Imam Baildi (IB) were formed in 2005 by brothers Orestis and Lysandros Falireas. The project’s concept was based on sampling and remixing Greek music of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
The first 3 tracks the brothers produced were the remixes of Dymeni San Arhodissa, (‘Dressed Like a Lady’ 1936 rembetiko track by Stelios Keromytis), I Zoi Mas Einai Ligi (Our Life is Short – a 1930’s tango with the voice of Sofia Vembo) and, their first hit, De Thelo Pia Na Xanarthis a 1960’s track by Manolis Chiotis.
These three were compiled into a demo that reached Minos EMI (the Greek branch of EMI, now part of Universal Music Group). In 2005, the label proposed that they release a full album based on that concept.
The homonymous first album was produced by IB in their own label (Kukin Music) and licensed to EMI Greece in October 2007. It featured 10 tracks and was a breakthrough for the music market in Greece. It also attracted attention by international media, including a review by the late Charlie Gillet. In 2009, the album made it to top positions in the European World Music Charts.
The album included 7 remixes from old Greek songs (De Thelo Pia, O Pasatempos, Poso Lypamai, I Zoi Mas Ine Ligi, To Minore Tis Avgis, Dimeni San Arhodisa) and 3 of the brother’s own instrumental compositions based on samples from old Greek instrumental tracks (Samba Clarina, Comely, Sousta).
Up till the album was released, Imam Baildi had only appeared as a duo with Orestis as the DJ and Lysandros on percussion. However, shortly after the album was released the brothers started forming a band in order to respond to requests for live performances. The first musicians to join were Giannis Diskos (alto & tenor saxophone, clarinet) and Periklis Aliopis (trumpet). Although in their early twenties, both had years of experience of playing Balkan brass music in northern Greek fairs in addition to classical training on their instruments.
Imam Baildi’s first appearance with that lineup was in the closing party for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival on November 2007. Shortly after, in December 2007, IB made their first international performance in Transmusicales De Rennes in France, with the addition of Spyros Chalaris on kanun.
A few months later Alexis Arapatsakos (bouzouki) and Minas Liakos (el. guitar) joined the band. Alexis already played the rembetiko-style 3-string bouzouki (different to the modern 4-string version), and was also into traditional folk styles. Minas came from a jazz background and brought this element on the band’s live sound. With this lineup the band played for the better part of 2008 including concerts in the prestigious Athens & Epidaurus Festival, and several gigs at Bar Guru Bar in Athens, a hotspot at the time. By the end of the summer Minas left the band for his military service and, later on for studies in the US, and was substituted by Spiros Vryonis, who played electric, acoustic guitar and cello and did the vocals on some tracks.
In 2009 the brothers started working on their next album that would eventually be named ‘The Imam Baildi Cookbook’. Both the title and the cover artwork were a remake of ‘The George Benson Cookbook’ (rel. 1966).
The band expanded with the addition of MC Yinka and Lady Faye on vocals. Manolis (his real life name), born in Greece to Nigerian parents, was active as an MC mainly in hip-hop and drum n’ bass acts from the late 90’s. Lady Faye’s background was mostly influenced by soul and RnB. Imam Baildi now were an 8-piece band (dj-bass, drums-percussion, MC, lead vocals, guitar, bouzouki, sax – clarinet, trumpet). With this lineup they played Roskilde in Denmark on July 2009, a major accomplishment for the band at the time, but they also appeared as a DJ, percussion, bouzouki and MC lineup under the name Imam Baildi Soundsystem for smaller venues.
Early in the year DImitra Galani and Eleni Tsaligopoulou, two of the most respected vocalists in Greek music proposed two tracks ‘Ta Hartina’ and ‘Ta pedia tis gitonias sou’ respectively to be remixed by the brothers. From October 2009 the collaboration grew to include common live performances, which lasted almost a year in venues in Greece and Cyprus.
For the better part of 2010 the band’s performances included the collaboration shows with D. Galani and El. Tsaligopoulou. During this time, the brothers mostly worked on their next album, The Imam Baildi Cookbook, which was released by the end of the year.
It included 15 tracks, among which several remixes of Greek songs, two of the brothers’ own instrumental compositions, two Balkan music tracks based on themes by Giannis (sax & clarinet) and Periklis (trumpet), and featured tracks with international hip hop artists such as the Delinquent Habits (in Busca Ritmo), Maxwell Wright (from Ojos De Brujo), and local MC’s Isvoleas, Jeff Gonzalez (BnC) and MC Yinka. The remixes for D. Galani’s and El. Tsaligopoulou’s tracks were also included, and the latter also sung on ‘Argile Mou Giati Svinis’, alongside Isvoleas.
The album’s singles were ‘Busca Ritmo’ – the hip hop track feat. The Delinquent Habits based on a Giorgos Zabetas’ theme, and ‘Logia Adalaxame Varia’, a trip hop track based on the homonymous 1950’s track by T. Maroudas. The album’s hit, however, proved to be Akrogialies Dilina, a mambo influenced remix of the homonymous 1940’ song by Vassilis Tsitsanis.
By December the band started hosting a weekly show in K44, a hip venue in the popular Gazi area of Athens. Around this time, the brothers decided to change the band’s lead vocalist. Rena Morfi, whom the brothers had seen performing alongside Ph. Delivorias, joined the band shortly before the K44 shows started. She fitted immediately in the band both on stage and in the recording – creative process and has been the band’s lead vocalist ever since.
Imam Baildi were invited to perform in the New Year’s Eve Party of the German radio station Funkhaus Europa in Cologne. Following this show, and being the largest radio in the World Music scene in Germany, Funkhaus Europa has since played an essential part in promoting IB’s music in Europe.
Back to Greece, the band continued with the K44 shows until March 2011. Shortly after, Lambis Kountourogiannis, who had already collaborated in recording most guitar parts in Cookbook joined the band. His unique style has since greatly influenced the band’s style.
On June 2011, Cookbook reached no. 5 in World Music Charts Europe and the band performed for the first time in the legendary Paradiso Club in Amsterdam. In July, the band was invited to a large World Music festival in Rudolstadt Germany, where a slot had been opened due to a cancellation and IB got to play a second headliner slot, before Youssou n’ Dour. The rest of the summer included performances in Greece, among which several youth and student festivals.
In September 2011, IB were invited as guests in the Eleonora Zouganeli concert in Vrahon Theatre, Athens. She sung IB’s remix of ‘Akrogialies Dilina’ (video), which since became one of her own repertoire’s hits.
From November 2011 onwards, the band hosted a new weekly show in Stavros Tou Notou (STN) Club, an established music venue in Athens. December also included performances in Oslo World Music Festival and Istanbul.
The STN shows lasted until 16 February 2012. The final show is featured in the Imam Baildi Live at STN Club video, produced by White Room.
On Feb 17th, IB went on to their first tour in Europe, which included approx. 10 shows (Germany & Denmark). Lambis could not attend the tour and he suggested that Stelios Provis replace him. Stelios was a common friend of both Lambis and the brothers; he came from a stoner rock background and also had a wide session musician experience. After the tour, he was equally a part of IB and both him and Lambis have since performed an almost equal number of IB shows. The Germany tour was a milestone for the band, both in terms of international presence and as a bonding experience.
On July 10, 2012 IB played their first solo act open air concert in Athens, in Technopolis, a concert venue in the Gazi area, built in the premises of Athens old gas factory (Photos, promo videos, posters). IB self – produced the concert, and invited several guests: the legendary singer Mary Linda, guitarist Dimitris Mystakidis MC’s Eisvoleas and BnC, and the beatbox team Word of Mouth. The concert was very successful and is still a favorite among the band’s fans.
In August, the band performed in two of the largest European Festivals, Sziget in Budapest and Lowlands in the Netherlands. Amongst other concerts, in November, IB started a new weekly show in Kookoo club, Athens, and in December returned to Babylon Club Istanbul for two shows.
In early 2013 the band made its first trip across the Atlantic. IB were invited to perform in South by Southwest, USA’s largest music conference for upcoming bands (Slug Magazine piece). The trip was funded by a Kickstarter Campaign, in addition to support by the Greek radio station En Leuko 87.7 and Earth Friendly Products.
Soon after their return from the US, the band played their first concert in Belgium in the Balkan Trafik festival, and went on to their second European Tour in May 2013, which spanned Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The summer mainly included a tour around Greece, which led to a sold-out show in the open-air space of the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Mousikis). Argosvinis Moni, one of the singles from IB’s upcoming album was first performed in this concert, and also used in the promotional radio & TV spots for the concert.
During the summer, IB were commissioned a TV-series title track for the ‘Min Arhizis Ti Mourmoura’ (i.e. don’t start nagging) series that premiered in October 2013, based on the homonymous 1960’s track by V. Tsitsanis. The brothers produced a new version of the track, with vocals by Rena Morfi. ‘Mourmoura’ was eventually included in IB’s next album and, following the TV-series success, was an instant hit.
For the remainder of the year, the brothers concentrated in the production of their upcoming album, and the band played a limited number of shows mainly in Greece.
In early 2014, IB were commissioned another title track, for the surreal comedy TV – series ‘Kato Partali’. Following the director’s proposal, this was based on Horio Mou, Horioudaki Mou (My village, oh my little village), a 1940’s track sung by Sofia Vembo. IB’s remix was based on samples from the original recording, additional swing themes written by IB and santouri rhythm accompaniments inspired by Rumanian folk music. It was also included on Imam Baildi III.
Amongst production for their new album, IB hosted 4 shows in Passport, a venue in Piraeus, in February, and went on to their second US visit in April. This included two shows in Louisiana International Festival and two club dates in NYC and Philadelphia. On their way back from the US, IB played Balkan Trafik Festival (videos) in Belgium for the second time (Newsville.be piece) and went in a brief tour in Germany on May 2014, which also included their second visit to Paradiso in Amsterdam.
Back in Greece, the brothers went on to finishing the production of their third album, Imam Baildi III. This included two tracks with the brother’s original music and lyrics (Simioma and I Polis), both with vocals by Rena Morfi, and one original instrumental track, The Rider. Argosvinis Moni, already released as single since 2013 was track no 2, already a radio hit by the time Imam Baildi III was released. The album also included:
· Oso Me Malonis, a cover of the original 1960’s track by Vas. Tsitsanis, with vocals by Rena Morfi,
· Pou Girizis, a new version of the homonymous 1960’s track by M. Chiotis, vocals by M. Linda, who recorded the song in late 2013, almost 50 years after its original release,
· Mistirio, a hip-hop track featuring Isvoleas, based on samples by Alla Mou Len, a 1960’s track,
· Baila Cifteteli, based on the 1940’s track “Horepse Mou Tsifteteli”, featuring MC Yinka and BnC. Vocals by Rena Morfi.
On June 25, IB performed as guests in the Mary Linda tribute concert in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Acropolis, Athens. At the end of the month they made their first trip to Canada, with the support of the Canadian Embassy in Athens. They performed in Montreal Jazz Festival, one of the largest international music festivals, and in Festival d’ete de Quebec (photos).
The band’s third album, Imam Baildi – III was released in Greece on July 14th. The release was combined with a concert in Vrahon Theatre in Athens (photos), with guest appearances by G. Mazonakis, Glykeria, Eisvoleas and the batucada percussion group Batala. Their summer performances included a tour in Greece, and in September, IB went on to their 4th tour in Europe with concerts in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
From November 2014 onwards, IB continued perfoming in Greece and hosted a weekly show in Passport (Piraeus) with the addition of Carlos Menendez on Cuban percussion. The year ended with a concert in the farewell party of the European Youth Capital, held by Thessaloniki for 2014.
From January onwards, the brothers started producing a live album, scheduled to be released at the end of 2015. It will include tracks from live performances during 2013-2014. By the end of the month, Simioma from ‘Imam Baildi – III’ came in second in a contest for Best Global Pop Track by the German Radio Station Funkhaus Europa.
In March, IB performed in Amsterdam (Paradiso) and in the De Centrale 20th Anniversary party in Gent (Belgium). Following these concerts they produced two shows in Fix Factory of Sound in Thessaloniki (photos) and Fuzz Club, Athens (photos) titled Viva La Fiesta. The shows were a mix of IB repertoire with Latin and Carribean music with guest appearances by BnC (MC) and the Dj and producer Panama Cardoon. The music video for the live version of the track ‘Ta Paidia Tis Gitonias Sou’ was shot on the Fuzz Club Concert by White Room. It is scheduled to be released together with the Live Album.
In May, White Room produced another music video for IB, for the track Argosvinis Moni (music video). The video was aired simultaneously in Greece and the US, the US release of ‘Imam Baildi – III’ by the NYC – based record label The End Records.
On June and July IB made to trips to France for three festival appearances and a club date in Paris, at the Divan Du Monde music venue in Monmartre. (Liberation Aricle). Their summer tour in Greece started with their second solo
concert in Technopolis, Athens, and continued with sevral concerts in Greece and their econd appearance in Sziget Festival, Hungary.
In September, the band was invited as the main act in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, one of the most prestigious venues in Greece, for a concert in support of the Together For Children Foundation (photos).