Martha Mavroidi
Gig Seeker Pro

Martha Mavroidi

Athens, Attica, Greece | INDIE

Athens, Attica, Greece | INDIE
Band World Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"“a triumph of sympathetic arrangement, gentle instrumentation and quiet confidence”"

Rebetiko purists hold Manolis Chiotis responsible for one of the most unforgivable crimes of Greek music history. In the 1960s, the virtuoso rebetis adopted – and popularised – the electrified, four-course (tetrachordo) bouzouki. Exit raw, bluesy rebetiko; enter arrogant showmanship and insipid noodling. The electric bouzouki is synonymous with all the cheap Greek taverna clichés that polluted Greek music in the late 20th century. (Non-believers and the curious: consult the ‘Radical Movement For Rebetiko Dechiotification And Bouzouki Detetrachordization’.)
So I was not filled with hope to learn that Athenian musician Martha Mavroidi had built the first known electric lafta (a Greek/Turkish folk lute). But fortunately, this is not technological innovation for its own sake, or – worse still – to amplify some careless virtuoso performance. Instead, contemplative space defines her music – unsurprising, perhaps, given this album’s origins: Rila is the highest mountain in the Balkan peninsula, and on it stands a monastery with a hidden garden. Here, the songs of this album were born. The words of the excellent title track evoke this solitary peace: “By the river there is a garden, with no flowers nor human voices / Stones blossom in the small yard and two chestnut trees cast their shadow.” Amongst this arcadian imagery there are darker images too, the “drowned stars” and “the enemy’s bullets”.
Mavroidi describes her album as a “crossroads of sounds from the Balkans”, and the breadth of this cultural fusion is evident in its diverse instrumentation. Alongside her voice and lafta, a shifting line-up of musicians join her on vocals, bendir, daf, baglama, saz, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, violin and recorder. But even with this complex meeting of instruments, The Garden Of Rila remains a triumph of sympathetic arrangement, gentle instrumentation and quiet confidence. And even that electric lafta sounds wonderful.

John Ridpath

- John Ridpath, fRoots magazine

""a standout gem""

Every issue of Sing Out! involves the assignment process, in which I spend time on the phone and e-mail with the editors. Usually, I have roughly half of the albums that I'm assigned, receiving the others in the mail. For as many albums as I receive as a freelance journalist, the magazine always sends me great finds that I would have never come across. For this issue, that one standout gem is Greek singer Martha Mavroidi's debut. In the English translation of the liner notes, she calls these 11 songs "blend music." That is, perhaps, one of the best descriptions imaginable, spoken by an ethnomusicologist who grew up with a father in the same field. When academics create music there is always the possibility of dry interpretations of regional folk music--not so in the case of this lovely recording. While her specialty is Greek folk, her open-minded father introduced her to a plethora of sounds from the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, the latter being made especially apparent by trumpeter Patnelis Stoikos on "Ivan's Rachenitsa" and Alexandros Arkadopoulos' clarinet playing on the traditional Rom song "Rumba." Mavroidi herself offers as fine a performance as any player on the electric lafta, her own amplified creation based on the classic Turkish instrument. While she offers a near reggae punch alongside guitarist Lefteris Havoutsas, percussionist Kostas Meretakis holds it down behind Stoikos' excellent trumpet solo. The exchange between Greek and Balkan music has a long history, and few connect them as elegantly as Marvoidi. The focus thus far on instrumentation is not to distract from this record's finest aspect. It's no surprise that she's collaborated with the great Savina Yannatou, and I certainly hear the iconic strains of Kristi Stassinopoulou, especially on slower numbers like "Ballada" and "Stani Pando." - Derek Beres , Sing Out!

"“album of the year”"

Greece/the Balkan's Martha Mavroidi has made one of the albums of the year. - Charlie Gilett's The Sound of the World

"“sheer beguilingness”"

Album review: Martha Mavroidi: The Garden of Rila

Martha Mavroidi: The Garden of Rila

WE SAW productions, £20.99

THIS debut CD by the young singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Martha Mavroidi puts her straight into the first rank of folk musicians from her native Greece, but the influences permeating it come from infinitely further afield, as her biography attests.

Born in Athens, and brought up by her ethnomusicologist father to listen to music from far and wide, she went to a music school at 12, where she specialised in Greek folk music, both as a singer and lutenist.

Increasingly drawn to the music of Turkey, she learned to play the long-necked Turkish saz lute, and then focused on the lafta, a folk lute spanning both cultures. At 23 she moved to London to broaden her scope at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she absorbed the Bulgarian tradition. Then she went to study contemporary music and improvisation in Amsterdam, then she went to deepen her understanding of Balkan music at UCLA, where she began to record for the film industry. Then it was back home to Greece, to start collaborations with leading folk musicians, and also to found her own band. She patented an electric lafta, which has now become her signature instrument, whose insinuatingly dreamy sound pervades some of the tracks here.

This CD is unusual in many ways – not least in its sheer beguilingness.

Mavroidi's voice is the key – cleanly expressive, redolent of the Balkans in its timbre, and of the Middle East in its microtonal inflexions. Apart from one track that hurries excitedly in the Romanian Gypsy style, everything goes at a gentle pace, with embellishments from guitar, bass, clarinet, a shakuhachi-style flute, and a wonderfully versatile trumpet. You could be in Athens, Istanbul, Sofia, Manhattan – but the truth is that, with Mavroidi, you are in all of them at once.

- Michael Church, The Scotsman


"The Garden of Rila" 2010 WE SAW Productions

Radio airplay of the album “The Garden of Rila”:
-BBC (London, UK): “A World in London” by Ian Anderson (26/6/10)
-fRoots Radio (UK): playlists for the months of July and August 2010
-PBS-FM (Melbourne, Australia): “Global Village” by Roger Holdsworth (27/6 and 19/7/10)
-KDVS-FM (Davis, California, USA): “Crossing Continents” by Gil Medovoy (20/2, 3/7, 31/7/10 and 'best of 2010' playlist)
-WOMM-LP The Radiator (Burlington,Vermont, USA): “World of Music” by Cheryl Willoughby (13/9/10)



Martha Mavroidi is a singer, lafta player and composer from Greece. Born in Athens, Martha grew up listening to folk music from around the globe. Her father, an ethnomusicologist and radio producer, introduced her to the music of the world's cultures, bringing home from his radio shows music records from Asia, Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. At 12 she entered the Music High School of Athens where she specialized in Greek folk music, singing and playing various types of folk lutes. While still a student she developed an interest in the music of Turkey and studied the saz. Later she focused on the lafta, the Greek and Turkish folk lute which became her main instrument.
At the age of 23 she left Greece to pursue graduate studies in ethnomusicology in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she found herself in a multicultural environment, interacting with musicians from different cultural backgrounds. In London she began her long-lasting relation with Bulgarian singing, studying with some of Bulgaria's most renowned singers. Her need to explore music beyond the boundaries of tradition led her to Amsterdam where she completed a Masters in Contemporary music at the Conservatorium of Amsterdam. She specialized in improvisation using non-western techniques in contemporary music contexts. There she began composing her own music, combining her folk music background with contemporary music trends.
Her fascination with world music persisted, however, and she moved to California to continue her graduate studies in ethnomusicology at UCLA, specializing in the music of the Balkans. In Los Angeles she became a part of the vivid Balkan music scene, collaborating with musicians and composers, as well as recording for the film industry and for independent productions as a singer and lafta player.
In 2005 she returned to Greece and she started collaborating with some of Greece's most celebrated musicians in concerts and recordings (Savina Yannatou, Dionissis Savvopoulos, Mode Plagal). At the same time she put together her own band, playing music from the Balkans and her own compositions. In 2008 she designed and had built an electric lafta, the first known electric lafta to be constructed, which has become her signature instrument. On the electric lafta she has incorporated different techniques that she has mastered as a folk musician with elements of contemporary music, creating a unique style of performance. Her compositions also reflect the multiplicity of her musical influences, blending folk melodies with jazz harmony and improvisation. She has composed music for films (Princess' Taste, Tomorrow already, Pink River, The guide), documentaries and dance theaters (M, Parrot, Guard Dog). As a singer she combines the rich colors of Bulgarian singing, with the ornaments and the microtonal subtleties of Greek and Middle Eastern singing. Both her vocal qualities and her virtuosity on the lafta have been praised by critics and fellow musicians in the Balkan-jazz music scene. In the beginning of 2010 she released her debut album “The garden of Rila” at WE SAW Productions.