What an amazing experience it was last Sunday night at Oakleigh’s renowned Caravan Club. Here for a second encore show, the brilliant Con Kalamaras and his band revived the music of one of Greece’s great troubadours – Stelios Kazantzidis.
The first show on Saturday was a sellout and we were lucky to get tickets. The crowd of around a hundred experienced nearly four hours of musical joy as the talented band took us through the emotional journey that is the music of Kazantzidis. The set was rounded off with a song or two from the works of Mikis Theodorakis.
In the cozy environment of the Caravan Club, located in Oakleigh’s 100 year old RSL Club, the audience sang along and clapped as the band gave moving performances of Kazantzidis’ songs of poverty, emotional pain, and yearnings, drawing on his Pontian roots and experience of suffering. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience as George Malliaros sang the famous Μάνα Μου (My Mother). Nothing but praise should be given to both the singers – George and Stavrina Dimitrou. Their duets were perfectly balanced and complemented by the playing of Achilles Yiangoulli, Dean Georgalas, Ilias Gilos and, of course, Con Kalamaras.
As we all know Stelios’ songs draw on his lived experience of the personal effects of war, imprisonment, and migration. And that’s why they speak so much to the Hellenic diaspora across the world – and especially here in Melbourne. As a lover of the blues – both the US and Greek variety – it was a real pleasure to hear these songs played live with such passion.
And what better place to listen to such music than in Oakliegh RSL. The RSL is not only located in Melbourne’s Hellenic heartland but it also honours the connection between Australia and Greece through war and loss. Its great honour board lists young William Withers, whose parents lived locally, and whose remains are buried on the Greek island of Lemnos where he died during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Out in the surrounds of the RSL stands a cenotaph dedicated by another soldier who served in Salonika during the First World War and returned to defend Greece with the Second Anzacs in 1941. How appropriate.
I hope Con and the band continue with their Kazantzidis revival concerts and that more of Melbourne is able to hear and appreciate both the music and their live revival.
A big thank you again to Con Kalamaras and the whole band for their energy and dedication in reviving some of the greatest music of Greece in live performance. We hope Con will be encouraged to continue his inspirational work which is bringing this music to a new generation.