George Mylordos, one of the world’s most accomplished bouzouki players, is taking his band Kymata from playing weddings to recording a CD. Watch it all come together on the Spark episode “Making Their Move” as they practice and perform, working from the rich Greek music tradition and unique American styles to create a whole new sound.
Originally from the island of Cyprus, where he learned to play the bouzouki (a guitarlike instrument similar to the lute originating in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey), Mylordos came to America in 1982. He has played professionally in bands and as a backup musician. Right beside Mylordos throughout his career has been drummer George Mihailidis. Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Mihailidis came to the United States at the age of 19 and went on to play in a wide variety of bands, even appearing at the Rockefeller Center and the White House.
Though Mylordos and Mihailidis both toured professionally, there came a time in their lives where they had had enough. They wanted to leave the constraints of that life and have a life in which, Mihailidis says, they could “create something that we can play whenever we want to and play for higher standards.” There was never any doubt that they would continue to create music together, and in 1994, Mylordos, Mihailidis and Kostas Papamichael formed the band called Kymata, which is Greek for “waves of the sea.” Papamichael started singing as a child, influenced by his father’s and grandfather’s Greek songs. He continues to sing for the band today as well as play the guitar and dumbek.
Over the years, the group has continued to grow, adding new members and refining their skills. The band’s newest member, 24-year-old singer Katerina Clambaneva, was born in Hayward, but moved to Greece at 6 weeks old, where she remained for the next 16 years. She returned, with her family, to attend Diablo Valley College and currently works in marketing. Her first love is Greek music, but she’s performed many other styles as well, including Latin music.
Since their founding more than a decade ago, Kymata has played hundreds of weddings and festivals, becoming a prominent fixture in the Greek community. They have developed a repertoire that tops a thousand songs and spans the full spectrum of Greek styles and musical traditions. Despite success, the band has recently made the decision to begin playing fewer gigs so they can focus on developing their own unique style, along with writing and recording their own music. They’ve blended Greek and other Mediterranean influences with the music that they loved as kids — rock and jazz from Dizzy Gillespie to John Coltrane to Led Zeppelin.
The band knows that making a CD is a risky proposition — there’s no telling how large the audience will be for their brand of musical fusion. For them, however, the rewards are reaped every time they gather together to play, and they see themselves as part of a historical continuum that dates back millennia.