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Vogiatzinis Giannis | Samos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Pagonda, Samos
• Short biography

Giannis Vogiatzinis was born in 1927 and comes from the village of Pagonda in Samos. He plays the tsabouna, and also makes instruments for other tsabouna players, and for personal use. “It has no notes [the tsabouna]. You teach yourself everything on it […]. […] I mean, you have to learn on your own, because there aren’t any notes or things like that. And while you’re playing, you know, you get an idea in your head, something you like, and you fingers start producing tones on their own, beautiful tones, you know”. His musical influences include his grandfather and other tsabouna players, like Nikos Strongilos.

On local events and the role of the tsabouna in Carnival (Apokreies) celebrations, he said: “There were five or six tsabouna players in the cafes, one in every café during Carnival. The village was very big, full of people with their own […] snacks and pancakes, they made them with cheese then, we called them bourekia… and all the families would go, relatives in every café, and get together and celebrate all through the night until Kathara Deftera (Ash Monday, the first day of Lent). All through the night. And I played – there was no music, no CDs, no stereos – and I got the whole place dancing through the night, all by myself. I played the tsabouna all night. They gave me cash, of course, the chartoura, as we used to call it in the business […] I’d sit at a table, and as people danced […] some of those who danced were in high spirits, and they’d come and put coins on the table for me, one, two and five drachma coins”. Certain members of the audience would join him and sing couplets, usually asemna (rude lyrics), for the crowd’s entertainment: “Yes, all the shocking songs. Oh, groups of friends, many of them. One would leave and another would take his place. I’d play and he’d sing rude lyrics. And when we sang those, everyone laughed. It happens every time at Carnival. I’ll sit here, at my table, and play, and the tavern’s regulars will get up, and sit beside me, because they know the rude lyrics. And they begin to sing them and everyone listens and laughs, of course”.

He began making tsabounas a few decades ago, when he returned to the island after spending some time in Athens, where he worked as a cobbler: “I’d forgotten about it. When I came back here, I met a friend of mine […] ‘Come on, Gianni, I’ll give you one,’ he said. I mean, I didn’t have a tsabouna. When I came back here, I had no such things. I had to make them”.

Interest in the tsabounas he makes has been expressed, among other people, by his fellow islanders abroad.