Kyratzides – Album Review

Written by Sotiris Bekas

The Kyratzides (or Kiratzides), these Vlach nomadic groups quietly but relentlessly marked a large part of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period in the Balkans. Carriers of material goods and folk culture, mountainous, tough, yet honorable people, left their mark from the mountains of Pindos to the north of Romania, in Wallachia and Transylvania.

Their name has been appropriated by Achilles Hachamis (singer), Dimitris Brendas (clarinet), Nikos Skafidas (violin), Nikolas Angelopoulos (lute), Alexis Nonis (percussion), who have long been known to a wide audience as the “Kyratzides” band, with a very successful presence in concerts and festivals. Now, the time has come for their debut album, where the repertoire they have mainly supported with consistency is captured, and historically connected to their predecessors, the Vlachs, Kyratzides. The album with the same title (“Kyratzides”) is precisely a serenade to the songs that dominate the mountainous region of Pindos. Starting with “Skaros” and “Kato sta Dasia Platania”, the Kyratzides introduce us to their approach to classical motifs and melodies of the region, such as “Daliana“, “Karapataki“, “Deli Papa“, “Vatous ki Agathia“, “Rousa Papadia“, “Karagouna” (of course), the Vlachophone “Ma di ku nika” culminating in the Kyratzidiko dance, just as it happens in local festivities upon their completion.

Like the Kyratzides in their time, we feel that we are transmitting the sound as it used to be, not the individual, but the collective sound of the mainland bands. We are interested and we search for how they used to play the music back then, and we try to bring to today, tunes and pieces that are fading away. We are constantly searching and willing to propose. In this sense, we are carriers because we are trying to convey this music and culture,” says Dimitris Brendas (clarinet) on, adding that “Even the older great musicians had 20-30 pieces as reference points and on their journeys, they enriched the repertoire. So do we have old recordings that we consider aesthetically very good, and we try to approach this way of playing, without copying it in a sterile way. That’s why recordings are very important. Fortunately, we still have many of the great musicians of this music close to us, such as Petroloukas Chalkias, Grigoris Kapsalis, Napoleon Damos, Christodoulos Zoubas, etc. Just listening to their stories, one can learn a lot. Thus, information is conveyed directly.

On their album, the Kyratzides indeed present material influenced by earlier recordings, in terms of approach, which, however, is very well studied. This is evident. There is -rightly- also a reference to songs of Epirus, which are popular in the mountainous Thessaly, something quite normal, as the two regions have shared a social presence in Pindos for hundreds of years. And cultural borrowings between their communities are numerous. However, the fact that the Kyratzides rely on earlier recordings or musicians as material for inspiration and study does not mean that they lack their own character. They are after all very good musicians, each of them individually, and the level of performance in the recording is excellent.

One should pay special attention to “Daliana“, “Karagouna“, “Ma di ku nika“, and “Kyratzidiko“.

Finally, although the album is structured for a live performance of the material, it does not detract at all from the listening experience of the overall result.

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