This April, the city of Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey saw a first-ever revival of its historic musical heritage of Smyrneika on the famous waterfront. Filmmaker Chrysovalantis Stamelos and producer Georgia Papadopoulou collaborated together in producing a full concert of Smyrneika and Rembetika in the city on both sides of its historic waterfront; the Smyrna Quay and Kordelio (Karşiyaka). The project was fully supported by the City of Izmir Municipality and Karşiyaka Municipality in holding the concerts on such historic grounds. Further support was given by numerous funders through the online campaign on IndieGoGo that Stamelos and Papadopoulou held for several weeks.
The concert featured the newly-formed musical ensemble ‘NeaBanda’, which comprises of several musicians from Athens and Izmir, specializing in the genre of the city’s musical heritage. The concert boasted 25 songs and featured two incredibily talented singers from both sides of the Aegean singing in Greek and Turkish.
The concert, which is the central focus of Stamelos’s next film ‘Journey Through Smyrna’, welcomed the attendence of over 1,000 people and saw an incredibly enthusiastic response from locals. Songs which are shared by both cultures were introduced not as a phenomenon between two seperate cultures, but as one shared heritage that pinpoints its origins from the city itself at a time when both cultures coexisted during Ottoman times.
In addition, the team had spent several days shooting the new documentary film with Stamelos and Papadopoulou on the historical streets of Izmir, including the neighborhoods of Karataş (Karatasi/Mavropetro) and Şirinyer (Paradisos). The neighborhoods were specifically chosen due to the cultural heritage connected to the Greeks of Asia Minor who had fled the Catastrophe of 1922.
Stamelos reflected on the experience. ‘The feeling we had filming on these streets are beyond words. To see the musicians and hear the music play throughout these neighborhoods was like opening a time machine in front of your eyes. The locals were so supportive and even crowded around the crew to listen to the music. In the end, we didn’t even have one complaint, which for a former New Yorker, is almost unheard of.’
The culmination of both film and music witnessed was all documented and will be put into the film ‘Journey Through Smyrna’ which is looking for a Spring 2016 opening. The film is currently planned for international film festival releases, as well as university and cultural screening programs.
Photography by Alexander Koromilas