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Kristi's Secrets

As the The Secrets Of The Rocks deservedly conquers the international world music market, most people hearing it aren't going to understand the words - since not that many people outside Greece speak Greek. I tell her that she has captured something that comes across without understanding the language. It turns out that I'm not the first person to realise this...

"When we were in Montreal last summer, we were invited by a professor of comparative religion to his lecture, to talk to his students and answer their questions. A month before he had given his students an examination and had made them listen to Echotropia without telling them who the artists were, where they came from, what the album was. He gave them four songs from Echotropia and one from Ifantókosmos and they had to listen, and then write small essays of one paragraph about what feelings they got from the songs. And then after he read all these small essays to everybody, he revealed that these were artists from Greece."

"The small paragraphs that the students had written were the nicest things about our music that I have heard in my life. They really made us feel so moved. And the funny and very interesting thing is that they had understood most of the lyrics. In some cases they even had the same word! He had made them listen to the song Pyretos - Fever, from Ifantókosmos, and the guy had written, a young student of 18 years old: 'It's like Jimi Hendrix is jamming with Moroccan musicians, and the Moroccan singer is singing about a snake embracing her.' And that was Stathis and me and I was singing the lyrics 'you are embracing me like a snake.' Another song was Anixandário, and someone had written: 'This looks like a religious hymn' - and it is based on a Byzantine hymn. The title of the song is a Byzantine word, it's not used in the common Greek language. So he had written: 'This is a religious song and I feel that this type of singing must have been made by the Sirens while Odysseus was passing by. This must have been how the songs of the Sirens sounded. It must be Greek.' He had never heard the Greek language. We were very interested in that. So I feel that people don't understand the lyrics word by word, but in some cases - not all the time - they get the feeling of the song which is really describing the lyrics in a way."

And that, I conclude, might just be Kristi Stassinopoulou's very special talent - and a useful one to have in this shrinking world of babel.

Albums by Kristi Stassinopoulou with Stathis Kalyviotis:
The Secrets Of The Rocks (Hitch-Hyke, Greece) 2002. UK release by Wrasse Records in August 2003
Echotropia (Lyra, Greece; Tinder, USA; MCD, Brazil ) 1999
Ifantókosmos (Thesis/ Lyra, Greece) 1997
All available in the UK from Trehantiri. Tel: 020 8802 6530
International contact: thalia@hitchhyke.gr
Many thanks to Kristi and Stathis for their hospitality, and to Thalia Iakovidou for making it all happen.

This feature first appeared in fRoots 237, March 2003

 

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