Giannis Stratis | Lesvos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Mantamados, Lesvos
• Short biography

Stratis Giannis was born in 1935. He played the guitar on a professional basis, and sang, while also working as a cobbler: “In 1947, when I finished school, at 12 years old, we finished school in June, and in September I started at the workshop. […] I was crippled, too, I wasn’t fit for the fields. In those days, the jobs you could do were cobbler, tailor, barber and carpenter, there wasn’t much work. I stayed for six years (at the shoe workshop, where he trained as a cobbler). And then I started working as musician.”

Stratis Giannis began playing music because he enjoyed it, but was motivated further by the financial rewards of the profession: “I began playing music because I liked it. Well, there was also the fact that I made some money out of it.” He was taught the guitar, at age 16, by Koutzanidis, a local musician: “I started with the guitar. I started playing music in ’52, when I was 16 years old… Of course, we didn’t learn the notes in those days. Some old musicians took me (members of Koutzanidis’ family), they needed young people, there were two bands here, after the war, looking for new members… We weren’t taught a single note […]. They helped me… It wasn’t long before I started performing: two months! Not that I knew what I was doing, it took time, later with the singing, because like singers come out now and play, I held the guitar and I played the accompaniment. It was my ears that worked, nothing else.”

His career as a musician on the local scene lasted until 1974, when he migrated to America. In that time he worked only with musicians from Mantamados and Kapi. He regularly performed in cafés in Mantamados, and other local villages, such as Sykamia and Chalika, while in the summers he often performed in the clubs of Thermi. He was also a regular participant in festivals and parties in his local area, weddings, and balls organised by the local Cultural Associations.

Stratis Giannis moved back to Mantamados in August 1981, and re-opened his shoe workshop. After his return from America, he no longer played music on a professional basis, due to family circumstances and health problems: “In ’73, I was here until the 29th of November. Monday. Monday the 3rd we arrived in Boston, from there we went, my brother took me someplace, […] to one of the states. Then I got a job, in a factory, in a shoemaking workshop. I arrived on a Monday, I started work the following Monday, and I stayed until August 1981. […] I didn’t play music in America. There were musicians. But in the State I was in, there were very few Greeks. Only about 25 families, which were old families […]. (Did you play since?) No. My father, in fact, he told me, when I’d just arrived and couldn’t do anything. My father was dead, and then I didn’t feel like starting again […]”.