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First for Cyprus as local site offers music downloads March 30, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Games & Gadgets, Media Radio TV, Music Life Greek.
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A digital music service provider for music downloads has teamed up with the Dias Group, one of the biggest media groups in Cyprus.

The new service, www.music.sigmalive.com, offers current and classic Greek music as well as a plethora of genres and categories to satisfy to the most selective fans.

www.Music.sigmalive.com will be the first digital music service designed for Cyprus by mpGreek, offering more than 70,000 Greeks songs available for download.

It will allow users to download music onto their computers from the largest Greek digital catalogue, powered by mpGreek. It has all the features of online previewing, secure payments, digital rights management and full online customer service support.

According to a press release, “mpGreek has simplified the user experience with more features and even more content. Consumers can easily buy music encoded in high audio quality from major and independent record labels. Users can rate the songs they see on sigmalive.com and send an e-dedication email with an audio preview and a small note to any email address.”

Prices are 1.10 euro per track. Purchased downloads can be burned onto CDs, transferred to compatible portable devices, and used on up to ten PCs.

“For quite some time, the Cyprus market has been in need of a legal way to download music,” said Michael Rizos, mpGreek business development director. “The music industry of Cyprus has been affected by internet piracy and consumers could not buy Greek repertory online. At mpGreek we believe that our collaboration with a group of such prestige and scope as Dias, means that the Greek musical range will be sold with great success at sigmalive.com, a compact and informed portal.”

Also commenting was Sillia Vasiliou, Web Manager of Sigma Radio TV Public Ltd. “Sigma Live is the only legal site in Cyprus and the island’s first complete internet portal. As our slogan says, it has everything.” She said that the internet, “has transformed how we share information. From illegal downloads of music and video to illicit DVDs and counterfeit designer goods, there isn’t anything that’s not being replicated illegally.

“Internet piracy can be viewed as a method of not paying and those in favour simply see themselves as ‘information sharers’. It is a fact that people don’t want to pay high legitimate prices, so they often go to pirate sites. On the other hand, iTunes is now the third-largest seller of music in the US reporting worldwide sales exceeding three billion songs. And the growth-rate of digital-music transactions is significant.”

Included on the Sigma site is live streaming video and audio, podcasts and much more, giving the user the possibility to legally own the digital Greek music he or she loves.
Visitors to the site can also enjoy continuous news, sport, lifestyle and business updates, as well as interact and express their views. “We position Sigma Live as a one-stop information and entertainment online shop,” Vasiliou said.

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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.

Out of hiding and under the stage lights for concerts this week October 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek, Music Life Live Gigs.
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Mode Plagal, a rare performer, and Television Personalities, with returned missing leader, set for shows > Influential UK New Wave era band Television Personalities’ frontman Dan Treacy went missing in the late 90s but resurfaced in 2004 after serving time on a prison boat in Dorset. Treacy and his resurrected band play three shows in Greece this week. The respected Greek fusion act Mode Plagal also plays two shows, both in Athens, after a lengthy absence from the capital’s circuit.

Local fusion band Mode Plagal, whose convincing blend of Greek folk, from various parts of the country, with an assortment of imported styles, including rock, funk, jazz and calypso, has established it as a pivotal band here, will perform two shows in Athens this week following an extended absence from the capital’s circuit, presumably due to the individual commitments by the band’s talented members with other performers.

The two shows, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Alavastro Cafe, rate among the most interesting in Athens over the next few days.

Also later this week, the UK band Television Personalities, one of the New Wave era’s most erratic cases, as highlighted by the lengthy disappearance of frontman Dan Treacy, are scheduled to perform three shows, beginning with Thessaloniki’s Principal Club Theater on Friday. They also will do two shows in Athens over the weekend, at the Gagarin Club on Saturday and a smaller unplugged show the following night at the far smaller Tiki Bar, ex-Deluxe in Koukaki.

The upcoming agenda also includes Sue Moreno, a Dutch rockabilly and old-school rock’n’roll performer, at the Blue Fox Cafe this Friday night.

Mode Plagal, an Athens-based act, formed in 1990 from a looser collective of musicians who had worked together in various combinations. The initial lineup, a trio comprising saxophonist Thodoris Rellos, guitarist Kleon Antoniou, and drummer Takis Kanellos, began forging its Greek folk-fusion sound which led to a self-titled debut album five years later, in 1995, with guests on board including Antonis Maratos, who went on to become a permanent member on electric bass. Released on an independent Thessaloniki label, Ano Kato Records, the album generated an impressive response from critics both here and abroad. The widely read US magazine Modern Drummer’s response, “Mode Plagal is hipper than any American record I’ve heard in a long time… they make a case for fusion that might have saved the genre 20 years ago…”, helped encourage the Greek band to look for openings abroad.

Its follow-up album, “Mode Plagal II,” released three years later by Lyra, the country’s biggest, at the time, independent label, further augmented Mode Plagal’s style and charted in 96th place on the WMCE (World Music Charts Europe) for the year 2000. The chart is based on votes from a network of radio producers around Europe. Around this time, the band began venturing abroad for sporadic shows, mostly around Europe. There was also a performance in Damascus, Syria, at a jazz festival. Kanellos, in an older interview, likened the audience’s behavior to that of a soccer crowd. “Every time one of us completed a solo, there’d be a wild and abrupt response from the crowd, like a goal had been scored, which puzzled us a bit in the beginning,” he recalled.

“Mode Plagal III,” released in 2002, faired even better than its predecessor on the WMCE chart, reaching No 33 for the year. Unlike the previous two albums, which were mostly instrumental with occasional vocal performances by the band’s members, “Mode Plagal III” included contributions from four female singers, the renowned vocal instrumentalist Savina Yannatou, the traditional singer Yiota Vei, as well as two more pop-inclined performers, Eleni Tsaligopoulou and Theodosia Tsatsou.

“Mode Plagal III” was followed by a two-band collaborative effort a year later, “Beyond the Bosporus” with Bosporus, a traditional group from Turkey, led by Istanbul-based Greek artist Nikiforos Metaxas as the artistic director. The joint effort included compositions from members of both acts. It has now been four years since this release, Mode Plagal’s most recent recorded output.

The visit by the New Wave era’s Television Personalities, also set to perform later this week, comes following a canceled date last year. Local fans will be eager to see the influential act, whose far-reaching style, ranging from pop to psychedelia, has influenced a considerable number of bands.

A steady supply of albums, from 1979’s “Bill Grundy” to 1998’s “Don’t Cry Baby… It’s Only a Movie” came to a halt when Treacy, the group’s singer and songwriter, went missing. Rumors of mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness and even death abounded as the years went by without a trace of the musician. Then, in 2004, he wrote a letter to an old friend disclosing that he was confined on a prison boat in Dorset. Treacy was released later that year and resurrected his old band. Shows were followed by a comeback album, 2006’s “My Dark Places” on the influential British label Domino. It was followed by another album that year, “It’s All About the Girl”.

The band’s Athens show at the Gagarin Club will be opened by the local indie-rock guitar-drums duo the Callas comprising brothers Lakis and Aris Ioannas.

Alavastro Cafe, 78 Damareos Street, Pangrati, Athens, tel 210 7560102.

Tiki Bar, ex-Deluxe, 15 Falirou Street, Koukaki, Athens, tel 210 9236908.

Blue Fox Cafe, 91 Asclepiou Street, Exarchia, Athens. 

Gagarin 205 Venue, 205 Liosion Street, [close to “Attiki” train and metro station], tel 210 8547600. Doors open at 9 p.m. Web > http://www.gagarin205.gr

Antonis Kalogiannis performs at the Athens Concert Hall tonight October 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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The Greek seasoned singer Antonis Kalogiannis stood up straight in a crisp white shirt, his favorite color, was serious and chose his words carefully at a news conference at the Athens Concert Hall last week ahead of a virtually sold-out performance at the prestigious venue tonight.

Kalogiannis will be joined by Maria Farandouri and Georges Moustaki as part of the venue’s “Bridges” series. The concert is co-sponsored by Kinisi Politon, a non-profit association that promotes the values of civil society for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

The 67-year-old singer made his recording debut in 1970, four years after having begun performing, when poetry stood as an important aspect of songwriting.

Kalogiannis will present Mikis Theodorakis’s “Epiphania Averof” whose lyrics were provided by the Nobel Prize-winning Greek poet Giorgos Seferis, as well as other material. “Epiphania Averof” was no random choice, nor is it any act of conceit, as is often the case among aging Greek singers who begin to sense the passage of time. Kalogiannis first performed this Theodorakis composition in 1970, in Paris, joined by Yves Montand as the narrator. But for years he felt a desire to perform “Epiphania Averof” again. “That’s because this work has never become as well known as it should have in Greece” Kalogiannis told the news conference.

Reflecting his passion for poetry, Kalogiannis will also perform songs featuring lyrics by other celebrated Greek poets, including Costas Varnalis, Tassos Leivaditis and Nikos Gatsos, as well as music from his career’s post-Theodorakis era.

Responding to a question on whether he considered his career as still active, Kalogiannis quipped, “It’s just the clocks that continue to tick”, while adding that his shows are limited to small venues. “I don’t need to tell you that the club circuit is full of trouble, noise, flower throwing, plate breaking and dodgy figures”.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

Greek singer George Dalaras to perform in Israel September 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Asia, Music Life Greek.
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Greek singer George Dalaras is back in Israel, for the fifth time.

Since first appearing there in 1987, the Greek singer has pursued something of a love affair with Israeli audiences. All his shows there have sold out, and his records have done brisk business over the years. His forthcoming visit on September 24-27 was originally a two-date tour, but due to the rush for tickets, the organizers had added a third gig to the agenda.

Dalaras has been at the top of his profession for over 30 years. During that time he has cemented his standing as one of Greece’s most successful artists but has also managed to appeal to a wider audience across the globe. If you are trying to access market sectors outside your own cultural milieu, it helps to perform material in the audience’s own language, so Dalaras has recorded and performed songs in numerous languages, including Hebrew. On his forthcoming tour, his repertoire will include Dalaras’ readings of songs by a whole slew of top Israeli songwriters and artists, including Yehudah Poliker, Haim Moshe and Zohar Argov.

Dalaras has also spread it around stylistically over the years, incorporating Greek genres, such as rebetiko and laiko, along with Latin material, pop and even Arabic compositions. Dalaras has also mixed it with some of the biggest names in the Western music pantheon, with his brothers in music to date including the likes of Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel.

Dalaras has also become known for his peace-mongering and is a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While in Israel, Dalaras will donate his fee from one of the three concerts here to the Physicians for Human Rights organization.

At the Mann Auditorium on September 24 and 25 at 9 p.m.; At the Caesarea on September 27 at 8:45 p.m.