Αuthor and Μusicologist Christopher King Talks to TNH about the Music of Epirus

Lament from Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music by Christopher C. King. Photo: Amazon

NEW YORK – Lament From Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Folk Music by Christopher King was published in May 2018. The author and musicologist spoke with The National Herald about the book, his love of the music of Epirus, and his upcoming work.

Over the last seven years, King has been researching Greek folk music with particular emphasis on the music of Epirus. When asked about the writing process, he told TNH that Lament from Epirus took about two and a half years of drafting and travel plus the prior years of research. About his fascination with Epirus and its music, he said he has been visiting three times a year around panegyri time, in November, and the spring, spending about 6-8 months there, adding that he felt like he was back home from his first trip.

King so loves the region, and Zagori in particular, he told TNH that he plans to move there permanently, noting that it is not the “typical Greece,” and is a “completely different experience” than other regions of the country. The mountains and dramatic landscapes, the music, and the people have made a powerful impression on King and many lucky enough to visit. He noted the purity, purpose, and meaning of the music and how each village has its own particular song or songs making it a unique, living music tradition.

When asked about upcoming projects, King told TNH that he is currently working on a book on murder ballads as a “reservoir of memory,” entitled Dead Wax: Music, Memory and Murder, adding that one chapter is on the famous Greek song H Kakourga Pethera.

King also made a recent proposal to the municipality of Zagori in a letter to Mayor Vassilios Spyrou to create and operate an Epirotic Music Archive in Kato Pedina, housed in a building donated by Kostas Fotetsiou to the municipality. He intends to include, among other things, his unique collection of 78 rpm records, almost all the recordings of Epirotic demotic (folk) songs he holds today.

In his letter to the mayor, he noted, “There are museums of Greek demotic and laika music in Athens, as well as archives of the Epirotic culture in Ioannina. However, there is no archive of Epirotic music in Greece. Today, the world’s most complete archive of Epirotic music I have in mind, is in a small studio located in Faber, Virginia, at my home in the United States. I propose to transfer this material from the U.S. to Epirus and to create a powerful and attractive archive of this cultural element.”

He also lists specific collections he intends to make available for the proposed archive. These are:

– Epirus demotic songs in 78 rpm records, representing the world’s largest, most complete, and highest quality collection, with only 5-6 records missing out of all those ever recorded by Epirus musicians on 78 rpm records.

– Demotic songs of Greece, Albania and Turkey on 78 rpm.

– Epirus, Greek, Albanian and Turkish folk songs on 33 rpm.

– His own professional recordings made in Epirus.

– Historically important musical instruments from Epirus and other regions of Greece.

– Important postcards from Epirus and Southern Albania.

– Collection of books and manuscripts relating to Epirus and especially Epirus music in Greek and English.

He explains that the Epirotic Music Archive will not be a museum. Visitors will be able to listen to music performed over a hundred years ago and then, listen to the same piece of music recorded recently, and experience what remains the same and what has changed. Students, musicians, scientists, and researchers will be able to utilize the archive as well.

The musicologist describes in detail how the Archive will operate, what his own contribution to it will be, its management, and how it will generate revenue.

King proposed operating in the concession building, a listening room, as well as a library with the collection of books and texts on the music of Epirus in five different languages.

A small shop with books, CDs, LPs, and DVDs of historical and modern Epirotic music for sale was also proposed. “Linking this archive to cultural tourism is, in my opinion, indispensable. This will also generate revenue to ensure the sustainability of the Archive,” King wrote in his letter-proposal.

The ANA-MPA reported that at the last meeting of the City Council, when the mayor first informed them of the proposal, the response was very positive and will be pursued and implemented after considering some issues regarding the use of the building in Kato Pedina.

Lament From Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Folk Music by Christopher King is available online.