Magda Giannikou is a Greek woman, who sings in French, who went to school in Boston and lives in New York. Her band members come from Argentina and Japan. The music she composes, that they make together as Banda Magda, is sweet, twee, densely arranged jaunty other-worldly pop, the kind of thing you can imagine Amélie riding her bike around Paris to---or Louis C.K. riding his motorcycle through New York to, but more on that later.
Banda Magda is the very definition of "world music." Trained in film scoring, Giannikou composes on piano, which she likens to painting.
"I see the painting before I finish the song or composition even," she says over the phone from a cold St. Patrick's Day in New York. "The notes have to come in, and replace or go with a corresponding colour. And every time that I perform the song, the painting is still there in my head."
Live, she plays accordion, because it's "much easier to lead the band with," she says. "I can move around, and it leaves much more space for the band on stage. It's also part of many many musical cultures all around the world---in Brazilian music, Greek music, in the Balkans, France, Asia."
The band's debut album---which it will play at the kickoff of Jazzeast's annual Out Like a Lion festival at The Company House on Wednesday, March 26---is called Amour, t'es là? and was recorded in multiple studios all over the world, "from Greece to vocals in my living room with the heater on," says Giannikou. Though Banda Magda generally plays to English-speaking audience, the French lyrics (with hops into six other languages) don't deter anybody.
"Lots of people come and tell me they actually discuss that after the show: 'We love that we don't understand what you're saying, but we understand what it is about,'" says Giannikou. "It's about the emotion of the song. I think they're very intrigued by it. Many people find it very inspiring as far as the education of language. My lyrics in French are not that hard to understand because I'm not a native Francophone. Some of the songs are very simple, because at the time I didn't have much skill." She laughs.
If you're more of a mainstream pop culture buff, you may know more about Banda Magda than you think---in 2012, Giannikou was asked by a television producer friend to record a session for a little show called Louie. She didn't know who Louis C.K. was at the time---"I am such a fan right now, I would be so nervous if I knew"---and simply took a paid gig.
In the episode, which was the premiere of season three, after Louie is dumped and his car is blocked by construction, he impulsively buys a motorcycle and takes a ride all over New York City, which is the montage Giannikou's vocals score. C.K., who is famously detailed-oriented about his series, lived up to that reputation when he visited the session. "He gave me some direction as far as lyrics are concerned," says Giannikou. "He said, 'I want the first one to be in Spanish and to say this; the second one to be in French and to say this and the third one to be Greek. Boom---in two hours it was done.
"Then," she adds, "I went home and Googled Louis C.K., and I was like Wow, this is amazing. I couldn't sleep!"
at Out Like a Lion
Wednesday, March 26 at 8pm, $10/$35 pass
The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street
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