Antonis Antoniou from Cyprus releases his first solo album – on Ajabu! Records on April 2nd – and it’s a percussive and politically-charged set of compositions that takes Cypriot folk music to new levels. The member of Monsieur Doumani and Trio Tekke brings together traditional instruments, synths, guitar and iron barrels erected by the government during lockdown. Essential stuff for those into Xylourius White – the musical collaboration from 2013, involving Greek singer and laouto player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White
‘Kkismettin’ means fate or destiny and is used by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the two largest communities inhabiting the island of Cyprus. In this deeply political conceptual album, Antoniou attempts to craft a portrait of his divided home-town Nicosia – “Many black pages appear in the island’s turbulent history including the current division and continuous political confrontation. For peace warriors struggling for reunification, this painful situation cannot be accepted as the island’s destiny. The course of Kkismettin can be manipulated by the people and brought to a fresh beginning with new foundations. The re-written kkismettin will be filled with laughter rather than pain, with hugs rather than hostility, with bridges and rolling barrels rather than checkpoints and walls.”
Antoniou is a founder and driving force behind the award-winning bands Monsieur Doumani and Trio Tekke. In his native Greek-Cypriot tongue, Antoniou blends together soundscapes and textures, from classical music to jazz, rock, traditional, experimental, sound art. “The lute’s middle-eastern melodies (one of Cyprus’ main traditional instruments) resonate with analogue synthesiser glides and edgy guitar riffs, pushing the boundaries and forming a distinct contemporary musical mosaic,” the label adds. “The checkpoint barrels of the divided city of Nicosia literally become musical instruments, providing the rhythmic bedrock and creating a rusty/grimy quality.”
“The album was created during the unprecedented lock-down/confinement period that was enforced in Cyprus, as a measure to tackle Covid19. During the confinement period, people felt suffocated behind closed doors. They were reminded of the limitations to their freedom of movement and to other fundamental freedoms in this divided country, where streets have been forcibly interrupted by rows of concrete-filled barrels, placed there by the ghosts of the past. These toxic barrels represent political agendas but they also reflect the effects of blind nationalism, which does not allow us to enjoy the beauty of this island. Viewed on a more symbolic level, these rows of barrels, could be seen as material expressions of alienation between people, chasms and corruption in society.”
This is really engrossing music and is a much-needed listen in response to the experiences of lockdown across the world.