ATHENA KATSANEVAKI - SO HERE I AM ON THE EAST COAST (MELODIES FROM THE EAST COAST OF CRETE AND IERAPETRA)
To my violin teacher from Nymphaio near Florina
Dany (Ariadni) Dosiou †
To my family. My parents and grandparents
To all those who know how to love with all their heart, soul and strength.
It's been a long time since I was able to persuade my Dad (after a lot of encouragement) to record some of the melodies that he used to play on the violin on feast days and in leisure moments, filling our house in Thessaloniki with the sounds of Ierapetra in Crete. This was a series of melodies that I heard both in my ears and in my mind and they were the main sounds I had of Cretan music and some well chosen vinyl records with the best Cretan musicians from the East and West of Crete: Avissinos and Dermitzogiannis (Kriti Patrida mou- Crete my motherland), and Nikos Xylouris with his Rizitika and the Anyfandou and his Kavgades me to giasemi.These were sounds that I would never forget or ever could forget because this was the Crete I knew by heart. The Crete of real nobility that doesn’t ask for honour and poetry but for ethical standards and no fuss. The sounds of the Cretan countryside that still smells of fragrant thyme and so does the music of Crete.
I am always looking for it and even unconsciously looking for comparisons and wondering what ‘Cretan music’ could possibly be like.
All my years of experience and my research in the Pindus mountains made me realize that the tunes my father played were unusual. In spite of the fact that they were obviously part of the musical tradition of Eastern Crete I never heard them being played in exactly the same way by professional musicians and some tunes seemed to be completely different. I gradually realized that without knowing it my father knew the very localized tradition of the town of Ierapetra, in all probability influenced by Ierapetra Conservatory of music and by his violin teacher John Manioudaki who taught my father, Nicholas and his brother Manolis.
My Dad used to say that Mr Manioudakis was aware of Dad’s love of the violin and would give him the music of songs played by local violinists
written in musical notation. All the variations stem from the fact that my Dad used to listen to the local musicians particularly from Ierapetra. At the same time there were melodies like Steiakos Tragoudistos and Xenihtis( which means to “Stay up all night”) which you never hear except as a motif in other songs and tunes set to Cretan mantinades.
I recorded my Dad for the first and last time in 2002 accompanying him on the guitar in my amateurish way. He had difficulty playing because of an injury to the index finger of his left hand. Sadly, and as a consequence of this injury the recordings could not be exposed to the public and I had the secret wish from that time onwards for them to be played and sung again with the mantinades that would go with them, to bring back to life the musical evenings in my father’s house and garden in Ierapetra,Crete. My Dad didn’t sing or dance. He played the violin and Grandpa Joseph or ‘Siffis’ would sing or dance and compose mantinades (Cretan rhyming couplets). My Dad’s cousin, also called Nicholas Katsanevakis, (his father was Giannis) accompanied him on the mandolin. Family tradition has it that Grandpa Joseph knew the whole of the Erotokritos poem by heart, no less. This seems a little too much since Erotokritos consists of two volumes by Kornaros, but it does indicate that long ago there were gifted Cretans who could recite endless extracts from Erotokritos.
When my Grandpa Joseph Katsanevas (Siffis Katsanevas or Katsanevakis) was in America and met Cretans from other regions of Crete, he learned to sing all their songs. Sadly they have not been recorded since they didn’t have the technology at that time.
Dad used to tell the story about Grandpa Joseph and his songs, showing that people in Crete loved Kornaros’ lines and felt emotional involvement with them. Dad said that when it was time to gather the olives or the almonds or any other crop, the women would stop to rest and they would say to Grandpa Joseph ‘Please Mr Siffis will you sing Erotokritos?’ and he would reply ‘ I will sing but please don’t cry!’
My uncle Manoli used to dance and he would use his voice for a mantinada when he was in the mood. I only saw him dancing twice because he was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease. His courage
was so great that he managed to overcome his illness to dance, and this is something I will never forget either in my conscious or unconscious mind.
When I get up to dance I can feel this courage too. I can only dance in his Cretan way and I only want to dance this way! Our ancestors who live again inside us when we dance are serious. They are our strictest judges because they didn’t give us ‘experiences’ that so many people want but pure joy and blood, sweat and tears.
May they rest in Peace.
A few words about Grandpa Joseph and my forebears
My Grandpa Joseph and my Dad’s teacher Mr Manioudaki were the originators of my Dad’s love of music, the violin and Cretan songs.
Grandpa was from the village of Ziros in the Sitia region of Crete. He was born in 1888 and as a young child he heard of the massacre at the Great Castle (Handakas or Herakleion) by the Ottomans. He secretly followed his father and the other fighters to the mountains, excited about their plans for a reprisal that he had heard being discussed by his father Manoli and the fighters. He was arrested by Greek rebels on the mountain where he had got lost and being considered a young spy, it was the first time he was in danger of being executed. It was a real miracle that he was saved. And he went through two more difficult times later on.
He got the money for his ticket to America by selling his cow and he reached Ellis Island at the age of 18 to earn money for his family because all the men were in the Greek army fighting in the continual battles of the time. He got a job, studied and became an American citizen. He served in the American army and for the second time his life was in danger since at the Battle of Verdun few people survived. The war finished just upon their departure for Verdun.. He became an inspector of mines checking on the dangerous gases in the mines to protect the people working there in the American mines. My Dad said that the place where he worked was called “Hanavajomine”, probably a local dialect rendering of the area of Arizona where the Navajo Indians were. He was in contact with the labour movement in America
and represented the miners of his area. He resigned after many years working in this position. He came back to Crete to get married because’ he didn’t think America was a good place to raise a family’ and he married my grandmother Eleni Mamounaki from the village of Kato Chorio near Ierapetra. He developed the initiative in Crete for the first cooperative olive press in the area. He developed farming in the area, importing banana trees and putting up windmills. He had his own hotel until the Italian Occupation of the island when the occupying forces took it over during the Second World War.
He had his own ship which broke up when it went aground and he used its machine for a time, to pump water to one of his vegetable gardens in the Ierapetra area. For the third time in his life he was arrested and was in danger to be sentenced to death during the Second World War and the ensuing Civil War.
He died at a ripe old age. I knew him as the noble old man in the rocking chair in Ierapetra. Even in his rocking chair he was a noble man.
Memory Eternal. May he rest in Paradise.
The songs and melodies, musical studies and the musical life of Ierapetra.
My Dad studied violin for 2 years with Mr Manioudaki before the war, at Ierapetra Conservatory, at the urging of Grandpa Joseph, and after the war he had violin lessons when he was studying at the Metsovion Polytechnic School, Faculty of Engineering in Athens along with his brother Manoli.
During a restoration of the old family home in Ierapetra, my Aunt Alice, Dad’s sister, found 2 violins in old cases. They were violins that Mr Manioudakis had given to his students so they could practice at home and there was also an old notebook of my Dad’s with musical notes and exercises. One of the violins can no longer be played because it is a bit primitive, but apart from these violins John Manioudakis gave my Grandpa a violin that had been crafted in about 1880 because Grandpa had hosted him for a month in his hotel before the War when the violin teacher and his family, had to move to
another area of Crete and leave Ierapetra. So the violin tradition in the family started before the 1940 war.
My Grandpa Joseph (Siffis),from Askyphou near Sphakeia like his father, was born in 1888 and though I only knew him for a short time, he is engraved in my memory just like my uncle’s dance.
When my Dad started learning violin Grandpa used to take him and go up to the village of Ziros where the people of Sphakeia who were freedom fighters had ended up when they had to leave Askyphou around 1800 to escape arrest by the Ottomans. This was around the time that the Ottomans had built a fort in the plain of Askyphou to keep watch on the Sphakeians who were always ready to fight.
When my Dad was still a child he learned to play Steiakos tragoudistos (track 5) from a lyre player (whose name is unknown) and here I added the mantinades as they would have been sung by my Grandpa if he was alive. I do not know for sure but there is a possibility that the lyre player could have been Foradaris or someone like him (of a similar style and generation of lyre players). I have never heard these tunes being played like that although they somehow recall other variations of Kondylies for mantinades.
The Chaniotikos Syrtos tune on track 6 is played in a very unusual way. One of its motifs is very reminiscent of a variation played by Dermitzogiannis but this tune is unknown at least to me. However its form and aesthetics are very close to other recordings of the Chaniotikos Syrtos dance played by violinists of Eastern Crete( See Ta Radiophonika (Radio Recordings) CD 3 track 6, Chaniotikos Syrtos by Papahatzakis)
It’s more ‘Aegean’ and just like my Dad’s Chaniotikos Syrtos tune, the musical motifs exactly match the way the Chaniotikos dance is performed in Eastern Crete (danced for me by the oldest ladies in Ziros). This dance was very reminiscent of the Sousta dance from Rhodes, and even the tune of the Rhodes Sousta has motifs similar to the Cretan Maleviziotis Dance. It shows that Crete has local traditions and is a locality inside the wider tradition of the Dodecanese, one of the most ancient of the Aegean area.
The Xenihtis on track 7 was the tune played by the serenaders. I have heard some motifs from this tune in a series of other songs but I have never heard the complete song as my Dad played it.
The Maleviziotis-Pidichtos (track 4) is in a slower tempo and it recalls the ones you can hear in both in the East and West of Crete. My Dad said about this tune that his teacher had given them the basic melody in musical notation but that he added the variations and embellishments based on what he heard from violin players from Ierapetra. This probably refers to all the other tunes except the ‘Steiakos Tragoudistos’. This Maleviziotis tune like other Maleviziotis tunes has the motif which goes well with other dance tunes of the Aegean and also contains tunes from old Ikariotikos dance tunes.
One of my Dad’s best loved tunes was the Boukloubou on track 1. It is very similar to the way Avissinos and other old violinists of the area played this melody, but my Dad played it in his own special Ierapetra way and I tried to play it in this way so that his special way would remain. I tried to match the mantinades keeping the style I knew that according to tradition went with them.
Alongside what I had from my Dad there were always some tunes that had been engraved on my musical consciousness and my soul and they yearned to be noticed. One of these was Kontylies (Dermitzogiannis) that’s what I call them, on track 3 with the special exciting high notes by this well loved lyre player from the Eastern side of Crete.
The second is the Old Erotokritos on track 2 played in the manner I had heard it being played for many years by Papahatzakis on the CD ‘Musical Journeys and memories from Eastern Crete’ (Mousikes Anadromes apo tin Anatoliki Crete) given to me by George Papageorgiou (Memory Eternal) the director of Ierapetra Radio Station when I asked him to help me find old violin players of the area. He rewarded my search in two ways, by introducing me to Pedoulaftis or George Lapokonstantakis (Memory Eternal), and giving me this CD which was a real discovery for me: pure sweet music, joy and sorrow together, played by the old violins of eastern Crete and sung by unpretentious voices.
These violin players gained their places in my little Pantheon of the heroes of Cretan music which was already present in my unconscious, and since then they have wanted to be heard.
Together with the musical tune of Erotokritos in track 2 which my Grandpa Joseph sang (here my Dad) which are very comparable to the recordings of Erotokritos made by Samuel Baud- Bovy, I decided to try and learn to play this tune again. I tried to get close but I am still pretty far away and I hope that this will be a reason for John Papahatzaki’s inspiring recording to be heard more, especially since it can easily be found on the internet.
All these recordings which are based on my Dad’s recordings of 2002 have a small clip from my Dad and then my rendering of the tune.
I hope that this small effort of mine will be a tiny offering to the music of the island and a token of respect not only to my Dad, my family and my grandparents whom I thank from my heart but also to a musical way of life that is in danger of extinction like many other rare species on this planet! The proverb says ‘If you love it you will live it!’
My thanks go first of all to my dear parents, my mother Zacharoula† who passed away before this could be finished. Although she was from Western Macedonia and the Pindus mountains, a noble and long suffering area that I dedicated many years of my life to, ‘the navel of the earth’ I called it, her love of literature was such that she had one of the oldest editions of the whole of the Erotokritos poem on her bookcase. I used to spend hours reading through the volumes with Vitsenzios Kornaros’ lines. My heart was filled with pictures, gardens, songs, rhymes and beautiful feelings. This store of feelings could never be forgotten, so I have to thank my mother for my first acquaintance with Vincenzio Kornaro. I have to thank my Dad for my introduction to music. I have to thank him for those tunes I heard in my childhood and the love they inspired for his Cretan fatherland.
I have to thank all those who supported me in this project, many of whom have already been mentioned but others will remain behind the scenes because I think that’s what they would have wanted......
I would like to thank Nick Sideropoulos and Asterios Trakas for their support and team work in this project, for their expertise on the guitar and in the studio. Covid and quarantine made it necessary to record the violin at home using a TASCAM digital recorder.
Thank you Nick and Asteri. They did their best to edit these amateur recordings.
I thank the Aerakides and I hope that their projects will be as fragrant as the Cretan air!
School of Music Studies, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Member of the Teaching Staff
Historical Ethnomusicology and Traditional Singing
Violin-songs ,bells and mantinades apart from Erotokritos:
Guitar: Nikos Sideropoulos
Recording: Studio Fonografos
Sound Design: Asterios Trakas
Extracts of recordings made in Thessaloniki at my father's home on 15/2/2002 with violin played by Nikolaos Katsanevakis and guitar played by Athena Katsanevaki, on a portable TASCAM digital recorder with a stereophone microphone.
Extracts from Erotokritos by Vitzenzio Kornaros, Book 3, lines 1355-1420, 1459-1464 and Book 5 lines 1503-1522, 1543-1550, Editions: Erotokritos Kornarou Volume 2 Series 100 Immortal Works no 27, reprinted by Stephanos Xanthoudidou editions with an introduction by Linos Politis, George Papadimitriou Editions, Athens 50 Churchill Street, 1952.
Older editions with performances of the tunes I based my recordings on or similar performances and motifs:
1.Old Erotokritos (Palios Erotokritos) by Giannis Papahatzakis
In CD form:
-Musical Travels and Memories in Eastern Crete (Mousikes Anadromes apo tin Anatoliki Crete), Municipality of Ierapetra Cultural editions.
-Radio Broadcasts (Ta Radiophonika) Cretan Musical Tradition Cretan Musical Workshop Aerakis Editions.
-On the internet:
2. The Kontylies “of Dermitzogiannis” and other mantinades sung by Dermitzogiannis.
-“Crete, my country” (Crete Patrida mou) a vinyl record
Kontylies "Baby I thought your love was a game'
3. Chaniotikos Syrtos
As it was played by Dermitzogiannis. Very close to the one played by my Dad on the violin which we present here.
-CD Dermitzogiannis 1935-1955 Authentic recordings “The Protomastores” (Authendikes Echografiseis “The Protomastores”) Aerakis Editions Cretan Musical Workshop 1990.
4. The Vocal melody of Erotokritos as sung by my Grandpa Joseph Katsanevas.
-See a similar melody in the film MONOGRAMA about Samuel Baud-Bovy which has been put on the internet by the Municipal library in Lefkada.
This is an old local recording by Samuel Baud-Bovy from the Merabelou area with old George Bardas or Kazanis singing (21.51-27.45). Baud-Bovy makes some excellent comments about the connection between the Ancient Greek Hymn to the Muse of Mesomedes of Crete from the 1st century AD 5.Maleviziotikos-Pidichtos Dance I owe my interest in the Ikariotikos dance music to my Professor Dimitris Themelis. I ended up making a series of musical transcriptions from Ikariotikos dance melodies in musical notation and the observations I made about the variations on the Maleviziotikos compared with the tunes of Ikariotikos and the Sousta dance from Rhodes. In the following essay: Katsanevaki-Themelis 2003 “Basic motifs in melodic variations in the Ikariotikos dance” In Music and songs of Ikaria, Proceedings of the musicology conference on the 30, 31 August and 1st September 2002 Ikaria Papagrigoriou editions p.22-49.