Interview with Monsieur Doumani
Monsieur Doumani is a trio that has recently gained many fans both in Cyprus and abroad with the 2013 release of their album “Grippy Grappa.” The band rearranges Cypriot traditional songs using a tzoura, guitar, and wind instruments. It also composes original songs—commentaries on Cypriot contemporary life—influenced by the Cypriot music roots style.
Tell us a bit about the band members.
Antonis Antoniou is on tzouras, Angelos Iona on guitar and Demetris Yiasemides on winds (flute/trombone). Each comes from a different musical background and has been an active performer in various other bands from Nicosia.
How did you decide to form Monsieur Doumani?
All of us have a great interest in folk music from different parts of the world and since we come from Cyprus, we decided to start a project paying tribute to our own musical culture. First, we started experimenting with traditional songs, messing around with different rhythms and slightly changing the melodies but eventually we started also composing our own pieces. Our goal is not to be considered experts of traditional Cypriot music but mainly to offer a new perspective on our tradition.
What does the band name mean to you? How did you come up with it?
It’s just funky and playful like our music. There is no secret meaning whatsoever!
What inspires your songwriting?
Our songs are usually inspired by characteristics of contemporary Cypriot society and the problems we face in our daily routine. We prefer to add a humorous touch to our songs because first of all this is an element of our characters and secondly we feel that it is a very effective way to pass messages to the people.
Is the promotion of diversity important to the band?
Actually, there is an original song, which will be featured on our new album that talks exactly about this matter. It criticises the ideology of certain groups of people that promote hate between races. To us, it is really fascinating to associate with other cultures bearing different perspectives on life. Everyone has the right to express him/her self in his/her distinct way and that just makes life more colorful and more real.
In your experience, has revamping Cypriot folk music bridged an intergenerational gap at all? How have the older and younger generations received your music?
One of the most positive things we experience at our concerts is watching people of various ages enjoying and dancing to our music. We get positive feedback from teenagers, university students, middle-aged people and also older people. Yes, we definitely believe that a serious and respectful approach to Cypriot folk music can bridge an intergenerational gap.
How has international acknowledgment impacted you and your music?
We are extremely happy and honored to have such positive feedback from so many different countries and prestigious magazines/festivals/radio stations. To name a few of the highlights: our group was nominated for Best Newcomer in Songlines Music Awards 2014, we participated in the world’s most prominent World Music festival WOMAD 2014, and our music has been aired on radio stations worldwide, such as BBC, NPR, Radio France, and PBS Melbourne. We feel that we are doing something worthy and this international recognition gives us a huge boost to carry on. On the other hand, even if that were not the case, we would have still acted in the same way, working on traditional and original material with the same enthusiasm and respect.
Has the recent financial crisis impacted the music scene?
Yes, the financial crisis had an impact on the music scene. Unfortunately the worst financial cuts are in the arts sector so there are many music projects that cannot take place due to financial problems. On the other hand the lack of “easy” money has some positive results. We see lots of new bands emerging with the target of making some good music without thinking about the money.
What are your future plans?
We are planning the release of our second album. We will start the recording sessions soon and we hope to have the new album ready in early 2015.
Find out more infomation about Monsieur Doumani here.
Watch a segment of their performance at the 1st Diversity Arts Festival here.