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Xylouris White

What happens when a renowned cretan lute player meets a post-rock drummer from Melbourne?

 By Anna Dowd

The answer is Xylouris White, the visionary musical collaboration of lutenist George Xylouris and former Dirty Three band member, Jim White.

A fearless mix of avant-rock, free-jazz and ages-old Greek folk traditions, their 2014 debut album Goats topped the Billboard World Music chart, with rave reviews of live shows trailing behind.

While it’s difficult to stick this explosive duo in any one-genre box, it’s definitely a cultural collision that produces the goods according to Xylouris.

“We don’t play only Cretan music, and even that we don’t play in a strictly traditional manner”, he says.

“I provide the sound of my culture, and the things that I have in my head, and Jim does roughly the same thing, but from a different musical culture.”

Xylouris is part of a vibrant living tradition spanning many generations. Learning Cretan lute, or laouto, at his famous father’s knee and playing professionally since he was 12, Xylouris also provides the vocals for the band.

In contrast, the musical culture of White has him clocking credits such as playing with Lou Reed, Neil Young, and Marianne Faithful, along with his Dirty Three fame.

The pair originally met in a Melbourne bar in 1990 where Xylouris was playing with his father to a small audience of Greek nationals.

White spoke no Greek, Xylouris no English but the connection was instant. After a handful of underground, experimental performances they both moved overseas with promises to meet up again.

More than a decade later, they finally did, on a hilltop in Crete.

Three albums on, the unlikely chemistry is still there according to White.

“There’s a natural connection between us that has lasted all these years, a connection that produces the particular sound that is us, no matter what instruments we’re playing.”

Sat 6 Oct | 8pm | Darwin Entertainment Centre | See the event listing

 

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