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Agnes Baltsa reunites with Stavros Xarchakos April 1, 2008

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Internationally renowned Agnes Baltsa is scheduled to interpret Greek songs at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday.

“Songs of My Country” will be revived at the Athens Concert Hall this week, under the tutelage of the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa along with prominent composer Stavros Xarchakos.

The concert, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, is the outcome of a long-term collaboration between the two artists, essentially a production of songs by Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Xarchakos and Vassilis Tsitsanis, featuring Baltsa, accompanied by the State Orchestra of Hellenic Music. The concert also serves as a trailer for a revamped re-edition of a first recording on the project, initially recorded by Deutsche Grammophon back in 1986.

During a press conference in Athens last week, Baltsa talked about the difficulties which arise when it comes to interpreting songs which have been described as the “gospel” of a nation. “I sing with great fear and respect, with a sense of responsiblity as much as joy,” noted the mezzo-soprano.

Proceeds from Thursday evening’s event at the Megaron will go to the Agapi Charity Organization.

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

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

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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.

One-off gig from an indie-rock great March 27, 2008

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Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses performs solitary European concert date in Athens tomorrow

‘My lyrics aren’t about my expression so much as they’re about the expression of something universal, through images and moments I may have experienced, but which are not me or mine,’ says indie-rock pioneer Hersh. She follows up spoken word-music shows in London and Glasgow with a gig in Athens.

Kristin Hersh emerged in the mid-80s as a co-founder and band leader of Throwing Muses, an innovative rock act that quickly proved to be pivotal, internationally, in independent music.

Throwing Muses became the first of a number of US acts to be signed by the emblematic British label 4AD, home over the years to a rich guild of artful acts, both atmospheric and abrasive, and usually dark-sounding. The label’s roster of past and present acts reads like an accumulation of standout cases in contemporary music. Some of the now-defunct acts were widely unknown during their time. But highlighting this label’s ability and instinct for spotting genuine talent, many of its acts went on to consolidate their reputations, to varying degrees, once they had called it a day.

The label’s signings have included the Pixies, Cocteau Twins, Birthday Party, Breeders, Dead Can Dance and Bauhaus, as well as worthy lesser-knowns such as Lisa Germano and Kendra Smith.

As for Throwing Muses, it is said that the act decided to split because of financial woes despite the good word that was being spread around about them in independent music circles. Hersh, a songwriter of eerie and intense work, both acoustic and harder-hitting, has continued as a solo performer. Her debut solo album, 1994’s “Hips and Makers”, a project loaded with troubling acoustic beauty, proved a commercial success. Several worthy solo albums have since followed. Currently in Europe for two shows featuring spoken word, music and projections in London and Glasgow, the California-based musician will also perform a solo concert date in Athens tomorrow night.

Kristin Hersh (solo set), tomorrow, Kyttaro Club, 48 Ipeirou Street, Athens, tel 210 8224134. Doors open 9.30p.m. Nearest metro station “Victoria”.

Jane Birkin to evoke memories in Athens March 19, 2008

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Singer-actress, best known for her ties with the legendary French songwriter, performs tomorrow

18-03-08_jane_birkin1.jpg  Jane Birkin’s more recent music has branched out beyond the material of former husband and cultural icon Serge Gainsbourg. She will perform old and newer material tomorrow at the Athens Concert Hall.

Her own musical career has been largely based on the songs written for her or about her by the late French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg, as Jane Birkin highlighted during her first performance in Greece several years ago.

Performing on a hot summer evening at the open-air Lycabettus Theater in Athens, the barefooted, scantily dressed, still slim, and still sexy Birkin recalled memories of Gainsbourg, her former partner of 12 years, time and time again between songs. The show’s entire set featured Gainsbourg numbers rearranged and delivered in a sensual and mystical “Arabesque” style, “which he would have liked”, Birkin told her Athenian audience. The show was based on “Arabesque”, an album of Gainsbourg songs she had just released.

The London-born singer and actress who went on to develop closer ties – both personal and artistic – in France than in her homeland, returns to the Greek capital for a second performance, tomorrow night at the Athens Concert Hall.

As expected, the late Gainsbourg – who passed away in 1991 as a heavy-drinking cultural icon in France and a revered cult figure in various other parts of the world at the age of 62 – will figure again in Birkin’s set. But this time, his former spouse will present a repertory that includes work penned by other contemporary artists of various periods such as Bryan Ferry, Manu Chao, Neil Young, Tom Waits, The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand and Goran Bregovic.

Tonight’s set list will be largely based on material from two recent and well-received albums by Birkin, 2004’s “Rendez-Vous” and 2006’s “Fictions”. “Rendez-Vous” had featured a collection of duets with a variety of guests, including Beth Gibbons, the singer of the groundbreaking 90s Bristol act Portishead, and the stylish crooner Bryan Ferry. “Fictions”, which continued in this vein, includes contributions from assorted acts such as Gibbons, Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy, Kate Bush and a selection of new French chanson songwriters, including Dominique A.

“Fictions” also features a few well-chosen covers, including songs by Tom Waits and Neil Young. Johnny Marr, guitarist and songwriter of the iconic pop-rock act The Smiths, played guitar and harmonica on several of the album’s tracks.

All this artistic diversity in Birkin’s more recent ventures may help carry both her own mind, and the minds of fans, away from her pivotal association with Gainsbourg. But as she would be the first to admit, Gainsbourg remains at the core, as indicated by Birkin’s collaborations with younger acts such as Dominique A, whom the late figure probably influenced.

Birkin and Gainsbourg, 18 years her senior, met when she took a role in the 1969 film “Slogan” at a time when both were on their way out of relationships – Birkin with John Barry, composer of the James Bond series scores, and Gainsbourg with Brigitte Bardot.

“Everybody told me he was a mad, bad Russian, but after a dinner together I discovered he was very charming. He was still in love with Brigitte Bardot and I was still in love with John, but little by little we healed each other’s wounds” Birkin told British music magazine Uncut in a recent interview, recalling her late partner who hailed from a Russian-Jewish family that relocated to France.

The newly linked pair quickly struck notoriety and success with the infamous Gainsbourg-penned duet “Je T’Aime, Moi Non Plus”, a major hit in 1969 that launched a long-lasting collaboration between the two. Concertgoers can expect to hear more about it from Birkin tonight.

Nicolas Kynaston recital at the Megaron tonight March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Music Life Classical.
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As Easter approaches, along with the fragrances of spring, ecclesiastic music creates a feeling of spiritual awakening.

In the past, Athenians used to listen to works by Bach and Haydn played on the organ in the Catholic Cathedral. In 1995, as a new era began, the organ that dominates the Friends of Music Hall at the Athens Concert Hall won a devoted public. Leading British organist Nicolas Kynaston came to play at the festival of organ music he organized in 1997 and 1999. He has been the Concert Hall’s permanent organist since 1995.

Tonight, starting at 8.30 p.m., he will give a recital of church music dedicated to the baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude on the 300th anniversary of his death. The program includes works by Buxtehude himself, Georg Bohm, J.S. Bach and Johann Pachelbel.

Kynaston was born in Devon and left at the age of 15 to study in Italy. At the age of 19, he was appointed organist at Westminster Cathedral, where he remained until 1971. He first performed in Greece in 1965 at the Athens Festival. Nicolas Kynaston is an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He has taught regularly at Cambridge for many years and has started an organ school at the Athens Concert Hall, the first in Athens since ancient times.

Marianne Faithfull > Weathered, once torn, now back March 14, 2008

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Enjoying a career revival, veteran act Marianne Faithfull performs two shows in Greece this week

‘I never give advice because people will always go their own way. I don’t judge people, and I don’t offer advice. People have to work it out for themselves, really,’ the 61-year-old English singer, songwriter and actress, whose early pop stardom in the 60s was overshadowed by drug abuse throughout most of the following decade, told a news conference in Athens yesterday.

She took questions and offered answers with apparent pleasure and ease, regardless of the subject, be it her music, acting, or notorious personal life. But when asked for a bit of general advice, ahead of two shows in Greece this week as part of her aptly titled “Songs of Innocence and Experience” tour, the weathered, once-torn and now revived artist Marianne Faithfull courteously refused.

“I never give advice because people will always go their own way. I don’t judge people, and I don’t offer advice. People have to work it out for themselves, really,” responded the 61-year-old English singer, songwriter and actress, whose early pop stardom in the 60s was overshadowed by drug abuse for most of the following decade before she started rebuilding both her life and career, now widely regarded as successful.

The comeback was interrupted late in 2006 when Faithfull was diagnosed as being in the early stages of breast cancer. But she courageously returned to performing six months later, in March of last year.

A consistent series of critically acclaimed albums over the past decade or so – including 2002’s “Kissin’ Time”, which included songs written by contemporary greats such as Beck and Billy Corgan, and “Before the Poison”, an album released three years later with the bulk of its material penned by PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, helped reinstate Faithfull as a relevant and creative force in music today. In short, the past decade has proven to be a major departure from Faithfull’s erratic post-60s past, which produced few examples of notable work, the highlights being 1979’s “Broken English” and 1987’s “Strange Weather.”

Asked to comment on which stage of her life she considered the most interesting, Faithfull opted for the present without hesitation.

“I’d say now, I kind of miss being young. But the stage I’m now experiencing is the most productive and creative I’ve had. I’ve become very good at what I do. I shouldn’t be saying that myself, but I have,” declared Faithfull. “When I was young, I was like a pretty doll, and I just got thrown away. If I had to lose my youth and beauty to get to this stage of artistic integrity, then it’s been worth it,” she continued.

For the umpteenth time in her career, Faithfull, at yesterday’s news conference, had to face the seemingly inevitable question regarding her past association with the Rolling Stones, particularly the supergroup’s frontman Mick Jagger, an ex-boyfriend throughout the late 60s.

“Come on, I’ve had to talk about this for the last 46 years,” responded Faithfull, with politeness still intact. “I like Jagger and respect him a lot but that was a long, long time ago. I learnt a lot from Mick, Keith Richards and even Charlie Watts. He got me interested in jazz. I mostly get to see Keith these days. We’re all working artists.”

Faithfull is currently finishing off a new album, “Easy Come, Easy Go”. Produced by Hal Willner, who produced her “Strange Weather” album, the latest release, recorded in New York City, is expected this May.

“It’s been quite an adventure, what you call a real studio album. It’s turned out well. This is an album of other people’s songs, jazz, folk, blues. It’s very eclectic,” said Faithfull. “I’m not really promoting anything new on this tour, so I’m really enjoying performing, not that I mind promoting new albums.”

Backed by a trio for this tour, Faithfull said its repertory was career-spanning. Faithfull spoke enthusiastically about her respected parallel activity as a film actress, which began in the mid-60s for a decade before re-emerging in the early 90s. Most recently she starred in last year’s “Irina Palm” where she played the role of Maggie, a 60-year-old widow who becomes a sex worker to pay for the medical treatment of her ill grandson. The performance earned Faithfull a Best Actress nomination from the European Film Academy.

“To mix acting and what I call my real job, which is music, is complicated. But I love acting, if I have in front of me a good script, a good cast and crew. But I can’t go from film to film. It’s too late. If I hadn’t been discovered [in music], my life would have been very different,” said Faithfull. “My God, actors work so hard. They really have to go all over the world to promote these films; they get well paid, of course… But it’s all so celebrity-centered. I’m not movie-star material.”

Marianne Faithfull > Thursday, Pallas Theater, Athens. Friday, Vellideio Congress Centre, Thessaloniki.

Have you got an eye for lyrics? March 12, 2008

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A Cypriot musician who has reached the finals of the biggest songwriting competitions in the world has called on the island’s music industry to show more interest in the urban scene.

Lyrical Eye, whose real name is Stefan Eliades, started performing at venues around Cyprus at the age of 16. With live performances on national television and radio play on major stations in the UK and Cyprus, he has tirelessly continued his work. The 24-year-old has given performances at the biggest venues around Cyprus, from urban hip-hop clubs to Universities to New Year’s Eve national celebrations in the heart of the capital in front of thousands.

He entered the 2006-2007 Great American Song Contest with a song called ‘Bounce’, featuring Kyri, which he wrote and described as, “a club and R&B track”. ‘Bounce’ came first out of a total of 7,000 entries in the hip-hop/R&B category for this contest.

“In the song, I introduced myself and what I’m all about to a wider audience,” Lyrical Eye explained. “I was surprised but very proud and excited to have won.”

His success continued soon afterwards at the International Songwriting Competition, which is considered the biggest competition of its kind in the world, featuring judges including the presidents of most major labels such as Sony, EMI, Violator, Universal and guest judges such as Run DMC, Sean Paul and Macy Gray.

This time, ‘Bounce’ made it to the final 15 out of an original entry of 15,000 songs, with the judges saying they liked the song’s attitude and the way that it was easy to dance to. In the latest edition of the competition this year, Lyrical Eye was at it again with a new song called ‘Want It’, which has also made it to the final 15.

After many years of hard work trying to get his name out, the artist got his first big opportunity to represent at the biggest hip-hop festival in Europe during the summer of 2006 called the Hip Hop Kemp, attended by over 20,000 people. He also performed a 45-minute showcase of his work last year at the world-renowned Popkomm Festival in Berlin.

“You can see the difference when you perform abroad,” he joked. “You can feel much more of a vibe from the crowd, which is very passionate and knowledgeable” he said. “Unfortunately, the media here on the island aren’t really aware of these events so I haven’t received the recognition that I wanted,” he said. “It’s a big achievement for a songwriter from Cyprus to have done so well, but for whatever reason, there haven’t been any headlines about it.”

Over the past three years, Lyrical Eye has been working on his first solo album, which should be released this summer, along with a video of his new single called ‘Star Struck’. He also took the opportunity to thank Cypriot rapper John Wu for his support. “We are planning to release a Greek single and video, featuring Mario Mental from Larnaca called ‘Oloi Ta Xeria Psila,’ in the next couple of months.”

So where did his great love of music come from? “As a child growing up, I would constantly try to perform in front of family and friends and for me, music is a great way to express myself,” he said. “The positive feedback that I would get gave me the inspiration to take it to the next level.”

According to Lyrical Eye, a lot of practice is required in order to write good lyrics. “You need to play around a lot with words. For example, I have 200 potential songs just lying around as I’m not satisfied with the lyrics and, or, the beat. My advice is never rush to release anything if it’s not ready and it’s also very important to get feedback from knowledgeable people in order to improve.”

When asked what it is about urban music that attracts him, Lyrical Eye said he “likes lyrics that make you think and which describe a story that somebody has lived which is a reality. Nevertheless, I don’t only like urban music but will also listen to jazz, soul and anything that stands out, regardless of the genre.”

Eliades was also asked about the origins of his stage name. “When I was young, I used to read a lot of conspiracy and spirituality books and one of the topics which stuck in my mind was about a so-called third eye, which acts like a person’s sixth sense. From that concept, Lyrical Eye was born.”

In the future, he said he hopes that Cypriot promoters, clubs and radio stations, “will show more interest in the whole urban music scene and take us more seriously. I’m currently talking with a lot of international record labels and A&R departments which will hopefully give me a chance to promote my work on more of a global scale.”

Related Links > www.myspace.com/lyrikaleye