Thinking Of Greece, 2014 And Beyond

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Of all the links we have provided in recent years to stories in varied media, on various topics, this one surprises and delights us more than most.  The photos here may speak to anyone who has been in Greece and seen musicians play in out of the way places, those who keep traditions alive for the sake of the music and its cultural import.

Several La Paz Group contributors have heritage in Greece, in particular to one of the great folk music conservationists. Two La Paz Group scouts were in Greece this month investigating opportunities to collaborate, and this story captures more than one among many reasons why we expect to be operational in Greece in 2015:

Hunting for the Source of the World’s Most Beguiling Folk Music

Who or what knocked him so askew? In 1941, his wife, at least one of his daughters and two of his grandchildren would be killed in Axis air raids, but that was still 15 years off. At the time he recorded “Epirotiko Mirologi,” he had been a naturalized citizen of the United States for 16 years. He enjoyed moderate success as a professional musician, recording several dozen 78 r.p.m. records (either as a solo performer or as an instrumentalist for a few popular Greek singers), enough that he was able to return to Epirus in 1928, for a daughter’s wedding. The narrative of the song is clear — loss — but all the details are missing.

I learned about Zoumbas from Christopher King, a record producer I came to know a few years ago while I was writing a book about people who obsessively collect rare recordings. King had invited me to visit him at his home in Faber, Va., where he keeps his own massive collection of 78 r.p.m. records, decaying discs that could only be experienced there, in person. He asked me what I might like to hear, and when I hesitated, he suggested Zoumbas, whose name was completely new to me. He understood enough about my taste to know that I would appreciate “Epirotiko Mirologi,” which I very much did.

King had been hunting down and buying the best copies of Zoumbas’s work from collectors and dealers all over the world, and in January he compiled 12 of them into a new release, “Alexis Zoumbas: A Lament for Epirus, 1926-1928.” All of the songs were recorded in New York City or Camden, N.J., over a three-year period during which, King suggests in the liner notes, Zoumbas became overwhelmed by what the Greeks callxenitia: a sense of catastrophic loss characterized by a frenzied yearning for home. King’s carefully restored recordings make that yearning all the more vivid — back at home, I listened to them constantly — but some of the details were still missing.

This spring, King told me that this music was still being performed in Epirus and that the recordings I heard were a limp approximation of the lived experience, a bold admission from a record producer. You can say “you have to be there” about almost any musical tradition, especially if it’s tied to a particular region. But in Epirus, King said, these songs live and die in the looks and handshakes and embraces exchanged in their presence. As I listened to Zoumbas alone in my apartment, this was the part that I couldn’t access.

I learned about Zoumbas from Christopher King, a record producer I came to know a few years ago while I was writing a book about people who obsessively collect rare recordings. King had invited me to visit him at his home in Faber, Va., where he keeps his own massive collection of 78 r.p.m. records, decaying discs that could only be experienced there, in person. He asked me what I might like to hear, and when I hesitated, he suggested Zoumbas, whose name was completely new to me. He understood enough about my taste to know that I would appreciate “Epirotiko Mirologi,” which I very much did.

King had been hunting down and buying the best copies of Zoumbas’s work from collectors and dealers all over the world, and in January he compiled 12 of them into a new release, “Alexis Zoumbas: A Lament for Epirus, 1926-1928.” All of the songs were recorded in New York City or Camden, N.J., over a three-year period during which, King suggests in the liner notes, Zoumbas became overwhelmed by what the Greeks callxenitia: a sense of catastrophic loss characterized by a frenzied yearning for home. King’s carefully restored recordings make that yearning all the more vivid — back at home, I listened to them constantly — but some of the details were still missing.

This spring, King told me that this music was still being performed in Epirus and that the recordings I heard were a limp approximation of the lived experience, a bold admission from a record producer. You can say “you have to be there” about almost any musical tradition, especially if it’s tied to a particular region. But in Epirus, King said, these songs live and die in the looks and handshakes and embraces exchanged in their presence. As I listened to Zoumbas alone in my apartment, this was the part that I couldn’t access…

Read the whole article here.

One thought on “Thinking Of Greece, 2014 And Beyond

  1. Pingback: Speaking Of Greece | Raxa Collective

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