The co-hosts of Ouzo Talk, Greek-Australians Nick Athanassiou and Tom Skolarikis. Photo: Courtesy of Ouzo Talk
SYDNEY – Greek-Australians Nick Athanassiou and Tom Skolarikis, a former journalist, are the Sydney-based co-hosts of the podcast Ouzo Talk, bringing ouzo-fuelled conversations directly to listeners worldwide. The co-hosts, whose roots are in Epirus for Athanassiou and Corfu (Kerkyra) for Skolarikis, spoke with The National Herald about the podcast.
While one might imagine Ouzo Talk to focus on the national liquor of Greece, the subject matter up for discussion varies widely, including everything from the Parthenon Marbles and growing up Greek in the diaspora, to taking a deep dive into Greece’s national instrument – the bouzouki.
It’s all about parea, and with a bottle of ouzo always on the table, no subject is off-limits. Future episodes are set to focus on Greek BBQ and cooking culture, the olive, science, history and philosophy, as well as travel destinations in Greece.
For the co-hosts, Ouzo Talk is about bringing people into what they believe are simply conversations between friends who are proud of their Greek heritage.
“We Greeks seem to have made a habit of not just discussing but philosophizing about our `Greekness’ – throw a microphone and an ouzo or two into that mix and those conversations start getting really interesting,” Skolarikis noted. “Ouzo Talk is a way to talk about all aspects of what makes us and our culture unique, but it’s also about cataloguing those discussions for the future. It’s a snapshot of who we are and what makes us tick, and we’ve been fortunate to have some really interesting, skilled people in our community join us for a drink already.
“We dedicated our second episode to the bouzouki, so brought in Australian bouzouki repairer extraordinaire, Peter Apostolidis, and local player, George Calopedos. The resulting episode wasn’t just a discussion – it was a love letter to the bouzouki and the impact that it has on all us Greeks.”
Born out of Sydney’s most recent lockdown, the podcast is also very much about improving people’s mental health during these challenging times.
“It’s `parea’ at the end of the day,” said Athanassiou. “During those 16 weeks of lockdown, Tom and I would get together for a walk and a coffee down at Brighton in Sydney – which is pretty much all we could do – and we’d just talk. The podcast grew naturally out of those walk and talks. We just wanted to include more people in it because at the end of the day, we knew that it was really helping us get through it all – maybe others would benefit, too.”
“The other great thing is that the discussions cross international borders,” Athanassiou noted. “There are Greeks in the USA, Canada, the UK and everywhere in between – so while we may be based in Australia, we all have a shared experience of growing up Greek in another country. That’s something we want to connect with.”
Ouzo Talk is now available for download across all major podcast streaming apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
“With everything being so `on-demand’ now, a podcast for Greeks of the diaspora makes complete sense,” said Skolarikis. “We hope that people will throw their support behind it by listening and subscribing to the show on their favorite app, and listen to it on their way to or from work, or as a wind-down in the evenings. We’d love for you to join us for a drink.”
When asked what made them decide that now was the time to launch Ouzo Talk, Skolarikis told TNH: “There’s actually never been a better time than now because we believe the Greek community needs something like Ouzo Talk. Us Greeks place such importance on meeting with family and friends regularly to have a drink or share a meal, and as we all know, COVID hasn’t been kind to that. Part of what we’re doing with this podcast is trying to give our Community another way to connect by listening to conversations that matter to them. I guarantee that the discussions and laughs we have on the podcast happen between friends and family at every cook-out and cafe in the Greek diaspora over an ouzo and a mezze. In the absence or restriction of that, podcasts like this can play a role in bringing about some comfort. It certainly did that for us as the creators.”
When asked how long did Ouzo Talk take from idea to realization, Skolarikis told TNH: “The idea had been brewing for the last six years, but it didn’t really come to fruition in any meaningful way until this year and in the last four months in particular.”
Of the most rewarding and/or challenging aspects of the podcast, Skolarikis said: “The most rewarding thing so far is that we’re cataloguing interesting aspects of our Greekness for the future. In many ways, Ouzo Talk is a snapshot of who us Greeks of the diaspora are in 2021. The episode about the Bouzouki is a great example.”
Of their families’ reaction to Ouzo Talk, Skolarikis told TNH: “They’re incredibly biased, and we love them for that. The reactions we’ve received so far have been incredibly encouraging. We’d like to think that they’re proud.”
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