EFFEA Story: Bridging the sounds of the East and West

Residency of People of the Wind, presented by Windcraft Music Fest in partnership with Window onto the World Festival & Balkan Trafik!

©Andreas Loucaides

Nicosia & Katydata, Cyprus, 18-23 July 2023

With their unusual instrumentation of two saxophones and a daouli – the trio People of the Wind (James Wylie, Fausto Sierakowski and Alexandros Rizopoulos) is exploring ways to bridge the sounds of the East and the West. Their music is directly inspired by the traditions of zurna and daouli – instrumentation found in many regions of the Middle East - from Greek Macedonia to Eastern Turkey, Armenia and Iran. The shrill sound of the zourna (a double-reed traditional wind instrument) -  accompanied by the loud grooves on the daouli (a big double-headed drum), are very characteristic in open-air festivals (paniyiri), weddings, carnivals or other celebrations in Northern Greece, where the group is based. The idea behind the creation of the band was their wish to interpret that sound with Western instruments and perform the very specific zurna repertoire with a fresh and unique sound. In the past seven years, People of the Wind have been travelling through Greece, with a few stops in Europe, and have played in every imaginable situation - from unplugged private gatherings to small kafenio performances in villages or crowded dancing parties in plateies and of course on large festival stages. Driven by the fact that they find themselves in different performance settings all the time, they constantly make sure to connect with their audience by building different communication bridges through their music.  

Thanks to the EFFEA programme, People of the Wind were hosted in Cyprus from 18 until 23 July 2023 for a 6-day residency organised by Windcraft Music Fest. Through this residency, the artists had the opportunity to create new repertoire, collaborate and share their knowledge with local musicians and engage in a fruitful exchange with local and European festival organisers.   

The three artists spent the first three days of the residency in the old town of Nicosia – a pivot place between East and West itself, where the muezzin and church bells might be heard simultaneously. They were offered the space of Windcraft Music Centre – a home for wind players – to intensively work on expanding their repertoire by studying field recordings of zurna-daouli repertoire and transferring them on the saxophone. In the evenings, they would meet and hang out with local musicians or spontaneously grab their instruments and play a few tunes for visitors of coffee shops on both sides of the divided island, who were at first surprised and finally astonished by the unusual sound and the energy of the musicians.

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©Elli Michael

On day four, the group moved to the small village of Katydata, where the festival takes place. They were joined by nine young Cypriot wind and percussion players in a fantastic location in the woods, with whom they interacted for the following three days. A common goal of the workshop was to explore the technical and artistic challenges associated with dealing with modal and microtonal repertoire using Western instruments. People of the Wind, the nine local musicians, Tomasz Lipski - organiser of the festival Window onto the World (Poland) and a percussionist himself – put together a programme performed on the small stage of Windcraft Music Fest.

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1. ©Chara Savvidou 2. ©Andreas Loucaides

A main part of the residency was a workshop with the participation of three programmers (Nicolas Wieers-Balkan Trafik!, Tomazs Lipski-Window onto the World and Elli Michael-Windcraft Music Fest), attended by more local and international artists participating at the festival. After a short exclusive performance of People of the Wind, the participants engaged in an interesting discussion about finding ways to reach new audiences and exchanged ideas on current issues artists and festivals have to deal with.

In a crowded orchard, on the main stage of Windcraft Music Fest, People of the Wind captivated the audience with their emotional and impressive final performance, building once more a bridge with the Cypriot listeners who appreciated the addition of a couple of local traditional songs interpreted by Yiannis Dionysiou.   

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©Chara Savvidou

by Windcraft Music Fest