|Reality intrudes on fantasy island
dance fans turned Ayia Napa into a new Ibiza. The
strains are showing
Steven Morris, Ayia Napa, Cyprus
The Guardian: Saturday July 29, 2000
The warm night air is filled with the scent of
jasmine, and the Mediterranean laps on to a
pristine sandy beach - an idyllic, peaceful scene
apart from the distant rumble of dance music.
Amid buildings of concrete and plastic,
heavyweight sound systems pound out booming
beats, and masses of bodies sweat and move in
Cheap beer and cocktails are consumed in large
quantities, and at times tensions mount. Fights
break out, as happened last weekend when a young
Briton narrowly escaped with his life after being
stabbed during a BBC Radio 1 dance party.
This is Ayia Napa, the resort on the east
coast of Cyprus which, within a few years, has
changed from a retreat for families to a dance
mecca, hailed as the new Ibiza - a magnet to
hordes of youngsters in search of cheap and easy
sun, sand and whatever extras they can find.
It is without doubt a Mediterranean boom town,
with awkward growing pains, a place where
One writer described cooking fish in the
summer of 1972 on an empty beach and dozing off,
to be woken not by crashing dance music but by
sand flies. At that time this tranquil fishing
village was home to only 100 or so men, women and
children. Then came the Turkish invasion of
northern Cyprus in 1974. Resort towns were taken
over, and some displaced landowners, among them
hoteliers, were compensated with tracts of land
in and around Ayia Napa.
Tourism rapidly overtook fishing as the area's
principal industry. Many who had lived there for
generations sold up to developers and moved into
the hills. The holidaymakers began to arrive.It
is less simple to pinpoint just how hard dance
music, especially UK garage - upbeat, softened
with a touch of soul - found Ayia Napa in the
past few years.
Orestis Rossides, director of the Cyprus
tourist board, said: "Ten years ago there
were only a couple of discotheques. There was a
young crowd which hung around the square, but
there were many more families in hotels and
villas on the edge of the village."
Ayia Napa now takes in around half a million
of the tourists in Cyprus - 2.5m this year. Ibiza
entertained just over 2m last year. Around half
of those who find their way to Ayia Napa will
have come for the nightlife. Hotels and
apartments are almost as packed as the dance
floors. Mr Rossides is unsure whether the town
had changed for the better. "The balance may
have shifted too much to the young," he
Two or three years ago, club owners heard of
the UK garage scene, then attracting crowds of
affluent young people. mainly to clubs in London.
Ambitiously, they ditched their 1970s favourites
and began signing clubs and DJs to fly out. Now
they play to 2,000-capacity venues such as Pzazz,
paying top DJs £1,500 an hour.
Ayia Napa has come to be seen as one of the
few Mediterranean resorts attractive, because of
its music, to large numbers of black young people
who never really took to Ibiza's rave-oriented
scene. At 3am the town centre vibrates with the
sounds of competing clubs. New ones seem to be
opening monthly as businessmen realise there is
cash to be made.
Some try to draw the crowds with gimmicks. The
Ice Club has a snow machine and air conditioning
that makes the interior so cold it almost knocks
the breath out of the visitor. The Castle Club's
facade boasts turrets and towers constructed out
of imitation stone, a jarring contrast with the
16th-century monastery nearby. Others use big
names to draw the attention of the passing trade.
Club Abyss features an unconfirmed visit from the
singer-turned-DJ Boy George on its publicity
Nobody disputes that music is king here. The
Castle plays host to the ultra-hip Ministry of
Sound this weekend, a seal of its credibility.
The clubs, which charge around £10 on the door
and offer cheap beer, do deliver, and the punters
respond even to somewhat dubious chants such as
"We say Ayia, you say Napa! Boom!"
Television crews and radio stations have
arrived en masse, most notoriously the
programme-makers who dubbed Cyprus "fantasy
island" on Channel 4. Those who seek to
maintain Ayia Napa as a hip resort for serious
music lovers, not to mention the town council,
were aghast at the programme's focus on laddish
drink and sex. Some now believe an influx of
young revellers not really interested in the
music has changed the nature of the resort.
The full facts of the stabbing at the weekend
have not surfaced, but it seems that a fight
broke out at a daytime party on the resort's
Nissi Beach organised by Radio 1, its first visit
to Cyprus after successful broadcasts from Ibiza.
The station's security officers quickly
separated the groups, but the fighting continued
away from the venue, and Andrew Grey, 35, was
stabbed. Two men were arrested on Sunday night as
they tried to leave Cyprus.
The incident does not help to quell growing
unease about the resort. There is also the fear
that more drugs are seeping in, despite the
island's "zero tolerance" policy. In
May a 23-year-old builder from Cornwall was
jailed for three months after being found with
seven ecstasy tablets in Ayia Napa, and this
month a man of 25 from Coventry died from an
Cypriot police, optimistic that the island
will never have the same drug culture as Ibiza,
believe the club owners take a more responsible
attitude. However, the situation has worried the
town's mayoress, Barbara Pericleous, who has been
making noises about a clampdown on clubs
By 5am dawn is breaking over the town, and the
crowds are beginning to leave the clubs. It is
easy to pick out the music aficionados from the
sex and sand crew. A pair of teenagers wearing
replica football shirts aim their moped at a
well-dressed group of friends from south London.
One of the group lashes out and connects with the
machine, but it stays upright.
Tim Jarvis, 23, who is on his second visit,
said: "Last year it was a much cooler place,
everybody having a good time. Now there seems to
be a more rowdy element here."
By 6am the street cleaners have moved in to
clear the detritus of last night's partying. The
revellers seek their beds before getting ready
for another night. The few locals who have not
been up all night serving food or drinks poke
their heads out, perhaps wondering if the price
they are paying for a little prosperity is too
The serious clubber's guide
What it's all about
"unspoilt" mecca for young
party people and the first real
alternative to Ibiza since 1995
According to the
Ministry of Sound, beautiful girls
quaffing champagne instead of lads
What's on offer
beaches, good music and "practically
Twice As Nice, Pure
£485 for a 2-week
self-catering package in early July
What's it like?
Ibiza five years ago
What it's all about
Ravers' paradise and
the place to be seen partying over the
These days, everyone
who wants to dance until dawn, from 15 to
What's on offer
Bars, clubs, poolside
parties and mind-altering substances
£389 for a 2-week
self-catering package in earlyJuly
What's it like?
Goa 10 years ago
What's it all about
The ultimate beach
Year-round ravers of
What's on offer
architecture, a mixture of cultures, body
painting, out-of-body experiences
None as such
2 weeks in November
What's it like?
More exotic than Ibiza
Additional research: Sally James Gregory
Modern Greek Music Finally Breaks Into
Christian Science Monitor
24 July 1998
Ireland has Sinead O'Connor and U2. Italy has
Andrea Bocelli. And in Australia, there's
newcomer Natalie Imbruglia. While these
ethnically diverse artists have exploded onto the
American music scene, there's still at least one
genre that hasn't climbed the US charts:
contemporary Greek music.
``Modern Greek music has not had a mass
international audience because it has tended to
remain inwardly focused, more musically apart
from the rest,'' says Isaac Coutiyel, the head of
Planetworks, a successful Athens-based
independent music-production company.
``The big-name European artists tend to sound
alike. [Italy's] Eros Razomotti uses the same
session players as Celine Dion. The marketing is
therefore easier. Greece just hasn't had that
kind of exposure.''
But major record labels such as Polygram, EMI,
and Sony are for the first time this year pushing
well-known Greek pop artists toward American
audiences. Such moves have been spearheaded by
EMI's international Hemisphere label and its new
distribution division, Mondo Melodia.
``Greek music's first obstacle has been
getting past this wrong image we have of it. What
is commonly heard over here is the worst of it,''
says Gerald Seligman, the head of EMI Hemisphere.
``But ... people just don't know how phenomenally
rich Greek music is and how evolved it is
The promotion comes after years of resistance
toward what was seen as music too esoteric to
cross outside of Greek borders.
Perhaps the most difficult marketing challenge
has been Greek music's defiance against the
hotter-selling techno-pop of neighboring European
countries, cultivating instead an aloof
Elements of plaintive ancient chants,
Byzantine hymnals, turn-of the-century Greek
blues (rembetika), and traditional rhythms
(zembeiko) mix colorfully under a light coat of
Western gloss. The result is beautiful - but
Leading the campaign into the American market
is Haris Alexiou, Greece's reigning goddess of
song, whose velvet-brushed, soul-saturated voice
is regarded as the national carrier of
contemporary Greek music.
As the country's most successful bridge
between music that is at once ancient and modern,
folkloric and experimental, she is being
introduced to the United States via the
redistribution of the successful 1992 Polygram
release entitled 'Di Efchon' ('With Blessings') -
a sleek, edgy work.
Despite the new attention and established
success in France and Holland, Ms. Alexiou sees a
larger challenge in selling Greek music abroad
for reasons other than just obscure language or
``Greek music takes itself very seriously,''
she said in a recent interview. ``It is the music
of memory to us. All of our tragedies, all of our
modern political problems run through it like its
lifeblood. You find this essence as deep in the
melody of the music as you do in the language,
and that is not easily translatable.''
Alexiou is part of that collective memory,
having grown up in a musical age of the great
Greek composers such as Mikis Theodorakis, Manos
Hadjidakis, and Manos Louitzos, during the
country's politically turbulent '60s and '70s.
It was then a Greek singer's ultimate honor to
be summoned by one of these titans to perform
their works. Alexiou ended up working with all of
them, shaping a three-decade career into an
encyclopedic showcase of contemporary Greek music
- from pure Greek folk to fusions of Western jazz
and Middle Eastern influences.
She tops a list of artists now working their
way onto the competitive stands at such US
music-store chains as Tower Records and HMV.
Legends such as George Dalaras - Greece's Eric
Clapton - and Eleftheria Arvanitaki - its Carole
King - are also part of both EMI's and Polygram's
initial promotions. Sony has signed on Anna
Vissi, a Cypriot sensation.
For Alexiou, Greek music, in spite of its
``difficulties,'' is a sure thing for anyone who
ventures into it, Greek or non-Greek. ``Once you
listen to Greek music, you cannot help but be
brought in closer and closer to it,'' she says.
``Then you find that you can't ever leave it. It
is always with you.''