Don't forget the bouzouki

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Greek blues part of Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues fest

Greece has provided a lot to world culture. There's Greek mythology, the Greek salad, Greek philosophers ... and the Greek blues.

Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House, musicians with The Forgotten Bouzouki will add samplings of the sub-culture songs of rebetika (a.k.a. the Greek blues) to this year's Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John's.

The Forgotten Bouzouki perform July 1 in downtown St. John's. The band plays tonight at the Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House as part of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John's. Submitted photo

Greece has provided a lot to world culture. There's Greek mythology, the Greek salad, Greek philosophers ... and the Greek blues.

Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House, musicians with The Forgotten Bouzouki will add samplings of the sub-culture songs of rebetika (a.k.a. the Greek blues) to this year's Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John's.

The Forgotten Bouzouki is the collective name for George Miminis (guitar and vocals), Simon Miminis (drums), Alison Corbett (violin and baglamas), Heather Wright (violin), Matthew Hender (double bass), Holly Hoggin (vocals) and - sitting in the place of bouzouki player for the first time - Darren Browne.

"The group (idea) came out of a few friends from the local Greek community. I used to be president of the local Greek community, I was for about nine years," George Miminis said, describing that community as including between 35 and 40 people.

"Most of them come from the island of Milos in Greece and they are related," he said with a laugh. "There are some odd ones, like me for example, who came here independently."

Miminis came from Athens and arrived in the province in 1984, taking a job as a professor of computer science at Memorial University, where he has continued to today.

"Music helps me with not being square," he said with another lighthearted laugh.

As for the name, The Forgotten Bouzouki?

"It's a descriptive name that has to do with a bouzouki that was made for me many, many years ago. I never really played and it was forgotten in my basement up until a friend of mine, about 14 years ago or so, got hold of it," Miminis said.

"He loved it. He gave up his guitar and started playing bouzouki and soon enough we started the group. So we called it The Forgotten Bouzouki."

The band does not perform originals, but instead bring existing pieces of Greek music to Newfoundland and Labrador audiences.

They were recorded in 2004 by CBC Radio when they played a concert at the LSPU Hall featuring Dave Panting and Pamela Morgan. The band has also been a regular act at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's for the last five years.

They have more recently played during Canada Day celebrations in downtown St. John's.

"Right now in the group there is only me who is Greek and my son, who was born here, he plays the drums and he is Greek. All the rest are professional musicians," Miminas said.

As professionals, Miminas said his group quickly picks up the Greek music he provides, although he does provide some guidance here and there.

"The problem is with the style. The style of music is kind of different and it takes a bit of time," he said.

As an example, "the violin should not be as smooth as a classical violin ... It's got to whine a little bit more, which is not acceptable in classical music, you need to be smooth and soft. So more gypsy like."

In addition - so it is not all Greek to her - Miminas works with Hoggin on the lyrics.

"We sit together and we write down the words in English characters so she can pronounce them. I explain to her what the song means so she knows what she is talking about," he said. "I think this would be the hardest thing. The rest is music."

Following the performance at the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival, The Forgotten Bouzouki will return to working on their first album. The band has received a professional project grant for $3,500 to assist with the work. Work on the album of Greek ballads, Greek blues and traditional music is scheduled to be completed by February of 2011.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House, CBC Radio

Geographic location: St. John's, Greece, Newfoundland and Labrador Island of Milos Athens

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