Songs Of An Other

Savina Yannatou, Primavera en Salonico

Third ECM album by resourceful Greek singer Savina Yannatou and the exciting band Primavera en Salonico, recorded in Athens in 2007. The collective sails through traditional songs from Armenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Southern Italy as well as Greece, and adds a 16th century hymn from the Yiddish tradition. Arrangements, primarily by Kostas Vomvolos, find the points that unite the traditions, while Savina locates areas where experimental vocal technique can overlap with the idiosyncrasies of folk singing. A magical recording, with achingly beautiful melodies, and spirited improvising erupting out of the arrangements.

Featured Artists Recorded

October 2007, Sierra Studios, Athens

Original Release Date


  • 1Sareri hovin mernem
  • 2Za lioubih maiko tri momi
  • 3Smil Smiljana
  • 4Dunie-au
  • 5O Yannis kai o drakos
    (Kostas Theodorou, Kostas Vomvolos, Michalis Siganidis, Savina Yannatou, Traditional)
  • 6Albanian lullabye
  • 7Omar hashem le Yakoyv
  • 8Radile
  • 9Sassuni oror
  • 10Addio amore
  • 11Perperouna
    (Harris Lambrakis, Kostas Vomvolos, Savina Yannatou, Traditional)
  • 12Ah, Marouli
The singer’s voice is as fresh and versatile as ever, taking in hymnal lyricism, stirring folk balladry and a freer, essentially instrumental approach comprising cries, shries, ululation, grunts and cackles. Most of the material is rooted in traditional tunes, but the arrangements … leave great leeway rhythmically and melodically. … Amazingly, the band’s expertise and the crystal-clear production ensure they all go gloriously together.
Geoff Andrew, Jazzwise
These 12 traditional pieces, arranged by accordion and qanun player and group member Kostas Vomvolos, are traditional works from Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan and Serbia. They are sometimes melancholy, sometimes bucolic, sometimes upside-your-head spinning dervish-like funk pieces, given a new interpretation by the Can-style improvising philosophy of the group. It could be Oregon, it could be early Weather Report, but the most important thing about Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico is that this is the sound of cultures talking to each other, which nowadays we need more than ever.
John Gill, The Wire
Die griechische Sängerin Savina Yannatou ist keine Folk-Interpretin im engeren Sinne. Sie beherrscht die Kunst der Interpretation, belebt voller Ausdruckskraft die Figuren, schlüpft in Rollen und wechselt diese so mühelos wie die Sprachen und Gesangstechniken, die sie sich zu eigen macht. Vor allem : sie experimentiert. … Ihr Ensemble Primavera en Salonico rekrutiert sich aus jazzversierten Instrumentalisten und improvisationserfahrenen Folk-Musikern, und so kommen bei Yannatou Interpretation und Improvisation, Überlieferung und Experiment so gleichberechtigt zur Geltung wie nur selten. Wenn auch nicht in ein und demselben Song. Vielmehr gliedert sich das Programm in zwei Gruppen : Hier … behutsam arrangierte Lieder, die vergleichsweise « traditionell » interpretiert werden ; da Kollektivimprovisationen auf Grundlage griechischer Volkslieder. Erstere sind betörend, Letztere sind die Sensation.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
“We leave a lot of room in the songs. Each musician creates something different every time.” - Savina Yannatou

“Songs Of An Other”, recorded in Athens last October, is the third ECM album by Greek singer Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico. It finds the adventurous collective sailing through traditional songs from Armenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, and Southern Italy as well as Greece, adding a 16th century hymn from the Yiddish tradition.

Once again, the arrangements, by Kostas Vomvolos with input from all band members, find the points that suggest a unity of the traditions, while Savina locates areas where experimental vocal technique can overlap with the idiosyncrasies of folk singing, as folk melody erupts into free areas. The improvisational quotient is stronger on “Songs Of An Other” than on “Sumiglia”, the collective’s 2004 album and the whole ensemble’s growth of confidence is immediately evident. They’ve toured extensively in the last four years and the group sound is at once tighter and liberated. Distinctions between ‘jazz’ players and traditional instrumentalists inside the ensemble no longer apply. Each musician is fully engaged in shaping and developing the music. “If you start improvising then something else happens, just as one thought will take you to another, without the connections being obvious.” Yannatou has said. “This time the selection of material seemed to emphasize strongly rhythmic elements and ‘strange’ melodies, and I think this encouraged the flow of improvisational ideas.” (“Za lioubih maimo tri momi” from Pirin Macedonia is immediately impressive in this aspect).

On “Sumiglia”, songs were effectively portraits; here the themes are many - love songs, religious songs, philosophical meditations, lullabies, songs of working the land, songs of leaving and returning -all bringing forth evocative playing. “Ah, Marouli” is from the Greek island of Calymnos, and is a traditional song of sponge-divers. “Addio amore” is an olive-harvester’s song, “Omar hashem leyakoyv” a Yiddish song from the Ashkenazic tradition, probably from the 16th century. In addition to the arrangements of traditional material, there are two new compositions based on Greek sources - “O Yannis kai o drakos”, and “Perperouna” respectively a dragon-slaying song and a gentle call for rain. The first features percussionist Kostas Theodorou on second double-bass, the latter cross-references Burundi rhythm with Greek melody, and adds African kalimba to the arrangement.

“There were no limits imposed about where the music might come from,” Savina says. Much of the choice of material – intuitive rather than systematic or conceptual- was made by sifting through hundreds of folk tunes, from all over the world, archived by nay player Harris Lambrakis, who is also a musicologist. “I was simply being open to anything that held my attention.” Her choices spurred Kostas Vomvolos to find ways to arrange the material that would fully engage the playing capacity of all members of Primavera en Salonico. “Sumiglia”, she reflects, was in some ways a record of restraint, of holding back, of putting the focus on the songs’ narratives. “Songs of An Other”, by contrast, has more to do with letting go, opening up, flying... “On the last recording we were asking ourselves: What are these songs about? This time around we were simply saying: Let’s play!”