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Music From Macedonia and Thrace

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MUSIC FROM MACEDONIA AND THRACE

Few places in the world can match the degree of overlap between folk and popular musics that persists in Greece. In the region of Epirus, in the northwest, the tart clarinet sound of the local traditions is instantly recognizable in most of the music on the radio. And George Dalaras, perhaps the country's biggest pop star, sings rembetika (an urban Greek folk style analogous to the blues) and laiko, which translates roughly as "music of the people." Even in the face of the mass Zorbafication of the 60s, when the tourist trade exerted a homogenizing influence on Greek music, regional idioms have retained their distinct identities. And because pop and folk have so much in common--including a large shared audience--traditional styles have never become merely ethnomusicologists' enclaves. In Macedonia, in the far north, and Thrace, in the northeast, folk musics have an especially solid foothold. This concert surveys the unique sounds of these lesser-known locales, bringing in three heavy-hitting traditional acts. The Gevgelis Ensemble, from the Macedonian town of Goumenissa, consists of brothers Christos and Giorgos Gevgelis, virtuosos of a large folk oboe called the zournas, and their younger sibling Yannis Gevgelis, who plays the daouli, a big drum slung over the shoulder much like a parade bass drum. The zournas combines Balkan, Middle Eastern, and north African double-reed traditions--in the common two-horn configuration this group uses, one lays down a nasal drone around which the other entwines a serpentine, melismatic melody, creating an effect something like a bagpipe for four hands. From Edessa, also in Macedonia, the group I Chrisodaktili ("Golden Fingers") plays a uniquely Balkan deconstruction of Ottoman and western European military brass-band music. Two trumpets carry the melody in purposefully ragged unison, their lines spiced with sour-sounding intervals; a clarinet plays along or provides a countermelody, while a saxophone, an accordion, and another marching drum punch out odd-metered rhythms. The repertoire of folksinger Chronis Aidonidis, from Karoti, Thrace, draws heavily on the area's Byzantine heritage, but the tunes might sound more familiar than the relatively rustic music of the other two groups: his five-piece backing ensemble includes a laouto, similar to an oud, and percussion that sounds like a dumbek, giving the band a strong Middle Eastern feel. Aidonidis has been an important voice for Thracian song since the 50s, and his arching melodies, reminiscent of the singing of a Greek Orthodox cantor, carry the rarefied sound of the church into that folk tradition. Saturday, April 28, 7 PM, Rubloff Auditorium, Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark; 847-729-3406.

JOHN CORBETT

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