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Kaliopi & The Blues Messengers at ‘When the Levee Breaks’ video shoot

Review: Colette Imison. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

George Lane in St Kilda was the perfect venue chosen by Kaliopi and The Blues Messengers to launch their new single ‘When the Levee Breaks’ on Saturday 10th December. Built in 1857, the ambience of the delicately lit room genuinely took you back to the early 1900’s and back to an era where one of the worlds most prominent ladies of blues ‘Memphis Minnie’ (Lizzie Douglas) took to the stage in a time when woman supposedly had their ‘place’.

Legend has it that Memphis Minnie was the first woman to take an electric guitar to the stage, where she wanted to drown out the chatter of the crowds and bring all focus onto her music and words. A staunch feminist, who refused to conform to the expectations of ‘well-behaved’ ladies, found Memphis Minnie become a role model to many ‘strong-women’ of the day and continues to be nearly 100 years later.

‘When the Levee Breaks’ is a cover originally penned by Memphis Minnie in 1929 in response to the most destructive flood in U.S history, the Great Mississippi Floods of 1927. Many may recognise the title, as it was also covered and re-worked by Led Zeppelin in 1971.

A Tribute To Memphis Minnie and Women of Blues, the matinee performance started with the premier of the ‘When the Levee Breaks’ music video, which was directed by Demetra Giannakopoulos.

Given climate change and the recent floods the east coast of Australia has endured over the past few years, Kaliopi was inspired to reinvent the track together with her 5 piece band – The Blues Messengers.

Comprising of:
Lead Vocals/Electric Guitar – Kaliopi Stravropoulos
Keyboard/Backing Vocals: Lisette Payet
Double Bass: Ruth Robertson
Clarinet/Backing Vocals: Darren Hotton
Drums: Les Oldman

Check out the fab new video below from Kaliopi and The Blues Messengers for their new single ‘When the Levee Breaks’

The video captures the impact of floods and climate change, where the bands own take on the track finds a hint of the sounds of Dixieland music, which was popular with musicians in Chicago, where ironically Memphis Minnie established herself as a musician.

The lyrics truly brings to the forefront the impacts of flood and climate change and the affects endured by those caught in the chaos.
‘If it keeps on raining, levee’s going to break
And the water gonna come and have no place to stay.
If it keeps on raining, levee’s going to break
And all these people’ll have no place to stay’.

Kaliopi and The Blues Messengers are a relatively newly formed ensemble who debuted at the Glenmaggie Blues and Roots Festival in early 2022.

Briefly chatting to Kaliopi, she spoke about her personal and musical journey, where she weathered many personal storms during a period where rock music was predominant in her life.

Having worked with an array of seasoned musicians in Australia, Asia, Europe and the U.S.A, Kaliopi found herself travelling to her motherland of Greece, where she was privileged to perform with some of Greece’s finest musicians and where she also found a connection to the strength of women on the island where her mother was born.

This in turn found her exploring Greek Blues Music, performing with Greek Rembetika and Smyrnaika musicians, where she states she was introduced to scales that were reminiscent of traditional blues.

Akin to an epiphany, Kaliopi states that she finally found a style of music that spoke to her, where blues had the ability to allow her to find herself and free to BE.

Having graduated from the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Societies ‘Women in Blues Program’ and further studies, Kaliopi credits president of the MBAS ‘John Durr’ to be a notable mentor in her blues journey.

Embracing blues music found Kaliopi release an album ‘Love, Loss and Mental Health’ (40 Year Compilation) in 2018.

Fast forwarded to 2022, Kaliopi is joined by The Blues Messengers, whom together are doing just that. Playing the blues with a strong message.

The band started off with a silky version of Koko Taylor’s (1975) Voodoo Woman, where Kaliopi’s smooth guitar picking on her Gibson takes you in, finding her strong raw growling vocals casting a spell on you instantly.

Covering a number of Memphis Minnie tracks throughout the afternoon, including launched single ‘When the Levee Breaks’, Kaliopi surmised the intent of each song before performing each track.

The music wasn’t overdone and had an honest feel to it, where the listener was able to tap into the warm notes of the soothing clarinet, and the wispy sounds of the drum brushes sweeping on the snare and hi-hat. Surprisingly Ruth Robertson who traditionally plays guitar and is a vocalist, only started playing the Double Bass three years ago. One would never have known, as she played it so confidently.

A stand out to everyone in the room was that every musician on that stage had a rapport with each other, where there was friendly banter, smiles and laughter between them. At one point you felt that Kaliopi and keyboardist Lisette Payet almost forget they had an audience, they were both so in the moment and connected in that moment, one couldn’t help but smile.

Playing BB King’s ‘Why I sing the Blues’ found the band weave in the sounds of the Greek Blues. You couldn’t help feeling this song, knowing that Kaliopi’s experience with music in Greece found her at the very point of understanding ‘Why she plays the Blues’.

Keen to hear some original pieces, George Lane were privileged to hear a piece written by Kaliopi called ‘Troublin’ Blues’. The essence of blues is that it is a vessel to communicate and to tell a story.

It is healing and stripped raw. Listening to the words conveyed by Kaliopi throughout this show and hearing snippets of her own journey, finds me wanting to hear more of her own story through song. With hope that the healing she has found through the music of Memphis Minnie, can be replicated and healing to others in a similar fashion.

This was indeed a marvellous tribute to Memphis Minnie and her works, with a strong emphasis regarding the importance of tackling climate change, embracing womanhood, strength and truth.

You find yourself questioning whether much has changed for women the last 100 years.

Relatable in a sense that although our journeys may be different, that song and music has the ability to resonate with us all and heal us.

Voodoo Woman (Koko Taylor)
Kissing in the Dark (Memphis Minnie)
When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie)
Mother Fur Ya (Memphis Minnie)
(I Hate to See the) Evening Sun Go Down (Memphis Minnie)
Hoodoo Lady (Memphis Minnie)
Black Cat Blues ( Memphis Minnie)
Me and My Chauffeur (Memphis Minnie)
Troublin’ Blues (Kaliopi)
Why I sing the Blues (BB King)
I’m A Woman (Koko Taylor)
Got my Mojo Working (Etta James)

Upcoming shows for Kaliopi and The Blues Messengers.

Thursday Dec 15
Humes Blues Club – Thornbury

Friday Dec 30
Beneath Driver Lane – Melbourne

Sat 14 Jan
The Blues Train – Queenscliff

Kaliopi will also be sharing the stage with Geoff Achison and Jimi Hocking.

Double Trouble Blues Sessions
Sunday 18 December
Ziggy Pops – St Kilda

For ticket info visit:


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