Prior to discovering rebetika, Con found himself at a musical crossroads, rather disillusioned about music in general and close to not pursuing it.
But then, there was an encounter with fate – he was introduced to an amazing group of musicians, now lifelong friends.
For years now, in Melbourne’s rebetika music scene, Con Kalamaras has been a constant, bringing the sounds of 1920s Greece to Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street.
The passion for rebetika lead him deeper into appreciating the music of Greece and its historical importance. Since then, his collection has grown exponentially – with over 22,000 recordings on CDs, records and digitally – a small fortune worth every cent, as he says.
Now Con Kalamaras wants to make part of this fortune available to the wider audience, with his debut ‘Rebetiko’ CD. Last Friday, he launched a Pozible campaign to raise funds for the release, a snapshot of rebetika music in Melbourne today.
“I have been blessed to play with many brilliant musicians in Melbourne and this CD is a snapshot of my experience so far. It isn’t a definitive collection, but it is a selection of rebetiko works which have changed my life for the better.
“I’m aiming to raise $2000 which will finance the pressing of this CD. If it’s successful, this campaign will bring my dream to life and a collection of songs – my musical life up to date.
“The finished product will also include a full colour booklet with a detailed history of this music and its origins, particularly with music from Smyrna and Asia Minor,” Con tells Neos Kosmos.
The CD will include a collection of works from Markos Vamvakaris, Vassilis Tsitsanis and other 1920-1930s rebetika composers. If the target is exceeded, the funds will go on the promotion of the product, to remind people of Melbourne’s diverse music culture.
“The CD will include a linear theme of works, and will try to include a broad range of styles – as rebetika is fairly broad. I’m aiming to also include some lesser known instruments from the period which may spark people’s interest in the genre.”
Playing bouzouki, baglama and guitar, and doing vocals, Con hopes to be joined on the recording by some friends, other rebetika aficionados.
“Although I started with rebetika, I had spent over a decade playing and writing songs in contemporary bands. I see this release as coming full circle to my roots, and where it all began. Maybe because I’m older and dare I say wiser, I fully appreciate this music and the themes resonate a lot more to me now than ever.
“My peers are a constant motivation, friends here and in Greece motivate me to try and improve and feed the hunger of this passion. Someone once told me that rebetika is like a drug, but a healthy one … Once you start – you can’t stop.
“From the beginning it dawned on me that the audience and the musicians become one, everyone sings, everyone cries – it’s all part of the journey. Isn’t that what life is all about?”
With a successful campaign, ‘Rebetiko’ will be released in late August.
To join the Pozible campaign and help raise money for ‘Rebetika’, visit www.pozible.com/project/182566