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Music

Award-Winning Composer/Songwriter Nikos Platyrachos Discusses His Music

ATHENS – Nikos Platyrachos writes music. He has composed the score for over 30 films in Greek and European cinema and has been awarded many times for his large body of work which has been recognized internationally. He also writes music for plays, as well as works for orchestra and smaller ensembles which are performed in Greece and other European cities.

In recent years, Platyrachos has also been involved in songwriting. In his most recent albums Mavri Bogia sto Marmaro (Black Paint on Marble), Ta Astega (The Homeless), and Oneirografia (Dream Painting), he has collaborated with renowned artists such as George Dalaras, Dimitris Zervoudakis, Aphrodite Manou, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, and Psarantonis (Antonis Xylouris), among others, imparting his own musical style as a songwriter. Platyrachos spoke with The National Herald about his career in music.

Nikos Platyrachos conducting the ERT Contemporary Music Orchestra in a concert with songs by the Beatles. Photo: Courtesy of Nikos Platyrachos

TNH: What were the three most important moments of your music career and what were the biggest difficulties you encountered?

Nikos Platyrachos: An important moment was my first music for the cinema, in Munich in 1990, for the film Flight into the Night by Harry Patramanis. Another such moment was my first orchestral album released in 2000 called “September” with the Orchestra of Colors and Miltos Logiadis as conductor. And a third was “Ta Astega” in 2015, which were songs based on an idiom between ragtime and rebetiko, with George Dalaras as the lead singer. All three of these cases, a little for their agony, a little for their experimentation, contained a tightrope walk, as we would say, an initial feeling of the impossible, but I think for me, it gives me oxygen and a reason to exist, maybe in art in general. The difficulties I faced were mainly the costs of some producers – I am admittedly a bit “expensive” in my choices – and somewhat in the suffocating times, especially with the audiovisual aspects.

TNH: While you have a long career in the field of orchestral music, you have only relatively recently been involved in songwriting. Why were you late to introduce yourself to us as a songwriter?

NP: Let me tell you, at first I was a little … “comfortable” with the performing arts! I use the word for knowledge, meaning that this field, in addition to its magic and fairy tale aspects, contains a certain ease, in terms of the composition of the raw material music, since it is based on a script, a libretto, then the image, etc. This provides an emotional starting point for a composer to begin. There is no such thing in the song, apart from the lyrics, of course. There, this “background” must be created by the musician, from almost nothing. So I had a relationship with song for many years… two-way arrogance! I considered it (wrongly, of course) something very simple, but when I was trying to write, it was very difficult for me to achieve this simplicity! Let me tell you, a couple of taxi drivers also helped me, who when I told them that I was a musician, kept asking me “what songs do you write…”. So – a soul that has to come out – I made my first attempt with Oneirografia and from then on, things went like water off a duck’s back. Of course, I have to tell you that the concept of song is a completely different world from the rest of the music art, so you have to be re-baptized from the beginning.

Nikos Platyrachos, award-winning composer and songwriter, at left, has collaborated with many renowned artists, including Psarantonis (Antonis Xylouris). Photo: Courtesy of Nikos Platyrachos

TNH: In your album “The Homeless” the rebetiko element merged with the American ragtime, two types of music that evolved in completely different parts of the world. How did this so successful musical combination come about?

NP: Initially it emerged as… repulsed! Both of these genres were very popular with me from a very young age. So often, on various synthetic improvisations, I used both styles and found that they had a lot in common in music (harmonics, rhythm, etc.) and could somehow “unite” into one blend. Perhaps this musical match – or even complementarity we would call it – stems from their common sociological roots, since both come from a kind of underworld, the streets, bohemian, etc., regardless of their great geographical distance. The project came to an end, if not further fired by George Dalaras, this tireless worker in art, who, with his always searching and concerned gaze, contributed decisively to the final result, having a great role even in its creation.

Left to right: Dimitris Lentzos, Aphrodite Manou, Nikos Platyrachos, George Dalaras, Vicky Karatzoglou, Dimitris Zervoudakis, and Dimitris Kappos at the presentation of the work Mavri Bogia sto Marmaro (Black Paint on Marble). Photo: NDP Photo Agency/ Thomas Daskalakis

TNH: In the album Black Paint on Marble which musical genre is dominant?

NP: We would say mainly the laiko (popular) element, although with some admixtures from American Country music. Here I have to tell you that the lyrics were the ones that “colored” even the musical style of the whole album, containing the laiko element in a very heretical way and with today’s look, as only Dimitris Lentzos can do.

Nikos Platyrachos and the late legendary composer Mikis Theodorakis. Photo: Courtesy of Nikos Platyrachos

TNH:  What is your next artistic step?

NP: Now I’m working on the music for a documentary by Chrysostomos Krikelis and another one by Vassilis Loules, as well as a complete album in poetry by Dimitris Lentzos. At the same time, I am working on a symphonic work entitled Oi Sporoi tis Smyrnis (The Seeds of Smyrna), for orchestral ensemble, traditional soloists (POLIS Ensemble), choir, and Maria Farantouri as soloist, for concerts in the summer on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

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