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Savina Yannatou

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Having built her reputation as a singer of Baroque, Renaissance, and early music, Savina Yannatou has increasingly veered toward avant-garde jazz and improvisational music. Accompanied by her band, Primavera en Salonico, which she formed in 1993, Yannatou continues to demonstrate her mastery of Mediterranean music. Her repertoire includes songs from Sardinia, Corsica, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Albania, Spain, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and her homeland in Greece. Having established her reputation in classical music, Yannatou began to expand her horizons in 1993 when she formed Primavera en Salonico. The group -- which focuses on a mix of European classical, Byzantine, traditional Greek, and Near Eastern music -- creates a world music sound with a combination of Western instruments (guitar, violin, and double bass) and Eastern instruments, including toumbeleki, bendir, tambourine, daoul, kanonaki, nay, and tamboura. A year after coming together, Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico recorded an album of Sephardic folk songs of the Balkan region. The album was followed by two additional group recordings -- Mediterranea: Songs of the Mediterranean and Virgin Maries of the World. Recording as a soloist, Yannatou also released Spring in Salonica in 1994, Traditional Lullabies (Nanourismata) in 1998, and Rosa das Rosas in 2000. Yannatou marked the turn of the century by beginning a long relationship with Manfred Eicher's ECM label in addition to her contract with the Lyra imprint. Her ECM debut, Terra Nostra, appeared in 2000. Over the next year and a half, she appeared on recordings by the Plucked String Orchestra of Patras and Nikos Kypourgos, as well as Nikos Mamangakis' score for the film Lilly's Story. In 2002, she issued the tribute recording Savina Yannatou Sings Manos Hadjidakis on Lyra. This was followed by a period of appearances on other artists' recordings, including Michalis Gregoriou's Μπλέ (2003) and Nikos Kypourgos' Garden Theater (2004). In 2005, she sang on Vojislav Ivanović's Levantina and returned to recording for ECM as a vocalist on Anders Jormin's Electra and her own album Sumiglia, with Primavera en Salonico. Also in 2005, Yannatou appeared in The Bacchae, the first of five plays in which she would participate directed by Sotiris Hatzakis. In 2006, Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico collaborated with Sardinian vocalist Elena Ledda and composer/multi-instrumentalist Mauro Palmas on the album Tutti Baci for Lyra. She also expanded her musical relationship with Mamangakis; it resulted in her becoming a formal member of his ensemble. Commencing in 2006, she recorded extensively with him, appearing on eight of his albums through 2011. The year 2007 saw the release of her own Musique des Chambres on Lyra; it was followed by Songs of an Other on ECM in 2008. Over the next two years, Yannatou appeared on recordings by Orchestra οf the Colours, Stella Gadedi, Felizol, Michalis Siganidis, and Soma, issued by a variety of labels. In 2010 she recorded the duet offering Attikos with British bassist Barry Guy for Maya Recordings. After an extended period spent touring with Primavera en Salonico and on sabbatical, Yannatou and the band returned to recording. Songs of Thessaloniki appeared from ECM in May of 2015. ~ Craig Harris & Thom Jurek

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1959 in Athens, Greece

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s