En Chordais brings music from the past into the present
Multi-award winning Greek band En Chordais is debuting in Australia in Tasmania's festival in Ten Days on the Island
Pull out those computers because it’s time to book passage for Tasmania’s Bicentennial Arts Festival Ten Days on The Island. It’s running from the 25th of March to the 3rd of April, featuring over 500 acts from a wide variety of island cultures from across the world.
Of particular interest to Neos Kosmos readers, is the multi-award winning Greek band En Chordais that specialises in Byzantine and Mediterranean music.
Music can be a serious business. The highly commercial end, the pop part, is only really taken seriously for the money it makes, with the ‘art part’ largely under the control of marketing men. Those apparent geniuses that push the idea that anyone can be a star, if you can sing a bit and a legion of ravenous tweeting tweens think you’re kinda cute.
So, for the most part real musicians, unless they’re unbearably cynical, find talking about their work a fairly tricky one. On one end you want to be taken seriously but on the other, you don’t want to be seen as a wanker. Sadly, ‘Music’ compared to all the other art forms seems to suffer the most from this painful dichotomy.
Speaking to the artistic director and Oud player of En Chordais, Kyriakos Kalaitzidis music is indeed a serious business, but for very different reasons. For one, he’d probably be happy to throw any of those marketing men down a flight of stairs and if they do collide with a couple of those tweeting tweens then all the better.
Kalaitzidis is not only interested in making great music; as a PhD holder of musicology he is vocally passionate about the theory and history of music, with an emphasis on its relationship with modern practice and culture.
“Our music language starts from the Byzantine through to the Greek traditional music to Mediterranean music to modern creations,” said Kalaitzidis. “Some of us are composers as well and we like to present our work as a link from the past to the future.”
Kalaitzidis was understandably keen to emphasise that En Chordais is not a group of museum conservationists preciously handling music tracts from the past, but are more investigators wishing to use history as a way to inspire present practice and to further an understanding of themselves.
Their passion extends to others as well with a music school, which they opened in Thessalonica in 1993. It has so far facilitated more than 5,000 students with courses and seminars, and has awarded over 100 scholarships. It has also completed 25 research projects, published 11 books and manuals and released 29 digital compact discs (many of which have accompanying booklets in three languages).
Translating the ancient sounds over to the present must be a challenging process, but as Kalaitzidis explained, “We are very lucky in Greek music heritage to have written sources of the past, even from Asian-Greek music and Byzantine music we have musical manuscripts”
“First of all we try to reveal what was the sound of this time…this means what kind of instruments, instrumentation and the way of playing.”
The real challenge Kalaitzidis continued to say, leaving the scientific side of their research, is the artistic component. This is to instinctively feel out how this music may have been played. Almost like sensing across time what may have been in the hearts of those musicians from the past.
Just by observing Kalaitzidis playing the Oud, he seems to finger the strings of his instrument as if he were carefully deliberating over the cartographical lines of an ancient map, and the actual body the Oud is like a large pack animal expertly finding its footing on a mountain.
But En Chordais’ work is not exclusively serious in its attitude, their music is highly varied and full of humour, reminding us that music is not just for careful listening, but for dancing.
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