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A musician of many worlds and styles September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Music Life Live Gigs.
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Momus, a multifaceted act, plays at Bios in downtown Athens tomorrow

Returning to Athens to perform after a lengthy absence from the city’s live music circuit, indie act Momus, or Nick Currie, a former temporary resident here whose string of past geographical wanderings have proven as diverse as his sound, is to perform at the Bios venue in downtown Athens tomorrow night.

The evening will also feature a support slot from visual artist and folk-pop musician Mathew Sawyer and his backing band, the Ghosts, fresh from a recent outing at the Meltown Festival, a highly regarded annual event that is held in London and curated by respected musical figures each year, its latest artistic director being Jarvis Cocker.

In his 20 years as a recording artist, Momus, who has spent time living in Greece, Canada, France and Japan, has released work almost annually. Though his recorded output has enjoyed a steady flow, the 46-year-old, whose styles have swung from synth pop to indie rock, performs less frequently these days. Momus’s rate of work has been consistent but the content, which, on occasions, has covered daring lyrical ground, has proven too controversial for certain listeners.

The industry’s periphery has been his home, and Momus has been branded a “provocateur”. A 1991 release titled “Hippopotamus” which was dedicated to the late French musical guru Serge Gainsbourg, was described as a sex-themed album for children. Besides drawing fire from concerned social groups, the release also led to a lawsuit from the tire company Michelin, which reacted to a reference in the lyrics to the firm’s mascot, the Michelin Man. An out-of-court settlement was reached.

As was proved soon after, the album’s lyrical content was not far from the truth. Three years later, Momus, then 34, made tabloid news for marrying a girl half his age; she was 14 when they met. As with his music, Momus’s relationship drew him into a controversial, and underground, personal life. The bride-to-be’s stunned parents sent their teenage daughter back to their native Bangladesh for an arranged marriage, but she escaped, returned to London, married her chosen groom, and the newlyweds went into hiding in Paris, fearing she would be kidnapped by her family.

Despite the accumulated alarm Momus has remained a committed songwriter and even wrote some chart-topping material, including five consecutive top-five hits penned for a Japanese pop singer, Kahimi Karie. A 1995 release, “The Philosophy of Momus” typifies the songwriter’s unpredictable musical interest. Momus squeezed reggae, blues and techno tracks onto the one release. His course’s range is also reflected in a more recent double-CD compilation, 2003’s “Forbidden Software Timemachine: Best of the Creation Years, 1987-1993”. As for the stylistic direction of his live set tomorrow, that remains to be heard.


Days of Music on the island of Rhodes September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Festivals, Music Life Classical.
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Rising star. Cellist Wen-Sinn Yang will appear at the Rhodes Music Festival on September 19

Punctual as usual, the Days of Music Festival on Rhodes is about to take place once more. Classical music will fill the Palace of the Grand Master and the Panaghia tou Kastrou venues from September 19 through October 2, featuring acclaimed international artists, including up-and-coming cellist Wen-Sinn Yang, pianist Wolfgang Glemser and top maestro Dejan Dacic.

Wen-Sinn Yang opens the festival with a concert of works by Bach, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Rachmaninov, accompanied by pianist Ferline Studi. Yang was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1965 and won the first prize at the 1991 Geneva International Music Competition. Since then, he has performed at major concert halls in Europe, Taiwan and Japan, collaborating with distinguished maestros, such as Lorin Maazel, Sir Colin Davis, and Wolfgang Sawallisch.

On September 24, the Berlin Soloists Quartet classical music ensemble, which is touring some of Europe’s and America’s largest concert halls, will play landmark 20th century compositions along with pianist Wolfgang Glemser. Austria’s Ensemble Accentus will play Sephardic melodies from the Mediterranean on September 26, songs of the Spanish-Jewish community which was scattered across the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the 15th century and adopted elements of other cultures in the years that ensued. The ensemble was founded by Thomas Wimmer and specializes in early Spanish music, with an emphasis on improvisation.

A Greek chamber music ensemble, the Transcription Ensemble, which was founded by the Forminx company, will interpret transcriptions of classics by great composers on September 30. The festival will end with a concert by the Gratz Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra on October 2. Under the baton of Dejan Dacic, the orchestra will pay tribute to Sibelius on the occasion of the 50-year anniversary of the composer’s death.

Related Links > www.musicinrhodes.gr 

Exhibition of works by Yiannis Gaitis, the ‘radical visionary’ September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Paintings from all periods of the late artist’s work are presented at the Municipal Gallery of Hania in Crete 

The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the art of Yiannis Gaitis is the typical, in his work, motif of the male figurine dressed in a suit and a bowler hat. Depicted in profile or frontally and rendered with geometric precision, this motif has been said to express an apprehension for the estrangement and lack of individuality bred by urban, modern life. Although this motif prevailed in the work of Gaitis from the late 1960s to the end of his career, to the point that it became repetitive, it is does not encompass the full work of the artist.

“Yiannis Gaitis: A Radical Visionary” an exhibition on Gaitis being held at the Municipal Gallery of Hania, in Crete, helps provide a broader understanding of the artist’s work by including paintings from different periods in his career. The exhibition is organized by the art collector Costas Ioannidis, 24 paintings are from his private collection, and is curated by Bia Papadopoulou, who is also the author of an informative essay included in the exhibition’s catalog.

In the work of most painters of Gaitis’s generation, figurative work precedes abstraction, the former being characteristic of early work and the latter of a more mature period. The paintings of Gaitis, however, follow the reverse course. After the figurative works dating from the 1940s, examples in the exhibition include “Nude” from 1945, Gaitis moved on to a style influenced by cubism and what Papadopoulou terms “biomorphic surrealism.” The watercolors from the early 1950s as well as a large painting of a biomorphic shape, make evident the strong influence that surrealism had on the work of Gaitis. That impact never went away and can be said to suffuse the later, figurative works with the male figurines.

In 1954, Gaitis moved with his wife, the sculptress Gabriella-Simosi, to Paris. He soon met Jean-Marie Drot, a French journalist, writer and a former director of the French Institute in Athens; their friendship was lifelong.

The work of Gaitis dating from those early days in Paris carries the influence of art informel, an equivalent of American abstract expressionism, and reproduced the eruptive, expressionist style of the movement and the use of heavy layers of paint. Paintings such as “Flower” from 1957 also show the appeal that the work of Thanassis Tsingos, another Greek expatriate in Paris, had for Gaitis.

Like other artists of his generation, Gaitis also made paintings to protest the Greek junta. That was roughly when the motif of the male figure appeared in his work. “The Murder of Freedom”, a large painting from 1968, is an allegorical scene and an outcry against the colonel’s regime.

When the junta fell, Gaitis returned to Greece permanently. The range of his work expanded to include installations, sculptures and happenings. It even extended to the applied arts. One of the most unusual paintings included in the Hania exhibition belongs to the “Antiquities” series that Gaitis began working on in the late 1970s. Inspiration came from scenes found on Attic vases. “Dance Scene” from 1980 is a fine example of the series. It shows the male figure dancing with a female figure of Greek antiquity. It conveys nostalgia for a bygone past and disillusionment with modern reality. As the exhibition shows, these are the kinds of sentiment prevalent in his work, especially that of the later period.

At the Hania Municipal Gallery, Hania, Crete, to November 14.

Athens Book Festival with new format September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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The poster of the 36th Book Festival, is featuring a work by Nikos Engonopoulos. The Book Fair runs today to September 30.

With a new and improved display area featuring circular stalls, the 36th Book Festival will be opening today at its usual spot on the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian walkway in central Athens, at the foothill of the Acropolis. The event is organized by the League of Athens Book Publishers and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Athens.

This is the second fair held this year by the organizers, and is dedicated to Maria Callas, Nikos Engonopoulos, Nikos Kazantzakis and Dionysios Solomos. The area dedicated to these artists, however, has been limited to just one stall, where visitors can find posters and other material from the archives of the ERT state broadcasting company. Throughout the duration of the 36th Book Festival, the organizers have also prepared specific displays on Alzheimer’s disease, the urban environment and transport, as well as children’s literature, while they have also set up a special stall, in collaboration with the Greek Mensa society, where visitors can take an IQ test.

There will, however, be very few events held on the sidelines of this year’s Book Festival, such as round-table discussions on literature and writers, with activities limited just to the stall areas.

Nevertheless, from today through September 30, visitors to Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian, from the entrance to the Herod Atticus Theater all the way to Thiseion, will find the most recent book releases at around 240 stalls, inviting the public for a stroll that may prove to be as beneficial as it is delightful.

A Russian ballerina with a fascination for the syrtaki September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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Alexandra Iosifidi of the Mariinsky Ballet talks about her Greek heritage

Amid the small group of dancers of the Mariinsky-Kirov Ballet that recently appeared in Greece, we detected a spot of Greek blood. Her name is Alexandra Iosifidi, the daughter of Black Sea Greeks who was born and raised in St Petersburg. Though her body, she says quippingly, is not exactly suited to ballet, her appearance at an athletics meet a few years ago changed the course of her life. Iosifidi, who was born in 1977 and began taking dance lessons at the age of 10, describes the adventures experienced by her family and by herself with the Mariinsky, while also sending a message to Greece, “her country,” as she described it: “I am always eager to teach and help the development of ballet in our country.”

What exactly is your connection to Greece? > My father is Greek, but, unfortunately, to this day he is heartbroken by the fact the he doesn’t speak Greek. My grandparents lived in the Crimea. But shortly after World War II, Stalin deported them to Uzbekistan, where my father and uncle were born. That is when their parents decided that Greek would not be useful to them. That is why, even though they spoke the language when they were young, they later forgot it.

Did your father talk to you about Greece when you were young? > All the time, hoping that one day he would return. He was also the reason my younger sister Elisabeth enrolled in the Modern Greek Studies Department at University and is now a Modern Greek philologist. It was her gift to my father, her way of keeping contact with the country and the language.

Have you ever been to Greece? > Once on tour, when we performed at the Herod Atticus Theater. I’ve also been to Cyprus twice for work and another five times on holiday.

Do you remember any of the stories your father told you? > He mostly told us about the experience of deportation. Yet he had a very clear recollection of my great-grandmother cooing to him in Greek when they lived in Uzbekistan.

Do your parents have any connection to the arts? > None, they were both athletes. My mother played the accordion but only as an amateur.

Why did you decide to become a dancer? > I had Charlie Chaplin legs even when I was first born. My height was not at all suited to being a ballerina, I am 1.82 meters, while I also had a very rigid posture. One day my mother took me to a small town for an athletics tournament. A woman there approached her and said: “Is that your child? Did you know she has the legs of a ballerina?”

How old were you when you first stepped into the Mariinsky? > I was still at the Vaganova Ballet Academy at the time. Back then, just getting a ticket to the ballet was a huge accomplishment, but my grandmother had somehow secured them. I must have been 11 years old at the time.

Is the competition fierce? > Yes. It is hard and extremely fierce. Getting a lead role is a battle because the standards are very high.

In which performances have you danced the lead? > Quite a few. My favorites, though, were “The Fountain of Bakhchisarai,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Don Quixote” and “The Nutcracker.”

What is your favorite dance? > The syrtaki! Even though in Greece it is considered to be only for tourists, I still find it fascinating.

Eurobasket > Greece faces Slovenia tonight September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Coach expects further improvement from his players for place in Eurobasket semifinals > Greece’s coach Panayiotis Yiannakis told reporters yesterday that his team was beginning to find its rhythm.

Through to the Eurobasket quarterfinals, despite displaying just glimpses of its full potential, defending Champion Greece tonight encounters Slovenia, a team whose undefeated run in the tournament was broken by Lithuania in the last round of group play Wednesday night.

“We’ve reached the knockout games; this is crunch time… We’ve reached this far even though we haven’t played good basketball so far,” Greece coach Panayiotis Yiannakis admitted during a news conference yesterday. “Tomorrow [today] we take on Slovenia, a very tough opponent that has won a few games by the slightest of margins, which has boosted their psychology. They play tough and fight for every little detail,” he continued.

In a game that pitted the tournament’s two remaining undefeated sides against each other, Slovenia lost to Lithuania, 80-61, on Wednesday to end second in Group F. Greece ended third in Group E.

In the first of two quarterfinal games played last night, Russia beat France 75-71 to advance to the semifinals. Lithuania, the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, was due to face Croatia later in the evening.

In tonight’s other quarterfinal, host and world champion Spain meets Germany. Should Greece make it past tonight’s encounter, it will meet the winner of this game in the semifinals.

Despite his words of concern about Greece’s level of play so far, Yiannakis said he believed his team had begun to find its true rhythm, as was suggested by the encouraging 85-67 win over Portugal in the European champion’s closing group game Tuesday.

History, Yiannakis said, indicated that the Greeks tended to improve as tournaments progressed. He cited last year’s Worlds in Japan, where Greece was the runner-up after losing heavily to Spain in the final, as an example.

“We averaged 15 errors in the group-stage games but, if we don’t include the final, did not exceed seven errors in the knockout games,” Yiannakis recalled. “We need to be calm and clear-minded to achieve good ball distribution.’

Slovenian shooting guard Jaka Lakovic, formerly of Panathinaikos and now at Barcelona, remarked, “We’re going to have to pour our hearts out onto the court” for victory tonight.

Air China to Athens September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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The national carrier of China announced the start of flights between Athens and Beijing on November 28.

The Air China flights will stop at Dubai. They are scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays at 9.30 a.m. from Athens and on Wednesdays and Sundays at 8.40 p.m. from Beijing.

For more information visit > www.airchina.com.cn