Comprised of five of its most innovative musicians, Udopia is at the heart of Greece's vibrant musical scene, at the crossroad of East and West, tradition and modernity. Drawing inspiration from ritual dance music, urban songs, modern grooves and the country’s ancient musical heritage, the group's unusual and characteristic lineup of saxophones, oud, kamancheh, voice, accordion, tabla and drums creates an explosive blend of rhythmic elements that will dynamically carry the audience through the beauty of age old melodies. Udopia is Efthymios Atzakas (Oud, Composer), Konstantinos Anastasiadis (Drums, Tabla, Composer), James Godfrey Wylie (Saxophone, Kemenche, Composer), Fausto Sierakowski (Saxophone, Composer) & Avgerini Gatsi (Vocals, Accordion).
On their recent visit to India, we got to connect with Konstantinos Anastasiadis. from the band to share experiences of their visit to India and performing at Udaipur Music Festival.
Is this your first visit to India?
This is actually our second visit to India and we are so proud of it. The Indian journey has been amazing so far and we are very excited to perform in Delhi.
What are your first impressions of this country?
In my opinion, India is the most spiritual country I have ever been to. Everything feels different in here. Being here makes me feel alive as every day brings a new experience.
Has any Indian musician or musical tradition influenced your music?
Yes, of course. A lot of music that we play is inspired by the Indian Classical music. In fact, I grew up listening to Shakti band- which plays acoustic fusion music combined with elements of Jazz, Carnatic music- which is music associated with Southern part of India and of course Hindustani classical music. My love for Indian music grew over time and listening to great Indian musicians on Youtube influenced me so much that I wanted to learn different Indian instruments like Carnatic Violin and Tabla. I have been practicing Tabla for 15 years now. Zakir Hussain and Tari khan are few of my favorite Tabla players from India.
Tell us something about your music and what musical styles have influenced your sound?
Udopia is still growing and exploring since it’s a fairly new band but our music is mostly influenced by Balkan style, Arabic sounds, Turkish sounds and of course Greek and India influence as well.
Has your music, which is essentially traditional Greek/Middle Eastern, changed over the years?
The history of Greek music goes all the way back to ancient times but not much has changed from ancient to modern styles. The origins of Greek folk song can be traced back to the first centuries where Greek tragedy of poetry, music and dance were a part of the daily lives of Greek entertainment. However, Udopia is of course changing as it’s still exploring and growing as it is passed and performed from one individual to another.
Popular music has a much wider audience, have you ever considered going pop so to say, to reach a wider audience?
What do you think of the current world music scene?
I feel the music industry is going down and it’s not good because everybody is getting commercialized. They just produce music to sell.
What are your future projects as individually and as a band?
I am currently playing with 15 bands. There are so many projects that we have tied up with across the world. I don’t know what is going to happen in future but we are definitely preparing ourselves with some new music, mix of traditional and modern music. It is going to be very exciting as it is not the instrument which is important for me but it is the communication and connection with the audience, that is how well your music is received and loved which is of utmost importance.
Any upcoming festivals that you are playing?
Lot of stuff for all of us. Playing in various festivals over the next two years.
Do you plan to come to India again and how was the overall experience?
Yes, of course. It is indeed a beautiful country and we would love to perform in each and every city of India. We met some amazing musicians and artists in the city. Every time when you come to a new place like this, there is so much to sink in and experience it. It is only once you go back that you realise the worth of an experience like this. So you just go with your eyes and ears open, not thinking too much about it, just trying to take it all in and live it. It’s beautiful!
Did you get a chance to interact with other bands?
We couldn’t interact much with bands there as it’s a huge festival which means that musicians had to be spread over different hotels and 3-4 different stages. But great experience!
However, we did jam with some of the local musicians from Udaipur. It was a delight to be in that space.
How did you get selected for the Udaipur World Music Festival?
We came here last year which is the reason why we are here today. We played music for the Institute of Greek Indian friendship- Indo Hellenic friendship league. Obviously, we couldn’t have come here without the help of the Greek Embassy and the Chairman of Mawana Sugars, Mr. Siddharth Shriram.
They trusted me and my colleagues to present some elements of Greek music for this conference. The Greek Ambassador came to this concert and appreciated our music. During the summers, he called me and said that there was a great news for us, Udaipur Music Festival wanted some great musicians for their festival and Seher foundation proposed our band and also found a sponsor for us. So without them, nothing would have been possible.
We are talking about the experiences and our future goals but it is very important to remember that without the generosity and interest in cultures of institutions and private individuals, I mean to bring a band from Greece like that is just not possible.
Those of you who have been around from the 1960's through the 1990's will remember the vibrant live music scene in almost every starred hotel in India. Those were the days when you walked into a nightclub like 'Rendezvous' at The Taj Mahal hotel and 'Supper Club' at the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai to see curtains going up on a band that was the prime focus of these outlets. Every seat in these restaurants allowed an unobstructed view of the band that performed every night on resident contracts. Today all this has disappeared thanks to some ridiculously high entertainment taxes on live music. Today, non off these hotels have complete bands playing save for a few that feature small duos or solo singers. The Lodhi in New Delhi, recently listed among the world's best hotels, decided to step in and rewind to the good old days. They got Goa's premier jazz quartet 'Jazz Junction' to move to Delhi on a resident contract and the decision has paid off in terms of footfalls generated by the band. Jazz Junction featuring singer Daniella Rodrigues, pianist Tony Dias,
bassist Colin D'Cruz and drummer Angelo Colasco began playing at The Lodhi in June 2018. Four months into the contract the band generated a sizeable following, with quite a few high profile guests choosing to celebrate their special occasion at the Elan bar where the band performs. Against all odds the rewind option proved to be a huge success and hopefully other properties around the country takes the cue to trigger a whole new revival of live music.