A beautiful bird, bangles jingling, falls down a well. It’s her friends who help her out. That’s the tale behind the Greek folk song “Yerakina,” and the spirit that animates New York’s Banda Magda.
This spirit thrums on the big, vivid band’s latest album. The perfect complement to 2013’s Amour, t’es là? (named one of the year’s best world music albums by NPR), Yerakina vibrates with the same bright, bold strokes. Now, instead of charismatic bandleader/composer Magda Giannikou’s wild and wildly romantic originals, the Banda had turned to traditional and classic tunes. They are tales of love and devotion as strong as the bonds that bind the band’s diverse players.
“I wanted this album to be about the band,” Giannikou reflects. “I wanted my bandmates and collaborators have more freedom and initiative in the creative process. The album sprang from our friendship and love, and you can really feel that in the songs.”
The camaraderie echoes in the music, as diverse rhythms and melodies from different corners of the globe cross-pollinate, giving chansons Afro-Peruvian sway or Greek folk tunes with a mad dash of Northeastern Brazilian beats. Traditional Greek rockers (“Trata,” “Yerakina”), gentle but driving ballads (“El Pescador,” “Petite Fleur”), samba and baião numbers incorporate everything from kitchen ware to hammered dulcimer, from full and rich horn arrangements to shimmering vibraphone, in wonderfully seamless, addictive songs.
“In many ways, Yerakina has nothing to do with music,” smiles Giannikou. “It's about one hand holding the other, climbing up that deep, dark well, together, towards the sunlight.”