Tuesday, July 13, 2010
GEORGE SAPOUNIDIS AND OUZO POWER (CANADA)
A rock bouzouki-playing Greek Canadian civil servant with a PhD in statistics who is a star in China – you can't get more incongruous than that. But then again there is nothing ordinary about George Sapounidis and his band Ouzo Power.
George Sapounidis (vocals, guitar, bouzouki) is a two-time Olympic Torch Bearer (Beijing 2008, Athens 2004) and a Montrealer of Pontic Greek descent who has been called a poster boy for Canadian multiculturalism. He is a polyglot who performs fluently in Greek and in other languages. He plays a handmade electrified 8-string Greek bouzouki in dramatic and captivating fashion. On stage he is entertaining and engaging while explaining elements and context of the music.
George originally founded Ouzo Power in 1988 with his partner at the time Gaston Bernard (Matapat), giving a new spin to Greek music, translating the songs of Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley into Greek for audiences at folk and multicultural music festivals across Canada and appearing on CBC radio and television.
In 2005 he was the subject of the award-winning CTV / BBC international television documentary Chairman George, and has been known as Chairman George ever since!
His CD release George from Athens to Beijing was nominated in the Best World Music category at the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Awards. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics from the University of Toronto.
George Sapounidis (which in Greek means ‘soap-maker’) is a direct descendent of Greeks living in Asia Minor for generations near the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea in Turkey, and are commonly referred to as Pontian Greeks. In 1922 as a result of the ‘Mikrasiatiki Catastrophe’ these Greeks were forced to leave their homes and became refugees in Greece and other countries of the diaspora. George’s grand-parents settled in Canada, first in Edmonton and then in Montreal.
Summers spent in Greece when he was a teenager laid the foundation for what would become a lifelong personal and musical odyssey. He remembers Greece as “an incredible world”. “It was a fundamental formative place because of the nomadic artistic lifestyle,” he says. “It was a community of expatriate international artists – poets, musicians, writers and painters. I was steeped in this multicultural tea. It laid the ground work for my musical breadth.”
In 2008 George was the only Canadian selected by the Beijing Olympic Committee to run as Olympic relay torch-bearer in Beijing on August 8 the same day as the Summer Games’ Opening Ceremonies.
He was also an Olympic relay torch-bearer when the torch arrived in Montreal in 2004. And he spent the 2004 Athens Olympics in the Olympic Village as a National Olympic Committee Assistant capitalizing on his Greek and Chinese language skills to assist the Chinese team as well as smuggling his bouzouki into the Village to perform for the international residents including athletes, volunteers and media.
During his teens he studied classical guitar with the Spanish virtuoso Jose Luis Rodrigo, and in Athens with Gerasimos Miliaresis who was a student of Andres Segovia. In the 1970’s he toured Greece with Greek multicultural singer Eugenia Siriotis, and in the 1990’s studied bouzouki with Costas Apostolakis in Toronto.
Ouzo Power (Canada) is an experienced ethno-cultural band performing and interpreting classic Greek Rembetika and popular bouzouki repertoire in a rock format. The show features George Sapounidis on lead vocals in Greek combined with the sound of the infectious Greek bouzouki backed by, since 2005, a stellar cast of seasoned musicians including Fred Guignion (electric guitars, lap steel) , Stuart Watkins (electric bass, backing vocals), and Ross Murray, (drums, percussion).
The music is a compelling fusion of George’s traditional roots presentation of powered Greek bouzouki and vocals combined with the gritty but tasteful and creative colorings of Guignion’s electric guitar and lap steel sounds backed by the rock solid bass and drums of Watkins and Murray.
The presented repertoire consists of strong melodies, vocal harmonies and different time signatures allowing dance performance for the Kalamatiano, Zembekiko, Tsifteteli, Syrtaki and Hasaposerviko.
Listen to Ouzo Power's great version of Gorgona...it's excellent!
In May 2007 the members of Ouzo Power performed together at one of China's biggest international festivals, the Meet in Beijing International Arts Festival and in October 2006 they appeared at Beijing's award-winning rock music venue Yugong Yishan, at the Nanning International Folk Song Arts Festival in Guangxi Province, and in Shenzhen, Canton Province.
As we said above, George was one of our very talented and valuable Athens 2004 Greeks Abroad Volunteers from our Greek Communities around the world ( we had 4500) and a great asset as NOC Assistant for the Chinese Olympic Team. To him, and to the other fantastic volunteers, we at Global Greek World, say Thanks a million!
Xronia Polla kai Kala, George! Hope you are having a lovely birthday, wherever in the world you are!
To read more about George...
George at MGAM...
George's Official Website
George at My Space