Transat­lantic di­a­logue launches ‘Ao­ratos’ around the world

Mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween poet-lyri­cist Manos Eleft­he­riou and com­poser Per­i­cles Ka­naris fea­tures host of Greek, in­ter­na­tional artists

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ELIS KISS

NEW YORK, Oc­to­ber 2014 – The live stream­ing at the Tribeca Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter was a mo­ment of syn­er­gies: Speak­ing from after-hours Athens, leg­endary Greek poet-lyri­cist Manos Eleft­he­riou was en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tion with com­poser Per­i­cles Ka­naris, stand­ing alone on the Lower Man­hat­tan stage. Some­what in­evitably, the dis­cus­sion turned to the Greek cri­sis. “We don’t need your fi­nan­cial, but your moral support,” noted Eleft­he­riou, stir­ring emo­tions among an au­di­ence chiefly com­pris­ing mem­bers of the city’s Greek-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

This evening was not about the re­ces­sion, though, but about songs – the kind that bring gen­er­a­tions and cul­tures to­gether, in this case through the lyrics of Eleft­he­riou and mu­sic penned by the young com­poser. Billed as a premiere and a trib­ute, the evening was a cur­tain raiser for “Ao­ratos” (In­vis­i­ble), a CD fea­tur­ing un­pub­lished lyrics which Eleft­he­riou en­trusted to Ka­naris based on “in­tu­ition,” as the poet re­cently re­vealed on the ra­dio. For Ka­naris it was an op­por­tu­nity to add to the his­tory of Greek mu­sic through a project fea­tur­ing both Greek and for­eign artists.

Per­form­ing the al­bum’s ti­tle song, rocker Vas­silis Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou was warmly re­ceived on stage. He was fol­lowed by Costas Make­donas and two new-gen­er­a­tion vo­cal­ists, the dy­namic Rita Antonopoulou and up-and-com­ing Lam­prini Kara­costa. As Ka­naris joined the singers, the per­for­mance was com­ple­mented by a visual di­men­sion to “Ao­ratos” cre­ated by ac­claimed Greek artist and New York res­i­dent Ly­dia Ve­nieri.

Whether ten­der (“I had lit up all the stars/for you, my love, to warm you up”) or harsh (“Whom should I envy and for what/when the fu­ture is the past/and the world a fraud?”), Eleft­he­riou’s words were “wrapped up” in Ka­naris’s mu­sic. The al­bum’s seven tracks are de­fined by their mul­ti­for­mity: a Greek iden­tity with global sounds, where zeibekiko meets bal­ladry, Latin and rock. In the sec­ond part of the con­cert the artists paid trib­ute to Eleft­he­riou’s long ca­reer.

What does “Ao­ratos” bring to the Greek mu­sic scene?

“My gen­er­a­tion. ‘Ao­ratos’ is the road taken by a per­son whose Greek roots have been em­bel­lished by non-Greek el­e­ments after liv­ing in the US for 20 years – the last 12 in New York. My univer­sity years, my work and col­lab­o­ra­tions, along with the sounds with which I grew up are all re­flected in my work. Th­ese are the raw ma­te­ri­als you add to the mill, the ex­po­sure to this sort of melt­ing pot,” Ka­naris told Kathimerini English Edi­tion.

On the eve of the per­for­mance, cross­cul­tural cre­ativ­ity was ram­pant at the dress re­hearsal at Gib­son Stu­dios in Hell’s Kitchen (the site of some land­mark record­ings, in­clud­ing Michael Jack­son’s “Thriller”). Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence ear­lier in the day the singers had talked about rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­pret new Eleft­he­riou songs and high­lighted Ka­naris’s cre­ative per­se­ver­ance.

“As far as I’m con­cerned po­etry is the truth. What we go through on daily ba­sis is not re­al­ity, but a con­ven­tion,” noted Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou.

Mean­while, in terms of mu­sic, dis­tance def­i­nitely makes the heart grow fonder.

“I grew up with Greek song and Eleft­he­riou was a lead­ing fig­ure. Un­doubt­edly I came to ap­pre­ci­ate it even more after I left Greece and I got in­volved with it to a large ex­tent be­cause I missed it here in the US,” said Ka­naris, who founded Greek mu­sic en­sem­ble Synolon in New York in 2008.Born in Athens in 1971, the com­poser stud­ied mu­sic and phi­los­o­phy in Bri­tain and the US. His cred­its in­clude mu­sic for films (doc­u­men­taries, an­i­ma­tion, movies), “Project In­no­cence” (orig­i­nally for film), which was de­buted by pi­anist Panos Karan at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2007, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum’s first CD com­pi­la­tion of Greek mu­sic, “Mu­sic of Greece,” and the ti­tle song of popular Greek mu­sic show “Stin Ygeia Mas.”

“When a per­son is born and bred in Greece, with all the sounds and the lan­guage em­bed­ded in his DNA, I don’t see how he or she could ex­press them­selves more hon­esty with­out em­ploy­ing th­ese in­gre­di­ents in his work,” said Ka­naris.

How did the Eleft­he­riou col­lab­o­ra­tion come about? “A common ac­quain­tance heard my mu­sic and acted as a go-be­tween. When I first met Eleft­he­riou he told me had stopped writ­ing lyrics, ‘Those days are gone,’ he said. ‘No one both­ers with songs th­ese days.’” The two kept in touch, and one-and-a-half years later Ka­naris dis­cov­ered Eleft­he­riou’s po­ems in his let­ter­box. “When I saw them I said to my­self, ‘This is what my life is go­ing to be for the next few years un­til this be­comes a record,’” Ka­naris re­called.

After set­ting words to mu­sic the com­poser met with var­i­ous Greek record company ex­ec­u­tives. They were full of praise, says the com­poser, but no one seemed ready to take on the risk of pro­duc­tion. His decision to un­der­take the project him­self, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Cana­dian pro­ducer and mix en­gi­neer Ro­man Klun, of­fered him a sense of free­dom: Record­ing ses­sions with vo­cal­ists Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, Make­donas, Antonopoulou and Kara­costa (who did one al­bum song each with Ka­naris singing the other three) were or­ga­nized in Athens, while more record­ing ses­sions took place in New York with mu­si­cians from around the world.

Among the CD’s high­lights is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Grammy award-win­ning pro­ducer/en­gi­neer Neil Dorf­s­man who mixed the ti­tle song. “I was in­trigued from the start, loving the idea of merg­ing seem­ingly dis­parate el­e­ments into some­thing new, emo­tional and rel­e­vant,” noted Dorf­s­man, who has worked with Dire Straits and Sting among oth­ers, in a state­ment.

Aus­tralian gui­tarist Ben But­ler, Greek cel­list Gior­gos Kaloudis and Ar­me­ni­anAmer­i­can com­poser and oud soloist Ara Dinkjian also per­form on the al­bum.

Fol­low­ing the New York premiere Athens is next, while the CD is avail­able on­line at iTunes, Ama­zon and else­where. Does Ka­naris fear an even­tual com­par­i­son be­tween new ar­rival “Ao­ratos” and Eleft­he­riou clas­sics?

“I’m cu­ri­ous, yes, but not afraid, be­cause that would mean be­ing afraid of who you are,” he said. “The cri­te­rion for a song is whether it has the power to move dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent tastes in mu­sic. A good song al­ways ‘speaks’ to the per­son lis­ten­ing. That is the chal­lenge.”

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