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The Sunday Session welcomes Irini Konstantinidi!
OK, it’s been a while since posting my last session, but here it is, last summer’s session with Irini. The heat was hanging in the air and bright light coming at us from all directions, and yes I remember the smell of sun cream.
So let’s go back to last summer …..
It’s another blistering day in the Netherlands, the sun is still high and normally I wouldn’t choose to photograph at this time, but well, it’s a challenge. Specifically we are in Scheveningen (by the sea), and in The Hague. So before I forget – a little anecdote about this place. In the war, if a German was caught, then he would pretend he was from Holland. As a test the Dutch would ask him to pronounce Schev-enin-gen. Invariably, he wouldn’t be able to. This known as a shibboleth – read more about it here.
I meet Irini where the buses pull in, by the ice cream van. We walk down to the beach to find a cafe to talk. I like these places, bringing sand inside, feeling a little bit ‘boho’, but then I remember to be mindful of sand around my camera.
Irini is a charismatic bubbly woman from Greece; she says that from an early age her Dad diagnosed her as a musician, I laugh and tell her that I’ve never heard musical ability described this way. She studied Classical Music in Greece, then got into Jazz and worked as a teacher for several years in Athens. It had been a dream of hers to move to The Netherlands and study a Master in Jazz Vocals … and this year, before her fortieth birthday, she did it! We talk about learning new things, and also learning new things about ourselves. “Our brains are like sponges”. She says.
She met Avishai Darash here, a fellow musician and they talked about working together quite loosely at first. But then as they arranged to rehearse together, Avi asked her to work on his project: Nomadic Treasures and soon a recording was made. Irini says she is usually a planner, but learned that she can work to a tight schedule, telling me that recently, she wrote lyrics the night before a recording!
Irini is going to Athens for the summer where she will relax with her friends and family, to be calm and swim. “A perfect time” I say. “Yes, timing”, Irini replies and goes on to tell me the importance of time in her life. She thinks that in general, time doesn’t matter and is relative to each person – “some people may say they feel old at thirty, others are like children at seventy”.
“Timing is more important than time”. Irini concludes.
We talk about her own music, along with writing lyrics for the songs she performs. She is writing lyrics for Jazz standards, possibly giving a new voice and narrative to these tunes.
Back in Greece, she remembers her life was always about music. At the age of four she was having piano lessons; her teachers saying that “she has the ears of an elephant”! In her twenties she went to the Conservatory there, and became a professional Jazz singer. She talks about the scene in Greece, citing it as quite traditional. But she believes Jazz is always changing and put herself firmly on the scene with an acclaimed album in 2014 entitled Horizon.
We talk about life as a creative, and how to keep moving. Irini says it’s important to find ways to relight the fire, to look for new stimuli. And to respond positively to scenarios; accepting that as an artist you sometimes have to perform material that you wouldn’t choose for yourself. Irini is flexible and able to bounce back. This is apparent in the way she describes her understanding of Jazz. To her every voice has a colour. I ask her about performing Jazz and say that to me, it’s a mystery how a band can change seamlessly throughout a melody, as if of one mind. Irini explains, “it’s about re-harmonising, changing the harmony, melody gets a new dimension, that’s why we don’t get bored.”
I ask Irini where she sees her talent. In the writing of the music? Or does she see it in the moment – on stage, cultivating the connection between audience and performer?
“How’s your balance with this”?
Irini ponders …
I expand “In terms of identity I see a pianist expressing himself perhaps more in the writing of the music, rather than in the performance, but for a vocalist, is it different?”
Irini replies, “it’s like writing for a movie. The music is the canvas and I lay my lyrics on top”
She adds that since she became more interested in storytelling, her attention has been drawn closer to the lyrics. She focuses very closely on the phrasing and feels that it has made her a better musician.
I ask Irini about how it feels to be in a band, and relating my experience as a photographer. “If you lose a thread whilst performing, how do you get it back, how do you support each other in the band? If someone notices you are off, how do the others bring you back in? How does it work? It’s exciting. I would love to be a musician. I’m not musical, but I’m a big music fan”
Irini replies “Well first of all it’s about the chemistry. I’ve been trying a lot of musical combinations. I have to feel good with my bandmates otherwise I’m not going to feel free to express myself. The hardest procedure is to find the musicians that … oh you match…the right blend. And then all the other elements will just come; the trust, the interplay, the conversation. We are bound and will find things in common. We are professional musicians and all have something. When this is working, oh…. then it’s bliss. Everything comes and everything’s good. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes happen. Mistakes don’t matter, because if there is trust then it’s not obvious and won’t be noticed.”
Irini has been very busy these last twelve months as a vocalist and lyricist of Nomadic Treasures project, she sings in the group’s debut album CD that was recorded in January 2018 and was released by the Italian label A.MA records in April 2018. She is currently working on her personal project, writing and performing her own original songs.
Read more about Irini here.