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Christos Govetas - Greek Music


Christos was born in a tobacco-growing village in the area of northern Greece known as Macedonia. Paying little attention to the ubiquitous 'table songs'-"music for the old drunk men," he thought as a child-Christos preferred to sing the songs of Bob Dylan.

Upon his arrival in America at the age of sixteen, he earned money playing modern Greek 'composed' music at the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a place which served as a cultural hub for musicians from the Eastern Mediterranean region.

It was here that Christos became enticed by Turkish and Arabic music, and he soon became an adept performer of the oud or oúti (an unfretted plucked lute). Eventually, he was led back to the music he had heard growing up-those table songs for example-and developed a new zeal for Greek 'folk' music, catalyzed by the appreciation and energy of Balkan folk dance enthusiasts in America.

Tonight you will hear him play a variety of instruments learned in Greece and America, including the laoúto, bouzoúki, (both plucked lutes), zourna (shawm), and clarinet.

Not all important developments of Greek music have taken place exclusively within the borders of Greece. Over the years, musical practices have been exchanged with musicians from all around the Eastern Mediterranean region, perhaps most famously with the Turkish-born Greek refugees of the 1920s, who helped fashion the rebetika genre in the city of Piraeus during the pre-WWII years.

Even the music of Greek immigrants in America during New York's heyday of 'ethnic' recordings had a profound effect on musical developments in Greece.

Christos, and the group Ziyiá, play wonderful music.. The very name Ziyiá, though now an archaic term, invokes the small ensembles of rural Greece which played the kind of music you will hear tonight.

Most significantly, the music generated dancing, and the ziyiá were often judged by how well they could both guide and follow the lead dancer. To this day, the relationship between music and dance in Greek life can hardly be overemphasized.

Ziyiá also demonstrates that musical practices are not confined to a specific region. Its members are frequently traveling and exchanging ideas and approaches with a variety of musicians. Ziyiá brings together Beth Cohen from Boston, Christos Govetas from Seattle, and George Chittenden, Lise Liepman and Dan Auvil from the Bay Area. Their individual commitments to the music and their compatibility keep the group solidly together despite the distance between its members. Rehearsing intensively whenever opportunity allows, Ziyiá's members share with each other what they have learned independently. All have spent time in Greece studying the music and engaging in local musical practices there.

Tonight, Ziyiá will present a rich and 'multicultural' musical landscape of Greece with representations of songs from Cretan, Island, Rebetika, Epirot, Macedonian, and Thracian styles.

The lyrics speak frequently of love (experienced as passion or pain, and sometimes both simultaneously!), of the mountainous and coastal landscape of Greece (emphasizing the importance of the water), and of travel, emigration and nostalgia; because many songs originated as humorous or soulful improvisations, they often mention particular places and people along the way.

From the Program Notes by Stephen Lessard


Location: San Francisco, California

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