One of the first acts to hit the stage when WOMADelaide opens this evening is Xylouris White, a collaboration between Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer, Jim White.
Having graced the festival before, George is very happy about being back.
“I love to be back there on the beautiful fresh lawn,” he enthuses. “I remember we had very good time, nice hospitality and very comfortable. It’s so interesting to see all these bands and the beautiful music, to be back there in that beautiful park: to walk around, go backstage, have a nice wine while lying there. It’s always cheerful.”
In fact, George enjoys a strong connection to this country, with an Australian wife and dividing his time between Greece and Australia.
“I first came with my father to Australia for the Greek Association of Australia, and then I met my wife there and it was back and forwards. Then we stayed in Australia for eight years and we had our kids there. I was based in Melbourne and every year I was three or four months back in Crete for work.”
It was during the time George first came here that he first connected with Jim White, eventually leading to this current project.
“I knew Jim from back then when I first went to Australia,” George explains. “He came to see the concert I was playing with my father. And since then we kept in touch and exchanged music, following each other’s directions and talking every now and then. When we had a band in Melbourne called ‘Xylouris Ensemble’ Jim often came to see us, and when the Dirty Three started to play gigs around Melbourne, they invited me to play with them as a guest. And four years ago when Jim came to Crete to visit us, we went into the studio and recorded some things, and that’s how Xylouris White started.”
George enjoys the fact while he and Jim come from very different musical backgrounds and are often separated by geography, they manage to get the most out of the collaboration.
“We are far away, but we are close at the same time. You know, it’s a part of our lives. We are always travelling, Jim and I. The musicians I have played with in the past come from different music cultures – from Athens, from around Greece, from Crete – and all these things become one when they go through my tradition, the music I live with – the music of Crete. All these years I’ve known Jim, we have shared music and it becomes something new. I come from a tradition and Jim comes from a different tradition, and it all becomes one when we sit down and record something.”
Music is clearly a way of life for George, who has been surrounded by music from a very young age.
“In the village that I come from there are many musicians, and I was part of that community. I’d gig often: we’d play and then sit around, watching and listening to the music, and then play another show and go back and listen again.”
It all sounds like a pretty wonderful lifestyle. Experience it for yourself at 7pm this evening on Stage 3 when Xylouris White give their only performance of the WOMADelaide weekend. Find tickets and details here.
By Libby Parker