A decade ago, radios in bars, in cars and on the beach would echo a mellifluous melange of strings, soft acoustic guitars and a hypnotising voice that could easily steal your heart.
Everyone was sure it was some new “foreign” artist who was really promising and here to stay.
Well, she’s promising, but this act is none other than Athens-born Monika Christodoulou, known as Monika by friends and fans.
This songwriter hailing from the seaside resort town of Astros, in the Peloponnese, hit the stage in her mid teens as a back-up vocalist for another Greek group, Raining Pleasure.
She’s come a long way since then, with two albums already under her belt and total acclaim by music insiders and outsiders alike.
A multi-instrumentalist, Monika plays the sax, guitar, percussion, harmonica and the accordion, all of which feature in her intoxicating brand of folk rock with an indie twist.
Monika says she grew up listening initially to the music her musical parents listened to – everything from the Beatles and Edith Piaf to our very own Manos Hadjidakis read more here. She later dipped into even more diverse territory with PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley Calexico, Ennio Morricone and Stavros Xarhakos.
Her first hit titled “Over the Hill” off her debut album Avatar, released in 2008, is a wonderful blend of acoustic guitars and haunting vocals with a folksy buildup. The album went platinum.
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But the song that really got people listening is the beautifully evocative “Yes I Do”, off her second album Exit, released in 2010. A stirring mélange of strings and vocals with a dreamy lead and an inkling of Morricone sneaking in, this lullaby-like masterpiece reveals an innate feel for music, orchestration and words, making Monika a songsmith to be reckoned with.
Besides composing and arranging, Monika also pens the lyrics, which she says just come out easier in English. “When the first song you sing is ‘Let it Be’, you’re bound to think in English,” she says. Tackling such issues as love, separation, insecurity and loneliness, Monika incorporates her innermost concerns into her weighty yet minimal music crafting a signature sound that’s bound to hit the spot.
For starters, Monika got the word out through MySpace and then later thanks to the advice of musical friends Calexico, she turned to a local indie label, which “respected her style”.
Despite being just several albums old, Monika has managed to deliver an original sound that touches a chord. In “Babe” trumpets blare Calexico-style with guitars delivering a ’60s twang and an indie soundscape worth the ride.
“Away From My Land” off her second LP Exit is a melodic road trip with subtle drums setting the pace and a sensual trumpet leading the way.
Monika, currently a university student studying maths, lives in an apartment full of instruments and loves to perform live gigs in small haunts around Greece.
When asked about a career abroad, she seems well-aware of the hard work required and says she’s willing to make the sacrifices but timing is vital and the groundwork has to be set before such a move.
“It’s difficult to make it abroad, the market is so massive,” she said in an interview to free press magazine Lifo.
On a final note:
“Music is like a drug,” she says, you get addicted.”
And in her case, you really do. Check it out.
♪ I end today’s post with a tribute song Monika wrote to honor Covid-19 heroes. The song is aimed at mobilizing the global community and increasing donations to support Greek hospitals. “Saving the World”.