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A travel diary woven into songs October 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life, Music Life Greek.
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New album from well-traveled pair Kristi Stasinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis draws from their tours

The Athens-based musical pair, relatively obscure here but active and popular on the world music circuit, have released their fourth album together, ‘Taxidoscopio’ or Travelscope, whose material is based on their travels abroad.

Their internet connection at home was tuned into an Iranian radio station. When they’re not traveling to play at music festivals abroad, Kristi Stasinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis travel at home via the internet, listening to music from various parts of the world. Being on the move seems to run in their veins as this restless musical pair seeks inspiration from the remotest of places. Their work, creative fusion that blends styles such as rock and folk of various descents, is cosmopolitan and experimental. The pair’s work, clear of rigid intent, is based on spontaneous creativity stemming from the conditions at the time of its writing and recording.

For their first album together, 1997’s “Yfantokosmos” Stasinopoulou, this fruitful collaboration’s singer and lyricist, and Kalyviotis, the songwriter, rendered a rock-folk sound. “Ychotropia” its follow-up released two years later, drew elements of electronica into the overall sound. “Secrets of the Rocks” released in 2002, went more the way of Western-type balladry. Now the duo’s latest album, this year’s “Taxidoscopio” is literally what the title suggests, a diary of journeys turned into songs.

Locations that became songs for “Taxidoscopio” include Barcelona, Jaffa, Dusseldorf, Yerevan and the Greek Cycladic island of Sikinos. Written mostly on the road, backstage, in hotel rooms, airports, buses, under the sun, and in the rain, the material is certainly nomadic. Electric guitars meet with tradition, both Greek and foreign.

“The idea for this album came just after we returned from Brazil, where we did a small tour,” said Stasinopoulou. “We had other material here at home, songs that were ready and waiting for another album which we’d been working on for a couple of years. But when we got back from Brazil, our listening habits and moods had changed. We listened to the older songs and didn’t like them. Then we’d try and carry on developing them and it just wasn’t working. We were in a different state of mind. So that’s how we began making ‘Taxidoscopio’. The things described in the songs are totally realistic,” she continued. If asked to name the Greek female contemporary singer that’s best known abroad, at least in the field covering the mix of modern with traditional sound, “world” or “ethnic” as the domain is widely known, one would have to say Stasinopoulou. Along with Kalyviotis, both in music and life, the pair regularly feature at major international festivals around the world and their albums have proven to be bright achievers on European charts covering the circuit.

“Taxidoscopio”, which was self-released by the pair, an entirely handmade production from beginning to end, has received distribution in Spain, Portugal and Germany. Reviews so far have been extremely favorable. The Spanish newspaper El Pais published a very flattering review; the well-informed trade magazine Folk Roots featured “Taxidoscopio” among the field’s top 10 albums; and, moreover, it reached No 7 on World Music Charts Europe, determined by votes from radio producers throughout the continent.

Responding to a question on how they are received by admirers abroad, Kalyviotis remarked: “Their interest in Greek music is impressive. Some are more informed than Greeks themselves. In Canada, they like Greek dancing. At one of our shows there, there were so many that I thought a local Greek society had turned up. But they were all Canadian. The Germans and Spanish also know about Greek music. We often get e-mails asking us to explain the lyrics. It was a unique experience for us in Brazil. Most of the locals did not know where Greece or the Balkans were. They’d never heard the Greek language before and it was amusing because some of them had heard about the Greek philosophers and thought we were philosophers as well.”

Considering their extensive travels, the pair can comment on how much, or how little, music of the world reaches locals.

“Unfortunately, very few things get played on the radio here. It’s a shame that the listening is so confined in an era of abundant information. Don’t let it shock you, but even regional Greek music, from places like Crete for example, continues to lie undiscovered,” said Kalyviotis, sparking a thought from his partner. “There’s something else happening, too. In Greece, I’m categorized under the ‘quality singer’ tag and people probably have misconceptions about this. One time, a few girls came backstage during an interval at one of our shows in Athens and asked if it was OK to dance. Conservative thinking has distorted the image of many things.”

The last three song on “Taxidoscopio” are written for, and dedicated to, the memory of Thalia Iakovidou, who led the way abroad for the pair while working at the Greek independent label Lyra. “She opened the doors for us abroad and fought hard for Greek music to travel a long way,” said Kalyviotis of Iakovidou, who also managed their career. “Anybody who works in the field of world music,” complemented Stasinopoulou, “does it as an ideology. They’re amateurs. They don’t care about money. That’s the kind of working method that suits us.”

“Taxidoscopio” is available at www.krististasinopoulou.com, where information on performances in Greece and abroad is provided.

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