Sounds of Greece @ SXSW: Imam Baildi Ready for the American Dream

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Imam Baildi is the first young Greek band that has managed to bring Greek music from the 40s, 50s and 60s to an audience around the world. Their music is based on remixing songs by legendary composers and singers, as well as combining them with new sounds and production techniques to make them contemporary.

As Criteria Entertainment brings the Sounds of Greece to SXSW for the first time with backing from leading green products company Earth Friendly Products and En Lefko radio, Imam Baildi is one of the acts selected to perform in Austin.

Initially formed by brothers Lysandros and Orestis Falireas, Imam Baildi expanded to include other members over the course of a few years. Since 2007, the band has released two albums that have been very succesful in Greece and received wide critical acclaim in Europe – both albums were in the top 10 on the European World Music Charts in 2009 and 2011.

We spoke to Lysandros about the band’s music as well as their first ever upcoming show in the U.S. at SXSW.

What inspires your music?

It’s really hard to define, but as we work mainly with old tunes, what inspires us is the fact that something composed 50 or more years ago manages to touch us still. Sometimes it’s the lyrics, sometimes it’s a melody or just the sound of these recordings that’s very moving, and we’ve seen it’s not just us, but also all the people who like our music. We’ve grown so accustomed to this way of working that even when we work on our compositions, we regard them as something written by someone else, and us as the guys who have to change it. When we come up with our own ideas for our tracks, we just let them sit for a month or so and then change them into something different just as we would do for a remix.

What can people expect from your performance at SxSW?

They can expect our best! It will be a very danceable show, especially since it’s only 40 minutes. We’ll be playing our finest and most danceable tracks. When making the tracks, we work more as producers and less as a band, meaning we let each track take its own course, and that’s why we incorporate many different styles. This is also true for our live performances. In SXSW, we’ll play several remixes from old Greek tunes, some of them have more hip-hop elements, some latin, some more electro, and also some Balkan music, which is also part of our shows. Our horn players come from Northern Greece, and they were playing these tunes in weddings and fairs ever since they were old enough to hold an instrument. It’s gonna be a band of six – drums, percussion, dj & bass, bouzouki, guitar, sax, 7 clarinette. Our singer, Rena, is infatuated with old-style singing, and our MC was born in Greece but has roots in Santo Domingo so he mixes all the vocal finesse of the Caribbean with the Greek elements. We’re preparing a massive sounding act, no time for relaxing parts in a 40 minute show, with lots of different styles that all have a common flavor, that of the old Greek recordings.

What does it mean for you to be able to perform at the music festival?

It means everything. Not only is it the first time we play in the States, but also probably the largest festival we’ve attended so far. We’ve performed in major European Festivals, such as Roskilde, Sziget or Lowlands, but they all seem miniscule compared to SXSW. It’s really a lifetime chance for us, and the feedback we have so far is very encouraging. Seems like people there are really going to enjoy it.

You have a Kickstarter to help with funding. How important is that for musicians like yourself?

Browsing Kickstarter and seeing all these great projects is great, we knew that already, but having your own project up there is something else! It’s not just about fundraising, but also very much about reaching out to people in a very direct and personal way. Just imagine waking up one morning, checking your email and seeing people you would never have known engaged to what you’re doing. Simply amazing. Also, the project guidelines oblige you to present your work in a very sincere and concise way. We’ve been trying to do it for 5 years now, and it just came out very natural when we made the Kickstarter video. We feel like we managed to say it all in just three minutes.

To get more on Imam Baildi, visit facebook.com/imambaildi, and their Kickstarter page.

Greek Reporter is an official Media Sponsor of “Sounds of Greece” at SxSW. Click HERE to visit our page dedicated to the initiative.