These traditional dance songs from Greece and Asia Minor are like ships setting sail for waters where the past and future merge. This CD hopes to offer them a harbour – a limáni – where they may find a refuge and then continue on their way.
As with our previous CD, Taxidi (Journey), we wished to record old songs, played in the old way, on the old instruments. At the heart of this CD, then, is still the saz (Greek tambourás), a long-necked lute with roots going back more than four thousand years. It appears in Greek marble reliefs and clay figurines as early as the 5th century BCE, and remained popular up until the start of the twentieth century among Greeks in Asia Minor and in the port towns of many Greek islands, crossroads of many influences, musical and otherwise. Tied movable frets allow the saz to be played in traditional Greek non-tempered drómoi or modes, Oriental makams and Byzantine ichoi; however, in the early twentieth century, Greek refugees from Asia Minor in Athens and Piraeus adapted it to the Western tempered chromatic scale and the tambourás was turned into the bouzouki. As a result the tambourás virtually disappeared from Greek traditional music, but in recent years it has undergone a renaissance in Greece, in which Kostantis Kourmadias has played an important part.
The saz is the ideal instrument to bring to life the oldest forms of traditional Greek music, particularly music of the islands and Asia Minor, where Kostantis’ grandparents were born. It may be played together with other stringed instruments such as the lafta (polítiko laoúto), accompanied by gentle percussion from wooden spoons, frame drums, toumberléki, zills (finger cymbals), potirákia (tiny glasses), and even kombolói, the worry beads men used to always carry (and which you can hear on track 7). The resonance of its double and triple strings creates a deeply meditative atmosphere, believed since ancient times to have a healing effect on musician and listener alike.
Along with arrangements centred on the saz and the lafta, Kostantis and Nikolas Angelopoulos also play in the traditional island ziyia (‘pair’) of unaccompanied laouto and violin, and other combinations of traditional instruments. We are grateful to our friends Dimitris Brendas, whose clarinet helps create the sound of the Peloponnese and mainland Greece, and Ruth Hill with her kanonaki which so beautifully fills out the picture of the Greek music of Constantinople and Asia Minor. Most of all we would like to thank Kostantis’ mother, Kyria Evanthia (Voula) Kourmadia, for consenting to sing one of the songs she learned from her grandmother, Evanthia Tzevelekou.
In their emphasis on community, connection, and mutual support, traditional music and dance embody ancient values which are rapidly disappearing in the modern era but are still alive in Greece. The sacred hospitality famous in antiquity can still be found here: everyone is welcome to the dance circle, which is both hearth and harbour, a shelter for travellers to gather together around the warmth and light and shared joy of the dance.
The songs serve a purpose beyond mere entertainment; like messages in bottles washed up on island shores, they o er stories, comfort, and valuable advice. Songs of separation give voice to love, loyalty and the sorrow of parting. Songs of exile invoke the lost homeland and the longing to return. Love songs and wedding songs, like mystical poems expressing our human yearning for the divine, celebrate joyful communion between body and soul, heaven and earth. They honour the beauty of nature, witness our deepest feelings, o er guidance through life’s storms, and exhort us to remember: our days on earth are counted, so live them to the fullest. Don’t let them slip away.
The word ‘tradition’ (parádosi)’ in both Greek and Latin means ‘to pass on’. With his saz and violin Kostantis tries to pass on what his family gave him, as does Nikolas with his laouto and lafta, and indeed Voula when she sings the song she learned from the grandmother whose name she also carries. At the end of her song, Voula gives us her blessing; she also gives it to you. May you go well, travel safely and always reach your harbour.
Dances: Syrtós Sta Tría, Syrtós, Terkisher, Syrtós Amorgoú, Syrtós Lésvou, Issos, Kavodorítikos, Kalamatianós, Karsilamás, Kónialis, Tsiftetéli, Jeni Jol, Oro Jeniol, Tsámikos Yiátrissas, Sta Tria, Hora la Galana.
Release date: 2016