Musical Performance: Mavrothi Kontanis: Classic Songs of the Aegean

Fri, June 13, 2008 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Two CD Release Celebration

$15 ($10 Students with valid ID)

House opens 8:30PM

Lefteris Bournias (Clarinet)
Megan Gould (Violin)
Timothy Quigley (Percussion)
Mavrothi Kontanis (Vocals and Oud)
*Phaedon Sinis (Kanun and Politiki Lyra)


It is with great pleasure that Mavrothi Kontanis and his fellow musicians present you this concert in honor of the release of their two debut CD’s: “Ξύλινη Καρδιά (Wooden Heart)” & “Στο Καφεσλί Σοκάκι (Sto Kafesli Sokaki).” Each CD will be available for sale at a special discounted price of $12 this night only, and traditional Greek treats will also be provided for all our guests.

Most of the material for both albums was drawn from rare old Greek 78 rpm recordings from the 1920’s - 1940’s. These songs are often labeled “Smyrneika” and have their roots in the urban music of Constantinople (Istanbul), Smyrna (Izmir), and later Athens and Salonika. After the hostilities of WWI and the burning of Smyrna, many Greeks and Armenians were forced to leave Turkey (Asia Minor) and come to Greece for the first time. They brought with them their common musical culture, which often featured the outi (oud), violin, lyra (kemence), kanun, and clarinet. Most of the refugees settled in and around Athens and Salonika, and their music greatly influenced the “Rebetiko” movement in Greece’s cities and the folk music of the mainland and islands.

Both CD’s were recorded simultaneously over two months, and relate two rather different stories to the listener. “Sto Kafesli Sokaki” is comprised completely of traditional music, and brings together 16 rare songs originally performed by some of the most recognizable names of the time, including Antonios Dhiamantidis (Dalgas), Roza Eskenazi, Rita Abadzi, and others. These pieces reveal the strong ties cities such as Athens and Istanbul shared and allow us to peak into the emotions and struggles that were experienced from day to day. For each of the songs, Mavrothi and his fellow musicians did their utmost to preserve the spirit and unique arrangements of the original recordings, which are very lovely and often delicate.

The second album, “Ksylini Kardia (Wooden Heart),” while including some similar repertoire and arrangements in the second half of the CD, focuses primarily on the various ways the oud has been used in the Aegean over the years, and begins with strictly instrumental (mostly original) material. These instrumental pieces fall under what is considered the Ottoman classical tradition, with some stylistic accents that combine traditional and contemporary styles. The vocal songs which follow complete the collection by reminding us that the oud is first and foremost a folk instrument, used to accompany and reinforce the voice. Combined, these songs form a more complete picture of the oud in the Aegean across time and several musical styles.


Lefteris Bournias

Lefteris Bournias has been a clarinetist since the age of 11. While a young child, he remembers sitting on his father's lap (Elias Bournias, a Greek flogera player) and, under the direction of his father, he would bang out rhythms on pillows while listening to Turkish and Greek night club music. When a few years had elapsed and now living in Greece, Lefteris' interest in music was still very strong. Only it was Classic Rock and the bands of the 70's and not the music he would later grow to love and perform. One evening in Athens, while his father was in New York, Lefteris was with his mother, talking and looking at a magazine with electric guitars and electric basses. He then asked his mother, "Mom, can you buy this guitar for me?" While his mother was hesitant at first, she conceded but also offered the idea "Hey, why don't you get a clarinet instead and make your father happy." And Lefteris thought "Clarinet!!! What are you talking about?" It had been some time since his involvement with music that wasn't rock. But almost like a bolt of lightening, the idea stayed with him and that summer he bought his first clarinet.

Lefteris was fortunate to live near a famous gypsy clarinetist, Mr. Vasilis Soukas, and he soon frequented his house for lessons while attending the Athens Conservatory of Music under the guidance of clarinetist Mr. Farandatos. While returning to New York with his family, Lefteris attended the Aaron Copeland School of Music earning a B.A. in Performance, and a Masters of Science in Music Education and attempted a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology (still pending!). Throughout his studies, Lefteris has been performing extensively. So extensively, that at times he would perform two and even three performances daily for weeks on end.

Lefteris has performed and recorded with many highly acclaimed singers and musicians, amongst them, , The New York Pops (under the direction of Skitch Henderson), New York Philarmonic, En hordes, Uri Cane, Charles Genus, Henry Hay, Matt Garisson, Gene Lake, Charles Blesing,Steve Haas, Elektra Ensemble, Nikos and Giasemi Saragoudas, Spiros Exaras Band, Avram Pengas Noga Group, Ara Dinkjian, Uri Yunakoff, Omar Faruk Tekbelik, Okay Temiz, Selim Sesler ,Takis Zaharatos, Hristos Antoniadis, Stathis Aggelopoulos, Eleni Legaki, Nikos Hatzopoulos, Makis Hristodoulopoulos, Pitsa Papadopoulou, Peggy Zina, Doukissa and many more.

As a diverse musician, Lefteris' style combines Greek traditional, Gypsy, Classical, Turkish Gypsy, and elements of Jazz (rhythmical and harmonic). With a special sound that eminates from his clarinet, he is sought-after in the recording field and in live festivals, gigs.

Mavrothi T. Kontanis

Mavrothi T. Kontanis was born in 1979 in Pennsylvania, USA, though his family's origin is from Halkidiki, Greece.

As a child, he showed interest in several instruments, including the clarinet, guitar, and bouzouki. However, at the age of 16 he discovered his true passion, the oud, and began lessons with his first teacher Stamatis Merzanis immediately. Since then he has studied with many other renowned masters including Münir N. Beken, Emin Gündüz, John Berberian, Kyriakos Kalaitzides, Dinçer Dalkılıc, Yurdal Tokcan, and Ara Dinkjian. In addition to playing oud, Mavrothis has become an accomplished singer and violinist, and also enjoys teaching and writing.

By combining his love for classical, urban, and folk music from Greece and the Near East, Mavrothis hopes to heighten awareness of the great beauty and freedom that exist within this unique and diverse musical tradition. Mavrothis has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East playing traditional and classical music from all over the world, as well as original compositions of his own with various ensembles. He has been featured on several albums and the film soundtrack of "AmericanEast," and is currently working on three specific recording projects that will showcase his musicianship and diverse musical interests. Most recently, his composition "Uşşak Saz Semai" was performed by Dr. Münir N. Beken at the "Echoes of Diversity" symposium at the University of Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria.

Megan Gould

Megan Gould (violin) is one of NYC's foremost performers of Middle Eastern and Greek music. She holds a violin performance degree from Indiana University, and a Master's Degree in Ethnomusicology (with a concentration on the Middle East) from the University of London. In her rock music life, she has performed with John Mellencamp, Sean Lennon and Donovan, among others, and she is a founding member of the NoorSaaz ensemble, the music director of the Smadar band, and a regular performer with the MOTH storytellers. Her work has appeared on many film soundtracks, commercials, and sound recordings.

Timothy Quigley

Timothy Quigley is a percussionist/multi-instrumentalist and composer living in Brooklyn, New York. Known for his versatility and tastefulness, Timothy is accomplished in playing in a wide variety of styles and contexts on the drum set as well as congas, doumbek, def, riq, tapan and frame drums. His creative approach and unique sound have led to many collaborations. He has worked extensively as a sideman, sharing the stage with notables such as Smokey Hormel (Beck, Tom Waits), Frank London (Klezmatics, Klezmer Brass All Stars), Ron Miles (Bill Frisell Quartet), Doug Wieselman, Reuben Radding, Allen Ginsburg, Charming Hostess and Cheb Nasro.

Last updated: 2009-10-29 03:23:48

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