Banda Magda | Amour, T'es Là?

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World: Samba Pop: French Pop Moods: Mood: Fun
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Amour, T'es Là?

by Banda Magda

Romance in the Sound Cinema: Technicolor global chansons with a Brazilian-Francophile flair.
Genre: World: Samba
Release Date: 

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1. Amour, T'es Là?
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3:08 album only
2. Astéroïde
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1:45 album only
3. Caramel
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3:12 album only
4. Ce Soir
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3:05 album only
5. Couche-Toi
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3:09 album only
6. Juin
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3:15 album only
7. Fond De La Mer
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3:29 album only
8. La Japonaise
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3:01 album only
9. Mouche
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3:02 album only
10. Oublie-La
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3:47 album only
11. Petite Maline
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3:06 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Romance in the Sound Cinema: Banda Magda’s Sunny, Dreamy, Globally Inflected Debut Poses the Eternal Question, Amour, t’es là?

Throwing caution to the wind, she jotted down a flurry of words in French. A simple, playful gesture, it eventually yielded song after cheeky, beautifully crafted song, sunny vignettes that harkened back to the golden age of Brazilian bossa, the best of cinematic arranging, and the lush chic of vintage French pop.

Sparkling with mirror-ball iridescence, Banda Magda’s debut Amour, t’es là? (release: July 12th, 2013) gleams in the brightest possible palette. Its songs wink and smile with Technicolor forests and dapper love interests in tiger masks, with an entire sun-drenched world, all artfully arranged with real finesse. Led by a New York-based, Greek-born singer and composer Magda Giannikou, the band may move from samba to jazz manouche, from Greek dance rhythms to forro, playing everything from marimba to pots and pans to get just the right shade of sound.

Banda Magda bursts with humor and quirky sensibility, and unites an Esquivel-loving vibes player from Japan (Mika Mimura); an Argentinean jazz guitarist (Ignacio Hernandez), a Nagasaki-born percussionist with contemporary classical cred (Keita Ogawa); a hand drummer with every South American rhythm at his fingertips (Marcelo Woloski); a rock-solid Greek multi-instrumentalist/bassist (Petros Klampanis); and a shifting cast of as many as fifteen additional characters all led by the sweet-voiced Giannikou. Together, these close musical friends turn Giannikou’s songs into engaging romps that have won them a spot with Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers Series, as well as regular gigs at discerning NYC venues like Joe’s Pub and Celebrate Brooklyn.

{full story below}

Don’t let Giannikou’s impish, sugar-sweet voice fool you: She’s a powerhouse of a composer. Long obsessed with film music (as a child, she’d plunk out scores note by note on the piano) and passionately encouraged by parents who listened to everything from exotica and pop to classical.

“Even as a little kid, my father and I would listen to all sorts of music together,” Giannikou recalls. “Then we would talk about it, about that piano lick and how it creates counterpoint, and how that part grooves because the cymbals are doing this and that. My mother is a musician, architect, and art historian, and she writes children’s music and draws children’s books. We are very much alike and have vivid, dreamy, colorful imaginations.”

Giannikou went from working as a successful music educator, arranger, and TV and theater composer in Athens, to Berklee, where she dove into film scoring. An in-demand film composer, Giannikou has won several awards for her film work and composed commissioned works for the likes of the Kronos Quartet. She also contributed a forro and a bossa nova to the Louis CK ‘s show, singing a duet with the comedian.

Giannikou often longed for some other means of expression, beyond her chosen path’s relative solitude, “Everyone else had gigs,” says Giannikou. “I wanted a gig, wanted to share that magic on stage. But I wasn’t a performer.” That changed when she discovered her grandmother’s accordion in the attic on a trip back home. She took her find back to Boston and soon had all the gigs she could handle: “I was the only accordionist around.”

Freed by the new instrument, Giannikou soon made another unexpected discovery. She could write lyrics—most effusively and poetically in French. (Giannikou and Banda Magda perform songs in seven languages.) “It felt like a playground,” Giannikou recalls fondly. “It was pure fun, a new shining toy. I just wanted to keep doing it. There was distinctive vibe, a flow of colors and pure fun in that process unlike anything I had done before.”

This joyful burst of color comes to Giannikou whenever she’s on the right track as a songwriter. A synesthete, she sees the song as she writes. “When what I want to say is clear to me, notes and words start effortlessly falling from the sky like snowflakes,” she says. “A paintbrush begins to draw colors and shapes on the cinema screen inside my mind. It serves as a map of the song, and helps me make sure that the triggering emotion is still being conveyed, in every single performance.”

The resulting songs were inspired by Brazilian sounds, tango, the classics of mid-century French pop and classical orchestration—Gainsbourg and Henry Mancini loom large in Giannikou’s signature style—and her own keen, cinematic sense of color and sonic texture. To achieve this evolving, lush sound, Giannikou employed everything from dusky marimbas to bright dulcimer, Japanese shamisen, and Chinese guzheng, not shying away from expanding the usual big-band palette and string section. She hints at the sway of Cape Verdean mourna (“Fond de la Mer”) to portray the bittersweet dynamics of a relationship on the rocks, then pays homage to her own Greek heritage, enlisting tsifteteli dance rhythms to capture the glories of a June night (“Juin”).

After moving to New York, Giannikou began to work closely with high-caliber musician friends from backgrounds as diverse and musically omnivorous as her own. “The core of the band is two Argentines, two Greeks and two Japanese,” notes Giannikou gleefully. “We shape the final sound together, hanging out and fooling around with the song. Apart from the string and horn arrangements, the arrangement process is very interactive. Six musical minds can create so many more sonic dimensions than one.”

Giannikou found support and inspiration working side by side with bandleader, producer, and fellow high-energy arranger Michael League, who helped shape the final form of the Banda’s ambitious, wide-ranging sound, and with engineer extraordinaire Fab Dupont, who wrangled the arrangement’s many layers with a heartfelt feeling that shone through in the final mix.

“I don’t particularly aim to create the impression that what you are hearing is a band playing, though I couldn’t do this without the musical family of Banda Magda. I concentrate a lot on color and timbre,” muses Giannikou. “Notes and chords are shapes and colors, hues and tints. They fly around and then I grab them, and place them in that omnipotent image, engraved, in my mind.”

Banda & guests

Magda Giannikou : Accordion, voice, piano, guzheng
Ignacio Hernandez : nylon string, acoustic & electric guitar
Marcelo Woloski: percussion, kalimba
Petros Klampanis : double bass
Mika Mimura : vibes, marimba, glockenspiel
Keita Ogawa: percussion
Michael League: electric bass, baritone, electric & acoustic guitar, vocals
Justin Stanton: rhodes, organ
Jordan Perlson: drumset
Chris Bullock: flute & clarinet
Mike Maher: trumpet & flugelhorn, vocals
Jay Jennings: trumpet
Davindar Singh: baritone sax
Dan Pugach: percussion on Amour, t’es là? & Ce Soir
Max ZT: hammered dulcimer
Maria Im: violin I
Robyn Quinnett: violin II
Lev Ljova Zhurbin: viola
Jody Redhage: violoncello
George Kontrafouris: piano on Astéroïde
Dimitris Sevdalis: piano on Oublies-la
Samuel Torres: congas and hand guiro on Oublies-la
Jonathan Singer: tabla
Petros Kourtis: percussion on Fond de la Mer & Juin
Sumie Kaneko: shamisen
Ricardo Vogt: guitar on Amour, t’es là? & Ce Soir
Eric Kurimski: guitar on Fond de la Mer
Vocals: Alexis Julliard, Kimi Lundi, Sylvie Bourban, Anna Talpe, Melodie Tyler, Marcelo Woloski, Jeremy Loucas, Juan Andrés Ospina, Lindsay Oesch
Brandee A. Younger: harp

This album was recorded at:
Odeon Studios in Athens, Greece with Dimitris Sotiropoulos
Atlantic Sound Studios in Brooklyn, NY with Diko Shoturma
Flux Studios in the East Village, NYC with Fab Dupont
Audio Bunker, NYC with Avi Gunther
Kaleidoscope Sound in Union City, NJ with Sal Mormando
The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NY with Jacob Bergson
Magda’s walk-in-closet and living room in the East Village, NYC with Magda

Tiger Mask courtesy of Petros Klampanis.

Music arranged by Magda Giannikou, Petros Klampanis, Ignacio Hernandez, Marcelo Woloski, Keita Ogawa, Mika Mimura, Juan Andrés Ospina & Michael League, as well as all the musicians that brought their creativity and imagination in the studio.
Produced by Magda Giannikou
Co-produced by Michael League
Mixed & Mastered by Fab Dupont at Flux Studios, NYC
Album Artwork by Roland Nicol
Photography by Andrew Baris



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