Review by Seth Rogovoy
Photography by Sabina Curti
(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Athens-born accordionist, vocalist and musical polymath Magda Giannikou brought her cosmopolitan world-pop group Banda Magda to Club B-10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday night, lending the cozy North Adams nightclub the flavor of Paris and São Paulo alike. Like a lot of ensembles of its ilk – Balkan Beat Box and Golem come immediately to mind — Banda Magda grafts rock ‘n’ roll dynamics to a retro style to make for an immediate, state-of-the-art fusion.
Banda Magda has a lot going for it, not the least which is superb musicians comfortably versed in a variety of styles, a necessity to keep up with Giannikou’s far-ranging aesthetics. Percussionists James Shipp and Marcelo Woloski, so integral to the band’s approach, could turn on a dime from Afro-Peruvian rhythms to bossa nova to Gypsy swing and make it all somehow seem related. Same goes for electric bassist Andres Rotmistrovsky and guitarist Ignacio Hernandez, who was especially adept at lending subtle rock accents to Giannikou’s cool-jazzy world pop.
And then of course there was Giannikou herself, a dynamic performer and singer and herself a virtuoso on accordion that could conjure up a kind of 1960s, James Bond/Henry Mancini feel and then turn around and take it to the Gypsy joint, the tango dance floor, chamber-style pop or even a wash of keyboard hinting at Sting’s brand of world-pop-jazz.
Giannikou sang in a variety of languages, including French and Portuguese, and rarely in English, but her lyrics needed little to no translation – she sang of love and heartbreak, one moment intimately and the next brashly. Her music was equally a delight for the head, the heart and the feet, and she was a generous entertainer giving of her all.