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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Eric Burdon and The Animals

I hope Eric Burdon's concert at the Old Fortress in Corfu Town on 28 July is a success.

It's a big financial risk bringing international names to Corfu. If this concert goes well, more such concerts will be organised in the future.

I note that on Eric's official website, Richard Wilson has commented, "Cannot wait for the concert in Corfu. I have lived here now for 23 years and we have NEVER had a decent act play here."

I can't agree with that, but, at 68, Eric can still belt out some powerful blues.

I used to love his version of Sam Cooke's "Bring it On Home to Me", and the Animals' major hit, "The House of the Rising Sun". Their first LP had some strong covers of John Lee Hooker songs like "Dimples" and "Boom, Boom", as well as versions of r 'n' b classics originally recorded by Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry; Eric also sang convincing versions of Ray Charles' songs like "I believe to my soul" . Other slow blues I still remember: "How you've changed" and "For Miss Caulker". His version of Howlin' Wolf's "Fourty-Four" or "44 Blues" on his recent "Soul of a Man" CD shows just how good a blues singer he still is.

It's a shame he has to fly out before giving a planned master class at the Ionian University Music Department. He has been booked to replace Taj Mahal at a Blues Festival.

A pity he arrives too late on 27 July to sit in at the Kanoni gig (Ark Summer Party) in support of Animal Welfare!

Don't miss this concert. I hope you manage to find a parking place!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Beyond the mountains, above the Vikos Gorge

Now that the full stretch of the Egnatia highway is open all the way from Igoumenitsa to Ioannina, the bypass to the airport soon gets us to the turning off the Konitsa highway (easily identified by an iron bridge) up to the beautiful Cental Zagori villages and the Vikos Gorge

We bought an old stone house in one of the most beautiful villages back in 1983, but it had to be almost completely rebuilt six years ago. Just as well, perhaps, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to install or enjoy a modern kitchen and bathroom.

It’s now a very comfortable, spacious house, with a lovely garden and a panoramic view over the mountains and part of the gorge.

We spend more time in Corfu than in Zagori, it’s true, partly because our post comes to Corfu, where we also rely on our broadband connection, partly because of friends, the swimming and easy access to the town; but if I ever fall sick, I hope we’re in the Zagori, not far from the excellent Ioannina University Hospital.

Even in July, I do not miss the sea. I’m happy working in the garden, reading a book under one of our many trees, plum, walnut, quince and apple, or under the giant plane tree in the village square. We’ve even created a small private ouzeri next to our sterna (cistern) under the stone arches inside the gated yard.

I always mean to get some writing done when in the Zagori, but I’m far too happy pottering about in the garden, planting cherry trees, watering the flowers and vegetables or creating yet another shady bower or stone-built, if roofless, belvedere where I can sit and read and admire the view.

It’s a perfect hideway where I don’t ever get the Corfu blues! It’s a joy just to sit and listen to the nightingales singing, to watch the swallows on the telephone wires or hatching their young in the nests they’ve built inside our courtyard. It’s very seldom that one hears any noise other than birdsong or the distant bells of a flock of sheep.

The more we come here, the harder it is to tear ourselves away.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mandouki's Olive Oil Factory (Corfu)

In Corfu, Mandouki’s little square and main thoroughfare have been “pedestrianised” and much improved. The square now provides a very superior parking place for residents and visitors!

The old Olive Oil Factory opposite the New Port is an absolute disgrace and a danger to public health. The high chimney towers dangerously over a kindergarten.

Rats inhabit the abandoned (but listed) buildings. Illegal immigrants squat there in the most sordid conditions. The roofs have collapsed, and yet the area is not properly fenced. It is a huge fire hazard (all the old factory files and archives are still rotting there). Last week I saw a moving video about the condition of the building. It is clear that the Corfiot authorities do not take their legacy of Industrial Archaeology very seriously. So much for the UNESCO World Heritage listing, which includes the old buildings of Mandouki. At one time this was one of the biggest olive oil factories in Greece, and produced the highest quality of oil. Very sad.

The British Residency, Gaios, Paxos

Yesterday I took the Flying Dolphin to Paxos, on business. I left at 8.15 and came back at 2.45. I took my bicycle.

The main square and the sea-front road in Gaios are looking very handsome, newly paved with attractive stone plakes.

The Paxos Beach Hotel now has a swimming pool and similar paving stones in the area surrounding it.

The former British Residency in Gaios, is in an appalling state of repair. It has deteriorated greatly in recent years. This is one of Paxos’s most beautiful and important historic buildings.

Swimming pools and villas proliferate in an island without water, while historic cisterns, windmills and buildings are allowed to collapse. Sad. This was the island of my mother-in-law.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Corfu Blues Scene

Having written a book called "Corfu Blues", and many articles about the blues, it seemed like high time that I should catch up with some of the blues musicians who live on Corfu.

Since participating in a blues jam at Triklino Vineyard (at the Alternative Panigyri on the evening of 24 May; reviewed by Hilary Paipeti in the June issue of The Corfiot), I have been dusting my own guitar and harmonica, and checking out some of the local expat blues and folk-rock talent. It's mighty impressive- and I think I'm only scratching the surface.

Amongst the great musicians and groups I have heard recently:

Blues Refugees (Raul and Dave)

Blues Latitude (Roy Kendle and friends) at G & M's bar

Lenno and friends at @Home

Matthew Pearl and Dave at Epic

Chris Holmes

The great Corina Kotsoura (Corina Hamilton), who stunned us all at the Triklino jam.

These accomplished musicians deserve a wider audience.

Raul Scacchi has completed his CD "Neuromantics" - songs (not blues!) exploring the nature of modern love. Raul is an experienced and serious composer, as well as a versatile musician, having also set poems by Emily Dickinson.

This was launched at the Alternative Panigyri on May 23, along with the videos produced to "illustrate" or illuminate each song.

Some of us will be performing at a fund-raiser for The Ark (Animal Welfare) on July 27th.

It's really hard to find out what's going on in and around Corfu, and who's playing when and where.

The Music Department at the Ionian University is systematic about circulating emails listing university-related classical and jazz music events to interested people. If it weren't for emails from a few friends, I wouldn't have known about any of these gigs.

I've only just heard that Eric Burdon and the New New Animals will be performing at Corfu Old Fortress on 28 July at 9pm