The Kalogersons - an Odyssey

This coming Saturday, we’ll be hosting a few special guests - the Kalogersons!  The Kalogerson family has been playing traditional Greek folk and pop music across North America for the last 64 years.  

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In 1902, the Kalogieropoulos brothers emigrated from the Central Pelopponese to America, landing in Minneapolis in 1905.  Migration and assimilation is always a challenging balance; in 1910, they parted with their last name - in a way.  The common Greek suffix “opoulos” means “son of,” and so Kalogieropolos became Scandinized into Kalogerson.

There’s a wide and colorful tapestry of stories woven by families emigrating.  From the lands they leave behind to the new cultures they become a part of, there will always be parts of a family’s home that won’t fit in a suitcase, pieces of life that cannot and will not travel with them.  Music, however, travels well.  As Callie Kalogerson so beautifully puts it, the music of a country “is the soul of the people.”

In 1954, Chris Kalogerson returned from three years of service in the Korean War.  He had played music his whole life, as a drummer, learning early the Greek folk songs of his parents.  He started booking music, and playing at Greek weddings in the Twin Cities area.  Soon after, the Kalogerson band became the house band for the Festival of Nations.

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His daughter, Callie, started playing the clarinet when she was 13, an instrument used often in  Greek folk dances.  She then learned the bouzouki - an instrument with four double-strings like a large mandolin, that’s used in Greek pop music.  Once the Kalogersons started playing weddings for the Greek community, they began to get calls from other communities - Romanians, Ukranians, Russians, Serbians, who all felt the absence of musicians from their home countries.

It didn’t take long for the Kalogersons to expand their repertoire beyond the Balkan states to mariachi, zydeco, and klezmer.  Similar time signatures and scales make the translation easy - and the language global.  If you’re familiar with the Jewish horas, you will find a Greek hasapika comfortingly familiar.  Today, Chris books over 30 different kinds of world music, but the demand for live musicians at events has declined with the advent of DJs.  “It’s a different world,” he says.

They still play all of the traditional Greek dances, from the tsamiko to the zembikiko and kalamatiano to tsiftetelli.  The tsamiko is particularly historied - first described in Homer’s Iliad, a soldier’s line dance with three steps forward, a kick, and one step retreating.  After almost 4000 years, the tsamiko is still being performed today - and will be this coming Saturday, November 17 at our very first Big Fat Greek Night!