The Harmonious World of Katerina Polemi

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Musician, composer, artist and expressive performer are just a few words to describe the multi talented Katerina Polemi.

Four years after finishing her degree at Berklee College of Music, Katerina hasn’t taken a break yet, and it looks like it will be a while until she does.  This is one hard working and determined individual!  Having released her first album titled “Spread the Music not the Name” she is ready to release her forth one titled “Η Μεγάλη Χίμαιρα/La Grande Chimère”.  Her second album was for for a play called “Eurydice” and the 3rd was the soundtrack for the film “Little England” also titled Little England.  She has also performed concerts in Boston, New York, Brazil and Greece, from jazz clubs to music festivals, Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, the Stravinsky Auditorium in Switzerland and the Megaron Mousikis Garden in Greece to name a few.  She has composed for theater and now can put film credit on her long list of great accomplishments at such a young age.

singing_katerina_polemi

Katerina tells me she feels that music chose her and not that she chose it.  She was drawn to it as if it was her destiny just like other human beings are born with other talents  and missions in life; for some people it might be being a parent, or a dentist, but for her it was to be in the field of music which would enable her to get to know places that logic cannot get to; full of emotions and images.

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Katerina was exposed to music from a very young age and has been greatly influenced by her Greek-Brazilian family.  Her parents’ form of entertainment was  often spent in singing to Greek music of the 50s and 60s , Brazilian music of the 60s, gospel and even songs of Stevie Wonder and the late Dinah Washington.  Jazz came to her in much more intensity when she was exposed to it from a teacher who inspired her even though she wasn’t really familiar with this type of music.  She felt drawn to it and started to listen to the more soft jazz and then with time a more complex and harder jazz. 

When asked how she is influenced to create a new composition she explains that sometimes a few notes from a song will speak to her and inspire her to write a whole new melody; this little bit of inspiration is enough to move her.  This she realizes is her collective side in being driven by outside forces but then an individualistic side appears and pushes her to let her self come through a new creation.

Being multilingual has also offered Katerina many opportunities to sing in Greek, Portuguese, English, Italian and French.  When asked if she feels if language influences her style or performance she states no as she takes on the symbolism and emotion in what she is presenting as opposed to playing a role.  She becomes what she is talking about; she strips the presentation from just performing to an authentic display of creation.  However she does feel that languages give you a certain kind of respect for the song through the style of the music. The languages can influence a song though in that the usage of words allow for variations or for the strict use of them.  For example in English you can play around with words, say them differently, drag them out while in Greek you have to say the word the only way it is meant to be pronounced.   The Greek language has a character, a personality which consists of a more one sided personality and that is why it doesn’t work well with Jazz.  Jazz originated in the U.S. and english is perfect for this type of music.  You can alter the words and this allows for the improvisations in jazz.  

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One of the biggest accomplishments and hurdles that Katerina has faced so far is her contribution to the Greek film Little England.  Being involved in a film is not something that Katerina ever imagined or dreamed of doing.  She had envisioned playing in different venues and with different artists but never something like this.  Katerina said “when this opportunity came into my life I jumped at it without even thinking about what it really required of me.  I replied with a Let’s do it!”  For Katerina music has always felt safe but this kind of music was in unsafe territory as it required her to follow strict and precise standards and boundaries which is different from her work on the stage.  On stage she can improvise, she can extend a song or change the play order but this cannot happen with film.  The film required the music to sync specifically to what was already written in the script.  The choices had to fit the scenarios and the length was determined by the scene.  All of this was a big surprise but a huge experience for her.  Luckily she had the help from Jean-Philippe Crespin, who gave technical direction and helped arrange her compositions.  She also received an influential support from the movie’s director, Pantelis Voulgaris, who gave her the room to learn and courage to try.   As a Russian song, a tango for the wedding and a few specific Greek traditional songs were new for Katerina, the director let her know that that they could use a pre-recorded version of the song from someone else if she found it too challenging. Katerina did her research though and listened to these new songs putting her hard drive into managing what she said she would do.  In the end she did accomplish composing and singing and being able conquer a new territory.  

Thinking that Katerina will now enjoy a change of scenario and a break from the fast paced rhythm that she has been moving with, she now informs me that she is involved in another movie project called The Journey starring Olympia Dukakis and directed by Fiona Shaw.  An interesting and true story about a women trying to escape from the war in Greece to Paris to become a dancer in the 40s.  This will be a wonderful experience for Katerina as the music this time will be mainly cabaret jazz.

A talented guitar and piano player, Katerina says she has fun fooling around with all kinds of instruments.  Asked if she prefers to be behind the mic or in front of it, she tells me “I need both!  Each one fulfills part of my personality, my soul.  When I am behind the mic as a performer  it empowers my being while when I am in front it enhances by mind.  I love the stage.  It is my home.  I am in my element there and I feel safe, free and happy!”   If you are looking forward to hearing Katerina check out her new CD “Η Μεγάλη Χίμαιρα/La Grande Chimère” which will be out mid January 2014 in music stores in Greece as well as digital downloads. 

Katerina on piano and as composer

Asked which is her all time favorite venue she says right here in Athens under the stars between the trees at the Kipos of Megaro (the Megaron Garden)!  “There is so much chemistry to be felt outside and these kinds of events usually have a vast array of people enjoying it.”  When she previously performed there she remembers looking around and seeing a baby sleeping on her father’s lap and then in another area a women standing up and dancing.  This is the kind of positive energy that enlivens Katerina to feel, create and live in the love she has for music!

megaro_garden_Katerina_polemi

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