Antonis Antoniou Kkisméttin
Review by Cliff Furnald
Antonis Antoniou is an old friend to many of our readers. As a founding member of Monsieur Doumani and Trio Tekke, he has brought a modern political and aesthetic sense to the music of his home. His work is deeply rooted in the complicated musical and social traditions of Cyprus, where streets were literally divided by steel barrels to separate Turks from Greeks during some of the country's most difficult times.
Kkisméttin (fate, destiny, kismet) was made during the pandemic lockdown we have all been living with, and Antoniou took this as an opportunity to create new songs that could speak in various ways about that loss of freedom, and its parallels in the rest of our lives.
He writes, "The enforced confinement [of the pandemic] served as a reminder of the limitations to their freedom of movement and to other fundamental freedoms that have long existed in their divided country. There, and in particular in Nicosia, streets have been forcibly cut into two by rows of concrete-filled barrels, placed there by the ghosts of the past. These barrels represent political agendas, but they also reflect the effects of blind nationalism, which does not allow Cypriots to enjoy the beauty of their island. Viewed on a more symbolic level, these rows of barrels could be seen as material expressions of alienation between people, chasms and corruption in society."
Ttáppa káto (Down with a bang)
The songs on the album are not blunt political instruments, but poetic references that cut slowly, but cut deep. He writes not in political screed, but in prose poetry that elicits the beauty of the island and the wonder of its diverse population. He references walls and barbed wire, but celebrates the coming victory over them with positive energy. “Ttáppa káto” (Down with a bang) is just one of many expressions of this vision of the power of the people, united.
Still barely awake
we work the spade, digging a hole
Dig so we can dig together, my brother,
hopefully we’ll soon be done
The clouds are gathering, the rain has come
our feet are stuck into the mud
From top to toe we’re all dirty,
but our blood is still flowing eager
‘But what are you doing, lads,
tormenting yourselves out in the cold?
This wall has foundations
that they’ve been building for fifty years’
‘Come, friend, you help us too
the surge defeats the wall
we’ll raise a gale
until the wall comes down with a bang!
We’ll keep creating trouble
until it comes down with a bang!’
Accompanied by traditional and modern instruments, driven by raw percussion (including those barrels) and given a sharp underpinning of electronics, the songs tell tales of love in the time of revolution, camaraderie across borders and fences. The title track, written by Marios Epaminondas, is a conversation between Cypriots who share more than they imagined.
From Ais Yiannis to Arabahmet
two sides, they don’t live together
this is what kismet said
one person’s laughter is the other’s cry
As they sat together to rest
Halil leaned over and told Antonis
‘Whatever is bad for us and saddens us,
we’ll change it, you and I’
From Ais Yiannis to Arabahmet
in this city we live together
we’ll rewrite our kismet
we’ll share our laughter and our cry
Throughout the album, the sounds and words reach for higher, more common ground, looking for a bright future beyond the walls, the barrel and the wire. It ends in an ethereal wash of sounds and confused voices, waiting for hope to arrive.
A ray pierces through the quarantine
painting wings on the curtain
A ray, a shadow of a month to come,
unfolds the thread on the reel