Englezos Ilias | Chios | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Vrontados, Chios
• Short biography

Ilias Englezos is a professional musician. He sings and plays the guitar. He was born in 1927, in the area of Vrontados, in Chios, but his family originally came from Asia Minor. Before he took up music, he worked as a barber, and ran a barbershop for twenty-three years.

His first contact with music was at a young age, when he and his family moved to Cyprus, during of the occupation. During that time, he took oud and singing lessons from a Turkish musician, and continued his studies upon his return to Chios, with Dimosthenis Daskalakis as his tutor. On his knowledge of music, he said: “If you told me something about your life now, I’d write it, I’d write it straight away, flawlessly, I know… A song, if you said to me now, tell me about your life with a song, I’d say, pick up a pencil and write, write whatever you want, I wrote one the other day… I wrote a song.”

When he joined the military [for his Military Service] in Athens, he worked as a musician. He stayed there for two years, and had the opportunity to meet other musicians, such as Stelios Kazantzidis. He said: “I knew them all, come on, we spent time together […] I didn’t sing with Kazantzidis, but with other people, yes [...] but I’m telling you, in Aigaleo, where I worked in this big club, they had two bouzouki players, a full band”.

Despite being urged to stay in Athens, he was worried he might lose his customers at the barbershop, and finally decided to return home to Chios. Before leaving, however, he had begun discussing working in America, where he eventually moved in 1974. He stayed there for eight months, before returning to Greece. He has since travelled to America several times, for work.

On his collaborations in Chios, he said: “[I played] with the whole of Chios, the good ones, you know. I used to work with Panagiotis Atsinganos, clarinet. He was good. The best, at the time… and Giorgis Atsinganos, too, bouzouki.” He also collaborated with two brothers by the name of Gioulbaksiotis, who played the violin and the santouri.

The 1970s brought quite a few changes to music bands and their repertoire. Ilias Englezos himself made reference to jazz: “They first played it in Athens. In the clubs of Athens, slowly, gradually… and they brought jazz to Myloi [a club in Chios] and had a man on stage, beating the rhythm, and when he couldn’t do it, I would. You know what kind of beat I’m talking about? The right tempo.”

The musicians of Chios used to get their musical instruments from Athens, as there didn’t use to be anyone making them locally. The most common instruments were the santouri, the clarinet and the violin. A feature of the music of Chios is that in Voreiochoria [Northern villages], tunes were generally slower than those played in the villages of Southern Chios.

Speaking of the difficulties of his profession, he said: “Even the easiest of festivals would last till the following afternoon… 26 hours, 27 hours. […] We’d go to the village at three o’clock… we’d finish in the afternoon, at 8 at night. […] And you know what we did? […] The same band would play, and they would take it in turns to get some sleep, and come back, refreshed, in eight hours and sit down and enjoy themselves. But the musicians were the same. I remember Stefanis’ lips, one time… His lips had cracked and there was blood coming out […]. Heavy work, you understand.” Ilias Englezos claims that, due to these difficulties, being a musician was quite profitable, compared to other professions. The payments their received for performing at weddings and festivals were quite generous.