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Koutzamanis Ioannis | Lesvos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Kapi, Lesvos
• Short biography

Ioannis Koutzamanis was born in 1923. He was a musician (guitar and accordion) and singer, and came from a family that included several local musicians: “We got into music because of our mother, because my mother’s brothers were the Kyriakoglou. And this house we’re in now, it was Kyriakoglou’s […]. All of my mother’s brothers became musicians, they rehearsed here, in this house. So we were always listening to music since we were little. They made my grandfather, who was their brother-in-law, a musician, too, he played the santouri […]”. He also worked a barber, a profession he learnt in 1939, in Giorgos Kapandais’ barbershop.

He took his first music lessons from Menelaos Kyriakoglou, a relative with a background in music theory, who played the violin and the trombone. He began playing the guitar around the late 1940s, and also took up the accordion, upon Menelaos’ encouragement. He took accordion lessons in Athens, where he lived between 1949 and 1952: “I went to Athens, and learnt to play the accordion. I don’t remember the teacher. It was someplace, on Mavromichali street, there was a music teacher there, but I don’t remember his name. Well, until I learned, two or three years, I worked as a barber in Glyfada, and went and took accordion lessons. Then I came back here, and went with Menelaos [joined his band].”

Ioannis Koutzamanis stopped playing music professionally in the late 1960s. Since then, he only played on occasion, at local weddings, with Michalis Kyriakoglou’s band: “The reason: I got tired of it. I didn’t want the job anymore, if you get bored of something, you no longer want it. I had the barbershop, and then you needed a license for rehearsals, right? Which I didn’t have. You couldn’t just go and play. You had to rehearse with the lads you’d be playing with. That was mainly why I stopped.”

His repertoire included “laika” and “rebetika” songs, as well as the so-called “European” tunes, such as the fox trot, the waltz, the tango, etc: “Oh, we played everything in those days. European, rebetika… There was the waltz, the tango, the rumba. Those were the dances. They don’t dance those anymore.” On the way they learned new songs, he said: “ [We learned] from the gramophones, we put the records on. One, twice, and you’ll learn it, you’ll play it. By listening. Now, Menelaos [Kyriakoglou], I think he wrote [notes] too… We played the new songs. When someone asked for a rebetiko, we played the new ones. There weren’t any names, in those days, like now, when it’s like: ‘play this, play that’. Then there were few rebetika and they didn’t say ‘play so-and-so!’. They said ‘play a karsilama’, and we played one. And if there was something new, we played that… When someone learned it, Menelaos [Kyriakoglou] for example, we all joined. Well, when you rehearse, you pick it up right away. If you learn it and sing it and fill your head up with it, you play it afterwards… Gramophones, well, all the cafés had them. And Menelaos [Kyriakoglou] had a good one. His father had brought it from America. And he had some nice Smyrneika [songs from Smyrna], too.”