Newly formed Melbourne musical ensemble Meyhane enthralled audience members at the Thornbury Theatre last Saturday, with their rendition of traditional music from Anatolia, the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.
Their focus on songs from those regions are painstakingly researched, and often more hard-to-find or obscure, which injects each performance with a fascinating insight to the Hellenic cultural history in these fought-over lands. Their musical choices are also a pleasure because as a listener, the thought that these musical pieces are being brought back to life – saved from near demise – makes you want to dedicate your attention to every note.
Band members Lambros Kappas (oud player and music researcher), Tony Iliou (lute and guitar), George Kiriakidis (lyra, accordion, cane flute, percussion), Dimitris Hoplaros (violin) and Paddy Montgomery (lyra of Constantinople, saz and bowed tanbur) were joined by guest musicians Stavrina Dimitriou on vocals and Stephanos Eleftheriadis on percussion and Pontian lyra. Having this group of talented musicians all on one stage was an auditory feast for anyone lucky enough to be in attendance. Each member is at the top of their game with their respective instruments, and the repertoire seems to have been chosen to highlight each of their talents.
The multi-talented musicians often swapped instruments they were playing with others they on reserve – sometimes halfway through a song. Others would drop back, while fellow band members moved to the forefront. At times, it was difficult to know which musician to watch because you didn’t want to miss anything in their bag of tricks. There is something about the way this ensemble works together, taking songs and introductions in turn, that makes you understand their profound respect for the music, which carries it through to their performance. Each musician had the opportunity to begin a song with a solo, or add their own personal anecdote.
Vocally, each band member made their contributions, some more than others, but Stavrina added a needed feminine dimension to the music with her sweet voice, tinged with sadness and regret: a beautiful rendition of pained music from that era. Paddy, as always, needs to be heard to be believed, singing Cretan songs in his non-native tongue so believably and mastering the lyra, saz and bowed tanbur to the point that there is no doubting that he was Greek in a past life. Other highlights were when the ensemble would all join together in the vocals, presenting a unified passion for the music that they keep alive.
Their next performance will be at the Dancing for Life fund raiser, Pontian Community Hall, 345 Victoria Street, Brunswick, Vic. Sat 3 Sept at 6.30 pm. For tickets call Jenny 0417 343 076. Fore more info, visit www.meyhane.info