One of the most intense and disturbing (mainly in a positive way), performers of Avante Garde Jazz and Blues (if you can categorize her as such an artist), in the past few decades is Diamanda Galas. A San Diego native of immigrant Greek parents, she often speaks about the role of her culture in her music as well as religion. In 2005 I had the opportunity to see her perform live Defixiones, Will and Testament, an 80-minute memorial tribute to the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian victims of the Turkish genocides from 1914-1923, in New York City. Her voice penetrates the soul like few others are able to, and one of the most memorable and emotional scenes of the concert was when she was surrounded as if by fire and while burning alive she screamed "I was born a Roman and I will die a Roman" in the Greek language, in imitation of the many martyrs of the Asia Minor Catastrophy.
Despite this, Diamanda is not a devout Greek Orthodox by any means, but she made an interesting comment in an interesting interview that I thought is worthy of reflection and speaks much unfortunate truth about many Greeks as well as other Orthodox cultures. She was asked the following and responded in turn:
H.D.: You use a lot of religious imagery in your music. Did you come from a religious household?
Diamanda: Absolutely not. I come from an agnostic family, but at the same time, it’s Greek Orthodox, so there’s a combination of that. A lot of Greeks would agree with me when I say to be a Greek Orthodox atheist is to have the certainty of the Devil with no hope in God. And I’ve said that to a lot of Greeks in Greece, and they just laugh and say, “That’s it! Right on the money, Diamanda.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
Her official site can be viewed here.