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Katerina Papadopoulou & Anastatica

Saphrane (
Review by Andrew Cronshaw

Listen "Yiannes and the Dragon"

In the slow opener of Anástasis, "Rise," Stefanos Dorbarakis’s kanun plays a long, thoughtful solo intro. A voice enters, floating over it, and then bowed bass, lyra and laud join in to develop and enrich.

Katerina Papadopoulou is the singer, and a very fine one indeed, but this is very much a group album, showcasing equally the work of the six top-class instrumentalists: Kiriakos Tapakis (oud, laud), Giorgos Kontogiannis (Cretan and Aegean lyres), Chariton Charitonidis (bagpipe, tsambouna, floghera), Theodoros Kouelis (bass), Manousos Klapakis (percussion) and Dorbarakis (kanun).

Excellently, spaciously live-recorded, they make a perfectly balanced ensemble in an unusual and varied set of traditional music from the area of present-day Greece and the Greek-rooted traditions of the wider Mediterranean, including from Thrace, Macedonia, Ikaria, Smyrna, Pontus, and a tarantella from southern Italy. (As the booklet notes tell us, the town of Taranto, named after the Greek mythical figure Taras, was founded by Spartans in the 8th century).

Listen "Syngathistos Dance / Milisso" (excerpt)

The Thracian "Syngathistos Dance / Milisso" combines a ceremonial dance with a song about a woman who, asked why she sleeps alone, answers that she doesn’t… she has a husband who’s a bagpiper. Appropriately, it gets a fine bagpipe lead from Charitonidis for its asymmetric Thracian Balkan rhythm.

Listen "Thracian Table Song"

"Thracian Table Song" is a heart-rending vocal lament over a tense tremulando drone from the plucked strings. Back to uptempo Balkan dance rhythms for another two Thracian songs, "Croon / Mary’s Embroidery," in Zonaradikos style, driven by bagpipe, kanun, oud and deep gutty percussion leading into wild lyra and kanun breaks.

Listen "Aspro E To Charti" (excerpt)

From Macedonia there’s "The Blue Hen-Pigeon" with a keening melismatic vocal over the strong thump-and-whip of Klapakis’s daouli drum, leading into the high-straining, swirling bagpipe of "The Bagpipe Dance," More of that passionate style in the Pontic song "Romana," a tribute to the fearless womanhood of Pontus, the region of the legendary Amazons. "Aspro E To Charti," with limpid kanun intro and dusky lyra solo, is a serene, sad Calabrian love song, in that part of southern Italy’s Griko dialect.

Papadopoulou describes the project, subtitled A journey through old Greek music, as ‘an imaginary voyage of the Rose of Jericho through space and eras’, so the album closer is a quiet Hebrew lullaby, "Numi Numi, or Rose Of Jericho,"

A well-sequenced, beautiful and atmospheric through-listen, it’s a very appealing album altogether, one that I’d expect to receive wide high esteem.

Find the artist online

Photo: Konstantinos Sofikitis

Further reading:
Tania Giannouli Trio
Vassilis Philippou
Greek Music in Southern Italy

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