Monsieur Doumani Angathin
Artist release (www.monsieurdoumani.com)
Review by Lee Blackstone
Angathin (translation: ‘thorn’) is Monsieur Doumani’s third record. The Cypriot trio is comprised of Demetis Yiasemides (trombone, flute, and vocals), Angelos Ionas (guitar, vocals), and Antonis Antoniou (tzouras a bouzouki-like instrument; stomp box, and electronics), but Angathin finds the group inviting in a host of guests, ranging from Cypriot songwriter Alkinoos Ioannides and folk singer Michales Terlikkas, to Cyprus rapper Juaio, and Cypriot composer Andreas Kameris. The result is music that is eclectic and richly textured, with a spine that runs deep into Cyprus’ traditional music to deliver startling new compositions.
Throughout the album, the music reflects Cyprus’ history of both Greek and Turkish influences. When Monsieur Doumani are in full flight, the tunes and singing can be delivered at a breakneck speed, but the threat of derailment never occurs and the listener is left gasping at Yiasemides, Ionas, and Antoniou’s technical skills. Angathin is an album that mixes echoes of Cyprus folk music, rembetika, flurries of strings and growling trombone, dirty drones and unison singing.
While the soundscapes are entertaining, the lyrics and concerns of Angathin give free reign to Monsieur Doumani’s imagination. On prior albums, such as 2015’s Sikosis, Monsieur Doumani expressed a worldview that demonstrated traditional, ‘on the ground’ observations and wry Cypriot commentary engaged with larger global issues. That approach continues here. One song in particular, “Gel Burda,” plays on words utilized by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and it ends in a plea of harmony: Come here, come here (join the) festivity in the neighborhood.
"Where shall I bang it?"
Angathin also contains doses of political and social anger. On “Where shall I bang it?” the ‘it’ referring to one’s head. Monsieur Doumani decry racism and power by calling out the hubris of people: How can I make races
flags and gods disappear? So that I can unbind your mind
you crazy human. You too are a mammal
why can you not recall?
You think yourself superior?
Wake up, don’t stay asleep.
In fact, pointing out human laziness and injustice is a constant theme throughout this album. On “Mishmash,” Antoniou sings of people stuck on their couches, their brains turned into a rambling mishmash; victims of television, people turn where you’re told to turn
you believe whatever you’re told to believe
They’ve made you really scared…
Monsieur Dourmani wants you to break with the narration of lies, and to wake up.
Better yet, rise up.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues addressed on Angathin is people’s relations with the natural world. On the stunning “Hey, you,” Monsieur Doumani create a song that sounds as if they have been immersed in Buddhist teachings and Marxist, Frankfurt-school era writing, intimating that it is folly to try to gorge on the world when one’s life is but a pittance. Being bound by materialism to one’s ego is pointless, and the band urges listeners to be more critical and to think about who you are. “Mother and mistress of us all” makes a similar point; even though Monsieur Doumani note that Earth Mother, they’ve squeezed you dry, in the end the Earth will have her revenge on those who exploit her by suck[ing] them all in.
One of the ecological issues on Cyprus is addressed on “Akamas’ dragons,” Akamas being a natural park on a peninsula that is being targeted by financiers as a potential tourist resort. The band’s position is clear: Don’t be fooled and don’t believe them
their desires are no good
They want what they see,
they’ve taken advantage of things,
keep your hands off Akamas.
The journey ends with “Little Star,” a shimmering, lovely, and slightly psychedelic song that sounds as if it were ascending to the heavens. But the sonic experimentation is not over; “Little Star” is followed by a hidden track, arranged by Andreas Kameris, and sung by the Fortis Vocal Ensemble St. Petersberg. Monsieur Doumani have managed to say a lot over the course of Angathin, but it is also clear that the band’s reach is ambitious and that they are likely to explore new, daring territories.
Overall, Angathin is an album of passion. The lyrical poetry of Monsieur Doumani’s work is gorgeous. On “Drinking and kissing,” Ionas sings: A snake bit me / and died within the hour
Because my blood was filled with fire,
with lightning, with storm.
"Thorn of the cactus"
There is an uncompromising, fierce spirit to Monsieur Doumani’s music best summarized by the rap on “Thorn of the cactus”: And, look at me, I’m proud
to have remained a thorn
The only thing they won’t eat in this vegetable garden.
This is a precious album, one that will prick you deep under the skin. – Lee Blackstone