Musical Performance: Mavrothi Kontanis and the Maeandros Ensemble ~ A Night at the Café Aman

Sat, March 28, 2009 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Mavrothi Kontanis ~ oud & voice
Lefteris Bournias ~ clarinet
Megan Gould ~ violin
Seido Salifoski ~ percussion

$20/$15 students with valid I.D.
Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Listen to an interview and sound clips: Mavrothi Kontanis on WFMU

* * * * *


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Greeks, Turks, and Armenians shared an urban musical culture and repertoire that spanned the Aegean Sea, and which had many parallels with the music of the Arab world. With the resettlement of many refugees in the Greek mainland cities of Thessaloniki and Athens and also the Aegean Islands, this music had a profound effect, which not only preserved the heritage the refugees brought with them, but also greatly influenced all Greek music that was to follow. The earliest Rebetiko songs were performed on instruments like the oud, violin, kanun, kemence (politiki lyra), guitar, and santouri, and were in many ways interchangeable with the songs played in Smyrna (Izmir) and Constantinople (Istanbul) in the Café Aman night clubs, or meyhane-s, of the same period. The folk music of the Islands and Mainland Greece was also greatly influenced by the refugees from Asia Minor, and serves as a testament to the importance of their rich musical culture.

It is with great pleasure that Mavrothi Kontanis and the Maeandros Ensemble present you this concert of very special repertoire, which will feature songs originally sung by Antonios Diamantidis (Dalgas), Roza Eskenazi, Rita Abadzi, Grigoris Asikis, and many others from the 1920's to the 1940's, along with a mix of Ottoman and Gipsy repertoire as well. Many of the songs to be performed can be heard on the group's two albums, which were released in June of 2008 and will be available for sale at the show.


Mavrothi T. Kontanis - oud and voice

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 - violin

Megan Gould was born in New Jersey and has been playing violin since the age of five. After graduating from Indiana University with a Bachelor's degree in Violin Performance and Ethnomusicology, she went on to complete her Master's degree in Ethnomusicology through the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. In London, she studied wih Egyptian violinist Ahmed Mukhtar and performed Persian classical music with the Naghmeh Ensemble. Since 1992, she has been performing and recording music from the Arab world, Central Asia, Iran and Turkey, in ensembles such as Saba and the Salaam Middle Eastern Music and Dance Ensemble. She has also explored world music outside of the Middle East, performing American traditional music, Javanese Gamelan, and flamenco guitar. Megan is one of the founders of the ECHO World Music Insitute in Bloomington, Indiana, and served as their administrative director for two years. She has performed at such venues as The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, San Francisco Jazz Festival, and the Lotus World Music Festival. Currently, she resides in New York City, where she studies with Bassam Saba and performs and records with groups ranging from traditional Arabic to rock and roll.

Lefteris Bournias – clarinet:

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 a wanted man in the recording field and in live festivals and performances.

Seido Salifoski - percussion

A Roma born to a singer mother and a folk dancer father in Prilep, Macedonia, Seido has palyed darbuka / dumbek in Balkan and Middle Eastern style for 30 years. With his extensive experience playing Turkish, Greek, Balkan, and Middle Eastern percussion combined with flare of jazz from studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, his unique virtuosity has set him apart from the pack worldwide. After frequently playing music in the now-legendary Middle Eastern nightclubs such as Ali Baba and Port Said in Manhattan closed, Seido started truly developing and aumenting the style of dumbek playing with his unique approach.

In the early 90's, he joined forces with Matt Dariau, as a member of highly influential Matt Dariau's Paradox Trio. Paradox Trio spearheaded the downtown New York Balkan Jazz movement, catapulting Seido into a household name in the genre, with his unique virtuosic darbuka/dumbek style that seamlessly combined jazz and Balkan technique. Seido has played with such notable artists as Tarkan, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and Ivo Parazov. He also accompanied Tayyar Akdeniz and his dance troupe, while traveling to teach at several Balkan and Turkish music and dance camps on both coasts, such as EEFC Balkan Music & Dance Workshops (CA & MA/NY), and Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp (PA). Balkan Brothers, the collabotation with his life-long friend, Ismail Butera, continues in local nightclubs and concert halls, as well as his own ensemble, Romski Boji.

Without the usual musical limitations, Seido continues to work with, and experience, groups and artists in different musical genres, such as Zlatne Uste, Yuri Yunakov, Hassan Issukut, Anahid Sofian Dance Company, and Ken Butler. When not touring Europe and the U.S. with Paradox Trio, he teaches darbuka/dumbek privately and offers full day workshop several times a year to an avid coterie of aficionados. With a great respect, he counts Buddy Rich and Sami Zekirovski(better known as Buco) as a major influence in his musical life.

Last updated: 2009-03-23 15:48:37

Mavrothi Kontanis
Mavrothi Kontanis

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
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(646) 732-3261

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