In June this year Dutch Performing Arts commissioned a special Dutch World Stage at networking and showcase festival inJazz, in collaboration with World Music Forum NL. Four Dutch acts presented themselves to an audience of Dutch and international music lovers and presenters. How do they look back on their performance? And what does the future hold for them?
Dutch Performing Arts caught up with Michalis Cholevas, band leader of Lingua Franca Ensemble. The group is made up of tarhu/ney player Michalis, violinist Michalis Kouloumis, singer/ guitarist Giannis Koutis and drummer/percussionist Ruven Ruppik. Lingua Franca Ensemble blends Eastern Mediterranean traditions with Western music elements to compose colourful soundscapes. Last year they released their album Ephemera.
What was playing at inJazz like? Was it what you hoped or expected it to be?
Michalis: ‘Looking back on our performance I'd say it was a rather intimate one. The kind that allowed us to connect with the audience and share emotional moments with the people present. And it connected us with the industry people we were hoping to meet. We were expecting to connect with the local community of musicians and entrepreneurs as well as with professionals from the scene such as agencies, venues and programmers from abroad.‘
How has the support of Dutch Performing Arts been of help to you?
‘I’m very happy that we got the invitation of Dutch Performing Arts to play as a non-jazz group. Our music lends itself well for a niche market so in that sense the showcase was instrumental in helping us build up towards our next steps and wishful future. It brought a lot of attention to our music, allowed us to play a full house and for a very active audience that created a wonderful vibe. Opportunities like these help us make a smoother transition to an outer circle of people and audiences that could be interested in our music.‘
Which places in the world would you really like to play at?
‘We’d like to take our music to places that make a good fit with it. Our music allows people to deeply connect with the art of music and the emotions that it can convey. In that sense, we’re looking for venues and audiences that are interested in emotional journeys. That, in my opinion, asks for small to middle-sized stages but…the sky is the limit. This October we will have the chance to experience the impact of our music on a stage of a completely different scale, during our performance at WOMEX in Las Palmas - the most important international networking and showcase festival for world music.’
You were born in Athens, Greece and have been living in Rotterdam for the past 10+ years. Which place do you call home?
‘As I divide my time between different areas and time zones it’s getting increasingly difficult to feel at home in one particular place. I have nostalgia for Greece when I’m in Holland and I have nostalgia for Holland when I’m in Greece. My feeling of home lies more in the creative part of my life and when there are people to share that creativity with. I like to create music with people I appreciate and have this feeling of enjoyment together.’
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
‘I see myself still making music as part of my work that also includes education, performance and research activities. Looking back I never thought I'd become a musician. My first dream was to become an astronaut. In my late twenties I even took a break from music and did some Physics and Biology. I then came to the Netherlands for my Masters at Codarts because Rotterdam was the only place where you could study Turkish or classical Ottoman music. From that moment on things got on autopilot and I just knew music will always be part of my life.’
What do you hope for the future of Lingua Franca Ensemble?
‘We hope to be healthy, to be able to keep growing musically in an organic manner. Right now we’re building up the concept of our next recording work. We don't feel the need to publish an album every year but we’re constantly revisiting and creating new music material until we feel ready for the next step.'
Visuals and text: Robbie van Zoggel
We also met up with the group shortly before their performance at inJazz. Check out the video below for a heart-to-heart about the DNA of Lingua Franca Ensemble and making an emotional connection with the audience.
Also check out our interviews with Shishani & Namibian Tales and Tabanka.