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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Athena Andreadis
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Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!

Musician: Athena Andreadis

Location: London

Instruments: Voice / Composer

Music: Greek / World Fusion

Listen  Listen (2'59) to 'Smyrneiko Minore' from the album, Athena, available via

'When I'm writing music I can almost smell the earth and the sea of Greece'

Athena Andreadis will be performing on the World on your Street stage at WOMAD 2005

Athena performed at the Union Chapel on 15 February 2004 (Europe In Union, organised by fRoots magazine in association with BBC Radio 3). You can listen to the concert here. For more information on Athena see:

How I came to this music:

My mother had the most incredible voice so I learned orally from her. She used to sing me to sleep with lullabies and she had a huge repertoire of traditional songs - songs of the immigrants who ended up on the mainland after the catastrophe of Asia Minor and the exchange of population from the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Those songs were full of the pain of the displaced Greek and I connected with that. But there was also lots more music in our house - classical, opera, ballet, musicals from London, Pink Floyd, Keith Jarrett and the music of Manos Hadjidakis, a seminal Greek composer, at the forefront of modern Greek culture in the 60's and 70's.

Through out my teens I was always singing, making up vocal exercises to amuse myself. But typical of a Greek household, despite my musical inclination, my father wanted me to study commerce so I could take over the family business. Being the eldest, I felt responsible so I did a business degree which brought me to England 8 years ago. Luckily during my training, I spent 6 months on a work placement in New York where I signed up for evening singing classes at the Julliard School of Music. My teacher there really believed in me and urged me to study music formally. That's how I ended up taking a post-graduate degree at Trinity College of Music in London. It was really tough but I persevered because I wanted to gain full fluency to sight read and harmonize with ease. It's been a huge help to my own writing and arranging. After a couple of years of dabbling in all kinds of ensembles, I met the guys from the group and I just knew there was something magical between us, a musical chemistry that could work.

Athena Andreadis and her band Our music's grounded in Greece but the central sound is infused with other cultures and musical styles, given that we've a Norweigan guitarist, an English bass player, an Iranian daf percussionist (a frame drum with chains on the back) as well as two fellow-Greeks, a cellist and a pontiaki lyra player. The lyra is a bottle-necked 3-stringed instrument. Ours is a place where different cultures can meet and discuss on an international level.

The biggest inspiration for me comes from my love for Greece, my nostalgia for the landscapes, the mountains, the light which is beautiful and the sea which is always in my heart. When I'm writing my music I can almost smell the earth and the sea of Greece. And the other thing that inspires me is when I meet people like the guys in my group, musicians who've got something to say and want to share it. Once we start to play, it like we're communicating a universal mystery.

Where I play:

Ever since I was a child I've always sung, probably because of listening to my mother. My sister also sings and plays guitar so whenever there's a family gathering we'll end up singing. I also like to sing for my friends when they join me for a meal. We'll unwind after dinner with music and song. It's great fun.

Music is so important to me that I've got to play it for myself, even when I'm alone, so if I'm happy, sad or inspired, I'll go to my room and sing and play the piano.

Professionally, I've played in lots of different bands, from electronic dance and jazz outfits to classical opera. Recently I performed at St Martin-in-the-Fields. With the Athena band, we've got an array of gigs lined up mainly in London. We'll be playing at Catch 22 in the Spitz, at the Kemi Bar in Momo's and at 'Watch This Space Festival' outside the South Bank Centre. In time we hope to perform on a wider world music festival including Womex, London's Union Chapel and hopefully The Purcell Rooms.

A favourite song:

'Smyrneiko Minore' is a song that I've loved for years. It's was originally sung by the renowned traditional singer, Marika Papiga. I've featured my own arrangement on our album. It's an amanes or lament from Smyrneiko, popular among those Greeks who had to migrate to the mainland of the former Ottoman Empire. It combines the emigrants' pain and nostalgia as well as evoking a spiritual feeling. It's based on the drone like much of Greek music and it's modal so when the drone changes, you go to another scale.

I listened to the original recording as well as newer versions and decided to make my version different. I start the song with a drone from the cello, lyra and bass while I sample my voice doing a harmonic acting also as a drone. Then I come in singing the melody. After the first verse, the percussion joins and the scale changes. You can almost hear the tears of the dislocated people.

The lyrics are archetypal Greek traditional and they go like this:

'If you love me and it's a dream,
May I never wake up
In the sweet dawn
God let's me take my soul away.

Check out Athena's website at:

Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

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