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Interview of Greek Composer Pericles Kanaris

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Pericles Kanaris, a Greek composer, who is dividing his time between Athens and New York. He is the producer of "Music of Greece," the first compilation of Greek music ever released by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the head of the band "Synolon," which started performing Greek music in Manhattan in 2008, and he recently released his own original music album with lyrics by Manos Eleftheriou.


Are non-Greeks familiar with Greek music?

I have found that for many non-Greeks, Greek music falls into two main categories: first, the soundtracks of Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis from famous films in the 60's and second, dancing music heard in restaurants or clubs - be it traditional or modern. Somewhere in between exists a more eclectic audience that is more "musically travelled" and is familiar with more Greek artists and sounds.

In April 2007, you produced "Music of Greece" the first compilation of Greek music ever released by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. What does this accomplishment mean to you?

I was asked by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to select and present some of the best samples of Greek music from the last century. This meant many different things to me... The honor and tremendous responsibility at a young age are the obvious ones. The less obvious ones are the twists of fate which lead me there and their symbolism when looked at in perspective. These can get very emotional because nothing prepares you for such events other than the passion for what you do and hard work. You start seeing them as part of a greater scheme of things and they become your lifelines every time you feel exhausted and beat, questioning your journey.

You recently released your own original music album entitled "Aoratos" with a premiere at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, in New York. Tell us about this experience.

Aoratos was another great example of such a twist of fate. I first "met" the great Manos Eleftheriou through his writing, growing up in a home that loved his work. Through the years he became my favorite lyricist. Μy actual meeting with him, several years later, happened so randomly that it defines serendipity. From that point on, Aoratos became my first original album as well as a continuing series of priceless stories in music and life. To that end I am grateful to Vasilis Papakonstantinou, Kostas Makedonas, Rita Antonopoulou and Lamprini Karakosta for gifting me with their voices and for making me a better musician/composer through their truly beautiful charisma. I would also like to thank all the artists who participated in this record - I am so humbled by the talent that I have had the fortune of witnessing on all creative aspects of the process.

Aoratos CD cover - artwork by Lydia Venieri

How do non-Greeks receive your music?

Presenting world music in a cultural melting pot like New York presents an advantage. I feel very fortunate about the warmth with which my music has been received and I believe it is partly due to the fact that my musical influences "mirror" the nature of this audience in that they are multiform. On a purely sonic level, music is widely treated as a universal language. From there on, when poetry comes into play, language adds a dimension which is decisive. My band "Synolon" started performing Greek music in Manhattan in 2008 and more and more internationals discovered our concerts and became regulars. Prompted by their questions, I increasingly felt the need to share the meaning of the songs with them. I therefore started projecting a loose translation of the lyrics for a select number of songs while they were being performed. The response from non-Greek fans was so enthusiastic that I have turned it into a standard practice, by now.

Synolon is credited with changing the presentation of Greek music in New York. Tell us more about its conception.

Synolon embodies a vision of sharing Greek music with the international community by making it more extroverted. Ironically, it came to life from a very esoteric place. Since my college years in England and the US, I found that performing my favorite Greek songs was a great way to stay in touch with my soul. At the same time and on a more cerebral level, I always believed strongly in their ability to communicate a heritage of which I am very proud of. These forces combined, motivated me to look for the right setting where this could materialize. This presented a great challenge because Greek music performed locally in New York was a by-product of the Greek dinning experience as opposed to being a cultural statement in its own right. Putting the music in the forefront involved choosing venues especially designed for live performances. This changed the expectation of the audience and allowed me to explore a much wider repertoire—one that touched upon both sides of our culture: Apollonian and Dionysian or intellect and body. It combined experiences which were, at the time, regarded as mutually exclusive.

What are the highlights of Synolon's journey so far?

I really believe that the highlight of Synolon's journey has been its relationship with its fans. The love and loyalty that have allowed this project to continue since it first started without skipping a beat. I am so grateful to the Greek-American community of New York for that. Without their support I could not have sustained this effort. On a purely artistic level, a series of great collaborations with stellar artists from around the globe such as Janis Siegel, Ara Dinkjian, Shane Shanahan, Richard Hammond, Gary Schreiner, as well as great Greek artists like Vasilis Papakonstantinou, Kostas Makedonas, Rita Antonopoulou, Lamprini Karakosta, Yiorgos Kaloudis and many more to all of whom I am grateful for their dedication.

Where do you see Synolon going in the future?

I see Synolon spreading its wings outside of New York in the near future and I am constantly working towards this goal. It is something that I have envisioned for quite some time now. However, creating the right conditions for such a step takes time and patience, as much as it took to put the band on the New York map, in the first place. My favorite Greek poet, K. Kavafis, in his poem "Ithaca" warned us about "not hurrying the journey at all". I try to always remember his words.

About Pericles Kanaris

Pericles Kanaris was born in Athens, Greece. He studied music and philosophy in Europe and the United States winning multiple distinctions and awards. He has composed music for various international media. Among other distinguished credits, his composition "Project Innocence", originally written for film, was given its world-premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall in May 2007. Greek music, however, has equally been a great source of passion and inspiration since the beginning of his career. He is the composer and lyricist of the song "Stin Ygia Mas" that became the title theme for the popular television program. He is the producer of "Music of Greece", the first compilation of Greek music ever released by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in conjunction with the reopening of its world-renowned Greek and Roman galleries in April 2007. In 2008, he formed SYNOLON, a New York-based ensemble which consistently sold out its concerts for consecutive seasons. In October 2014 he released his debut album "AORATOS", a collection of original songs which he has composed on the verses of acclaimed Greek poet Manos Eleftheriou, performed by a distinguished list of award winning artists from around the world. The work was premiered at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York and is available on iTunes. Pericles Kanaris lives between Athens and New York.

Greece In America - Embassy of Greece in USA