When you mention “Greek song”, someone might think of Děti z Pirea (called Never on Sunday in English) as performed by Yvetta Simonová and Milan Chladil (or the even older version by Eva Martinová and Karel Duda). Somewhat closer to the present are Martha and Tena Elefteriadu, who are still giving concerts even in the 2018 season and what is more organising courses in Greek dance. The sisters, who alongside Greek music were also active in the field of rock and pop (and Martha’s album Kresby tuší – ‘Ink Drawings’ - is a treasure), according to the young Brno author and musician Jannis Moras “prepared the way” for a new generation of Greek interpreters. In Brno at present there are a number of active groups singing in Greek and a central figure for this community of musicians is Jannis himself, one of three musically active Moras brothers. All three play with their father in the group I Parea, Jannis plays in rebetiko style in the group Anatoli and aside from that has his own group Jannis Moras & banda. There, alongside his brothers Alexis (bass guitar) and Markos (drums) there are two young ladies – Iva Oulehlová (flute and clarinet) and Zuzana Mitrengová (vocals). While Jannis Moras & banda in their vocals, harmonies and of course lyrics in what is for us the exotic language of Greek remind us of traditional music, in reality it is a folk-rock group, which plays exclusively the songs of its leader. And at present Jannis Moras is one of Brno’s most interesting singer-songwriters.
The album is named Alkool tis musikis (the alcohol of music) after the song which is clearly Moras’ biggest hit to date and at the same time a straightforward declaration of the power of music: “I get drunk, even when I don’t drink, drowning my sorrows in the alcohol of music”. Linking strong melodies with bewitching vocals the result is anthem-like in the same way as – in another genre – Toto Cutugno’s refrain “Lasciatemi cantare…” At the same time a comparison with pop, which we don’t have to see as an inferior genre, is appropriate. Moras’ songs really put their money on melodies and pleasing vocals, but there is nothing pandering or cheap about them. Even if O artos (Bread) – another strong song – in its first moments is reminiscent of Honza Nedvěd and Brontosaurus of blessed memory, after a couple of bars it takes on a form which rhythmically reminds us of Australia’s Men At Work with a latent thrill of reggae in the background. The song Ve vesmíru dítěte (In a Child’s Universe) has a dominant flute like that from the Czech tradition of historicising folk (like the group Klíč), but the Greek chorus and folk-rock rhythms took the piece as a whole somewhere else. Similarly confusing might be the Janota-style repetitive guitar in Stromu radosti (Tree of Joy), which interchanges with a rhythmically interesting refrain full of energy. Among the most remarkable moments on the album is the introductory song Předek (Ancestor) with entrancing vocals from Zuzana Mitrengová and hypnotic drumbeats. The fact that the group is far from playing only folk (folk-rock), but is also able to be a little harder, is shown by the penultimate song Tvoje duše Fénix (Your Spirit Phoenix). And it certainly is not the case that every linking of rock rhythms and flute has to remind us of Jethro Tull. The closing acoustic song Závěrečná akustická píseň Snostrach (which might translate as ‘Dreamfear’) then presents Jannis Moras as a folk storyteller, who ends his album full of personal confession and lofty idea, references to Byzantine musical theory or original metaphors, ends with an absolutely down-to-earth word – “vole” (a slang term which might be loosely translated as “dude”).
Although Greek culture is one of the pillars of our civilisation, we see their music as something exotic. Jannis Moras & banda does not play folk, or the more recent, but already long popularised rebetiko songs. If the group Anatoli can win in the final of Porta a special prize “for maintaining national cultural traditions”, then Jannis Moras & banda would deserve an award for building something new on the foundations that this tradition created. At the same time Jannis Moras is truly a very good Brno singer-songwriter. It does not matter how exotic the language is that he sings and writes. His songs are hits and intoxicating. The alcohol of music.
Jannis Moras & banda – Alkool tis musikis, issued at their own expense, 11 tracks, total length: 44:60