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"I find only wisdom in traditions of music"

02 January 2011 / 21:01:21  GRReporter
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Motel Selenik is a colourful band of 17 young people who play modern folk music from the Balkans, Spain, Turkey, Serbia. The members of the orchestra have music or polytechnic education and almost all of them play at fairs and weddings across the Balkan countries in order to earn some money. The band was formed two years ago when the friends-musicians decided to make a band for composed music and began rehearsals. Some live in Thessaloniki, while the vocalists live outside the city – Elena lives in Spain, Matina lives on the island of Rhodes, and Christos lives in Soufli. They agree on the Internet which songs to make and gather with the singers a week before the concert to learn the new songs. All Motel Selenik members have their nicknames and functions at the motel. Kostas Poulianakis is one of the older generation, as he himself says and one of the four band members who played together for ten years. We met with him on the occasion of their concert in Athens to tell us about the group and about the tradition - the good combinations of musical instruments they do not follow in their group but on the contrary - they even mix drum with uti. And the unexpected result is a special combination of sounds that takes the audience on a magical journey through the rhythms of the Balkans and the East.

Tell me about the group first – how did you get together and decided to play music, which we listen to at fairs and weddings in its raw, in clubs or concerts?

We who are the older generation of the band got acquainted and started playing together ten years ago. We met at a concert of the Photographic Club at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki - four people from the Polytechnic department. The music we play is not folk one. We could say it is a modern vision of folk music as there are folk influences from the Balkans, Turkey, Spain, from anywhere. We play remixes of old songs, but we have our songs – we have songs from Arab countries, from Andalusia, from Serbia, Turkey. A song should appeal to all of us to make it but we have common tastes in music. We are not a group that will decide that we need a particular instrument and will look for someone who play this particular instrument. We are a large company that wanted to make this band and we just made it. It's nice that we are a company. But we all exist in great balance - there are four wind instruments – wooden flute, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, we also have cello, guitar, violin and uti, we have drums – rek, bendir, goblet drums, and drums, three singers and two dancers. But the dancers are not in the band permanently.

All people listened to electronic music in Thessaloniki ten years ago. Even you toured as a DJ but something happened suddenly and many young people turned to folk music, to folk instruments and you started playing and spending endless hours in rehearsals. How did it all happen?

I went to Spain for a few months then where I heard the djembe and decided that I want to learn to play percussion instruments. I returned to Greece and instead of learning to play djembe I began to play goblet drums. The four of us are alike - we started from the polytechnic department and became musicians. However, Panagiotis (plays uti) and Alexander (plays drums) are still active in engineering. The four of us (Kostas, Alexandros, Panagiotis and Stathis) from the older generation met the others who are younger than us at the University of Macedonia, where there is specialization in music. At one point, Stathis and Alexandros began to attend some music lessons at the university because they are open to all and got acquainted with the other boys. So, we all met. I still play different instruments but it seems that I do the drums better than the others.

What did you do before getting down to the music and decide that this is your calling?

Stathis was a good basketball player, then he became a good climber and then - a very good musician. But he was always good at women. He is graduated engineer but engaged with music. Now he is drummer, but plays other percussion instruments. At the same time he is attending flamenco lessons and learning Bulgarian language. He travels very often across the Balkan countries and plays at various festivals. Panagiotis started playing uti ten years ago and never left it and we are friends ever since we all met. After graduating from the University of Thessaloniki and taking my engineering diploma I went to Crete as I'm from there. But one day my friends called me and told me they had made a band and I was in it. They told me that they started rehearsals. It was a little strange because I do not live in Thessaloniki but Elena also travels all the way from Spain to come to the concerts. Matina comes from the island of Rhodes. It's funny because we were searching the group name for a long time. We liked ‘Selenik’ first (as they say in their site "We hope this name means Thessaloniki in a local dialect, but the truth is that they liked it because it sounds like a melody - editor's note). Then we came up to ‘motel’. We all lived in Thessaloniki, but no one was born there, so that Thessaloniki is where we are guests - something like a motel. Alexandros is also a drummer and he is also going to play at fairs, weddings, festivals, celebrations and thus supports himself. Except for me because they all play at fairs and now I teach percussion folk musical instruments and rhythm at the University of Macedonia.

How did it happen to teach music at the university? It sounds like a dream that has come true to you - to play and be able at the same time to give your knowledge to people who are really keen on dealing with music...

Tags: MusicMotel SelenikFolkloreFolk musicFairsInstrumentsGoblet drumsConcertsWeddingsGroupBandOrchestra
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