Tag Archives: bouzouki

Interview with Spanish Stringed Instrument Master Juan José Robles

Juan José Robles

Spanish multi-instrumentalist Juan José Robles has a superb new album titled In-Quietud (Restlessness). Robles uses a wide range of stringed instruments from Spain and beyond. He discusses his career and new album with World Music Central.

How and when did you start working professionally in the music world?

I decided to make my own music after several years playing for others or being part of groups. Once I recorded my first album and saw that it had very good acceptance and reviews, that is when I decided to bet on this, even if it is a “spike and shovel” and the road is not easy.

What do you think are the fundamental elements of your musical style?

Throughout my musical career, I have gone through traditional, classical, folk, blues, flamenco music … and all this has stayed with me. Perhaps that is why, those who listen to my music, think that I have generated my own language from that hodgepodge; and that is recognizable to hear it.

How has your musical expression evolved over the years?

Well, over the years my level of self-demand has grown, all my songs pass several listening filters until they definitely arrive at the studio, I carefully and meticulously select what I like and what I don’t, I eliminate it right away.

Juan José Robles – In-Quietud

What does the title of your In-Quietud album mean?

I have lived situations and moments where I have been too restless, altered, uneasy…., And those situations have led me to a hangover that has generated a pleasant stillness; in those two states is where all the songs on this album have appeared.

Tell us a little about In-Quietud .

It is a continuity of my previous album “Tiempo de espera” (2016), where new structures and elements appear that, as I said before, I have carefully selected. It is also a claim of instrumental music as a form of expression, with as much force as that which bears a voice. On the other hand, traditional music is one of the sources from which I drink, hence I wink at two pieces of my land, Murcia, which I really wanted.

Juan José Robles – Photo by Gerardo C. Saura

In your In-Quietud album you play several types of stringed instruments from the guitar and lute family. Tell us about the following instruments and their differences: octavilla, Valencian guitar, tenor guitar.

The octavilla is a 12-string instrument, with 6 courses, which is located in the area that borders Castilla La Mancha with the Valencian Community; is a mainly melodic instrument and its loudness is of medium-acute timbres. The Valencian guitar has 5 strings, which are usually made of nylon, and is used to rip with chords in traditional music, being its acute sound range. The tenor guitar has 10 strings, with 5 courses, and is widely used to accompany with chords in the traditional formations of the [Spanish] peninsular southeast, such as Murcia and Almeria, and its sound range is medium.

In addition to the instruments mentioned above, you also play guitars, bouzouki, bandurria and lute. How do you decide which instrument you will use in each track? Which one do you like the most?

These four instruments are those with which I usually compose almost everything and the decision is easy, since I usually respect the instrument with which I compose the subject. And regarding tastes for an instrument, let’s say it goes through times, I currently give more attention to the bouzouki and the lute, although I never stop playing the guitar and the mandolin.

Juan José Robles

Who manufactures your string instruments?

The lute is by Diego Gallego (Murcia), the bouzouki is by Carlos do Viso (Vigo), the mandolin and octave guitar by Tomás Leal (Casasimarro, Albacete), the bandurria by Javier Rojo (Madrid) and the guitar by Juan Azorín (Molina de Segura, Murcia).

Do you keep or collect stringed instruments?

I used to collect them, but then I decided to be pragmatic and I only keep the ones I use, which add up to 12.

Would you like to play some other stringed instrument from some other region of Spain or other cultures?

Yes, my pending subject is the zanfona [hurdy gurdy], which I already had one and played it some time ago; although I got rid of it to buy a flamenco guitar. So it may be my next goal.

Do you give classes or workshops?

Yes, I teach guitar, lute, bandurria and guitar classes permanently in a popular music school; and also music workshops and traditional Murcian song with Carmen María Martínez Salazar.

Which musicians of the new generations in your area deserve the attention of root music lovers in general?

The world of traditional music around the peninsular southeast, lately is closely related to meetings of traditional formations (crews, rounds, pandas, …). These have always been formed by older people, but today there are many young people and children paying close attention to this sociocultural movement and some with great talent, where great vocals and string players stand out.

If you could bring together the musicians or groups that fascinate you most to record a record or collaborate live, who would you call?

Of course I would stay with the band that accompanies me live: Enrique González and Óscar Esteban on percussion, Pablo Orenes on double bass, Tóbal Rentero on the laúd, guitarro and dulzaina, and José Antonio Aarnoutse and Constantino López on guitars; the latter also producer of the album. And I would call singers Carles Dènia and Rocío Márquez; cavaquinho player Luis Peixoto; Diego Galaz and Jorge Arribas (Fetén Fetén) to play violin and accordion and Efrén López on zanfona.

What other projects are you working on?

I am part of Mujeres con Raíz, a group of traditional Murcian music and I am still working on an upcoming job, which we must start from now.

More about Juan José Robles and his discography.

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Interview with Innovative Canadian Musician Chairman George

 Canadian artist George Sapounidis, better known as Chairman George, has a new album titled Bringing to Greek Party to China! It’s a ground-breaking recording that combines traditional Greek and Chinese music, Mandarin Chinese vocals, rock and infectious electronic dance grooves.

In terms of musical instruments, Bringing to Greek Party to China! connects Greek bouzouki and Chinese pipa and guzheng. The music video for the irresistible song “Golden Night” is fascinating and a lot of fun to watch.

 

 

Chairman George talked to World Music Central in September 2018 about his background and Bringing to Greek Party to China.

Can you give our readers a brief history on how you started singing and composing music? 

I began taking guitar lessons in Montreal in 1968 and learning folksongs by different artists from the Joan Baez Songbook. Then when we moved to Greece in 1970 my mother found me a classical guitar teacher in Athens (a Greek protégé of the Spanish virtuoso Andrés Segovia no less) and in my teens I continued to take lessons and perform classical repertoire. At the same time since we were living a bohemian lifestyle in Greece I was meeting troubadours and buskers on the Greek islands which further inspired me to sing and perform publicly.

In university in Montreal and later in Toronto I met singers from different cultures so I began singing in Hebrew, Russian and Spanish. I took a delight in singing multilingually. In the 1980’s when the famine in Ethiopia happened I wrote a song and discovered a joy and ability in songwriting.

In 1988 I began learning the Greek bouzouki after listening and feeling impassioned by the Greek blues the Rembetika. I travelled to Greece with a musical partner and we started my first band Ouzo Power which performed at Canadian music festivals.

In the 1990’s, after finishing my PhD in statistics in Toronto and working as a folksinger extensively in Greektown, I returned to Ottawa where I had a day job in the federal government and I met a woman from Beijing who inspired me to learn to sing a traditional folksong in Mandarin Chinese. This was followed by challenging myself to write songs in Chinese. This is when my music career took a radical new direction towards Asia.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music? 

The essential elements of my music consist of sung vocals in different languages, translation of lyrics, and proficiency on the Greek bouzouki and acoustic guitar. This includes the incorporation of an eclectic array of cross cultural musical styles. I engage audiences on stage using humor while unraveling some of the mysteries of Greek and Chinese culture and language through music.

Whom can you cite as your main musical influences? 

Theodore Bikel, David Wilcox, Danny Michel.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution. 

My first full album on cassette consisted of duo interpretations of Greek Rembetika with the use of mandolin instead of bouzouki and translating Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin into Greek. The second EP consisted of standard Greek popular repertoire using larger ensembles incorporating African Senegalese rhythms. I then began dabbling in different languages and made a demo recording of songs in Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese and Greek.

When I performed my first Chinese song at the local Chinese New Year Gala in 1998 the roof fell in when the audience was applauding every 15 seconds. I realized I had discovered a vast new audience, endless musical possibilities within a new culture and my innate facility with languages.

In 2000, I gave my first major concert in Greek and Chinese in Ottawa where I invited the Greek and Chinese Embassies. Subsequently, I received an invitation from the Chinese Embassy to travel to China to perform at two international festivals. It was at this point that my music career took a radical new direction towards Asia.

My 2005 album consisted of exclusively Greek and Chinese traditional, popular and original material followed by my 2008 album of Olympic themed songs and then my 2011 CD of experimental rock-infused Greek repertoire. The culmination of my Greek and Chinese influenced musical arc has culminated in the present album where we have fused both cultures by presenting re- worked standard Greek repertoire in Mandarin.

 

Chairman George

What musical instruments do you use?

I use the Greek bouzouki and acoustic guitar myself. In my band we also have Chinese pipa and guzheng as well as bass, electric guitar, drums and backup vocals.

Your new album features Chinese musicians, electronic dance music beats, Chinese vocals and Greek influences. How did you come up with this combination? 

After many years performing Greek and Chinese repertoire side by side my producer Ross Murray and I decided in 2013 to go to the next step: a fusion of both. This had never been done. We chose 10 of the most well-known quintessential up tempo Greek popular songs with the intent of presenting Greek party songs to Chinese audiences, hence the album title.

I started translating these songs into Mandarin with the help of a translator while at the same time ensuring equal numbers of syllables in lines and incorporating rhyming. I developed bilingual vocals for these translated lyrics. We brought in Chinese instrumentalists we knew locally and my producer who is a recording engineer infused some of the renditions with electronic dance music beats.

 

Chairman George – Bringing to Greek Party to China!

 

What has been the reaction so far? 

Chinese audiences in China are very surprised and interested in hearing Greek songs in Chinese. Greek people are astonished at hearing their own songs recreated in what seems to them to be an incomprehensible language. Greeks are proud to know that their music is being promoted in a vast new environment.

How did you meet the Chinese musicians? 

I met the Chinese musicians in my home town of Ottawa, Canada. I already knew them well after years of performing in the local Chinese community.

You sing in Chinese, is it Mandarin? Do you speak Chinese or is it phonetic singing? 

Yes I sing in Mandarin Chinese. I speak in Mandarin Chinese and comprehend fully all lyrics that I sing.

 

Chairman George

 

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be? 

I would like to collaborate with English rock musician Peter Gabriel whom I have not met – however, more realistically I would like to collaborate with English rock musician and multi Grammy award winner Chris Birkett whom I have met.

What would the ideal Sunday look like? 

Being on a quiet Greek island having a good swim in the sun all day with friends followed by Greek dinner in a taverna while listening to live Greek music performed by local musicians.

What would you like to learn?  

I would like to learn how to cook properly in a Cordon Bleu school.

What is your favorite food?  

Greek cuisine followed by Thai cuisine.

Favorite movie or movie genre?  

Westerns.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you have become? 

I would become what I in fact I already am: a mathematician with a PhD.

Your greatest triumph? 

Being the subject of the award-winning W5 CTV / BBC international television documentary ‘Chairman George’ produced by EyeSteelFilm in Canada and directed by Daniel Cross a fellow Montrealer whom I met by chance on the other side of the world in China.

What do you like to do during your free time? 

Swim laps and then meet friends for a home cooked meal.

What country would you like to visit?

Thailand.

Do you have any other upcoming projects to share with us? 

We are creating new interpretations of Canadian popular and traditional repertoire in Chinese.

Discography:

George From Athens To Beijing (2005)
Expect The World (2008)
Ouzo Power Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (2010)
Golden Night (2014)
Bringing to Greek Party to China! (2018)

Website: chairmangeorge.com

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Artist Profiles: Donal Lunny

Donal Lunny

Donal Lunny has been at the cutting edge of the evolution of Irish music for almost thirty years and is generally regarded as having been central to its renaissance.

From the late 1960’s, when he formed Emmet Spiceland, the first group to break into the pop charts with Irish music, through the seventies and eighties as a member of the influential band Planxty, the high-energy Bothy Band, and the trad-rock band Moving Hearts, Donal has revolutionized attitudes to traditional music.

Donal has composed music for theatre as well as for TV and film. But recently he has become more involved with contemporary music and is a much sought-after producer. Common Ground: Voices of Modern Irish Music was produced by Donal.

He also designed the first custom-built bouzouki – the prototype of what is now known as the “Irish bouzouki”.

Donal Lunny has recorded with Christy Moore, Planxty, Andy Irvine, Paul Brady, Mozaik, The Bothy Band, and Moving Hearts.

Solo Discography

Dónal Lunny (Gael-Linn, 1987)
Coolfin (1998)
Journey: The Best of Dónal Lunny (2001)

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Artist Profiles: Ciarán Curran

Ciarán Curran

Ciarán Curran is a native of Kinawley, Co. Fermanagh, an area rich in music and song, and brings his strong family musical tradition to bear on an instrument relatively new to Irish traditional music, the bouzouki. Ciaran’s uncle, Ned Curran is a great fiddle player and has given the band unusual tunes.

Ciaran was introduced to a lot of traditional music and musicians by his friend Cathal McConnell (flute player with The Boys of the Lough) from whom he also learned many tunes. Another friend of his, fiddle player Ben Lennon from Co. Leitrim taught him much about the rhythms involved in traditional music. Ciaran has worked with Co. Antrim singer Len Graham, with fiddle players Ben Lennon and Seamus Quinn and with singer Gabriel McArdle. He is a member of Altan.

Discography:

* Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095, 1992)
* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

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El Amir to Perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for Mandolin on Greek Bouzouki

Amir John Haddad

Acclaimed world music and flamenco artist Amir John Haddad “El Amir” is set to perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for Mandolin for the first time on Greek bouzouki. The debut will take place on November 6th at the National Auditorium of Music in Madrid accompanied by first-rate musicians from the Spanish National Orchestra.

El Amir, an accomplished guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, has made a special adaptation for bouzouki and it will be the first time to hear the complete version of this Concerto on this beautiful instrument.

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Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Crete Announces Summer Seminar Program 2016

Labyrinth Musical Workshop, one of the most respected series of seminars and master classes in Europe, has announced its Summer Seminar Program 2016. The workshops target musicians of all levels who wish to study the modal musical traditions of the world.

Labyrinth is located in Crete (Greece) in the picturesque mountain village Houdetsi 20 kms from the capital city of Heraklion.

In addition to helping students learn the necessary technical and theoretical skills of each musical idiom, the seminars and master-classes encourage students to come closer to the spirit of the tradition they are studying, and to eventually enter into this world where musical language is just one of many other intertwining elements.

Throughout the seminars, teachers and students become part of one big “parea” (company in Greek). Aside from the time spend in the classes, teachers and students play music together, eat together, talk about matters of common interest, share stories etc.

Summer Seminar Program 2016

June 13-18, 2016

Efrén López – Music Group, An introduction to Modal Music.

June 20-25, 2016

Efrén López – Hurdy Gurdy (zanfona)

Giorgis Manolaki – Bouzouki

Ross Daly – The structure & phrasing of Makams

June 27- July 2, 2016

Ido Segal – Improvisation in North Indian classical music

Ciro Montanari – Tabla and the rhythmic cycles of North India

Giorgis Xylouris – A journey into Cretan music

July 4-9, 2016

Evgenios Voulgaris – Yayli Tanbur & Makam

Murat Aydemir – Tanbur Through The Ages

Patrizia Bovi / Peppe Frana – Medieval Music

Pavlos Spyropoulos/Theodora Athanasiou – Accompaniment in modal music

July 11-16, 2016

Martha Mavroidi – Motif & Rhythm

Senih Űndeğer – Turkish style violin

Muhittin Kemal Temel – Ali Ufki, Dimitri Kantemir and 17th century Ottoman Music

Manos Ahalinotopoulos – Modal music in the world of the Greek clarinet

July 18-23, 2016

Tigran Aleksanyan – Armenian Duduκ

George Papaioannou – Violin 2nd Part

Uğur Önür – The music & instruments of the nomads of South West Anatolia

Yiorgos Mavromanolakis – Oud for less advanced students

July 25-30, 2016

Kourosh Ghazvineh – Kurdish Makam with Tanbur

Arslan Hazreti – Kamancha

Ivan Varimezov – Gaida, Balkan rhythms and repertoire

Tzvetanka Varimezova – Bulgarian choral singing

August 1-6, 2016

Hooshang Farahani – Iranian Tar & Radif

Daud Khan Sadozai – Afghan rabab

Periklis Papapetropoulos – CİHAN TÜRKOĞLU- Saz

Djamshid & Bijan Chemirani – Τhe poetry of rhythm

August 8-13, 2016

Yurdal Tokcan- Turkish Oud (Master Class)

Göksel Baktagir – Kanun

Eleonore Billy – Nyckelharpa

Christos Barbas – Music Group: The Instrument as a Voice

August 15-20, 2016

Ahmet Erdoğdular – Classical Ottoman Singing

Ömer Erdoğdular – Ney

Derya Türkan – Kemençe

Periklis Papapetropoulos – Lavta

August 22-27, 2016

Ross Daly – Modal composition

Kelly Thoma – Lyra with sympathetic strings

George Papaioannou – Violin 1st part

Adel Sαlameh – Arabic Oud

August 29- September 3, 2016

Zohar Fresco – Frame Drums (Master Class)

Harris Laμbrakis – Rhythmic improvisation

Vagelis Karipis – Percussion in Greek tradition, Rhythms & Techniques

Peppe Frana – A modal perspective

Anna-Maria Hefele – Over-tone singing (Master Class)

September 5-10, 2016

Zacharis Spyridakis – Cretan Lyra

Michalis Kontaxakis – Cretan Mandolin

Giorgis Manolakis – Cretan Laouto

Fragiskos Baltzakis – Askomantoura

More information at http://www.labyrinthmusic.gr/en

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