our from the place they come from (but) rather a per­son should hon­our the place from which they come.’”

Still, Yanni re­turned home for that fa­mous Acrop­o­lis concert like a con­quer­ing hero, af­ter mov­ing to the United States in 1972 to study at Univer­sity of Min­nesota, where he earned a de­gree in psy­chol­ogy.

“Study­ing psy­chol­ogy def­i­nitely has an influence on the way I cre­ate mu­sic,” says the self-taught pi­anist, key­boardist and com­poser whose mu­sic has been adopted by the New Age move­ment. “When I cre­ate mu­sic, it is a re­flec­tion of my soul, my ex­pe­ri­ences in life and my re­la­tion­ships with other peo­ple and cul­tures. Psy­chol­ogy, and un­der­stand­ing who we are as peo­ple in this world, is present in al­most ev­ery cre­ative thought I have, ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rectly.” Cen­ten­nial Concert Hall Sun­day at 7:30 p.m. Tick­ets: $88 and $98 at Tick­et­mas­ter

But Yanni doesn’t much like be­ing pi­geon­holed as a New Age artist.

“Over­all, it makes me happy that peo­ple are able to en­joy my mu­sic, in­clud­ing peo­ple who feel that I have a cer­tain genre based in my mu­sic. (But) per­son­ally, I have never liked putting art into cat­e­gories or as­sign­ing la­bels and defin­ing art. I have al­ways com­posed my mu­sic to hon­estly re­flect the lessons learned and the ex­pe­ri­ences I have shared throughout my life…”

By his mid-20s, Yanni was deeply in­flu­enced by elec­tronic mu­sic, no­tably the ground­break­ing tracks that pro­ducer Gior­gio Moroder cre­ated with Donna Sum­mer in the 1970s.

“That pe­riod of time (the 1970s) was par­tic­u­larly in­flu­en­tial on how I de­vel­oped as an artist,” says Yanni, 57.

“I continue to learn about new tech­nol­ogy and how to use it (in) mu­sic. In fact, my last stu­dio al­bum, Truth of Touch, was started by hav­ing fun ex­per­i­ment­ing with new sound de­signs.”

Fans can ex­pect to hear some of Yanni’s new mu­sic and many of his clas­sic tracks on his five-month An Evening with Yanni world tour.

Be­fore this se­ries of con­certs, dur­ing a month-long tour of China in Oc­to­ber, Yanni — whose song San­torini is in­cluded in the teach­ing for all pri­mary-school students throughout China — be­came the first Western artist cho­sen to adopt a gi­ant panda.

“This was a very heart­felt hon­our, as China has re­served the adoption of pan­das for nations rather than celebri­ties or per­son­al­i­ties,” he says. “They also gave me the op­por­tu­nity to name the panda, and af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion I chose the name San­torini. San­torini is made up of the Greek words for ‘saint’ and ‘irini,’ which means peace. San­torini also hap­pens to be the most beau­ti­ful of the Greek is­lands, mak­ing this panda the Beau­ti­ful Panda of Peace.”

Yanni has joined with the World Wildlife Fund to cre­ate the $50 San­torini panda adoption pro­gram, which en­ables his fans to sym­bol­i­cally adopt a panda and sup­port the WWF’s panda con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

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