It was five years ago today that 2007 Greek forest fires started to reach its most destructive and lethal levels. Thanks to a summer season with a strong heat wave, severe drought and some acts of arson, the Peloponnese and Euboea peninsulas had reported over 3,000 fires. In the end: 2,700 square kilometers (670,000 acres) of forest, olive groves and farmland and 2,100 buildings (including 1,000 houses) were destroyed and eighty-four people lost their lives, including several firefighters. It was the worst fire breakout Greece had until another wave of forest fires hit Attica two summers later.
I was aware of this thanks to a very vocal colleague who was very much in tune with news outside of the United States and particularly of Greece. At the time, the country was fixated on Lindsay Lohan’s “one day in jail” due to cocaine use and driving under the influence. And yet, this occurred. The U.S. television and media outlets do have their priorities covered. I began associating the Greek forest fires with a demo I had just made at the time, which had the working title of “Pitfall” (after the 1962 film, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara).
Since the 2007 Greek forest fires were a starting point, I wanted the lyrics both to reflect that particular event and to be relevant to any devastating moment when it seems as though the rug was pulled from underneath your feet. It’s that great paradox in creating art where it can reflect a particular event and yet can speak to all similar events (i.e. Picasso’s “Guernica”). And because it was inspired by a particular event – and I have a strong interest in languages, even I feel very inadequate with them – I wanted to use the event’s language.
Originally, the Greek was going to be a repeating chorus. But the subject and the language itself pushed it to form its own little mini-epic poem. Thus, I hear “Firerage” as two parallel yet conjoined songs: one in English and the other in Greek. Amy Green handled the “English side” with only general direction given by me (she knew it was inspired by a particular event). The T.S. Eliot allusions were her idea and I approved of it gladly. The “Greek side” was a long affair as I had first to write what should be said in English and then work with Anna Caraveli on the Greek translation. To this day, I haven’t been able to sit down and properly “re-translate” what the Greek is and the Greek she used was a collegiate-level, highly sophisticated Greek (my cup of tea really and I’m still very grateful for that aspect of it). But in general, it starts with complacency, then the devastation, then dealing with the aftermath, first with anger and finally with acceptance and even praise. Like I said, “Firerage” is really two conjoined yet parallel songs: one in English and the other in Greek.
The Greek vocals were done by me in a period of haste as I was preparing to move out of my apartment in Falls Church, VA to journey north to the greater Boston metropolitan area. If I had more time and more practice with the language, I could have come up with a better melody for it as well as a better delivery (I think some of my stresses and emphases are not authentically Greek). Or I could have had someone else sing it for me with some direction. But on the other hand, it was a sincere effort to memorialize something that was a blow to the Greeks that year. Forgive me for my shortcomings.
While there were elements in the song I could have done better, I’m proud of it in terms of the music and its overall production.
And for all those who were lost … μπορεί μνήμη τους είναι αιώνια
All the best, DP