In his new/highly recommended book, Lament From Epirus: An Odyssey Into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music, Christopher C. King delivers a lot of great descriptions of the Epirotic sound, but I think this is my favorite: “[T]he music sounds like women weeping at a grave, like birds crying as they fall from heaven, like the earth is ending. And to some outsiders, like a goat boiling in a pot.” Can’t say I know exactly what that last aural experience is like, but suffice to say, this music from northwestern Greece is intense. It’s not something you put on as light background accompaniment. As King details in his illuminating book, Epirotic folk music has served a cathartic, ecstatic purpose for centuries, providing an outlet for unspeakable grief and offering the possibility of healing (for a handy sampler, go here).
King’s latest journey into Epirus brings us the incandescent clarinet of Kitsos Harisiadis, who recorded a handful of rare 78 sides in the late 20s and early 30s. His vibe is simultaneously pastoral and futuristic — Harisiadis never left Epirus and spent his days primarily in rural settings. But listening to his blazing, vivid lines, you can imagine free jazz pioneers like Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman hearing them and nodding along in agreement. Beautifully transferred from the shellac by King himself, this is very powerful stuff — a deep style, indeed. words/t wilcox