A snapshot of Asia Minor’s multiculturalism in Melbourne

Melbourne-based musician Con Kalamaras has launched a Pozible campaign to crowdfund the Smyrne Project, breathing new life into rebetika songs dating back 100 years

When musician Con Kalamaras reconnected with Greek music, he made a promise to himself; to avoid apathy, and continue to challenge himself.
And his latest project is proving he is a man of his word.

Fresh off the back of the Melbourne Rebetiko Festival, held at the Melbourne Recital Hall last month, Kalamaras has launched a Pozible campaign to crowdfund for the Smyrne Project.

With the goal set at raising $4,000, all money will be put towards recording an album of rebetika songs, some dating back 100 years – an ambitious project he is excited about, to see a long-held dream made a reality.

“I’ve been doing lots of rebetika-based events for ages, which has been fantastic. But the more you delve into that kind of music, the more you realise the back end of the history of music in general,” Kalamaras told Neos Kosmos.

“Asia Minor was so multicultural at that point, I just think that’s amazing, and I see that as a parallel with Melbourne being so multicultural. That’s why I thought in some ways Melbourne is as multicultural as Asia Minor and Smyrne used to be and in this project I’ll be utilising that.”

Kalamaras will endeavour to highlight this similarity by using both local and international musicians from all walks of life, and not necessarily of Greek background, that will come together in a collaboration where music is the common ground.

Dating back to the 19th century, the genre, also known as the Greek blues, was developed as part of a low socio-economic subculture. With songs thematically touching upon the lived realities of love, poverty, and social injustice there is a timelessness to the music, which has seen it undergo a resurgence in recent years in Melbourne, and Kalamaras has played a significant role in a bid to keep the tradition alive. Well that, and his refusal to pursue a mere comfortable existence.

“I’m really excited about it and to some degree it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Musically it’s a big challenge, and it’s kind of terrifying, and I like the idea of being terrified,” he laughs.

“From a music point of view it’s really easy for people to get really comfortable, and I just don’t want to be that person,” he adds.

There’s no denying Kalamaras’ enthusiasm and passion, which is in part fuelled by staying abreast of the scene, by engaging with musicians abroad, and beyond the personal gratification, aspires to help elevate Melbourne onto the map when it comes to Greek, and in particular, rebetika music.

“That’s what’s good about having access to what’s happening overseas, you can see what people are doing and say ‘That’s the bar we need to aim for’. Not ‘Because we’re here on the other side of the world, we’ve got this covered, we can just kick back’. I don’t think that’s the right attitude,” he says.

“Every time people come from overseas I want them to walk away going ‘Far out! What is happening in Melbourne?! It’s incredible. They’re on the other side of the world!’ I think this is really going to blow it out of the water,” he enthuses.

With 38 days remaining to reach his Pozible target, the Melbourne-born Greek Australian is calling on fellow members of the community, and beyond, to be a part of the project.

“The way I see it is: a) to support this it’s going to be fun, and b) it’s also going to be a small snapshot of time in Melbourne; a snapshot of the multicultural landscape in Melbourne at the moment, of where we all are. Putting on gigs is great fun, but this is something that people can listen to in years to come.”

To show your support for the Smyrne Project, visit https://pozible.com/project/smyrne