"You don’t easily get a trombone playing along with a tzouras and a guitar!"
At the latest with its third album Angathin released in 2018, the trio Monsieur Doumani of Cyprus has been able to win the hearts of world music fans around the globe. The album, highly acclaimed by critics and listeners alike, stands out thanks to its fresh compositions and unusually astute lyrics. Global Musik Network had a most interesting talk with Demetris Yiasemides.
c Michalis Ashickas
How long has Monsieur Doumani been around and who are the members?

Monsieur Doumani are Antonis Antoniou on tzouras/vocals, Angelos Ionas on guitar/vocals and Demetris Yiasemides on flute/trombone. The band got together in March 2012 in Nicosia, Cyprus.
How would you describe your style?

That is actually not an easy question! Our music is influenced by a lot of different genres such as Greek rebetiko, the music of southern Italy, West African music, jazz, Balkan music and many more! The base is, of course, Cypriot traditional music. Therefore, we could say that our style is a mixture or an amalgamation of many different music styles revolving around the core which is Cypriot music.
Where do you get the ideas for your songs?

Our ideas come from various sources. Cyprus has a huge political problem and as you might know, the island is still divided in two since the war in 1974. We grew up and still live in a city which is divided, so the idea of reunification and peace is surely a source of inspiration for us. Also, Cypriot society can sometimes be very conservative and with many drawbacks such as corruption of the political system, xenophobia, racism, lack of environmental awareness, etc. All these issues really bother us and we try to confront them through our music.
Your instrumentation is quite unusual. How did this come about?

Yes, it’s true that our instrumentation is a bit odd. You don’t easily get a trombone playing along with a tzouras and a guitar. This is definitely not the traditional Cypriot music ensemble but to be honest, there is no specific reason behind our instrumentation. It’s just because these are the instruments we can play. We enjoy combining these completely different sound colors and we are excited by the results we get in the rehearsals.
The Euro crisis hit Greece hard. How was it in Cyprus?

Fortunately, the financial crisis in Cyprus was not as bad. We have a different economy, and although Cypriot banks were connected with the Greek system, the crisis never hit the island the way it did with Greece in terms of the long period of time. However, many people lost their jobs, a lot of small businesses went bankrupt and there was a general negativity in peoples’ minds which is still apparent. Nonetheless, the crisis also had some positive effects in the sense that people started being more creative in many ways, especially in the island’s artistic community where many different projects were going on after the crisis.
And how is the situation in Cypriot society now?

Cyprus is a very small island with a population of less than a million, and as with most small societies, Cypriots can be very conventional and narrow-minded. Fortunately, we can feel a difference with the latest generations due to the fact that many study abroad. Young people who decide to return to the island after their studies bring new ideas and concepts with them, so this is something positive for our society. The problem is whether the current system is ready or able to embrace these new ideas and work towards a better future for the island.
On your last album "Anghatin" especially, there are many socially critical songs. Are your concerns heard in your homeland?

Yes, it’s true that Angathin is very political in a way and there is a very strong thematic structure which kind of differentiates it from our two previous albums. We recorded the songs at a very interesting time for our island, during some very important negotiations between the two communities trying to find a solution to the political problem. Unfortunately, the politicians failed once again to agree on certain aspects and everything collapsed. The influence of these historical moments was inevitable. Furthermore, all the social issues that trouble us and make our lives difficult are also sources of inspiration for this album. We feel that Cypriot society is changing towards a better future, but only with very tiny steps. The positive thing is that nowadays there are more voices and more people who react towards all the bad things that happen around us; however, we feel that we need to wait many years to see Cypriot society functioning the way we want.
What’s next for Monsieur Doumani?

We have many exciting concerts ahead of us starting with a tour of India in February. Then we travel to Cuba for the Havana World Music Festival and then an extended European tour in April/May. Our aim is also to start working on new material for an upcoming album.
Your final words to the listeners of Monsieur Doumani:

We really want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and love. Hopefully, we will meet at one of our forthcoming concerts!

Interview: Robert Lippuner / Global Music Network
Transation: Jamie Davies


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