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March 6, 2006

Interview With Jazz Guitarist Andreas Georgiou

Written by
cindy mcleod


In 2002 I had the blessings of traveling to Cyprus, and was lovingly introduced to the culture, music, heritage, and warmth of its people. I learned quickly who the national jazz heroes were, and through the years have been fortunate to get to know Andreas Georgiou, one of the great jazz guitar masters of that fair nation.

Guitarist/composer Andreas Georgiou has a long and impressive career as a jazz artist, performing throughout Europe, Russia and Argentina, and releasing a growing list of recording credits. His latest, ‘Famagusta’ (Libra Records / 2005), pays homage to his Cypriot roots with nine tracks of traditional Cypriot music arranged and performed in a contemporary jazz release by the artist in quartet.

Andreas Georgiou
‘Famagusta’ / Libra Records / 2005

Typical of Georgiou, the work is inspired and profound, in this case expressing his love for and memories of his beloved homeland. A refugee of the northern city of Famagusta, his world was turned upside down at the age of seventeen when the Turks invaded and drove the Cypriots out. It has taken Andreas Georgiou 31 years to speak the music and memories in his heart, as he has now done eloquently and passionately with his new CD release named for his hometown, ‘Famagusta’.

Studying classical guitar and piano as a child of ten and going on to develop an extensive knowledge of the idiom, his interests in African and classical Indian music drew him to master a multitude of traditional instruments, including sitar, shahnay, tambura, African sanza, Cretian mandura, Cypriot pithkiayli, and percussion.

His musical interests lead him to designing guitars that could evoke the sound he heard within. The music itself guided him, his polyrhythmic approach to guitar leading him to create a line of acoustic guitars with 13,14,15,16 and 19 strings, and his research in non-tempered scales inspiring the design of an electric fretless guitar, which creates an “ethereal” quality through the superimposition of electromagnetic fields.

His compositional and performance talents continue to attract a world-class ensemble of musicians whenever he performs or heads for the studio. Recently appearing in concert at Athen’s Megaron Concert Hall, his quartet featured Paul McCandless (oboe, soprano sax), Eberhard Weber (5-string acoustic bass), Mark Walker (drums, percussion), with Georgiou on his15 and16-string acoustic, fretless electric, classical and electric guitars.

The release of ‘Famagusta’ brings Georgiou’s discography to eight releases, several of them on the Libra Records Label. His other composition credits include commissions for Greek National radio, theatrical and dance performances. Over the last 25 years his solo career has seen him touring throughout Europe, Russia and Argentina, and he has recorded and performed with many jazz luminaries including percussionist Airto Moreira, drummer Reto Weber, pianist Reiner Bruninghaus, and vocalist Savina Yiannatou. Georgiou also leads and performs with a variety of jazz and world music ensembles, including “Sansa Quartet”,”East-West Wind”, “Szabo Sandor Duo”, “Hermae”, “Embryo”, “Aeora”, “Trio Kutsukuta”, “Trias”, and his popular “Andreas Georgiou Ethnic Jazz Quintet”.

He has been teaching Jazz Improvisation and Harmony at the Municipal Conservatory of Patras, Greece, since 1989.

Andreas Georgiou and Airto Moreira


Andreas has kindly allowed me to interview him through the grace of email, the following are his thoughtful responses to my questions, revealing some of the nature of this esteemed jazz master.

When did you first become inspired to play?

Listening and dancing to traditional music in Cyprus from the age of 4, music played on violin, lute and bendir and of course vocal improvisations on spontaneous poems and then two musicians appeared in the neighbourhood, a Cuban drummer and a Cypriot sax and accordion player, rehearsing nearly every day their program for the only cabaret in town. Every Sunday a big brass band was playing classical tunes in the municipal garden and my eldest sisters used to play the accordion and sing classical music in the municipal choir of Famagusta… I wanted to play an instrument but I could not decide which one!

Why did you choose guitar?

Guitar I felt was very close to me …the sound…the way it was played…the relationship of the instrument with my body… at the age of 10.

Who were your inspirations?

My classical guitar teacher Michael Michaeloudis was a great inspiration to me not only because of his virtuosity but also for the whole “atmosphere”, spirit, and ethos of his teaching and musical approach. And then around 15, this new guy Jimmy from South Africa appears and he taught me the blues. Then my ears came to know Jimmy Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Alvin Lee, Beethoven, Johan Sebastian Bach, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Ravi Shankar, Barrios, Stravinsky, Coltrane, Sun Ra Arkestra, Debussy, Bella Bartok,
Miles Davis, Subramaniam, McCoy Tyner, Xenakis, Lakshmi Shankar, George Adams,
Mozart, Scriabin, Dizzy Gillespie, Irakere, Joe Pass, Jobim, Duke Ellington, Mingus, Berg and Webern, traditional, Byzantyne, Balkans, Africans, India…

When and why did you move from Cyprus?

I left Cyprus in 1978, as a refugee after experiencing the war of 1974 and losing all my property (my precious hand made classical guitar also). I had to choose between Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Athens. Amsterdam was nice for a free life situation, drugs, women etc., but no balance! Berlin at that time was too dark…unfriendly…I could still feel the Nazis around! Paris… without speaking French…with the right accent too… you die on the street!

Why did you choose Greece as your base of operations?

Athens… I could begin with only 30 EUROS in my pocket (that was my property when the ship reached Pereaus, plus a single bed, a chair and table, my Gibson and a cheap classical guitar). My sister already worked and lived in Athens with her family so she helped me finding a job to be able to pay my studies etc.

When and how did you get involved with Libra Records?

I already had 4 albums produced before LIBRA showed interest in my music in 1998. My music was “coloured” NOT COMMERCIAL so Libra saw this as a challenge promoting and producing not commercial artists. BUT Alkis Vafias(the owner) always liked to remind us that he spends all these money without getting back his expenses. Of course on the other hand he does nothing for promotion and right distribution! Nevertheless I am grateful to Libra because without their financial help, my latest 3 albums would not have been materialized!!

Do you have plans to record again in the near future?
I have a lot of music ready to be recorded but I always wait for the right moment, the right musicians, the right opportunity…

Do you handle your own business?
I never had a manager (although I always needed one!). For some reason all my
Concert invitations come from strangers who happen to listen to my music, or friends who respect me and happen to know someone in the scene…

What are your inspirations in composition?
Inspiration is something which comes from” inside” and from “outside” at the same time. Spirit and Matter fuse under the supreme power of Love! Creation and Destruction… Nature… Sunshine… Light!

Why did you choose the style of music you perform/record?
The style of music I play, improvise, and compose was not chosen. It is myself transforming itself into another state or dimension of expression. It can be “esoteric” or “exoteric”.

How long have you been teaching, and what is the most important thing for your students to learn?

I’ve been teaching for 20 years. The most important thing for my students to learn is self-reliance through music. Every performance has a different “colour”, “structure”, and “appearance”, a beautiful living organism. Each artist is another world to communicate with… My aim is always to bring out his “most beautiful musical self”.
I could write a book answering this very complex question! I would like to state only this; It is impossible to experience the essence of what is called MUSIC without spiritual development and spiritual evolution of the so called musician!!!

I read an article about you that mentions your spiritual practices, would you like to comment on that?

Philosophy…. The female nature in all its aspects and beauty… has been always an inspiration and part of my life. Women…so erotic but still so mysterious… M U S I C!

For more information visit www.libramusic.gr

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