SONGLINES (Nov 2011) - Samas (****) - Rebetika with grit, and just a hint of jazz

This is a fantastic album - the second from Cyprus-based, London-formed neo-rebetika band - full of bouncy, lively playing and singing. The trio of Antonis Antoniou, Lefteris Moumtzis and Colin Somervell play tzouras (a small bouzouki), guitar and double bass respectively and each of them contributes to the vocals. Picking up where their first album, Ta Reggetika, left off, Samas is, like its predecessor, nicely inventive when needed but always with a firm sense of the rebetika tradition these musicians are steeped in. Much of the CD is fairly straightforward reworkings of either traditional songs by luminaries such as Yiorgos Batis or written by members of the trio. I particulatly liked "O Antonis o varkaris", originally by Spyros Peristeris, and "I stoli tou Batman" (Batman's Uniform) by Antonis Antoniou; The latter definitely worthy of becoming a rebetika classic. Another of Antoniou's pieces is the marvellously cheeky instrumental "Karagiozo". "To gelekaki" might throw you a bit at first - and I wasn't totally sure that the electronically treated voices worked - but the foot-tapping, reggae-cum-jazzy number that it segues into is just as infectious as the rest of the disc. All in all, this is great fun: beautifully played and highly recommended.

Maria Lord

fRoots (2011) - Samas

London-based Cypriots Antonis Antoniou on tzouras (high-pitched tiny-bodied lute with 3 pairs of strings) and guitarist Lefteris Moumtzis, with vocals from both, and bassist Colin Somervell in lively, appealingly ragged, cheerily creative originals springing from rembetiko roots, recorded without gloss in Nicosia, joined for single tracks by marimba, wild-slithering violin and something burning.

Andrew Cronshaw

IHOS (Nov 2011) - Samas (8/10) - ALBUM OF THE MONTH

What happens when two Cypriots and one Brit, with diverse musical background unite their love of the old Rebetiko? Antonis Antoniou, Lefteris Moumtzis and Colin Somervell, "armed" with a tzouras, a guitar and a contrabass, mentally re-entered the tekke, not only to come out with covers but also original material - they started off two years ago with Reggetika and they push on this year with Samas. And while one would think that the "juice" would lie in the covers, Trio Tekke creates a well-balanced and cohesive whole, where the original compositions stand just fine stylistically and aesthetically next to archetypes like 'O Antonis o Varkaris', 'Pame sto Faliro' or 'Gelekaki'. Antonis Antoniou plays a leading role here, not just because of his excellent compositions, but also because of the way he handles the tzouras. And that's because there isn't an aspiration of a revival record, nostalgic of those times and their ways: the Rebetiko past gives reason for a conversation with our roots and the nearby East. Samas represents a model of the type of records that the Greek discography needs.

Charis Symvoulides

AVOPOLIS (Nov 2011) - Samas

There will be purists who will claim that what Trio Tekke are doing on Samas, (their second album, after 'Ta Reggetika' 2009), degrades and insults the tradition of the rebetiko song; a band that uses tzouras, double bass and various modern effects is not the first thing that comes to mind as the most suitable way of picking up the thread from where Markos Vamvakaris and Apostolos Hadjihristos left off. But truly, there wouldn't be much point in faithfully reproducing a music idiom of the past. It's good to remember that, after all, the only way to innovate, inevitably goes through injecting past concepts with the ideas of today.

Antonis Antoniou (Cyprus), Lefteris Moumtzis (Cyprus) and Colin Somervell (UK/Chile) set up a truly enjoyable fiesta on Samas, based mostly - unlike their debut - on their own compositions (only 4 out of 12 tracks are covers this time around). The best qualities of their style lie in the humor that springs from the lyrics and from their interaction, their joyous spirit and a sense of crudeness that characterizes their sound. The latter, along with the harmonic and melodic palette, which they command, are the main elements that refer back to the rebetiko.

It's the interventions on this musical palette though, that make Samas so interesting. The replacement of the bouzouki with tzouras and the way that the double bass and the guitar are used, give an unfamiliar feeling, while the addition of the violin and the electroacoustic manipulation in different spots contribute to the modernization of the sound. Moreover, there are scattered fine additions of reggae, jazz and psychedelic elements, that create a very particular blend.

It's been a long time since I enjoyed a Greek release so effortlessly. Trio Tekke really entertained me with the merciless rapping about priesthood in "Batman's uniform", the hilarious reference to the famous conspiracy theory on "Chemtrails", with the psychedelic "InDa" and their laid back versions of "O Antonis o varkaris" and "Pame sto Faliro". After all, what these three musicians are broadcasting on Samas is the sheer joy of creation. It's an album well worth seeking out.

Michalis Tsantilas


The Cypriots Antonis Antoniou and Lefteris and the Anglo-Chilean Colin Somervell took the Rebetiko roads in London in 2005 fairly anorthodoxy: with tzouras, guitar and. contrabass. One would say, can we have folk song like that? I would dare say that's the only way that gives reason for folk song to exist these days. With a starting point of enthusiasm, though, it brushes away foolishness and instead counter proposes lyrics- yes! - constitution, sonic finds (they don't just stroke strings on this second album) and self-sown humor.

Argyris Zilos

Songlines (Dec 2012) issue 89

The Bodrum Cafe, Stoke Newington, 2005, and a proudly multicultural audience are cheering on a neo-rebetika outfit on guitar, double bass and tzouras bouzouki. No matter, really, that few could identify the band's lively, reggae-and-jazz flecked tones as 'reggetika'. Whatever it was, it was shit hot.

"Some of our first gigs are really special to us," says Colin Somervell, double bassist with London-and-Cyprus-based Trio Tekke. "We've had great times jamming with guests on flute, tabla, tuba, sax, you name it."

The good times continue: with two critically acclaimed albums - including their Songlines Music Awards' nominated album Samas, reviewed in #80 - and a wealth of gigs under their collective belt, they are widely considered one of the more inventive, compelling and good-humoured acts on the world music circuit.

Having met Lefteris Moumtzis and Antonis Antoniou at a festival in Cyprus, Somervell joined them in a South London jam, where the three found a shared musical language in the different grooves of bluesy, traditional Greek rebetika.

The trio's penchant for experimentation saw them calling on a wealth of influences while always respecting the music's rebetika roots. They used the tour?s as a lead instrument, nurtured an acoustic aesthetic and set about playing great tunes and having an all-stops-out great time. And increasingly, writing their own material: "Our second album Samas has four covers and eight originals," says Somervell. "Most of the songs we cover are by known rebetika composers of the 20s and 30s; we all loved the old grainy recordings and the messages of love and sorrow." "We deliver the old songs, but in a newer way," he continues. "The original songs still live on in people's memories and are passed on mainly within the Greek and Greek Cypriot communities. But new audiences are relating to the rawness of emotion that comes through in the songs." "London has given us so many opportunities to reach everyone from commuters to punters who'd never heard of rebetika before, and ex-pat Greek audiences to big festival crowds."

Trio Tekke's new material continues to take the band into undiscovered territories. It seems that London is going with them, all the way.

Jane Cornwell