amazing singer with an extremely emotional and physical range who
seems to draw in the sun, moon, and stars when she performs, Savina
Yannatous latest album is Sumiglia, the story of lives
lost and peoples past.
title means similarities, Savina explains from a hotel room
in Oslo, Norway, but to me some of the songs are like earth
songs somehow. Its about people who want to live in the country
or have dreams about the country or those people who go away but
dont want to go away. And there are love songs and family
songs, but I feel that all these things are connected to a place.
Sumiglia is a rich, almost transporting experience as Savinas
expressive voice infuses the songs she has collected from around
the Mediterranean. A native of Greece, Savina and her wonderful
band inject new life into the old folk songs of Spain, Greece,
Corsica, Hungarian songs from Moldavia, Greek songs from Italy,
Macedonian songs, Albanian songs.
Accompanied by accordion, qanun, kalimba, upright bass, violin,
ney, and percussion, Savina seems to channel otherworldly spirits,
but the songs retain a sense of peace and calm, unlike her ECM debut
recording, Terra Nostra, which was recorded live.
In the studio I want to feel each song, to feel the lyrics
and its also about what we wanted to give to each song. Each
song is from a different part of the world and we make somehow a
story about it. Even if this story is wrong we have an idea about
how these people were feeling or what they were thinking. Many of
these songs are very, very old. So you create a world in pictures
for each song.
Where Terra Nostra was wild, even hostile sounding, Sumiglia
has at its center a wide berth of tranquility and assurance.
I have four records with this group, Savina says, and
this time we needed to have a look inside to focus more on the moment.
It is very much inward looking. And it is more focused on melodies
and harmonies and to be more free, but not in a wild way. There
are songs where we kept just the melody and changed everything else.
We improvise a lot and this makes it more dark sometimes.
Savina and her band often rearrange folk songs beyond their original
constraints. We dont change all the songs, she
says, only when we feel that it needs something or if there
is space to do this. It is not objective. It is how we feel the
Usually the audience knows that we change these songs so usually
they like it very much, Savina continues. If we do it
too much sometimes they dont like it. It depends on how much
we interfere with the songs and the audience. If they dont
like it, I can feel it. You can feel what they feel.
Ask Savina about her favorite popular singers and she replies as
if she doesnt know the meaning of the word. Hers is a world
of beauties past, of glories found that she resurrects anew. Savina
is very fond of one singer though.
Something in Billie Holidays voice, Savina muses.
She sings like speaking and that is important, to speak the
song. Billie Holiday has something so unique and of her, very recognizable.
Our songs have melody and lyrics so it is important not to lose
everything. It is important to sing the melody but also to sing
the lyrics or to speak them only, to use both, language and music.
When I can do that I am happy.