His music is causing a stir, even though he never aimed to be the talk of the town. Kostika Çollaku composes music for theater performances and movies and is a frequent collaborator of top-notch names, but prefers to keep a low profile

Kostika Çollaku

Tinkering with songs ever since a little child

Text: Dimitra Kehagia
Kostika Çollaku

He has joined forces with Marina Satti, Stathis Drogosis and Foivos Delivorias, creating a cappella polyphonic renditions of popular Greek songs, without ever succumbing to the compulsion of success.

He considers it a challenge to team up with artists coming from seemingly different backgrounds, while attempting, through his collaborations, to maintain and convey his personal touch. What he really seeks is to work with artists with whom he shares the same code of communication, both musically and sentimentally, such as Marina Satti, who also loves polyphonic singing. “What I deeply appreciate in Marina is that after her breakthrough she never renounced her trademark features, such as a cappella and polyphonic singing, breaking free from the standards of the Greek music industry.”

Α music lover ever since a child, he had his ears plugged to the radio, straying away from the average radio listener. He wished to tinker will all songs he listened to, even the ones he cherished, despite not having any prior music knowledge. “It came out naturally”, as he explains, “to compose melodies and songs even before enrolling in a conservatory.” The need to lay down his inspiration with more precision led him to study piano and music theory. He obtained his degree in Harmony, but did not pursue his academic studies.

In 2015, he founded Contradiction Ensemble, a polyphonic a cappella ensemble, where he serves as artistic director. The ensemble’s aim was to bring forth a rare and distinct repertoire of songs that hardly ever reach to the wider audience. This repertoire includes traditional songs performed in their original language, as well as classic works by famous composers. Contradiction Ensemble have performed at Alaca Imaret (2016 and 2019), the Armenian Church of Thessaloniki (2016), Yeni Cami (2017) and Thessaloniki Concert Hall (2017). In April 2017, they performed Alfred Schnittke’s “Requiem” at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki, in collaboration with the Percautistic ensemble and Alexandros Ioannou. In 2018, they participated at the “secret concerts”, hosted by Sofar Sounds, performing tracks from popular animation movies at Alexandros Theater, whereas in 2020, they took part in the 55th Dimitria Festival.

Since 2015, he has completed more than 100 covers of songs from different music genres (folk, jazz, musicals, pop) for a cappella ensemble-choir. As a chorister, he has been a member of the most important choirs of the city, such as the Mixed Choir of Thessaloniki, with Mary Konstantinidou as maestro, and the Children’s Choir of Agia Triada, with Vassilis Papakonstantinou as maestro. Judging from his experience, he believes that an audience base for choir music does exist, pointing out that these ensembles are in need of state support in order to remain active. “Choir singing in Greece, besides a handful of exceptions, remains in an amateur level, like a hobby, a condition that unavoidably undermines this form of art and its audience,” he explains.

He draws inspiration from theatrical rehearsals

Over the last few years, he has been collaborating with the State Theater of Northern Greece. His most recent work is no other than the original composition for the staging of the play The House of Bernarda Alba, directed by Evi Sarmi. “Classic plays demand a different approach as compared to contemporary plays. Classic texts, such as this one by Federico García Lorca, have secured their place in the audience’s conscience, having passed the test of time. Therefore, the real question is how to find the best way convey the play to the audience, without undermining the intentions of the author. Watching the same play in 1980, in 2000 and nowadays are three completely different things.”

The first step for him to compose music for such a staging is to thoroughly read the text itself, to “delve into its world”, as he says. Many discussions with the directors come up next, as every director has a personal vision. “This can either entangle me or open up a new road, different from my initial approach, but ultimately beneficial to the performance,” he comments. That’s how he builds the bedrock of the composition, which takes its final form during the play’s rehearsals that he regularly attends. It may sound as textbook procedure, but this is far from being the case. “I am deeply inspired by rehearsals and the contact with everyone involved in the play. It is a highly influential factor to me, to the degree that the music I write is custom-made for each separate collaboration.”

Within the context of theatrical staging, the music must serve a specific purpose, beyond the level of a “good music” accompanying the play. This may seem restrictive, but to him it  works just fine.  “It sounds a kind of contradictory, but this limitation transforms into a form of liberation in my mind. I have sensed this feeling both during the very act of composing a score for a theatrical staging and while reminiscing over my past works. All of my collaborations brought up a very productive and fruitful side of me.”

Apart from his engagement in theater, his recent work includes a cover of the rebetiko song “O Naftis” (The Sailor) by Mitsakis, for the titular short film directed by Yannis Karamfilis. He has also written the score for the short film Inertia by Yorgos Tsirakidis. He admits being fascinated by this blending of arts – no wonder he’s always seeking for collaborations with visual artists, dancers and other artists in his own concerts. “I have my eyes set on collaborations, as they endow music with new dimensions,” he goes on to say.

He is currently preparing an album scheduled to be released in early 2022, comprising 16 tracks, among which we encounter all tracks from the music-theater performance The Dead Brother’s Song. The plan was to stage the play at Avlaia Theater, in a co-production with the Romanian Cultural Institute, directed by Evi Sarmi, but it was eventually broadcasted online due to the pandemic and the imposed health and safety measures.

Who Is Who

Kostika Çollaku was born in Korçë, Albania, in 1989, but has been living in Thessaloniki ever since the age of two. In 2008, he began studying Piano and Music Theory at the Conservatory of Northern Greece. In 2009, he won the first prize at the International Composition Competition InterArtia, in the category “Music for Video Animation”. In 2012, he received his degree in Harmony, under the guidance of the professor Christos Fotopoulos. He has composed original music for theatrical plays, movies and animation.




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