Five years on the Multicultural Express still runs on Melbourne’s Frankston line
“Welcome to the Multicultural Express!” announced a Greek band as they boarded a Melbourne metro train with a bouzouki, clarinet, lyra and tympanon all in tow.
Train passengers on Melbourne’s metro trains were treated to the sights and sounds of a live traditional Greek band in the trains, thanks to the wildly successful multicultural initiative from Metro Trains and the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM).
After initially being trialed in London to great success, the Multicultural Express was brought to Melbourne in 2013 in an effort to combat racist and anti-social behaviour after a series of racist attacks on the Frankston train line.
In Melbourne there are 10 different ethnic groups playing, from Latin America to Africa as well as three different Greek groups.
The groups are formed with some of Melbourne’s best musicians from a few different genres, to give people a true sense of what Greek music is.
Nick Papaefthimiou has been involved since it all started in 2013.
“The amount of people who walk up and say ‘you’ve made my day’ or ‘you’ve made the trip enjoyable’ and sometimes people that you wouldn’t expect getting into it, get into it quite a bit,” Mr Papaefthimiou told Neos Kosmos.
Mr Papaefthimiou, who teaches Greek dance at GCM, put together the musical program, ensuring a diverse repertoire.
He said the music is diverse and includes clarinet and lute from mainland Greece.
“We’ve had islander music with a lyra and clarino, and we’ve covered Macedonia as well, and rebetika bouzouki so we also did urban Greek music,” he said.
Mr Papaefthimiou said the groups take the task very seriously, and try to educate passengers about Greek music and culture in an aim to eliminate any misconceptions and stereotypes about Greeks.
“The first and most important thing is to introduce people into a new style of music,” Mr Papaefthimiou said.
“What we found is that the youngest generation of Greeks have very little knowledge and understanding of their culture.
“So what they think is traditional Greek culture is Nikos Theodorakis and Zorba the Greek and they’re really touristy, stereotypical images which is far from the truth of what is the true essence of Greek culture.”
He said it is important for the band to show the many aspects of Greek culture that stray away from the anglicised views of the culture in Australia.