The distinctive cry of Sokratis Sinopoulos’ lyra has previously been heard on ECM recordings of Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri and Eleni Karaindrou. Sokratis has played a key role in the revival of interest in the lyra in Greece, both in traditional music contexts and in the shaping of new music. To see him in concert for the first time is to marvel at the range of emotion and expression conveyed through the lyra and the power of the sound projected from this small, bowed instrument.
Born in Athens, Sokratis Sinopoulos studied classical guitar, Byzantine music and folk song before taking up the lyra at age 14. Within a year he was playing with mentor Ross Daly’s group, and over the last two decades has collaborated with composers, musicians and singers from Greece and abroad. Along the way he has found his own voice as a creative musician. “I play an instrument associated with a specific tradition and live in a place where the tradition is really strong. There are many advantages to a strong tradition. It’s like having a time machine, almost, which can take you back to the medieval era or on journeys through the history of Greece, the Balkans, many countries. And I have loved all the years I have spent supporting the traditions, including the folk music traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean. But recently something else has been developing, bringing together all of my background with something, let’s say, ‘universal’.”
Eight Winds, the debut album of the quartet and Sokratis’s leader debut for ECM, was produced by Manfred Eicher at Sierra Studios in Athens in April 2014. The reflective compositions and yearning ballads on the album cede the central melodic role to the lyra, sensitively supported by the piano of Yann Keerim and the subtle bass and drums of Dimitris Tsekouras and Dimitris Emmanuel. But there is more happening here than a cross-referencing of folk instrument and jazz trio.