Until recently Stelios Petrakis has been best known as an instrument maker (he has made Cretan lyras for Ross Daly and others, and he made what is reputed to be the finest Cretan laouto in the UK). He is also a musician, and he has now released his first CD on the innovative Seistron/M.Aerakis label.
The title means ‘my own friends’ and from these friends Petrakis has assembled a first-rate team of musicians to perform his compositions and readings of traditional pieces. These include Ross Daly on lyra, Bijan Chemirani on zarb and other percussion (the CD is worth buying for his performance alone), Psarandonis’ son Yiorgos Xylouris and the great singer Vasilis Stavrakakis on vocals, Hamid Khabbazi on the tar lute and Haris Lambrakis on ney. Petrakis himself plays divan saz, laouto, cura, lyra and other instruments; his lyra playing is extremely good, as the spirited last track on this CD demonstrates.
The compositions (to which Yiannis Petrakis has contributed lyrics) are traditional in inspiration but original in conception. The reference points are impressively wide and include the music of Greece – especially Crete -, Turkey and Iran, and the pieces are closely defined and tightly constructed as opposed to expansive and loose in form; this gift for structure may derive from Petrakis’ background in Cretan music where, as here, musicians improvise and explore within well-defined limits. There is some clever cross-referencing of genres, as on Raks Aksag?, where Turkish metres are juxtaposed with Cretan conventions. The interpretations of the traditional Dervish piece Karagumruk and of older Cretan pieces are thoughtful and distinctive.
This is a very good CD by any standards, and for a debut is quite exceptional
Fοlk Roots review: Chris Williams