Arts & culture
Posted on: Nov 20, 2015

Savina Yannatou talks about her music and sings in BIMHUIS Amsterdam


This post is also available in Greek

The Greek soprano Savina Yannatou and her band Primavera en Salonico (ECM Records) balance between traditional Mediterranean music and avant-garde.

”Ghostly beautiful” (Volkskrant).

The Greek singer Savina Yannatou has mastered many vocal techniques from all over the world. Besides her songs from Mediterranean countries and the Middle East, she experiments with throat singing and dissonance.

With her ​​band Primavera en Salonico she gives a unique twist on traditional music, from Greek to Slavic Rembetika singing and Sephardic Jewish songs. Their most recent album Songs of Thessaloniki (ECM Records) is a tribute to the rich and complex history of their hometown.

“Haunting beautiful ... Strange how the song cultures of Balkans to the Middle East, Spain and even Ireland organically coalesce into this universal, deeply meditative music splendor” (Volkskrant).

Who is Savina Yannatou and when she discovered she wanted to devote her life to music?

I liked music and singing since I was a child.I was participating in a children's choir and I was happy to sing together with other people, creating the harmonies. This is how I came close to music. But to devote my life,no, this never was a conscious choice. It is not a devotion. It is need. Music, singing, is a way to express myself, to communicate with people, to discover also myself.

In which languages do you sing your songs?

I sing the songs in their language and dialects. In sicilian, in sardinian, in grigo (greek dialect of the south of Italy), in corsican, albanian, spanish, arabic, bulgarian, greek, turkish, ladino and others. I sing mostly songs from the mediterranean and the balkans.

How you can manage to keep together all these cultures

Through a common arrangement of the songs different cultures can coexist in one project. Kostas Vomvolos is the arranger of the songs all these years, but during the rehearsals there are also ideas from the group "primavera en salonico" that transform the pieces.

Who are Primavera en Salonico and how your collaboration came up?

The group "Primavera en Salonico" was created after the publishing of the cd "Primavera en Salonico" with sephardic songs of Thessaloniki. We first met all together for the recording of this project. The idea to create a group appeared when we started the concerts and it was necessary to show who we are and keep the same sound. It was an idea of Kostas Vomvolos, and this name was preferred because it is understandable in many languages.

The musicians play nay, quanun, accordion, duble-base, percussion, ud, guitar and violin. Instruments from the east and the west, played in a classical or in a traditional way. With "primavera" we like to improvise free, and that also makes our collaboration more creative through the years.

Your new album is called "Songs of Thessaloniki". What inspired you to create this album?

We were asked in 2012 to do a concert about the 100 years of the liberation of thessaloniki from the Ottoman empire. There were many concerts in the city for this occasion. So we decided to search about songs about the city in different languages, the languages of the people who were living in Thessaloniki during the ottoman empire and until the beginning of the 20th century.

You have visited Netherlands before for concerts. How is the audience?

It is a warm audience. I like being there. I have collaborated with musicians from Netherlands and I have friends who live or have studied there. I also like the canals. I like these small houses like in fairy tales and I try usually to stay one more day just to walk around the cities.

Who writes and composes the songs? Is it you or it is a team effort?

The songs usually are traditional, and if sometimes they are not, they look like traditional. Through the arrangements they are changed. So our creative work has to do with the arrangements and improvisations and not with composing.

What was the most powerful moment in your career?

There were different powerful moments..Surely it was the beginning of my career in the Radio program 3, where I sung songs of L. Platonos and met M. Hadgidakis. Later my participation in the contemporary opera-piece "Erotokritos" of N. Mamangakis, and when I started improvising, my participation in "Ort" studio of P.Kowald in Wuppertal and meeting all these artists of different places of the world.

Has the music changed the last 5 years?

If the question has to do with the economical crisis, I think no. Or I haven't noticed a change the last 5 years. The last 20 years in Greece, yes. Some "kinds" of songs have disappeared. The tradition is stronger than before.

You could stay wherever you want,why you chose to return back to Greece every time?

My family is in Greece,in Athens.This is why I live in this city.

See the event and get you tickets at: BIMHUIS


Designer, marketer & a social media karate kid (No 4). When she grows up, she wants to feed the world with Greek food & Frappe. Admires the yellow angry bird because it strikes its targets with power and precision.