“I come from a musical family where the piano was central in the home and at gatherings. I was immersed by classical, theatrical, radio-pop before I could string a sentence together. Music found me and took me away really.”
Melbourne musician Dallas Cosmas was the guest performer at an on-line live music concert on Sunday evening 20 September. The concert was presented by Eastern Melbourne’s Communities’ Council on Ethnic Issues (CCOEI), with the support of the Victorian Government. This series of four fortnightly ‘virtual’ concerts live-streamed on Facebook are designed to keep communities connected through the pandemic lockdown.
Dallas has been an active musician of Melbourne’s thriving music scene for three decades writing, performing and recording, also touring nationally and holding down a variety of multi-instrumental work. He has performed and produced in all styles for groups, solo and cinematic work. This work includes local and international recording releases, including Aria-charting work. For the CCOEI concert last Sunday he performed ‘Wherever I May Roam’ from his latest album – Alpha Beta Gamma – which is a soul and gospel-infused journey.
Dallas is his middle name. His family is of Greek origin and his first name is Telemahos, who in Greek mythology was the son of Ulysses.
Dallas would also identify himself as a traveller and dreamer.
His family connections to Australia stretch back to 1893 when his maternal great grandfather, Dennis Black arrived in Melbourne from Ithaca and soon established the Paris Cafe and Oyster Saloon on Swanston Street. His pappou, also from Ithaca – Telemahos Kouvaras – arrived in Sydney in 1911; and paternal pappou Kosma first arrived in South Australia in 1921 from Cyprus.
Dallas credits both sides of the family with his musicality. When Kosma married Dallas’s yiayia Sophia in Athens, they sailed back to southern shores the following day and she carried with her a mandolin to remain connected with the music and homeland she loved. The mandolin is still in the family 90 years later. She shared that love with her children building a collection of records (the old 78s) from Greece. Dallas’s Aunt Madeleine would talk fondly of the music of Marika Papagika in later years. It had a big impact on Uncle Costa Cosmas, who identified inherently with this music and would pass this knowledge down to Dallas’s cousin Hector, a truly gifted violinist who would during his life establish himself both in Australia and Greece with the Rebetiko group, Apodimi Compania.
On Dallas’s mother Olga’s side of the family, music was a constant. Pappou Telemahos loved the classics and Dallas still treasures his gramophone and 78s collection. Olga has a natural ear for music whereby she could hear a piece once and play it immediately on the family piano. As a teenager in 1940’s Sydney, she was central to the Olympic Club music revues playing everything from Greek folk tunes to Broadway musicals and the classics.
Dallas has very potent memories of his mother at gatherings with family and friends playing all kinds of musical requests. This exposure prompted his pursuits and musical development. He studied composition; he worked as a session musician and through that became involved in recording which has become his primary musical activity. It has led him on the path of pop, jazz, world-music, soul and gospel. For Dallas, these represent different colours from a wide palette for which he thanks his family. He approaches music without recognising any borders.
His most recent gospel-influenced album – Alpha Beta Gamma – features in parts his nephew Evan Englezos and Evan’s son, Jeremiah. He says, “The album is a collection of colourful grooves and bold harmonies. We actually recorded a lot of material with the Yarra Gospel Choir quartet onsite in a chapel to capture the sonic atmosphere”.
Currently Dallas is producing an album for another nephew – Andrew Englezos. With his group, ‘Brother To The Birds’, he is exploring the musical links of Greece and the near East of the Mediterranean basin. So the musical family connections are now passing to the next generations.
Dallas’s music is available through Prototype Musique – a collective offering the whole package for independent musicians. Their services include arranging sessions, recording, mixing, mastering, graphic artwork and distribution.
This month the CCOEI will present two more free on-line community concerts at 6.30pm on Sundays 4 and 18 October. You can access the concerts via the CCOEI Victoria Facebook page; just ‘like’ or ‘follow’ and be ready to click on CCOEI Live at 6:30pm. You can also revisit past concerts on this Facebook page. Dallas has been invited for an encore performance at the final CCOEI virtual concert on Sunday 18 October. Watch this CCOEI webpage for details: www.ccoei.org.au/events/