Tsandis Periklis | Lemnos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Livadochori, Lemnos
• Short biography

Periklis Tsandis was a professional violinist. He was an active part of the Lemnos music scene from 1946 to 1975. His father, Anastasis Tsandis [born in 1893] was from the village of Gravouna in Eastern Thrace. After the exchange of populations in 1922, the Tsandis family was split up, as each member chose a different destination. Periklis’ father, Anastasis Tsandis, and his grandmother Panagiota were the first to settle in Lemnos, as refugees. They were later joined by his father’s elder brother, Dimitris, who moved to the island after living in America for some time.

Periklis Tsandis was brought up in a musical family. His grandfather [Periklis Tsandis], father [Anastasis Tsandis], his father’s brothers, Thanasis and Dimitris Tsandis, and his own brother Fotis all played music. As he says himself: «Before they came here, my grandfather [Periklis Tsandis] and my dad [Anastasis Tsandis] were into music, into musical instruments. My grandfather played the violin, my father originally played the oud and, when he came here [to Lemnos], he also learned the santouri [...]. And my father’s brothers, when they were young, before they left, they all played together [...]. Before he settled here [in Lemnos], Mitsos [Dimitris Tsandis – his father’s brother] went to America for a few years, and he played there, with his other brother, Thanasis [...]. In fact, Thanasis had formed a band in Astoria, he had it for years in Astoria, in America. His children, too, they were also into music [...]. He played the clarinet, to begin with, but he played all kinds of instruments [...]. Mitsos played the violin [...]. He knew the notes well. But I don’t know if he learned in America, I don’t know. But he read a lot, he used a music stand for the sheets and everything [...]. Then, in 1946, 1947-48, he started a music school, because people at the time – I don’t know – a lot of children wanted to learn an instrument [...]. [Out of his own siblings:] I played music, and my brother Fotis, who died young. He died when he was 42. He started here, with the accordion, then he went to Australia and took up the harmonium. He had a band over there, in fact, with some other guys, but he didn’t make it».

Periklis Tsandis began playing music at age 20 [1946]. In the years before that, his contact with music was limited, because of the work duties he’d taken on to support his family: «I was 20 years old in 1946. I started learning the violin [...]. When I was younger, I didn’t do anything in terms of music, because I was the eldest and went in a different direction, agricultural work, farming, so that we’d survive». He took his first music lessons from his father’s brother, Dimitris [Mitsos] Tsandis: «And I started with my uncle, originally, because my uncle knew music well. I began with the Staff [...]. There were quite a few around, but we never used them, we never read them [he is probably referring to sheet music], because those were hard times, like I said. Speaking for myself, at least, I couldn’t just send my time learning an instrument.»

His first few public performances were with his father’s band. He played the violin and sang: «At the time I first came onto the scene, I didn’t play with anyone else, I wouldn’t. Only with the old folk, the old folk [...]. But because I also sang a bit, the old folk wanted me on vocals, too [...].» He gradually began to work with other bands, as well, and he started playing music on a professional basis after he completed his military service: «[In time:] I’d go here, I’d go there, they took me along when they needed me. It wasn’t like you could say you played with so-and-so for this many years. No! If they had work and they asked for me, along with someone else, I’d go [...]».

He’s performed in quite a few villages in Lemnos. He was a regular participant, however, in spontaneous parties held in the villages’ cafes, as well as local festivals on saints’ memorial holidays. A few locations he mentioned were: «I’d go to various villages. Mostly, we played in Atsiki, um... we played in Livadochori, in Varos, in Karpasi, around the villages, Sardes, Katalako [...]. We never played in Myrina, because Delikoukos was there, and Katsikas was closer, I suppose [Thanos], and we didn’t go. Only in Androni [...]. [On the festivals held in Adroni:] In Myrina, the only festival we went to was in Adroni, for St. Panteleimon. There were no festivals inside Myrina [...]. [On the festival of Agios Sozos:] To the festival of Agios Sozos [in eastern Lemnos] I’ve been many times [...]. I’d go with the old folk [...]. There were two or three bands, but there was no light and they had to get petrol lamps, light some petrol lamps so they could dance [...]. They had the festival for Taksiarchis there, and we played in various other parties, too, of Tzitzivakos, down at the beach, and the other one, of Karamalis. There was a cafe run by someone called ‘Svanas’, I don’t know what became of it. We’d go and play at dances [...]. [On musical events in Livadochori:] Over there, I’d say twice a week, three times. Groups of friends, two or three groups after the holidays! It was something else in Livadochori, it gives me goosebumbs talking about it now. Imagine: there was a party on all the holidays during winter, no exceptions. They lasted through the night, at the cafe [the cafe run by his uncle, Dimitris Tsandis]».

In the early ‘60s, Periklis Tsandis limited his musical activities, as he migrated to Africa. He returned to the island in 1967, and settled in Athens in 1976. His wife’s health problems curbed his involvement in music, as well as his desire to play. The only exception was the 6-month period he studied under Moschos, at age 60, after his wife’s death: «I went to Africa for four years. I just dropped everything and left. I had some family there and I joined them [...]. I returned [to Lemnos] in ’67 [...]. In ’76, I left for Athens, I sold everything [...]. I went there, got a job with a Municipality, the Municipality of Nea Erythraia, up north, in Kifissia. I started out as a gardener, but I had a professional licence, I’d got it in the village, you know, so I worked as a truck driver later [...]». From the 90s onwards, Periklis Tsandis only played the violin on occasion, and for his own enjoyment: «I spend an hour or two a day on it, on my own, but I play the old stuff. I don’t read notes or bother with the Staff. Whatever I remember – the kalamatianos? Some ballous? The tango my uncle had taught me? The waltz? That sort of thing, that’s what I play».

During his career as a musician, Periklis Tsandis collaborated regularly with his koumbaros, Christos Pantzaras. Of the songs and tunes of Lemnos, he said: «The local dances, they’d dance them in pairs, facing each other. They called it ‘Katsiveliko’. Then there was the ‘Patima’, and the local ‘Kechagia’ – ‘Tsechagia’ they called it. Those were the local dances».