The beautiful and evocative music of Asia Minor took the audience at the Sydney Opera House on an historic, emotional journey in two performances recently, showcasing the melodies and rhythms of its rich, ancient cultures.
The band members say that the performances were “born out of mutual love and recognition of common heritage and the acknowledgement that music has no borders.”
The concert, given at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room, was the first time that musicians of Turkish, Greek and Kurdish heritage have performed together at one of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks of the world.
Although the performance came together very quickly, with little time for preparation, Georgette Giatis, one of the lead singers of the group, told The Greek Herald that she and Turkish singer Ayșe Göknur Shanal have been good friends for quite some time.
“One night I was performing at Koutouki, the Sydney restaurant my husband Panayioti (one of the other musicians in the group) and I own, and there was a group of Turkish people eating. So I decided to sing in Turkish for them,” Georgette recalls.
“Ayșe was part of the group and she got up and started singing with me,” she says. “And we’ve been friends ever since.”
Their close friendship led to the formation of the “Songs Without Borders” concert. Although it had been cancelled earlier this year due to Covid-19 concerns, the Opera House contacted the group again recently to see if they still wanted the concert to happen.
Georgette explains “We received a call from the Sydney Opera House and they said, ‘we’re choosing a few events to go ahead and you’re one of them’.
“So we’ve only had about six weeks to get all the musicians together and rehearse,” she adds. “It’s been exhausting.”
The audience at the concert, representing people of many different backgrounds, drank in the enchanting and traditional music performed in both Greek and Turkish.
Second performance added due to demand
There was such high demand for the concert that the first concert was sold out and the Sydney Opera House had to add a second performance.
The night was an historic one, as the Greek-Turkish fusion concert was attended by a number of dignitaries, including the Greek and Turkish Consul-Generals, Christos Karras and Ali Sevim; the High Commissioner of Cyprus, Martha Mavromatis; the Consul-General of Russia, Igor Arzhaev; the Deputy Consul-General of Turkey Dündar Evliyaoğlu; the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia, Makarios, and the Imam of the Gallipoli Mosque, Bilal Aksoy.
The band features lead singers Ayșe Göknur Shanal and Georgia Giatis Michael Platyrrahos on the Cretan lyre and lute, Deniz Şimşek on Bağlama, Panayioti Kalandranis on guitar and Kurdish musician Adem Yılmaz on percussion.
The audience members appeared spellbound to hear the Turkish bağlama playing alongside the Cretan lyra in a seamless performance.