Skoufaras Alekos | Chios | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Tholopotami, Chios
• Short biography

Alekos Skoufaras was born in Tholopotami, in 1920. He was a professional musician and played the clarinet, primarily, but also the violin. Other musicians in his family are his father, Konstantinos (violin), his older brother, Giorgos (santouri), his son, Kostas (drums), and his nephews, Dimitris or ‘Mitsos’ (guitar – vocals) and Kostas (drums).

Following his father’s advice, Alekos Skoufaras took on several jobs, as well as playing music. He worked with his brother in their father’s taverna in Chora, the capital of Chios, and as a travelling salesman around the island’s villages; he made wool vests on knitting machines and sold them in the villages, and also ran a general store with his wife.

He had no formal training on the clarinet; he learned to play by listening to other musicians. He did, however, have a few lessons with Mikes Chachlas, who was a practical musician: “I’d go to the teacher and take lessons… to Mikes Chachlas, he was a refugee. So, I had thirty lessons […]. He was an old man.” His older brother, Giorgos, who played the santouri, helped him to learn the songs that would make up his repertoire: “Then, there was my brother, who was advanced. He learned from Stamatis Tsakos. He was a refugee, too, and they lived here, in Chora.” His father, Konstantinos Skoufaras, taught him to play the violin: “At that time, when my father taught me the violin, he opened a general store down in Chora. Yes, he had a general store in the village, too. In 1920, I was born in the general store in the village. In ’31, he opened another store, in town. And I was with him, and I went to the teacher for my lessons.”

He started to play the clarinet in 1931, at age 11, and his repertoire was still quite limited: “I played the clarinet in 1930-1931. In 1931, I could play “Memetis”, “Chariklaki”, “Elenara” [song titles], and because, at the time, there was nothing in the villages in terms of music, no gramophones, no musicians, the lads who did the “Fano” – Easter, asked me to play in this café, with this wine they had over there – I don’t know what it was – and I played “Elenara” and “Chariklaki”. I was very young, and I didn’t know anything else […].”

Alekos Skoufaras played the clarinet in several villages in Chios from 1930 to 1966, when he migrated to America. He returned to Chios in the early 60s, after 14 years in Astoria. On the island, Alekos and his brother, Giorgos, who played the santouri, the accordion and the oud, performed together on a regular basis; he also had the opportunity to work with several other local musicians.

Events he performed at regularly were celebrations, festivals and, above all, weddings, where the clarinet was considered the most important instrument. He generally worked around the villages of Southern Chios, known as ‘Notiochora’. With regards to his visits to the villages of Northern Chios, known as ‘Voreiochora’, he said: “Not often. I was stuck down here, and I it was a mistake, because I went up there a couple of times recently, and I realised the money’s better, and the people are nice.”

Speaking of the songs played at festivals, the order the dance tunes come up, and the audience’s preferences, he said: “It’s mostly the same, our songs. Mainly syrta. The zeibekika are a little slower. […] You play everything at the festivals. There are villages where they play the European songs for a long time: Kalamoti, Pyrgi, Kardamyla. In some villages, they play them 20% of the time, in others 50%, in some not at all, maybe…”