2009-2016

World Music No 1

The “Just Plain Folks” organisation, based in Indianapolis, USA, named the album “Orion” No 1 in the World Music category (2009) following a vote by 10,000 listeners. “Orion” was also placed in the Top 10 albums of 2009 by the British Songlines Magazine. Both these awards are encouraging and show that my music is being taken more seriously with time. However, the album was on the receiving end of a bitter and biased review here in Greece, in an article in the “Eleftherotypia” newspaper titled “Aroma of Crete”, which brought me down (a prophet is not without honour…). Fortunately the critic recognised his error and wrote the exact opposite for my next album (“Mavra Froudia”), perhaps wishing to make up for it. Meanwhile, the third song on the “Orion” album, “Pare me nychta” (“Take Me by Night”), with lyrics by Mitsos Stavrakakis and vocals by Vassilis Stavrakakis, was very favourably received and is now sung by many other artists at Cretan concerts and fiestas. This is the song of mine which has been most widely adopted by the Cretan tradition. The first song on the album, “Voria Monopatia” (“Northern Paths”), is the best received internationally, by both Cretan and non-Cretan audiences, and has been used in many documentaries and travel films.

 

 “Mavra Froudia”, Trio Petrakis Lopez Chemirani

Our mutual respect and, above all, the good fun we have with Spanish musician Efren Lopez and brother musician Bijan Chemirani led us to the easy decision to set up a project for the three of us. New instrumental compositions with strings and percussion instruments of the Mediterranean and the East, combined with two years of productive work, resulted in the first fruit of our labours, “Mavra Froudia” (“Black Brows”). The CD, issued and presented in Greece and Spain, shot straight to the Songlines Magazine “Top of the World” (Top 10), the playlist of the British “Folk Roots” magazine, and No. 5 in the German World Music Charts (wmce.de) following a vote by 55 top European radio producers. The Trio travelled and presented its programme with great success at European festivals (Songlines Encounters Festival, London, Jerusalem Ud Festival, Sommerton Festival, Murcia Tres Culturas Festival, Tinos World Music Festival, etc.). The most impressive thing was that, this time, the concert result was very close to – or even better than – our studio output, meaning that we enjoyed ourselves even more. We are certainly going on to do a second album, with new ideas, new instruments, hard work and inspiration. The bar has been set very high…

 

Stelios Petrakis Cretan Quartet

I’d been wanting to create a Cretan project to my own specifications for a long time. A small ensemble, formal and elegant, polished in every detail, combining Cretan music and dance old and new, showcasing the greatest possible variety of sounds, instruments and styles; an ensemble which would operate not in the traditional way but with clearly allocated roles and responsibilities, most of which would be mine. Properly orchestrated one- or two-hour concerts with both lyrical and powerful moments, with carefully-laid-out lines that each instrument would follow faithfully.
My training in the Mavrokostas dance schools under Thanassis Mavrokostas, and my long-term collaboration in Vassilis Stavrakakis’s ensemble with Andonis and Giorgos Stavrakakis, provided me with young but first-class associates. For the first time I felt I could do what I wanted, completely free to lead the ensemble exactly where I was aiming for, without the doubts and hesitation inevitable when working with older and more experienced people – your teachers, in other words. Our group was later joined by sound technician Dimitris Hatzakis, whose expertise, feeling and dedication magically transfer the sounds made by our instruments straight to our audience’s hearts.
The Quartet’s concerts were sought after all around the world and European summer festivals, but not so much in Crete, although younger organisers have made honest efforts recently. In Crete, it’s not that easy to hold Cretan music events intended as art rather than “entertainment”, like the music played at weddings, fiestas and nightclubs. We are still trying to gather, shape and develop our home audience over time, with the valuable assistance of our sponsors and the Region of Crete. I’m proud to say we’re getting there. The audience is becoming more in tune with the spirit of our endeavours year by year, overcoming their original puzzlement at Cretan music events quite unlike those they were used to.
As the “Cretan Quartet” (known abroad as the Stelios Petrakis Quartet…) we produced a live recording in 2015 titled “Avgi ts’ avgis” (“Crack of Dawn”) in a CD/DVD case, circulating in Greece and France. The recording won the Coup de Coeur prize of the Académie Charles Cros, entered the Top of the World (Top 10) of Songlines Magazine (issue #103) and reached 25th place in the World Music Charts Europe among the 800 albums of 2015.
We’re travelling across the world to participate in famous international festivals (Womex 13 UK, GlobalFEST 16 NYC, World Sacred Spirit Festival INDIA 2016, Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 Malaysia, Balkan Traffic Festival 2016 Belgium, Théâtre de la Ville Paris, etc.) Our constant vigilance stimulates us to improve on our shows, keeping them always just as thrilling for every audience, from the uninitiated to the most demanding.

 

Ocora, Radio France, “ l’ art de la lyra”
At almost the same time as the recording and editing of the Quartet’s album “Avgi ts’ avgis”, I was honoured to receive a proposal by OCORA, the historic French National Radio music company, and radio producer Françoise Degeorges, to record a CD devoted to the art of the Cretan Lyra, containing the old classic repertoire. It was a great challenge and an even greater bet with myself. I wanted a classic Cretan thematic album on the art of the lyra that would not be boring or hackneyed, while bearing in mind that I would inevitably be compared to the “sacred cows” of our musical tradition, who have all recorded similar albums…
With by my old friend and colleague Giorgis Manolakis, and also Giorgos Stavrakakis, Giannis Papatzanis, Thanassis Mavrokostas and, of course, Vassilis Stavrakakis who sang two pieces, we recorded the album in the new hall of the Heraklion Cultural Centre. The CD came out in France at the end of 2015. It was awarded the Coup de Coeur prize of the Académie Charles Cros, went straight to Songlines Magazine Top of the World and was proclaimed Radio France’s Album of the Year 2015. I am receiving the award in person on 2 May 2016 at a special ceremony at the studios of the Radio France “Maison de la Radio” in Paris.