#artworkers ın THE MIDST OF PANDEMIC: Manolıs Chrıstodoulou

Manolis Christodoulou is a 30 years-old music teacher and a music performer from Greece and he has been living in Athens for six years. Although he grew up in Athens, he is originally from Kalymnos and Livadeia in Greece. Before he graduated from the department of Music at University of Ioannina, he had participated in Erasmus program at Turkish Music State Conservatory of Istanbul Technical University.

Grab a cup of coffee, put on your headphones, click on the link below and get ready to read our interview.

Music: M. Christodoulou, C. Kyriazis | Arrangement: Dysanatolia


How do you describe your profession? When and how did you start doing it?

Music as a profession, in my point of view, is a blessing for anyone who follows it despite its difficulties and requirements such as commitment and strength to perform it -especially in tough times like the one we have been going through. Economic instability and various other stuff are the main difficulties that the musicians face with. Perhaps the worst of all is that in my country, as in many other countries, the majority considers music as something just can be done as a hobby rather than a profession. Besides, our industry must guarantee that the rights of the musicians are secured. Also, I would like to underline that performing music as a leisure time activity is a way different than doing it professionally. People should avoid underestimating this field and they should be aware of the difference between those two. A professional musician must be responsible for their object. If you have the talent, one way of doing this is moving forward in academy, for instance. Also, you can always read and expand your knowledge about music in a more broader sense.

How would you describe your Erasmus experience in Istanbul?

I had been in Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul for a short period in 2013. There is no doubt that my experience in Istanbul was one of the best times of my life. I admire Istanbul from the moment I started playing kanun so that the opportunity of performing it in the city where it is played was a remarkable thing for me. I adore both the diversity and the interaction between people. After living there, I felt like I favored it more. In particular, Istanbul Technical University impressed me with its facilities. In addition to that, the level of students who enrolled in were very high. I keep hanging out people I met there such as musicians, colleagues, locals and other citizens since they had contributed to that valuable experience. One final thing, participating to the program of “TRT” (Owned by the Turkish government) and all our daily experiences were meant to me as well.

How was your life before pandemic? How much time were you spending at work?

My life was quite good before pandemic, both financially and personally, since my country has slowly begun to recover from the severe economic crisis that has plagued us in recent years. I was taking part in various projects and orchestras. Plus, I was offering kanun lessons as well so that I had been working for long hours every day besides the time I spend for practicing. Strictly speaking, music fulfills a huge part of your daily life if you perform it professionally because we take it as a way of life instead of a regular job. Parallel to that, it turns into a vital need for the musicians to express themselves so it goes beyond the technique and theoretical knowledge in time.

Manolis plays Kanun.

In which way has pandemic impacted your professional life ? Do you work from home nowadays?

All arrangements including daily activities, concerts, orchestra rehearsals were suspended much earlier than the governmental restrictions. Nowadays, I have been continuing giving private lessons through Skype. For now, all I can do is practicing and making music at home, but that is not an efficient way for us to work. At this point, I would like to remind everyone that all art workers in the industry has been dealing with tough circumstances.

How do you cope with this whole situation? What has changed in your personal life due to pandemic?

I think everyone’s life has changed radically in this period of COVID-19, especially the ones who work are affected much more. By going under lockdown, we are forced to stay home while we had no idea about what will come next day. That uncertainty made us feel psychologically devastated. For me, a lot of things have changed due to restrictions and my personality. I was used to be outgoing and social; however, interacting with others is impossible now. That lack of interaction is the a major issue for me as a musician, who has to be in touch with people. We have to engage each other by participating rehearsals, attending live programs or in an academic environment so working from home is not the way for us.

Manolis plays Kanun.

What has challenged you the most during COVID-19?

Unfortunately, pandemic had a huge impact on musicians in all possible manners. The government hasn’t taken any action for the art workers so far so that most of the people have been struggling. As long as they will be ignored, the situation will get worse since the financial incapability will make people depressed. Above all, one of the most challenging thing for art workers is the creative process and inspiration. On the other hand, those music videos, which are created in the middle of pandemic has become a phenomenon. Thanks to such initiatives, we will be able to motivate a wide range of people with our art work.

In terms of art workers, what were the minor and major consequences of the decisions that are taken by government?

What else could have been done to protect the rights of art workers? Unfortunately, no substantive decision has been taken for the sake of art workers who are affected by pandemic restrictions. There was a granted governmental allowance, but just a few people could get benefits of it. Nowadays, there is a great deal of supportive movement by the art workers who are willing to react to that unfair situation and hopefully, we will receive those positive news that we wish to hear. The immediate financial support that will be provided by the government will help us survive until the concerts and other organizations run again.

How about #SupportArtWorkers movement? How did it all start?

“Support Art Workers” is a campaign organized by a group of talented art workers with various fields of culture. It is published on Avaaz, which is considered as the world’s largest and most powerful online petition platform. Basically, it aims to centralize the voice of citizens in political decision-making process. Avaaz refers to the term “voice” in Greek as well as many other languages that are spoken in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In the same line with the meaning of that word, the platform mobilizes citizens from all over the world in order for them to have a voice in key national and global issues. In the light of aforementioned information, ’Support Art Workers’ movement is an initiative for collecting signatures in favor of implementing the demands of Greek workers in the wider area of culture. By collaborating, we aim to fulfill our personal and professional needs in order to be able to survive for the next few months. The pandemic and the lockdown have confronted these people with the uncertain future.

Do you consider yourself productive during pandemic times? Are you able to find that inspiration?

Inspiration is the hardest thing to get for the artists regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately, I have been passing through a creative process on my own. During the time I have been spending at home, I have performed and composed quite a lot. As the days go by, our perception towards the things have been changing and I have started thinking that we will be able to see pandemic times as an inspiring feature in our future works. I believe that we, as musicians, have been giving faith to a considerable amount of people all over the world because music is always here to keep us alive and inspired in tough times.

How do other art workers in Greece react to that challenging conditions? Have you come up with a common idea to prevent your rights?

Unfortunately, there has always been a lack of unity in art industry. To be more specified, there is some kind of an existing medium-sized unification between musicians to defend our rights and actually pandemic period is the best time to give a start for a better future for us. Art, itself, has become an extremely important matter for each of us in the course of financial, moral and cultural crisis. For instance, a major protest planned from all over the art world for this week and this is obviously a great start. One thing is for sure that those are the days that we must be taken care by the state. • Have you planned anything for the post-pandemic period in terms of your job or education? It is very difficult for me to think on my professional plans in this specific period because the future is uncertain. Nevertheless, I have been studying something about intercultural education for a while. One final word, thinking on what art means to us and the possible consequences of its absence is highly important.

As Plato once said: “Music is a moral rule. It gives the universe a soul, feathers in thought, takes off the imagination, gives joy to sadness and life in everything.” 

Editor’s Note: Since the majority of art workers have become unable to get the unemployment support they need during COVID-19 pandemic, they have been struggling for survival. By conducting a series of interviews, Baklava Mag aims to inform youth around the world in order for them to come up with concrete solutions.

an ıntervıew on PANDEMIC’s ımpact on art workers

Gizem is a Thessaloniki based musician who originally comes from Istanbul. Currently, she has been trying to learn Greek and expanding her knowledge in Byzantium Music.

If you have ever wondered what it feels like struggling with pandemic as a musician, read our interview below.

From her last concert with Daemonia Nymphe Official in Athens.

Visual Credits: Jo Gogou and Afternoiz

🎤Could you tell us where and when did the virus occur in the region/country you live in?

Basically, everything has started here in Thessaloniki. First, I read the news on the Internet around the mid January. It was being told that after a business meeting in China, the virus had started to spread, but such conspiracy theories like “Chinese government wanted to kill their people in order to control the population growth” were existed as well. When I shared such news with my friends, we made fun of how media fakes everything. We all thought that it could never appear around us.

I am not sure about when did it all start since we were pretty shocked. I felt like we were diving into a trouble. Globally speaking, we were all so late in terms of preventions such as curfew and lockdown. However, the UK and in the states are worse to be honest. 

🎤Do you think those preventions are enough? What could have been done in a different way to protect people?

All things are being done here, the government did what they could do but the actual chaos hits the households. Putting people under lockdown was an easy decision, but now we are out of budget and have literally no idea about how to pay our rents and so on. At this point, I must add that I feel deeply sorry and thankful for Italian people who demonstrated efforts on making people aware about what will come next.

🎤How do you and the society feel about being under lock down? Could you talk about the physiological side effects of the isolation? How were you spending a regular day of yours on the very first days of the pandemic and what has been changed so far?

It was okay in the very first days. We had no clear idea about the number of the days we were about to stay inside so we spent our time by making up sci-fi scenarios. Personally, I like staying home because I am mostly out at nights due to my job. That’s why it felt like an unexpected holiday in the beginning. I was reading more than before, learning new things, practicing music. Even sitting and drinking my coffee in my balcony became a routine in that period. Now, as the days passed by, we started to get minor depressions. We have no clue about what will come next and we kind of lost our trust to the governments and politicians in a broader sense. As musicians and art workers, we are all out of work for at least six more months and knowing that makes us restless. Plus, there is nothing to inspire us to produce new songs since we can’t step out of home.

Actually both for Greece and Turkey, something more can be provided to help people. But even our own government, I mean the Turkish one, follows a wrong path. For instance, Turkish business people provide masks to famous people in the USA instead of helping their people. I strongly believe that only solidarity between people will solve this issue. To make the situation better, governments must have release the actual case numbers and make hospital accessible for all sick people. Nowadays almost 20.000 tests per day are implementing in Turkey, where 80 million people locate in. In fact, all people needs proper health care by the government that they voted for.

For sure, lockdown is a part of the solution but besides, have to secure your people as well in order for the lockdown to achieve true success. In Germany, the government paid thousands of euros to their people without considering the deadline of the virus. Their rents were paid, they kept getting their salaries. Whereas here, before government told us to stay in quarantine, we locked ourselves home. Also, in Turkey, ages below 20 and above 65 are in lockdown but the rest needs to work. What is the purpose of this prevention, then?

🎤Who do you think fight against the pandemic most successfully when you take the whole world into consideration? Do you even think such country exists?

New Zealand seems like on top. They closed their borders just in the beginning. Their government handled the situation more safely.

🎤What do you miss the most while in lock down?

I miss going out for a coffee with my friends and ending up in a bar to drink Campari. I could be so happy by singing out as well…

Visual Credit: S.L. Hillman

🎤What might be the major and minor consequences of the pandemic when everything calms down?

Depression and xenophobia. Seriously, what is about to come makes me more nervous than what we have been dealing right now. The majority will lose their jobs and there will be no art-related activities until next October. We need some time to free our minds. For two to three weeks, life in outside will be hell. All I hope is that the virus won’t strike us again.

Here in Greece, the commercial places are planned to be open beginning from the next week, but there will be curfew after midday. Also, summer is coming so it is possible for Greece to have some financial issues since its economy is based on tourism. Honestly, since everything is pretty unclear for all of us, it’s really hard to come up with any clear prediction.

🎤Do you have any plans for your the post-pandemic period, both in academic and professional manner?

No idea. It will be extremely hard because until October, it seems like we are off business. I guess I will end up camping somewhere during this summer -quarantine mood but without walls, in other words. We don’t know anything about the future of the schools, festivalsa and concerts. We have lack of inspiration in these days so we can’t release a new album. So we try keeping ourselves in kind of zen mood and pushing ourselves to stay as patient as possible.

SONGS GATHER US ALL: SING FOR ALL!

The healing power of music has been used as a therapeutic intervention since the late 18th century and is considered as a tool to fight against the fear of pandemic nowadays. Starting from the very first day of lockdown, people in Italy have been singing in their balconies as they were used to do centuries ago -even the ones that have millions of followers such as the famous Ferragnez family.

As the days go by, this collective singing tradition has become more creative and impressive. As more people have been involved, more sounds have emerged all around us . A compelling example of that was released on the 6th of April by a group of people with different backgrounds. Under the title of “ThesSingers”, 40 people gathered to cover a historical song by Antonis Vardis and Costas Tripolitis.

Credits: ThesSingers Facebook Page

Within just a few days, their work has reached out more than 4.000 audiences and hundreds of comments that are full of gratitude.

Click here to watch them on Youtube.

In the meantime, another initiative was about to start on the other side of the Aegean sea. An Istanbul based acapella choir that aims to embody the polyphonic, diverse, and colourful culture of Eurasia has invited everyone to join them with a particular song for an online concert.

Credits: Chromas Choir Official Website
Translation: For the first time in Turkey: Sing with us Turkey! #MusicFitsinHome

Today at 19.30 /CET), the choir will hold an informal Q&A session via a Zoom meeting.

Until the 17th of April, Chromas Choir will receive the online applications through their official page.

Baklava Magcalls everyone to #stayhome and apply for such inspiring gatherings with hope in wherever they are.

Have yourself a sweet quarantine, everyone!

Greek-Youth Turkish Orchestra

Where people fail in communication, music speaks!

A few years ago, “Greek-Turkish Youth Orchestra” greatly used the universal language of music to build friendship between #Turkish and #Greek communities. It became a wonderful attempt, thanks to the efforts of Konialidis. For a few years, we all witnessed a remarkable reunion of Turkey and Greece. 

60 young, brilliant musicians from both sides performed in highly prestigeous venues such as the Acropolis (#Athens), Megaro Mousikis(#Thessaloniki), İstanbul Lütfi Kırdar / Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar – ICEC and Ahmed Adnan Saygun Sanat Merkezi (#İzmir). They even hosted a special concert where Bill Clinton and over 50 heads of states participated.

The las time we heard from them was in 2017; however, we keep our fingers crossed for more performances for 2020.

The orchestra was supported by Greek Ministry of CultureGreek Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Η Ελλάδα στον Κόσμο, T.C. Atina Büyükelçiliği / Turkish Embassy Athens / Πρεσβεία Τουρκίας Αθήνα, Turkish Office of Tourism in Athens, AGC Equity Partners, Bilkent ÜniversitesiDeree – The American College of Greece, Dogus Foundation, Vehbi Koç VakfıKoç Üniversitesi, Mrs. Kyriacopoulos K, John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Maria Tsakos Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural CenterRodos Palace HotelSchwarz Foundation and Yaşar Üniversitesi.