Demetrius Stratos he was a great Italian artist, singer, musician and researcher. His story, perhaps little known to younger people, is an example of how the only medicines capable of countering an aggressive market are passion and study. This is especially true in the so-called pop music, subject to tendencies more than anything else dictated by fashions that have nothing to do with a sensitive and conscious use of language.
If today the success of an artist is based on three easy-to-play chords and some singers without autotune could not sing even in the shower, it is useful to know that even in the history of pop music there are those who have worked and work day and night for discover and travel new unexplored roads. Among these heroes in which passion, curiosity and intelligence come together to challenge the unknown, there is certainly Demetrio Stratos.
Who was Demetrio Stratos?
Demetrius Stratos he was born into a family of Greek origin in Alexandria in Egypt and grew up immersed in a melting pot of different cultures, ethnic groups and musical worlds. While still a child, he attended the prestigious Conservatoire National d’Athènes studying piano and accordion until he was 13 years old. In 1957 he went to study in Cyprus at the Catholic College of the Holy Land. In 1962 he moved to Milan to the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic where he created the first student musical groups.
In 1966 he was known by the general public as the solo voice of the Rebels with whom he recorded some successful singles such as the songs Clenched fists, Who will help me And Oh Darling! all recorded in an album. After the experience with the Rebels, in 1970 with the pianist Patrizio Fariselli he founded the group of Area. Inspired by the composer John Cage, they were among the first Italian progressive rock groups in which musicians from different musical backgrounds played, from free jazz, to pop, to experimental music.
In addition to the official discography with Area, from which he separated in 1978 to continue his solo career, in the 70s Demetrio Stratos carried out very original experiments on the use of the voice as an instrument. He developed a true passion for the vocals of Asian peoples, studying the meanings of the voice in oriental civilizations up to collaborating with the Cnr of Padua. The name of Stratos as ‘master of the voice’ is therefore not accidental.
Master of the voice
The original vocal technique by Demetrio Stratos it allowed him an incredible extension and the ability to emit multiple sounds at the same time. It may seem impossible, but diplofonia is a real singing technique also defined as overtone singing and used over the centuries by the peoples of southern Siberia and western Mongolia. It is possible to add a series of overtones to a note thanks to the position of the tongue.
The studies by Demetrius Stratos in hitherto unexplored fields in pop music, they brought his fame beyond the borders beyond the purely musical sphere. In 1978, invited by John Cage, he performed at the Roundabout Theater in New York and participated in “Event” with the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the Dance Company, the artistic direction of Jasper Johns, the musical direction of Cage and the collaboration of Andy Warhol for the costumes.
The career of Demetrius Stratos she was struck down at the age of 34 by a very serious form of aplastic anemia and died on 13 June 1979 in New York on the eve of a great concert organized by her friends at the Arena Civica in Milan to raise funds to guarantee her hospitalization. The concert was attended by Area and many artists such as Angelo Branduardi, Francesco Guccini, Antonello Venditti and Roberto Vecchioni in what became the last farewell to the great and unforgettable ‘Master of the voice’.
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