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"Music keeps me sane in an otherwise unquestionably insane world"

An interview with Antonis Georgiou

How important (and necessary) do you consider actions like Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival to be?

I think it is imperative, particularly in these trying times. I am happy to see a revival in the post-pandemic regarding festivals and other cultural events. Although I must admit, I sense something fundamental has been altered in our psyche in the process, and I am afraid it is not for the better. As a result, Buffer Fringe and similar festivals provide us with pockets of breathing space to rethink our present and the future.

How would you describe your music?

Classifying my music under a particular genre is pretty challenging, but I'd say it is a blend of all the musical influences I've had throughout the years. 'Transmedia narrative' is a consistent element in my work. The narratives unfold across different forms of media, such as video projections, cassette tapes, postcards, booklets, blog posts, and audio-visual installations, collectively generating a complex but interconnected storyworld. Each of these is a piece of the puzzle scattered through various forms of media. Another consistent element is childhood, nostalgia, technostalgia, retrofuturism, and hauntology as a stylistic approach. So, in a sense, I am trying to build small, self-contained worlds where different forms of media merge, and the music itself becomes an imaginary soundtrack for a mythical tale.

What will you present at Buffer Fringe?

I will present my brand new project, Nostalgia For The Future, performed by the band I put together specifically to perform my music. The music is derived from my latest album Paradise Lost and other unreleased material from earlier projects. It is a sequel to my previous project, Tales From The Future (which included limited live performance), where both take place in the same universe or the same storyworld. People familiar with my work know I always try to 'decorate' the stage or the venue with material from the storyworld mentioned above. You can expect several video projections, one of which will be entirely in sync with the music; several TV sets, each with unique imagery. One of the story elements of Paradise Lost was the idea of postcards providing information to the protagonist, who is looking for more of them in hopes of finding clues to the magical place called 'Memory Lane'. For this, I am devising a postcard hunt throughout the venue, where the audience can choose to participate and collect them all.

The performance "collectively generat[es] a complex but interconnected story world, addressing themes of nostalgia, childhood, and the memory of place." You were born after 1974. How was your childhood? And how is the "future" you are living now, compared to what you dreamt then?

Being from the 80s generation, we were spared from the horrors of the conflicts. I can't help but feel that the 80s have been about past events swept under the carpet. The house where I spent most of my childhood was right next to the border of Varosha, enveloped in intimidating rusty barbed wires, large barrels, and deteriorated military signs. This was the backdrop of our playgrounds. Funnily, I correctly predicted that Varosha would become a touristic theme park. It's there in the narrative of my album Paradise Lost. While as a child, I did not question the reality of staying in someone else's house, I eventually began asking: To whom did this house belong? Little did I know that it was initially owned by a Greek Cypriot. Where is he now? Why do we occupy this place? While there were no easy answers for this, what I got in return began to feel unsatisfactory as I grew older. These questions started to feel like a burden I could not get rid of. Consequently, Paradise Lost, is partly initiated by a desire to unload this burden and come to terms with my identity, my personal ideals for the island's future, and cherished childhood memories of growing up in these circumstances. I can't fault my generation's upbringing, from both sides of the island, as the wounds were too new. However, I believe that the time has come to heal those wounds.

inal bilsel, nostalgia for the futue, live concert, tv setup, feedback loop
Nostalgia For The Future - Live at Rüstem, Nicosia CY (2021)

Nostalgia for the Future "that never arrived". Politically speaking, do you believe that something can still change, or is the possibility for a common future for all Cypriots in Cyprus completely lost?

Despite currently being in a deadlock as deep as we have ever been, I remain optimistic and believe in a brighter tomorrow. A giant snake has just bitten us! Now is the time to reach for a ladder and keep playing the game until it is over! There will always be another chance on the horizon; it just doesn't have to be in our lifetime. We need to reach a mentality that transcends our lifetime. I am not implying that we sit and wait for a solution or ignore the situation. I'm saying that, given time, even small increments in the right direction go a long way.

Can the disappointment for the "failure of the future", for all that didn't happen, become the driving force for a future different from our present and past?

True. That is the ideal situation and the natural consequence. 'Nostalgia For The Future' is optimism for the future and a longing for something you have yet to experience. It is like gazing through a hypothetical photo album of yourself from the future and having nostalgic feelings.

Does music, art, have a role to play in our times (and in our country)?

Of course, I would say yes, but whom am I kidding? Speaking of the North side, while there are institutions that constantly promote art, I can't help but think that art is being used as a garnish, an ornament for supposedly important events, and a way to make a political statement (Presidential Symphony Orchestra performing in Varosha.. etc.). Music and art definitely have a role to play, but in the right hands and in the right moment and place. Simply displaying an 'art' and calling it a day does not suffice. Even the word 'artist' is being consistently misused in our press. It's a controversial topic, but sometimes what constitutes (or doesn't) as being 'art' is clear as day.

inal bilsel, paradise lost, nostalgia.
Paradise Lost - Live at Bodrum, Nicosia CY (2015)

You teach music. Does the contact with your students make you optimistic or pessimistic for… the future?

Being with students is always refreshing. Despite the dark, apocalyptic scenarios I come up with in my narratives, I am always optimistic about the future! Although it has been especially hard in recent years to stay to do so.

What is music for you?

The story goes that, at a particular moment, while I was writing some new music for my high-school band, I realised that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. When I registered for the university, I had to pick three subject areas to be evaluated. I wrote the music and left the remaining two spaces empty. Not much has changed since then. The only exception is a constant struggle to balance teaching duties, daily chores, family time, and creating some music. However, music is my driving force; it is what keeps me sane in an otherwise unquestionably insane world.

10. What are your next plans?

I've recently become the head of a brand new department, 'Sound arts and design', at ARUCAD university. I'm both excited and scared at the same time, as I don't know whether this move will allow me to keep making music, I guess probably not, but I'll give it a try, nevertheless. There are also some long-overdue album releases that I am planning. You wouldn't believe how many of them are lined up, burning a hole through my hard drives! However, there is one particular album that I've been working on for the past two years, which will be released next year. It shaped up to be the most optimistic, surreal, and dreamy work I've ever done, and it's all due to life-altering events, such as being a father.

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