Antonis Kanakis is a popular Greek TV host and radio producer. He’s been hosting satirical shows on Greek television for many years expressing his outlook on society and current news in a most witty way. A man of keen perception who dares criticize the government, celebrities and Greek society and its malfunctions while at the same time keeping his audience’s interest and personal popularity at high levels.
Talking with him is a challenge that I am more than happy to have taken! Enjoy my conversation with him on the future of Greek music and his views on the Greek recession and Greek reality as a whole!
What is the goal of your TV show? Awakening, informing, entertaining or a satire upon society and politics?
Radio Arvyla is about my need to express my views in a creative and artistic level. What you just said about awakening, informing and entertaining are the results of our show or at least the results we hope to achieve. Irrational as it may sound, many people choose to be informed through satire. This is not something that happens for no reason. Our show is definitely entertaining and hopefully awakening; it offers a different view of situations from a clearer angle.
You’ve also been a radio producer since a very young age, why are you so passionate about the radio? If you had to make a choice between the radio and TV which would you choose?
The choice between the two is not a hard one to make. They are two means that may look similar at first since they are both there to inform, entertain and communicate but similarities stop there. If I had to choose between them I think I’d choose the radio not only because of music, not only because this is where it all started for me but also because it is more human and not at all “soul-destroying”. The processes used on TV, its environment and consequences are wearisome. TV can make you ill, whereas the radio can heal you.
Watching you all these years, I get the feeling deep inside you, you would like to be a member of a band, is it me or is that true?
It goes without saying that what I’d really like to do is play for a band and I really don’t know why this has not happened yet. I’ve been involved in music production and composition for many years and I think all this is ‘gonna come forward sooner or later.
So, a radio producer and TV presenter who would love to be part of a music band. If someone who does not know you asked you what you do, what would you answer?
Now, that’s a tough one! Joking with friends, I claim being a Swiss Army knife; you know the one that does everything. The point is though that whatever it is I’m doing, I do not see it as work. Actually, the word work itself is not to my taste. They say “Do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Well, I guess that’s my case! I’ve never felt I’m working because I simply choose to do what I would do anyway, the things I love. So, coming back to your question, what I do is create. I’m addicted to creating. Not a day passes without my having created something. It can be anything related to media, communication, and music and audiovisual in general.
The only things I do that make me feel as if I’m working are the tedious, frustrating processes every Greek has to go through the moment they decide they want to produce or venture in our country. Unfortunately, the Greek state continues standing as an opponent to its creative and productive citizens. It is as if the state is testing our limits, as if it is trying to see if the people will manage creating or getting into business without getting mad.
Do you think it’s possible for Greek musicians and bands to export their music to other countries?
Music sees no borders both theoretically and practically however, this is not true when it comes to commercializing music. This is mainly because of the language which is a problem for Greek musicians. I think it is rather hard for a piece with Greek lyrics to become a hit abroad. What is possible though is for music creators who write in French, English or create instrumental pieces to become successful abroad. Things though are getting harder and harder because the Greek market is shrinking and big companies prefer promoting music coming from bigger markets. One more obstacle is the way companies choose to promote music through social media. The more views and likes, the more chances you have.
Unfortunately, that barren and technocratic belief in numbers has managed to invade even the most creative and artistic areas such as music. Opinion makers and opinion leaders of the past who used to discover hidden treasures and bring them to light seem to have disappeared from the music industry. It seems to me that they have been replaced by views, likes and clicks on social media. I totally disagree with this new process because I think the value of music should have nothing to do with how educated or uneducated the people are. What happens now is that how educated the people are defines arts and this is only leading to art that deteriorates.
In 2013 you took the Immersion challenge by ActionAid and produced a documentary of the same name. How much did your experience change you? Is your daily life the same after it? What is the power of volunteering?
Immersion is one of the most important parts of my life on both a personal and professional level. It goes without saying that on a personal level what I experienced through it is invaluable and I expressed my feelings during the documentary. The whole thing is so intense it undeniably changes your life. It changes what you take for granted and as a result the way you perceive the world around you and life itself. It is an experience that becomes a part of you and alters you forever. What you saw, smelled, felt, experienced is always with you. On a more creative level, it was one of the best moments of my life because the result was powerful and something I wish to do again.
The power of volunteering is a point I think needs no explanation. If you think about it our whole life is an act of volunteering. I cannot understand how one can live without offering his soul to things bigger than us or to anyone who needs our help. I cannot imagine any person who’s asked for their help and won’t do it without any second thoughts. We are all potential volunteers because volunteering is second skin to our being. I am so definite about that, that I consider any discussions on volunteering as irrational since to me it is part of our existence.
Had you seen before 2009 what was coming to our life or the recession took you by surprise?
Honestly, I had seen it all coming before 2009. Actually, I don’t think anyone needed to be particularly smart or a clairvoyant to see it. We had turned into a country that was only spending money which did not belong to us while producing almost nothing. It’s simple mathematics, pure law of physics. It doesn’t take long to come where we are so, yes it was a situation I had seen coming.
So, what is it that brought us here? When we asked Nikos Aliagas the same question he answered that the main reason Greece is going through the current recession is a loss of our identity. Do you agree with him?
I couldn’t agree more with Nikos, because the Greek crisis is indeed the result of a loss of our identity. I will however take it a step further. I think it is most of all a crisis of education. The way I see it, Modern Greek society of the past 30 years has had a serious education problem and by education I do not mean encyclopaedic knowledge. I mean cultivation, culture, perception and critical mind of the citizens. There has been a constant lack of cultured citizens who do not ignore simple notions like self-respect, respect for the environment and above all the understanding that for the individual to win the team needs to win. So, the Greek crisis is mostly a cultural crisis. Beyond any shadow of doubt we the citizens bare responsibilities but the most responsible ones are by rule the people who governed us.
Those asking for our vote to be placed on top of the social pyramid should do so not to feed, prolong or strengthen the morbid state of society but to fight and reform it. In Greece the opposite has been the rule for quite long. Our governors multiplied corruption or even worse have been the ones implementing it. They are the ones bearing the highest responsibility, the ones who we mistakenly trusted with governing our country.
The situation is surely reversible. There is nothing that cannot be reversed as there is no problem without a solution. The point is that we cannot reverse it if we do not understand that the problem is not the numbers but the mentalities that led us here.
What would you advise the young growing up during the current recession?
I have nothing to advise the young because an advice should be given only if you are asked for it. The only thing I would like to point out without being advisory is for them to choose to do what they love. It is a choice that will prove beneficial to them and will benefit society as well.
Are you optimistic about the future?
I am what you could call an optimist by nature and as I said before I do not believe in problems but in solutions. There is nothing I can’t overcome except what is beyond my control, like disease or natural disasters. Everything else can be handled and dealt. The point is though, that Greece has the ability to turn an optimistic person into a pessimist and this is why I’m not totally optimistic about the recession.
One other reason why I’m not really optimistic about the future of Greece is that we’ve been under the influence of the recession for quite long and have suffered a lot because of its consequences, however I still can’t see any beam of light at the end of this tunnel. I think it is really strange that we are going through all this and there is still no change in our mentality or understanding of what has led us here. I don’t know if it’s me but there is no will to face the fact that we created this debt because we are not productive or the will to start respecting society as a whole.
On the contrary I see envy, intolerance, meanness and malfunctions of our society that make everybody’s life more difficult prevailing instead of succumbing. We are not really happy about other people’s success or happiness and this does not help me feel optimistic.
I suppose you don’t believe that the crisis can also be an opportunity, do you?
After the crescendo of pessimism I just expressed, I am not sure this is possible. I do however, believe that a crisis is an immerse opportunity because it brings you down to earth and face to face with your personal reality. It can awaken us and awakening is an opportunity. Whether we take advantage of it or not is going to show who we are and what we are made of.
Coming to our niche now which is fashion, what is your relationship with it? We see you wearing t-shirts with provocative mottos is that a style choice? Do you choose Greek fashion brands?
No, I don’t choose my t-shirts as a fashion statement if that’s what you mean. I really have nothing to do with fashion. I just throw a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, my sneakers and some kind of leather jacket or unbuttoned shirt on me. So, I can’t really talk about fashion. I do buy Greek brands though, and when I find something is produced in Greece I tend to give it my support.
What is La Grèce J’aime to you?
La Grèce J’aime is the people who embraced Immersion and because of that an amazing 1.2 million people of the Third World were benefited according to the official data of ActionAid. La Grèce J’aime is that of the volunteers who on their own expenses travelled to Africa to build the school I financed. La Grèce J’aime is the people who create, produce and feel happy when others are happy and successful. The Greeks willing to help their fellows, the ones who have not forgotten what hospitality means. The people who can feel the joy of life and the worth of nature. There’s a part of Greece related to our geographical position, history and culture that I really love and respect because it is unique and can’t be found anywhere else in the world but I feel sad that this part seems to be losing the battle.
You can watch the Immersion documentary on the Antonis’ Kanakis official Youtube channel here, follow Antonis on Facebook and listen to his music on Soundcloud here.
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