24 May 2009

Eleftheria in Melbourne

Greek chanteuse Eleftheria Arvanitaki made a return visit to Melbourne this evening. She filled the Hamer Hall (Concert Hall in the Melbourne Arts Centre) to the rafters, and why wouldn’t she in this city which proudly boasts of being the third largest Greek city in the world, after Athens and Salonica.

Eleftheria was more than adequately preceded by a half-hour session from local group the HaBiBis, of whom more can be discovered here. Lead vocalist Achilles Yangoulli was superb, and all the instrumental playing was first class. We can be proud of this bunch.

At one point of the warm-up act HaBiBis leader Irene Vela asked how many non-Greek people were in the audience – please raise your hands. From where I was sitting I could see at least a dozen of us in this 2,700 seat hall. So when Eleftheria started introducing her songs in perfectly fluent English the people in the front rows helpfully made clear to her that there was no need to address us in άγγλικά, έλληνικά would do very nicely thank you. Έλληνικά? Άγγλικά? asked Eleftheria. Motion carried by acclaim, so the rest of the introductions were in Greek. Authentic is the new cool, they say, so why should we care. This was a celebration as much as a performance, and it was a great evening out.

By the way, these were the boat people we were all supposed to worry about in the 1950s, the ones who ate strange food, and obviously would never fit in (played soccer, didn’t play cricket!!). Thank God they didn’t become carbon copies of the rest of us.

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