I wish I had more information about Markos Sifnios, but as there is only been a recent resurgence of interest in his collaborator Marika Papagika and I’m not in a position to be doing extensive research into her career in the US during the earlier part of the 20th century (yet).
I had first come across Sifnios’ work when I found this wonderful youtube video (see below) of a tune called Smyrneiko Minore (Smyrnaean Air) which, given the date (1919) here (if it is correct) would coincide with Papagika’s first recording in the states with Victor Records.
There is a brief snippet about Sifnios’ collaboration with Papagika at the Wikipedia entry which I can’t really verify or attest to the truth of though interesting in its own right:
Cellist Markos Sifneos [sic] collaborated with Marika Papagika on at least 24 separate occasions. Aside from Kostas, he is her most frequent collaborator, and was one of the few people to play cello on Greek recordings before World War II. There are no records of him recording with anyone except the Papagikas as Cello was not an acceptable instrument for Greek music at the time.
So I came across this video and though I had already known about Marika Papagika I knew nothing about the fact she had a cellist in her Greek band. So that was something of a revelation. I doubt cellos were typically a part of traditional or folk Greek ensembles as the above quote seems to indicate, and more than likely, as is the case with Klezmer and other folk music ensembles (and “pick-up” bands in general) Sifnios and his cello just happened to be at her disposal. But what this also says is that Sifnios could be considered one of the first “Alternative Cellists” in the US (if not the world).
This week’s installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello is about Dutch cellist, Saskia Rao de Haas. I first learned about her and her work playing Indian music on the cello some years ago. I finally picked up a copy of the CD, Creating Waves (released on Rhyme Records), that she and her husband Shubhendra Rao (disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar) for which I am very grateful as at the time only a few audio clips of Saskia’s work was available at her old website.
from her bio:
Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist and composer from the Netherlands. She is based in New Delhi, India where she is recognized as a well-known exponent of Indian Classical music. Saskia is hailed as a pioneer in the world of music for introducing her Indian Cello. Speaking about Saskia in an interview on National Television, her Guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia said,“Saskia has been taught by God and everyone should listen to her music”.
Here’s a video of Saskia in performance with Shubendhra:
I’m posting this now as I may or may not be back in time tonight to finish a post before midnight. If you folks hadn’t noticed I am attempting to blog once a day–more for the discipline than anything else, but also because I have been really inspired by Eric Edberg‘s (one of my former cello teachers and someone who I still consider a mentor–at least he’s still teaching me things even to this day!). As an aside-if you haven’t been following Eric’s Sabbatical adventures in New York City–you should! Some really neat and interesting things happening there an I envy him his time being spent there!
You folks now know what I do on Mondays, Tuesdays are a little different. I’m usually giving private lessons at IU Southeast to college students as well as kids enrolled in the IU Southeast Arts Institute (which is primarily for k-12 ages), but as I also teach lessons on Wednesdays I’ll wait till tomorrow to blog about this experience (which will be interestingly difficult as the privacy of students is always an issue!).
But what I do want to blog about is that Tuesday nights are also a rehearsal night for me.
Every first and third Tuesdays I make the journey across the river to Louisville, Kentucky to the Jewish Community Center of Louisville to rehearse with the River City Klezmer Band from 7:30-9:00 pm. This is an amateur group of folks at various level of abilities and stages of musical ability. Very few of the group are professional musicians and as we often say before our shows the whole idea of Klezmer is to bring together whatever musicians happen to be there to play Klezmer music. Continue reading “Tuesday Rehearsal Reflections: River City Klezmer Band”→