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Fengaros Initiatives gain momentum

By Melissa Hekkers

The Fengaros Music Festival has become one of the most anticipated festivals of the summer, with its Music Village in Kato Drys also gaining momentum, offering an eclectic opportunity for any music lover, professional or not. Lefteris Moumtzis, artistic director of both Fengaros initiatives spoke to the Cyprus Weekly, shedding light on the pioneering Music Village and its unique stance, both as regards its teachings and the environment in which it operates.

Cyprus Weekly: This is the fourth Fengaros Music Village, offering workshops that promote alternative teaching methods and creation. What is the concept and how does this approach offer an alternative experience to participants?

Lefteris Moumtzis: Well, first of all, I think that Music Village promotes the sense of community between musicians, which I believe is something that we generally lack in this country – I mean, respecting one another, their background and ideas. That creates a healthy environment for people to be creative in. In a way, it clears the air from things like egos, and sort of nudges people towards being friendlier and more open with each other. This is something that occurs, and it’s beautiful to see. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most important elements of Music Village, but it’s certainly not the only thing that makes this experience unique. It’s just the basis, the foundation, on which everything else is built on.

Otherwise, we offer various very interesting workshops by professional musicians who are top in their field, coming, this year, from Cyprus as well as Greece, the UK and the US, with free concerts every evening, and also the occasional jam session, which is one of the highlights of this musical week.

CW: This year, the Music Village has grown, with an extended number of 10 workshops available. How has this idea grown over the years and how easy has it been to establish this institution?

LM: It has taken a lot of work to set this up, lots of planning and organisation, lots of presentations beforehand to promote it and lots and lots of phonecalls. It hasn’t been easy for sure, but it always seems that all the hard work hasn’t gone to waste when that week comes and everything ties together, at the beautiful Kato Drys village.

CW: The artists carrying out the workshops are people with recognised work from around the world, involved in modern and traditional music. What makes these workshops/masterclasses unique?

LM: The setting is what makes it unique. I think that is where it all starts. The fact that these classes are taking place in nature. Another thing is the fact that this is an ongoing thing for six consecutive days, and not just a two-hour workshop. There are 30 hours of teaching over the course of the week, and everyone lives in the same village, so, anywhere you go, you will hear people practising or playing together, pretty much all day long. It’s a very inspiring time for any musician who is looking to be inspired.

CW: Each workshop includes both the interactive participation of attendees, but also that of the general public in the evenings. How does this contribute to the whole experience for both participant and audience?

LW: It rounds it off really nicely, I think. It almost feels that everyone belongs in the same group of friends, everyone is sharing something with everyone. And, it’s all centred around the music that is happening. And, as far as I’m concerned, this is what music should be about, sharing an experience. I mean, there are people who come to the village who have barely played in front of other people before, and it’s all happening for them for the first time. There are also others who are professionals and yet they haven’t been in a similar jamming situation like the ones happening in Music Village. It’s a win-win situation for a everyone.

CW: When referring to the festival, you talk of creating a hybrid artistic community. Can you tell me more about this?

LM: I believe that in Cyprus, generally, besides the fact that we are stuck on old ideas regarding music, we are also characterised by unhealthy competition, and by this I mean that, in such a tiny place, we haven’t managed to create a common ground on which to build relationships and concepts on. Instead, we are prone to criticise others or dismiss their work, feeling that our work is superior. It’s pretty sad and unnecessary.

The idea of a music village is to bring people together and break these imaginary barriers that some of us feel exist between, for example, people who play different styles of music, or who have studied in different countries, or are professional or amateur, or just from different countries altogether. This is the other thing. At least 10% of the students are from abroad, which diversifies the experience even more. It the past, we have seen bands created between Cypriot and foreign students that have actually graced Fengaros Festival stages later on, as well, and this is something that is highly encouraged in this community.

CW: What workshop would you say stands out from this year’s selection?

LM: Well, I think they are all special in their own way. I mean, depending on what each musician or music lover is into, they can find something that interests them more than the other workshops. I am personally very proud of having Alexi David all the way from New York, who is instructing a jazz workshop and very honoured to have the legendary bouzouki player Manolis Pappos from Athens, in our cast of instructors.

CW: Are these workshops accessible to anybody, or is there a need for some experience?

LM: Each workshop has its own prerequisites. So, some need more experience than others or not at all. People who are interested need to check the programme and see what they like, and what each individual instructor requires from the people who apply.

CW: How does the Music Village contribute to the Fengaros Festival?

LM: Well, in various small ways. For example, this year we will have a band that is going to be put together by Resident Artist Dave De Rose from London, to open the festival on Thursday, August 3. We will also have the band of Michael Kapilidis, Datfunk, play on that evening, as well as Alexi David doing a set of his music. So, there is some sort of association of the two events. After all, they use the same ‘family’ name!

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