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Mandras Nikitas | Chios | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Volissos, Chios
• Short biography

Nikitas Mandras was born in 1915, in Volissos, Chios. He played the violin and had some formal training in music. He made his living as a barber, a professional passed down by his father, and ran his own barbershop.

He mainly performed at weddings, christenings and gatherings in people’s homes, but also on cruise ships that stopped in Chios. He visited several of the island's villages, in his capacity as a musician, and also took part in television and radio shows in Athens, dedicated to local traditional music.

Places he’s visited in Chios include: “Well, let’s see: I used to go to Sidiroundas, Katavasi, Diefchna […]. We went to Fyta, we went to Spartounta, we went to Pispilounta, we went to Potamia […]. Out of the northern villages, Aghio Gala was the only one I haven’t been to. I went to Kourounia several times, once to Keramos, once to Melanios, and we made good money there. I often worked in Parparia, I’ve been to Potamia many times. On the other side, I’m not sure about Kardamyla, I went to Langada once, I went to Aghios Isidoros and I had students there, too, Pityos was there. I never went to Sykiada or Lithi, there had local musicians over there. From Lithi onwards, it’s too far away.”

Although he didn’t regularly perform with a particular band, he did work with “Chogios” [or Fokios], who played the oud: “Mostly, it was me and “Chogios” playing together. We were the regulars here, he played the oud, but he had a good ear. I mean, sometimes, the instrument might be a little out of tune, and he’s say to me: ‘My E is out of tune’ and I’d say: Leave it, we’re busy now, leave it.’ It’s a big deal, to be in tune properly, of course. Otherwise you play one thing and hear another.”

On his repertoire, he said: “I played whichever songs paid the most, the ones they danced to. But if you play them well, all songs get people going. They love the tsiftetelia, they dance to them, they dance and if you switch to a tsifteteli you’ll hear them say “Bless you, Nikita’ […] we play songs from other parts, too. When we play in festivals, and someone comes asking for tsamiko, we’re not going to say no, are we? But what do we play? We play the ‘Itia’, we play the ‘Salona’, we play two or three songs, and then we say ‘We don’t know any more’. We know those ones, because they dance to them.”

According to Nikitas Mandras, representative of the local music are ‘Sylivriana’ and ‘Politika’. Speaking of musical influences from the coast of Asia Minor, he said: “Mikrasiatika and Smyrneika [songs from Asia Minor and Smyrna], all the good ones are from there, don’t listen […] the old zeibekika that they still play, and the rebetika, they’re all from Smyrna. The politikos dance, the syrta, most of them are from Istanbul. We have kalamatiana, syrta, we have zeibekika – in fact, they call them tourkika [Turkish], play us some tourkika, they say”.

Nikitas Mandras has taught the violin, the mandolin and the oud: “I’m a teacher, someone played the oud, another was learning the mandolin, another the violin. And I’d say to them: ‘What I just showed you, practice it at home, and come and play it for me’. I had quite a few, around ten of them. One of them – what was he called? He was a choir singer, a good one, who wanted to learn the oud. I said, bring him to me, and they brought him. Another one, Kanaoutsis was his name, he learned, too, and another by the name of Trikalitis. I don’t remember the names now. There were five or six of them.”