Greek musician and writer Christos Konstantinidis talks about the Blues and his book "Blues: The Mother of Modern Music" (2020).

"Generally, Blues songs are not protest or political songs. American folk music is been related with labor movement and left-wing politics. Such music started its political impact at 30s and main subject of lyrics was close to working class needs."

Christos Konstantinidis:

The Blues Is The Roots

Greek musician and writer Christos Konstantinidis released the book "Blues: The Mother of Modern Music" (2020). Chris says: "I was born in Athens, Greece (1971). In the mid of 80s I started to play the guitar. My official studies has to do with Biomedical Engineering and the last 20 years, I’m working as a field service engineer specified mainly in cutaneous lasers. My non official, has to do with music! Almost all of my life I am obliged to make double life, splitting my time between technology and music! At times I make live appearances with various bands mainly oriented to rock and Afro-American based genres."                                          (Photo: Christos Konstantinidis)

"Started some years ago when I participated in a Blues/Jazz guitar workshop. I did a 45-page study which included music elements of Blues playing and some historical information about Afro-American culture. After years I wanted to evolve this study into a book. So, I started to write after much reading about this subject. There are plenty of books and articles about, so I had to infiltrate what to include in a 220-page book. This situation was the hardest part of writing this book. I’m focusing more on popularizing musical terms, according to the development of music technology also."

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

During the period of 80s I was a teenager who liked very much Rock, not only as music but as something which incorporates revolutionary values against all mainstream social and political establishment. In that decade, rock became itself a mainstream kind of music, almost totally in tune with all commercial rules arranged by music industry. So, this genre nothing had to do with those values assembled by 60s. Young people then wanted to transform whole society into something new, governed more by the terms of peace, justice and freedom. I was feeling that living in San Francisco of the 60s, is like heaven! In a joking way I used to say that I was born by mistake, in another place and 20 years later! This rock/psychedelic counterculture led me direct back to the Blues! The music which gave birth to the Rock! Spread of Blues music during 40s and 50s, totally absorbed by white people also, revealed all bad conditions in Black people’s life. Young non conservative white people, started to support Afro Americans and human right movement escalated. So, my social-political-musical views are very close to this background! This impact is a way of thinking for me.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Music is a very difficult kind of art! It seems easy to grab a guitar or to hit the drums, but to develop real musicality is not an easy thing! Apart this, life precedes art, so music is a depiction of life itself. Personal experience is a great source for making music. A great lesson also, is that always there is something new to learn, so I am always a student! No need to pretend that you are wise and knowing much about any subject. Always we must be as simple and humble as possible!

How started the thought of "Blues: The Mother of Modern Music"? What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Started some years ago when I participated in a Blues/Jazz guitar workshop. I did a 45-page study which included music elements of Blues playing and some historical information about Afro-American culture. After years I wanted to evolve this study into a book. So, I started to write after much reading about this subject. There are plenty of books and articles about, so I had to infiltrate what to include in a 220-page book. This situation was the hardest part of writing this book. I’m focusing more on popularizing musical terms, according to the development of music technology also.

"At first, time machine stops, at the famous crossroad, seeing Robert Johnson learning to play the guitar by the devil himself."

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

I miss most the pure and authentic sound of old bluesmen. This rude and very expressive playing of the era of M. Waters and John Lee Hooker. I am impressed so much when hearing nowadays players like Kirk Flecher and Eric Gales reproducing Blues sound of 40s and 50s. Both are excellent players totally immersed in this tradition. My fears for the future have to do more with social-political situations, than music! This style is so authentic that always will be in a prominent place of whole human music history. No need to worry about it, we must worry about social injustice, racism, fascism, and everything that is against human dignity. Now, we are in the 21th century and still there are killings like this of George Floyd!

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

There are similarities only from the point of view of the expression of human pain. Here in Greece the “marriage” of Rebetiko and Blues started as a movement during 90s. Main starting point was the similarities between both styles, in the way of life of their creators! Rebetes (1st half of 20th century) was Greek people mistreated by Greek authorities and was also expelled from established main social values. Through music was expressing their feelings of being in the “dark” side of society. This situation, for many people, is a direct comparison with Afro-American lifestyle. Is believed also, that Ipeirus mountain (North-West Greece) music related to the blues mainly because of the extensive use of pentatonic scale. In such way we are able to find similarities in many folk music genres worldwide! Pentatonic scales are widely used in folk styles because are closer to human speaking than seven note scales. Music scales are not music itself! Is only a scholar way to understand melodic and harmonic structures. Music itself is the way of playing the notes. Same notes/scales are been played in a very different way in Rebetiko for example, and in another way in Blues. However, for me the best song depicting this “marriage” is a song named “Zoula se mia varka mpika” arranged by the band of George Pilali. Sung by him in Rebetiko style accompanied in a very impressive Blues slide guitar style. I like Rebetiko music but is not a genre so radical as Blues! Is a style among many others with the same local musical “rules”. In contrary, Blues music elements (melodic/harmonic/rhythmic) are so revolutionary that whole modern music have been influenced by it!                                      (Photo: Christos Konstantinidis)

"Music is a very difficult kind of art! It seems easy to grab a guitar or to hit the drums, but to develop real musicality is not an easy thing! Apart this, life precedes art, so music is a depiction of life itself. Personal experience is a great source for making music. A great lesson also, is that always there is something new to learn, so I am always a student! No need to pretend that you are wise and knowing much about any subject. Always we must be as simple and humble as possible!"

As writer, musician, scholar: Where does your creative drive come from? How do you want it to affect people?

Pure love for the subject is the first reason! This is my main creative drive. As I’m writing in my biography info, I have a degree in engineering, not in music or musicology. I make my living not as a guitar player or as a writer. After work I’m going to my personal universe totally related with Jazz, Blues and Rock! The other reason of writing this book is that Blues, especially in my country is not so much acknowledged. Many people (even rock music listeners), treat it as a typical music genre between others and don’t realize that is the cornerstone of all contemporary music.

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

I feel that Blues scene in Greece is getting better and better through time. To be honest, here there is a great misconception about this style: many people believe that is the easiest kind of music and everyone can play it! Only three given chords in a 12-bar form and the next step is to bend some notes of pentatonic scale! This situation started to fade, and more people realize that Blues is not so easy as it seems! As any folk music has its own particular feel, which is hard to achieve especially in places far away from U.S. that people grew up listening to local music genres. Last 15 years Blues scene here is better than before. Old blues bands continue their successful career. One of them is Blues Wire, a band from North Greece. There are also some new very talented bands and one that I like so much named Bag of Nails.

"I miss most the pure and authentic sound of old bluesmen. This rude and very expressive playing of the era of M. Waters and John Lee Hooker. I am impressed so much when hearing nowadays players like Kirk Flecher and Eric Gales reproducing Blues sound of 40s and 50s." (Photo: Christos Konstantinidis)

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

Generally, Blues songs are not protest or political songs. American folk music is been related with labor movement and left-wing politics. Such music started its political impact at 30s and main subject of lyrics was close to working class needs. This American style for conservative Americans was a vehicle of communist propagation! At the other hand, Blues gave its social-political impact in an indirect way. This unique style spread to all American society and some time later to Europe. It was such a commercial boom that overtook the boundaries of Afro-American society. So, the great interest of this kind of music, revealed all lifestyle conditions of Black people. Songs with lyrics was referring so much in misery, mistreatment, and injustice. Many young white people of 60s loved very much Blues music and was eager to promote social equity.

Where would you really want to go with a time machine and what memorabilia (albums, books) would you put in?

Oh! Great question! At first, time machine stops, at the famous crossroad, seeing Robert Johnson learning to play the guitar by the devil himself. Next, a walk along a Mississippi plantation feeling all lifestyle there! A good idea is to find an old black woman and get a mojo hand! Not just as memorabilia, but for good luck also to meet there all other great bluesmen at once! After time traveling continues to Chicago of 50s at its south side, when electric Blues is under construction! Buying a Fender a Tele or Stratocaster guitar of this period is a whole fortune Nowadays! Same years maybe I will be able to see the birth of Rock ’n Roll with Marty McFly and because his time machine is off  (DeLorean), maybe I will be able to bring him back to the future! Next time point will be at 1969 Woodstock festival! For many people then, time machines was not such a great thing because of LSD! Past, present and future all at the same time with surreal experiences! These years I must buy great souvenirs, such as original edition albums like the famous Bluesbreakers Beano! For last time station I want to go in the mid of 22th century and after realizing that still humanity exists, checking all lifestyle and of course music!

(Photo: Christos Konstantinidis)

Views: 69

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2020   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service