Banda Magda Offers Cinematic Tales Of Courage And Persistence On Tigre, Out September 15th on Verve Label Group/GroundUP Music
“An artist who fires on all artistic cylinders” – NPR Music
“Fresh and retro-hip cool” – KCRW
Watch Video For “Coracao” Here
June 16, 2017 - The lightbulb went on. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and firecracker performer Magda Giannikou suddenly understood: The world needed more light, and she was determined to bring it. That spark of insight, nurtured by a diverse, close-knit band, grew into the rainbow-bold meditations on courage, confidence, and resisting fear on Tigre, Banda Magda’s third, wildly cinematic album. Out September 15, 2017 on Verve Label Group/GroundUP Music, Tigre is a rallying cry to speak up and stand out, and presents Giannikou’s most coherent and brightly orchestrated work to date.
Luxuriant string sections and punches of brass, hammered dulcimer and tubular bells, meet maracatu and forro rhythms. Giannikou sings her tales in whatever language feels right, be it French, Greek, Spanish, or Portuguese. The polyglot, global influences meld, however, into breathtaking flights of fancy. “I’ve been surrounded by people from all over the world, my bandmates and collaborators,” says Giannikou. “And the community we have built feels like a rocket of courage.” On Tigre, that rocket growls to new heights of lush, unstoppable boldness.
When Giannikou began working on some of the earliest songs that became Tigre, her native Greece was facing a protracted crisis of economic agony. “It’s no coincidence that I started writing these songs when the Greek economy collapsed,” she recalls. “I saw my loved ones in pain. That called for a lot of courage. I was deeply affected.”
Geopolitical factors mirrored the struggles in Giannikou’s artistic life. “That pain back in Greece was paired with being far away, trying to make things happen in New York,” recalls Giannikou. “The band was at a point where it had grown, but it was very fragile. I knew I had to push past this, and find a way forward.”
Giannikou’s response to this fragility was to come out roaring, pushing herself to realize her full musical vision. And vision is the precise word: Giannikou experiences sound and ideas via color, and a synesthetic approach informs her writing, arranging, onstage look, and album-related imagery.
For this album, for the first time, sound and vision carry a timely message: We all have fears and everyone has something that they need to overcome. We all need to draw on our courage to contribute, personally and as a community.
Some of Tigre’s brave new shades burst out of Giannikou’s nine-piece string arrangements on songs like “Ase Me Na Bo,” the first time she feels she’s fully melded her orchestra background with her band’s distinct palette. “In Tigre, the string section represents light, courage, optimism. Working on the arrangements has been one of the most time-consuming tasks in the project; I wanted it to be perfect,” muses Giannikou. “One does not get many opportunities to write and conduct a string orchestra, and I wanted to make the most of it!”
PopMatters lauds first single “Coracao,” saying “bandleader Magda Giannikou sings with breathtaking energy, her every expression telling a story. She leads a full, vivacious group of singers and instrumentalists of every kind through a whirlwind of samba."
The strings burst into full film score-ready glory, while sometimes they hang back creating rich atmosphere (“Tam Tam”). They add just a touch to the hip reimagination of a northeastern Brazilian forro number (“Vem Morena”) or the ethereal tenderness of a ballad (“Thiamandi”). Sometimes, the strings become one set of voices in a complex, hocketting conversation between brass, campy vocal chorus, and madcap guitar (“Tigre Malin” and its soundtrack-worthy offshoots).
“Tigre is a vessel of many things: the need to share my own fears to my fans, the work that we do as a band melding global music traditions, my passion for string-writing, my duty as an artist to be involved in education and local communities,” reflects Giannikou. “Strong communities, where many voices are raised and heard, help us all. They can allow us all to make our biggest dream the compass of our everyday lives.”