Monday, March 11, 2013

Greece Encore: Music of the Aegean

Galaxávra, Music of the Greek Aegean, musicians Joe Teja, Konatatino Lampros, and Panayotis League provided beautiful Grecian melodies Friday night in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall. While their music was clearly skilled and easily enjoyable, their relaxed and humorous personas rose in between pieces as they spoke to the audience.

Joe Teja first became exposed to Greek music after he moved to Boston, where he then learned to play the oud (a short-necked lute). He became skilled in Greek folk music, and classical and regional Turkish and Arab music. Teja took many musical trips to the Greek island Mytilene, which brought him insight in the traditional music played specifically on the island, and in the Greek culture. Through these experiences he became an expert in guitar accompaniment, as observed by the islanders.

Konatatino Lampros experienced Grecian culture and music through growing up in Lynn, Massachusetts. There he was enriched with Mytilene’s music with an Asian minor. Through having family members as performers, he learned the complex music from the village his family immigrated from on the same Mytilene island that fellow Galaxávra member Joe Teja studied in. Through these experiences, he became one of today’s few US-based performers with a specialization in the Greek instrument santouri, which he studied in Greece with masters of the instrument. With the other two members, he is also the leader of their group called Skordalia, in Boston, where they play music from Lesbros and Asian Minor at traditional dances and concerts in Greek-American communities.

Panayotis League plays a large array of instruments, but from Friday’s performance, he played the violin, the tsambouna, and provided the vocals for their songs. Though most do not know much about Grecian culture and music, it is safe to assume that members of the audience knew all of his instruments until he began to talk about the tsambouna. This instrument is made from goat hide, and was originally played by Greek shepherds, who quite obviously had the materials to construct the instrument. This goat bag-like instrument also has two additional attachments: one for the mouthpiece (to inflate the instrument), and the other consisted of two pipes with holes in them for producing notes. This combination of parts resulted in a balloon-like structure that deflated slowly enough for League to sing and play musical notes while the hide deflated. League also provided the at-ease feel during the performance with occasional humorous one-liners, such as when he was describing what the song Proússa was about (smuggling drugs and heroine) and how it was not fit for the environment of the chapel.

Overall, Galaxávra provided a demonstration skillful and beautiful Grecian music, while charming the crowd with their casual feel and their knowledgeable backgrounds. We were particularly fortunate to be able to see a taste of both Turkish and Greek culture before our trip in just 1 month!!

Contributed by Samera Chapman

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