Greek Blues Scene: Q&A with Eliana Nikolopoulou - One Woman Blues Band and member of Blues Vibes

"Βlues music was like a means to an end for them. In my opinion I think that our living conditions have an impact in music. If there was no slavery, we wouldn’t have the blues. If rempetiko wasn't illegal back in days, baglamas (a local traditional instrument which is small and fits in your jacket) wouldn't be invented."

Eliana One Woman Blues Band

Eliana Nikolopoulou a.k.a. Eliana One Woman Blues Band is a talented musician acoustic blues performer. She gives live performances playing her own music and making covers. Born and raised in Patras, Greece, Eliana listened to rock and punk music mostly and participated in high-school bands, but never as a singer. Later, when she was about 16 years old she watched a documentary about the blues and this is how it all begun... Eliana's live performances started 7 years ago in local club/bars in Athens. She was a member in a number of (mainly) acoustic bands, right now she's a member of Blues Vibes - an acoustic blues trio.

"I miss the simplicity that musicians had back then. Hopes and fears for the future of the blues...It doesn't really matter what I say, cause the blues is the blues and will continue to be the blues with or without me." (Photo: Eliana and her tricone resophonic in Athens, Greece)

The one woman band, was created recently and right now is working on it's first album called ''Sweet Fellow'', while giving live performances making covers of old and loved blues tunes.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I guess for me the blues culture is like a testimony of all the suffering, torture, misery and pain that african american slaves endured for many decades. Over the years blues evolved into a music that expressed in a fully emotional way, not only hard times but also love and joy. But, why do I play the blues? I'm from Greece after all.. Well, for me music generally is not about nationality, at least not anymore. Music is a way to respond in a situation either bad or good. And as for the blues.. well, blues is a feeling right? So it doesn't matter if you play the ''correct'' notes or not (I definitely play the wrong ones) the point is to play with your soul.

What touched (emotionally) you from One-Man/Woman Band? How do you describe Eliana’s sound and songbook?

Well, the one thing I like the most in a one man/woman band is the feeling I get when I hear the sound. It is row, but still so full even though you use just the basic instruments (guitar, vocals). The other thing is that you are flexible, you can play anywhere like a full band. Now about Eliana's sound and songbook... Right now I'm working on my first album, it's called ''Sweet Fellow''. Each song tells a different story. Some stories are personal, others talk about everyday life and others have a political meaning. The sound...hmm... Well, the instruments that I use is a guitar, a slide guitar, a stomp box and occasionally a kazoo. In the album we can also hear a harmonica that a friend of mine plays, cuz I don't know how to play yet haha... and some percussion. I can't really find the words to describe my sound, I guess the first word that comes in mind is that the sound is row... Anyway the blues is about the feeling so if you're sad or mad this is how you are going to sound. But I'm still experimenting so we will see where that path goes..

How has the Blues and Rock culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The blues and rock culture has influenced me in many ways. But the one thing I'm holding on to, is that this culture speaks against the wrongs and the ugliness of this world and usually encourages people to fight back. As for the journeys.. well so far I didn't have the luxury to travel a lot so...

"Over the years blues evolved into a music that expressed in a fully emotional way, not only hard times but also love and joy. But, why do I play the blues? I'm from Greece after all..."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

The best advice is that music isn't a hobby, it's a way of living. Every meeting in our lives is important, it gives us an experience, so no I can't think of a specific meeting..

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

About 4 years ago, I gave a live performance in a small village in Peloponnesus. I went there with a friend of mine. When we arrived, we went straight to the bar for sound check. It was about 16:00. There was an old drunk man waiting us there to help us with the sound check, I think he was a plumber or something like that, but the owner said that he was an expert in sound check..hahaha!! Of course he didn't know a thing about sound so I did it on my own. About 21:00 the bar was full. All the locals where there but when they found out that I wasn't going to play greek music they were furious!! Well I started with a Johnny Cash tune, Folsom prison blues after 3 hours everybody was drunk and they were all dancing and singing along, even though they didn't know the lyrics. This story shows that, no matter the language, music always generates strong emotions to people and especially the blues, cause it is quite a soulful music.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the simplicity that musicians had back then. Hopes and fears for the future of the blues...hmm..It doesn't really matter what I say, cause the blues is the blues and will continue to be the blues with or without me.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Greece. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

The most interesting period in local blues scene? I guess I wasn't born so I can't really say. I think that blues music continues to generate devoted followers in Greece. A lot of  musicians, young and old experiment with the blues and a lot of them do a remarkable job.

"The blues and rock culture has influenced me in many ways. But the one thing I'm holding on to, is that this culture speaks against the wrongs and the ugliness of this world and usually encourages people to fight back. As for the journeys.. well so far I didn't have the luxury to travel a lot so..."

Are there any similarities between the blues and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

Yes there are similarities because they have one thing in common, they tell the same story. The people, who make them, share the same reality maybe with different shades, but still the same. And usually traditional music even if it's called blues or rempetiko speaks from the soul. But I don't know about forms, music scales and all that cause I ain't no expert..

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Everybody male or female has the right to create music. I don't really believe that it is a man's world, even though for women it's much more difficult to establish themselves in the music industry. Usually most people think that a man is more capable than a woman, but I can think of a lot of blues women that are as fascinating as blues men. Yeah.. there are difficulties sure, but you need to overcome those difficulties and focus on your music.

What is the impact of the Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

I have a different point of view about the blues and music in general. I believe that the time and the place that we live in, and by that I mean the political, economical, social and cultural conditions, determine what kind of music we create. Those conditions define the evolution of music. For instance, the blues were born because the african american slaves needed to encourage each other and fight back. Βlues music was like a means to an end for them. In my opinion I think that our living conditions have an impact in music. If there was no slavery, we wouldn’t have the blues. If rempetiko wasn't illegal back in days, baglamas (a local traditional instrument which is small and fits in your jacket) wouldn't be invented.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day..?

Well, I wouldn't waste not even a single day in the past cause there are a lot of things to do right here right now and we don't want to waste any time right?

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