PERIPLUS | Luso-Hellenic Wanderings (Chronicle)
Amélia Muge | Michales Loukovikas
Periplus is not a cruise. It’s an effort to construct intercultural bridges
and explore the past for the future’s sake. The voyage goes on…
Periplus sails out from the “Land of Absences” with “Lady Lisbon” singing a composition by Amélia Muge, a Portuguese song dedicated to Greece, a country tried in absentia, a land that the more someone is linked to, the more he misses it. It’s a “Pain of Absences”, like that of a widow’s pain, which is “Heavy as Iron”. Musically, our voyage starts with a “normal” Portuguese accompaniment – though a “strange” sound emerges: the clarino (folk clarinet) played by Manos Achalinotopoulos with the peculiar, traditional technique used by folk musicians in the Balkans and Asia Minor, combined with Ricardo Parreira’s guitarra portuguesa. ● Manos, who recorded in Athens, improvised twice on the song and I finally chose to edit separately both “takes”.
The “Luso-Hellenic Wanderings” become far more obvious in the following Cretan song marked by strong Anatolian influence. In our period of research, when we exchanged traditional material, I sent it to Amélia as an excellent example of a Cretan urban song. What followed was quite extraordinary: she answered with… an mp3, interpreting this song the way she “understood” it, adapting both its music and lyrics into Portuguese as a medieval Occidental song. I was amazed! It was as if she listened to me singing the song in some medieval royal court, and then, back at home, tried to recreate it; but in fact, what she sang was her own impression of the song, creating a variation. That’s how music mostly developed for millennia until it started being published (with sheet music and phonograph records). That’s why I arranged the song keeping these two versions together.
1. Amélia Muge | Arranged by F. Raposo
2. Traditional, version of Crete | Adapted into Portuguese & as an old occidental song by A. Muge; arranged by M. Loukovikas
After Amélia had composed this morna-like song, she challenged me: “Now take it from Cape Verde to Greece!” My answer gave me the key to continue: “But how can I take it to Greece? We have Africa in between!” And then, I thought of the pentatonic scale that mostly characterizes both the African and the Epirotic music. The die was cast! Besides, I had Harris Lambrakis to give me a hand – with his “magic flute” (ney) in hand…
Paraphrasing some of Amélia’s phrases, from either lyrics or music, as a starting point, my work on the “Pentatonic Routes” turned out to be more rational than inspirational, based on a 10-beat rhythm, vocals, and cycling melodic lines, which all worked well.
Entering Greece, I decided to combine this soundscape with the Epirotic migrant song “Ξενιτεμένο μου πουλί (My Migrant Bird)”, based on a 4-beat rhythm. And additionally, I asked Manos Achalinotópoulos, who is not only an excellent clarino player but also a wonderful singer, to interpret the song, endowing it with his fine traditional “touch”.
3. Amélia Muge | Arranged by F. Raposo
4. Amélia Muge | Michales Loukovikas | Arranged by M. Loukovikas & A. Muge
5. Traditional, version of Epirus | Arranged by M. Loukovikas
Amélia is an old friend of Hélia Correia’s, setting lyrics of hers to music since the 90s – an excellent example is “A tentação (Temptation)”. When I first met Hélia, we were in the process of working on our Periplus. After a discussion about ancient Hellas, as she is a Hellenist and a philhellene, we started talking about our work and then I told her: “You know, Hélia, in Periplus we also have Seikilos Epitaph”. Her quite unexpected answer left me with my mouth open. She said nothing at all, but started singing in ancient Hellenic: “Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου, | μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ· | πρὸς ὀλίγον ἔστι τὸ ζῆν· | τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.” (While you live, shine; | have no grief at all; | life exists only for a short while, | and time demands his due). That was an answer I would expect to hear from only one out of one thousand Greek musicians: the rest would know nothing (!) about the oldest extant complete song in the world, dating to ca 1st century (sometime between 200 BCE and a little after 200 CE). Later on, I told Amélia: “Seikilos must be sung by Hélia!” She did sing it wonderfully!
Amélia spotted me in the Net in 2009 thanks to my work based on Ares Alexandrou’s poetry, Το Χρυσάφι τ’ Ουρανού (The Gold in the Sky), issued in Portugal as O Ouro do Céu / Ares Alexandrou por Michales Loukovikas. Disappointed by the lack of feedback and appreciation in Greece, I had decided to compose no more. Amélia tried hard to convince me otherwise. After failing repeatedly, she had a bright idea: she wrote the lyrics and composed the first part of a song, asking me to finish it. I could resist no more; I would be ungrateful. ● When I listened to her part of the composition, I was struck by its resemblance to Seikilos Epitaph. Until then, of course, Amélia also knew nothing about it. So when I arranged our “Song in Periplus”, I used Seikilos’ composition as an intro (“Shine”), as well as a citation within the canto, adapted into Portuguese by Hélia Correia: “Ó mortal, deixa brilhar, | a luz da vida no teu rosto; | que a morte vai cobrar imposto | e a todos abate, sem dó por igual.” (Mortal man, you need to shine, | having the light of life on your face; | death shall levy heavy taxes | and all men will perish without leniency).
6. Seikilos | Adapted into Portuguese by H. Correia; arranged by M. Loukovikas
7. Amélia Muge | Amélia Muge & Michales Loukovikas | Arranged by M. Loukovikas
Being our meeting point, Ares Alexandrou’s The Gold in the Sky is featured in Periplus with three songs, arranged by Filipe Raposo, for I wished to have some fresh approach to my compositions. I still remember quite vividly how delighted I was when I listened to Amélia for the first time singing her own adaptation into Portuguese: “I composed a fado!”, I fantasized smiling, while whistling my composition with her own ornaments…
If “Illegal Note” is a nightmarish isle of exile, Fernando Pessoa’s “Calm”, set to music by Amélia, is a dreamy island, where she inserted an excerpt from Constantine Cavafy’s “Ithaca”. There’s a chance that the two great poets met on a ship sailing to England and the USA, just before the Great Depression of 1929.
8. Ares Alexandrou | Michales Loukovikas | Adapted into Portuguese by A. Muge; arranged by F. Raposo
9. Fernando Pessoa & Constantine Cavafy | Amélia Muge | Arranged by F. Raposo
This poem (excerpt) of Natália Correia’s, set to music by Amélia, was meant to be the first track of Periplus when I arranged it (later we chose to have a “smoother” start with “A Pain That Has Fallen to My Lot”). I opted to start with a tribute to the collaboration of Carlos Paredes and Charlie Haden, with a free improvisation on Kostas Theodorou’s double bass and Ricardo Parreira’s guitarra portuguesa, adding Filipe Raposo’s piano. Besides, when Amélia played her melody for me on a keyboard, I found similarities with the first Delphic Hymn composed probably by Athenaeus ca 138 BCE. Thence, among Natália’s verses, I added three Interludes, adapting this hymn (in I and III), and Amélia’s song “Não sou daqui (I’m Not From Here”, in Interlude II), from her homonymous album (that I consider to be her masterpiece), because these are exactly the first words in the excerpt from Natália’s Cântico.
“Word of Honour”, the most complex track to arrange and edit in Periplus, began with Amélia’s fascination and experimentation with a Cretan Syrtos. The origin of this dance led me to an ancient Hellene musician, Mesomedes of Crete (2nd century CE), and his composition Ὕμνος εἰς Νέμεσιν (Hymn to Nemesis), the goddess enacting retribution against those who succumb to hubris (ὕβρις: arrogance before the gods). Starting off with the original 15-beat rhythm, we turn in the middle to the four beats of the Syrtos, adopting a version that was adapted by Ross Daly, and also combining it with Algarvian Pragas (Anathemas, Curses). As the music builds up, when Kyriakos Gouventas’ role with his violin is instrumental, we pass to a traditional Portuguese Cantiga de rega (Watering Song); and then we return to Crete for the finale that is peppered with more pragas by Amélia’s sister, Teresa Muge, and Margarida Guerreiro.
10. Natália Correia | Amélia Muge | Arranged by M. Loukovikas > Athenaeus (Interludes I & III); Amélia Muge (Interlude II)
11. Mesomedes (Nemesis); Cretan Traditional (Syrtos, adapted by R. Daly); Portuguese traditional & Amélia Muge (Watering Song); Amélia Muge (Pragas) | Arranged by M. Loukovikas & A. Muge
Another song on poetry by Ares Alexandrou in Periplus is “Lullaby”, adapted by Amélia into Portuguese. In its original form (The Gold in the Sky), it consisted of six parts, and resembled a dream. Here we listen to the first part of the song with additional lullabies and children’s songs in the beginning.
Connected with it is a lullaby composed by Amélia and arranged by José Martins and Filipe Raposo. The peculiar thing here is that the lullaby is sung to a girl (and not to a boy, as it is “normal” in traditional lullabies).
12. Ares Alexandrou | Michales Loukovikas | Adapted into Portuguese by A. Muge; arranged by F. Raposo (intro: A. Muge & M. Loukovikas)
13. Amélia Muge | Arranged by J. Martins & F. Raposo
When I sent this traditional love song from Asia Minor and Smyrma to Amélia, she was astonished since its lyrics are identical with a traditional Galician song she had recorded before with the local ensemble Camerata Meiga. We can’t be sure if some Greeks and Iberians had the same idea (“I’ll get dressed with the foliage of a rose”), or if it’s an idea that voyaged with sailors from one place to the other. In Periplus, I invited Ziad Rajab, my Syro-Palestinian friend, to play the oud, and sang half the Greek song, while Amélia adapted the rest into Portuguese.
In our case, the Anatolian song echoed in Galicia passing over a “bridge” in Guimarães, Portugal. This “bridge” is a simplified version of the Hellenic song (the 9-beat rhythm of the antikrystós couple dance becomes an easier 4-beat rhythm) adapted by Amélia for Outra Voz, a local choir we had a special and fruitful collaboration. I was overwhelmed with emotion, I remember, when I first listened to them singing this adaptation, which they eventually adopted as part of their repertoire. In the Galician part, guest singers join in chorus, while the Oriental and Occidental traditional themes intersect during the improvisation of the finale.
14. Traditional, version of Asia Minor & Smyrma | Adapted into Portuguese by A. Muge; arranged by M. Loukovikas
15. Traditional of Greece & Galicia | Adapted in music & lyrics by A. Muge; arranged by F. Raposo
An enthralling and poignant lament composed by Amélia, starting off in Epirus, with a double traditional improvisation by Manos Achalinotópoulos on the clarino. Moreover, Amélia created the atmosphere of a Greek tragedy, accompanied by a chorus (arranged by José Martins and Filipe Raposo), using mainly the rhythm of a solemn zeibekiko. It is amazing, indeed, that she was able to compose on this peculiar 9-beat rhythm as soon as she was familiarized with it through her exposure to Hellenic culture.
“Be you a friend or an enemy, do not announce it anywhere. | I stand here as a prisoner induced by all my inner dictates.” Ares Alexandrou used this couplet as a footnote (this is its original title) or a post scriptum in his last poetry book, paraphrasing Simonides, who composed a famous epitaph–epigram for the fallen Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae: “Oh, stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians that here | we lie obedient to their dictates.” In Periplus, Ares’ footnote is less ostinato than my original (The Gold in the Sky), but Amélia made a difference with her Erinyes-like vocalisms, extending the tragic element of the “Lament” to “The Inner Dictates”, which she adapted and recited in Portuguese.
16. Amélia Muge | Arranged by J. Martins & F. Raposo
17. Ares Alexandrou | Michales Loukovikas | Adapted into Portuguese by A. Muge; arranged by F. Raposo
I. DAS TASCAS E TAVERNAS (FADO & REBETIKO TAVERNS)
18. Um qualquer quê (Something Like That)
19. Abertura da taverna (The Entrance to the Tavern)
20. Τα μαγκάκια τής ταβέρνας (The Manges of the Tavern)
This sequence appears as a live recording of the transformation of a fado tasca into a rebetiko tavern. It’s due to our obsession by a fantastic scene in some harbour’s tavern during tempestuous weather, where the crews of stranded ships gather, each singing their own songs in turn, until eventually they all sing in chorus. We tried to revive this scene, beginning with an Amélia’s love song evocating fado. Then a necessary “bridge” followed, with a breathtaking instrumental fado and rebetiko improvisation by Ricardo Parreira (guitarra portuguesa) and Dimitris Mystakidis (bouzouki), introducing us to the rebetiko finale.
Panaiotes Tountas, who signed this rebetiko, entitled it “The Tavern Minor (Vlamákia)” (diminutive of vlames, a synonym of mangas). Indirectly but clearly, Tountas referred to the instrumental “Tekke Minor” that Iohannes Chalkiás (or Jack Gregory) recorded in the USA with a fantastic long taqsim (improvisation) in the beginning. So the tune seems to be traditional. There are several theories on the etymology of vlames and mangas. We have chosen “The Manges of the Tavern” as a title, because the word may come from the Iberian manga (sleeve; the old manges used to wear only one sleeve of their jacket), and it combines well with the traditional Portuguese song “A mangar” sung by the local manganões, who are similar to the Greek manges.
The recording session in Lisbon for “The Entrance to the Tavern” has been engraved into my memory. I had explained to Ricardo and the viola (guitar) player, Pedro Pinhal, that they should play “in waves”, so as to leave “free” space for Dimitris, who would record later in Salonica. Then, in order to “charge” them, I obliged them to listen to the taqsim of Chalkiás as a source of inspiration. The result was pure magic: one of the best fado solos I’ve ever listened to – and moreover, in dialogue with a bouzouki! Back to Salonica, Dimitris added himself perfectly on the Portuguese duet. At last, I transferred the “trio” to the… harbour’s tavern, so that we could listen to them playing all together! This is the magic called editing…
18. Amélia Muge | Arranged by F. Raposo
19. Instrumental fado & rebetiko improvisation by Ricardo Parreira & Dimitris Mystakidis | Arranged by M. Loukovikas
20. Panaiotis Tountas | Traditional rebetiko | Arranged by M. Loukovikas
J. TÃO LONGE, TÃO PERTO (SO DISTANT, SO NEAR)
21. Dolor, ai dolor (Dolor, ah, Dolor)
22. Το βλέμμα σου πού να τελειώνει; | O teu olhar onde acaba?
(How Far Can Your Eyes Reach?) / Greek version
23. O teu olhar onde acaba? | Το βλέμμα σου πού να τελειώνει;
(How Far Can Your Eyes Reach?) / Portuguese version
24. Zum zum
The first three parts of the final sequence are in fact one long song. Amélia sent me the lyrics when she tried in vain to “reactivate” me as a composer. Months had passed, until I dreamed one night that I had rearranged her song “Arena” (from her wonderful album Não sou daqui) as a rebetiko! Alas, I had to spend hours on the piano before I realized that what happens in a dream doesn’t necessarily mean it can happen in real life. Yet, my time was not wasted. Gradually, I left “Arena” behind improvising in another mood that was so appealing! Luckily, I recorded it and sent it to Amélia, who in turn adapted the lyrics to my melody, and set to music her original version (“Dolor, ah, Dolor”). On my part, I adapted her lyrics into Greek, inviting Eleni Tsaligopoulou to sing the Greek version, and Zoe Tiganouria to play the accordion, while at the end of the Portuguese version, Eleni and Amélia sang “Dolor” together! According to the Greek composer and pianist, Giorgos Andreou: “A prime moment emotionally for me (which I consider to be the climax of the CD) is the parallel interpretation of the song ‘How Far Can Your Eyes Reach?’ by Eleni Tsaligopoulou in Greek and Amélia Muge in Portuguese.”
Although composed by Amélia as a gift for my birthday, “Zum zum” is more than that. It evokes Violeta Parra’s “Run run se fué pa’l norte”, as a tribute to her work, rooted in Chilean tradition and expressing the people’s lives and problems. Zum zum in Portuguese means a kind of rumour, passing from one person to another, by word of mouth. Wake up, it says, because “All the flowers in the fields | All the birds in the sky | All the fish in the sea | Are gathering at your door | To greet you and sing for you | That there is a zum zum | Coming from the South”… It is a kind of an Iberian-Latin American song, connected with “How Far Can Your Eyes Reach?” through its melody – adapted here as an intro. The conclusion of the song in a 9-beat rhythm announces the arrival of Zum zum in Greece – something that is also validated by the… cicadas!
● Amélia and I were on Skópelos, Greece, for vacation. One day we went to a crowded beach, so we sat under a tree in the shade, next to the beach bar. A loudspeaker played on a branch over our heads. “They are a tempo”, Amélia said. As she saw me puzzled, she explained: “The cicadas sound in time, keeping the rhythm!” “No way!”, I answered. But soon I admitted she was right! In fact, it was quite easy for them to follow rhythms of pop songs. They had a little problem when the stream of sound changed into some Brazilian song but they soon adapted… I was fascinated! ● Back to Lisbon, I had a crazy idea while working on “Zum zum”. I searched for cicada sounds in the Net, but what I found were cicadas in chorus. I then searched for cigarras, cigales, cigalas, but I could still not find what I was looking for – until I searched for Greek τζιτζίκια: there was a plethora of sounds, among them of lone cicadas (what I was looking for), so that they could be “trained” (through the “magic of editing”) to “sound in chorus” with the choir, keeping the rhythms of “Zum zum”! When I finished, I invited Amélia and José Martins to listen to my specially “trained” cicada choir! How we laughed! That’s the meaning of the phrase “samples of trained Greek cicadas”, mentioned in the Periplus booklet, with everything else I contributed to our work. ● And the cicadas sounded not only in the CD: at the end of our Periplus concerts, the audience left the theatre listening to Greek τζιτζίκια!
21. Amélia Muge | Arranged by M. Loukovikas
22. Amélia Muge | Michales Loukovikas | Adapted into Greek & arranged by M. Loukovikas
23. Amélia Muge | Michales Loukovikas – & Amélia Muge (finale) | Adapted into Greek & arranged by M. Loukovikas
24. Amélia Muge | Amélia Muge – & Michales Loukovikas (intro) | Arranged by J. Martins & M. Loukovikas
PERIPLUS MUSICAL TROUPE: Amélia Muge: voice, vocals, talk, guitarra braguesa, sound-effects. | Michales Loukovikas: voice, vocals, drone, talk, accordion, finger-snaps, hand-claps, percussion, samples of voices and sounds.
Manos Achalinotopoulos: clarino (folk clarinet), voice, vocals. | Kyriakos Gouventas: violin, viola, mandolin. | Harris Lambrakis: ney (oriental flute), recorder. | José Martins: percussion, synthesizer, hand-claps, kalimba, sound-effects. | Ricardo Parreira: guitarra portuguesa. | António Quintino: double bass. | Filipe Raposo: piano, keyboards, accordion. | José Salgueiro: percussion, hand-claps.
SPECIAL GUESTS: Hélia Correia, writer: voice. | Eleni Tsaligopoulou, singer: voice, vocals, children’s songs, laughs. | Outra Voz, a Guimarães citizens’ choir: sounds of the sea, water, wind, space, vocals, children’s songs, respirations, talk.
OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Mariana Abrunheiro: vocals. | Catarina Anacleto: vocals, cello. | Irene Bakalopoulou: harp. | José Barros: vocals, mandolin, cavaquinho, guitarra braguesa. | Cristina Benedita: vocals. | José Manuel David: voice, vocals, drone, kalimba, bagpipe, horn. | Margarida Guerreiro: anathemas. | André Maia: talk. | Teresa Muge: voice, anathemas. | Dimitris Mystakidis: bouzouki, djura, rebetiko guitar. | Pedro Pinhal: fado viola (guitar). | Ziad Rajab: oud. | Eduardo Salgueiro: hand-claps. | Kostas Theodorou: percussion, double bass. | Zoe Tiganouria: accordion. | Francisco & Sofia Van Epps: children’s songs, laughs. | Rui Vaz: vocals, talk.
AUTHORS: Ares Alexandrou (1922 – 1979) | Athenaeus (2nd century BCE) | Constantine Cavafy (1863 – 1933) | Hélia Correia | Natália Correia (1923 – 1993) | Michales Loukovikas | Mesomedes (early 2nd century CE) | Amélia Muge | Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935) | Seikilos (ca 1st century CE) | Panaiotis Tountas (1886 – 1942)