The “Kalesma” of a Deep Musical Exploration

Written by Sotiris Bekas

The perception of music and its influential beauty is a primal instinct. It is an inner “kalesma” (call) for emotion. Such a call seems to exist in many facets within nature. Inspired by this stimulus, the allure of natural elements, and the way living beings express themselves around us with pure sensitivity and a range usually not easily perceived by modern humans, musician and composer Vasilis Filippou from Cyprus, in collaboration with his companion Savvas Lagou, began their systematic musical engagement. Friends from childhood, they share many things, including the perception that music is a higher concept, a quest, something particularly profound. Like a home they always return to, trying to understand it in the most internal way. With classical music studies, Vasilis Filippou on piano and Savvas Lagou on violin, found another coincidence in singing. Savvas Lagou suggested vocal study for practical exercise reasons, and the repertoire from the folk music of Greece and Cyprus was an interesting starting point.

At the same time, Vasilis Filippou was working on a project that combined the music of Madagascar with that of Cyprus. In this context, he sought additional collaborators, thus forming the initial core of the group “Kalesma” (The Call). Six voices, six musicians who based their collaboration on the cultivation of human relationships to start a partnership and develop it into a common journey. With slow but steady steps, as guarantees and conditions for musical creation. Thus, Vasilis Filippou, Savvas Lagou, Paris Parashos, Frideriki Tombazou, Katerina Parashou, and Anastasia Zakynthinou formed “Kalesma,” a six-member vocal ensemble that “engages in vocal performance and research into the musical traditions mainly of Cyprus and Greece, as well as with personal, original compositions, aiming to bridge local traditions with contemporary creation. The lyrics play an important role in the music studied by ‘Kalesma,’ with references to Cypriot folk poetry,” as stated in the group’s brief accompanying description.

“The name of the group, ‘Kalesma,’ came after many discussions with Savvas Lagou, because we wanted to give it a substance so we could all embrace it more warmly,” Vasilis Filippou tells, adding, “I have always been fascinated by birds and trees. I drew inspiration from them. Perhaps, again, all this has to do with poetry, especially that of Michalis Pasiardis. Also, I always wondered what the ‘call’ of humans is, sonically. We hear sparrows, swallows, dogs, and cats. All animals have a call, a coded way of communication, but humans simplify it and hear it in one or two sounds. Recently, experiments were conducted on bird calls, processed at a slower speed, and we found that this sound is very rich. These are melodies passed down from generation to generation. Similarly, the call of humans is crying, the ‘scream’ as Kazantzakis says.”

The musical explorations of the musicians from “Kalesma” start from the traditional music of Cyprus, Greece, particularly islands like Rhodes and Crete, extend to the music of Epirus, but also to Eastern music, Armenian and Turkish music. Their music incorporates elements of classical music, and they also collaborate with the jazz guitarist from Cyprus, Odysseas Toumazou.
One of the most remarkable Greek musicians, Martha Mavroidi, also serves as a source of inspiration, with whom they have already developed some collaboration plans. As Vasilis Filippou explains, “If I could mention only one artist and person who has greatly influenced us, I would say Martha Mavroidi. We see her as a beautiful example, as a musician and a person, who also loves singing. I admire her for the naturalness and ease with which she composes and creates her collaborations. She creates works that sound effortless to the ear, while she is active in several vocal ensembles. I am very pleased because we will collaborate with her in some concerts and maybe even do some recordings.”


The recordings and books of Georgios Averof and Savvakis Lambrou are some of their sources, while they also try to retrieve and work on pieces that have not been widely performed. “It is a challenge to take a piece from Cyprus that has not been particularly heard and combine it with another from Greece or Turkey. To see what its place was in society, and how we can incorporate it into a concert program today. We exchanged some scores and recordings with Martha Mavroidi. Also, there are songs or instrumental tunes that have accompanied us for years, like ‘Dêrsim Dört Dağ İçinde,’ a Kurdish melody that I have loved for a decade…,” says Vasilis Filippou.

Recently, the vocal ensemble from Cyprus presented their work at the annual Meeting of Young Traditional Music Bands “Tis Triantafyllias ta Fylla,” organized by the Artistic Association of Traditional Music Domna Samiou. This institution showcases and highlights musical groups that continue the tradition of Greek folk music. A continuity whose musical members have increased exponentially over the past two decades… This has its explanation, according to Vasilis Filippou: “In Cyprus, regardless of whether you grew up in a village or a city, whether it is within the environment of a school or a group of friends, the Cypriot dialect—sonically—has a deep place in people’s souls. It expresses things that are collective and carries with it, to the present day, stories and emotions from earlier times. Everyone, as long as they use their dialect, feels genuine when they do. The same goes for folk music; whether you are someone who studies it all your life or someone who ignores it, hearing it evokes something genuine. Because it creates a real reaction in the soul and mind. In an era where everything seems to be moving very fast, people seek genuine moments. I think music is an outlet for everyone, but on another level, for musicians of all kinds, folk music is a platform where you find information, like a mirror that always hides something behind it. The reason we feel traditional music is more familiar is perhaps because, as people, we need to find some truth.”

Kalesma” is preparing for music workshops and concerts at festivals in Cyprus, as well as a very interesting autumn that will include collaboration with Martha Mavroidi and possibly the release of a recording by the end of 2024 or the following year.

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