Chatzistylianos Tryfonas | Lemnos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Panagia, Lemnos
• Short biography

Tryfonas Chatzistylianos was born in 1924. He played the santouri and the lyra, and made his living out of agriculture. He was married in 1952, and attempted to migrate to Germany in the late 1960s. The government authorities, however, did not allow him to, as he was over the upper age limit of 45. He has since lived with his family in the village of Panagia, where he’s originally from.

He got into music gradually, and made his first “basic” lyra at a young age [around 14-15 years old], in the late 1930s, inspired by his older brother, Stelios, who had already learnt to play the instrument. A few years later, Stelios urged him to buy a santouri and learn to play, because of a vacancy in the band he occasionally performed with. His father was against the idea, in contrast to his mother, who encouraged him to follow his dream: “So, my father didn’t want me to [buy a santouri], he said I’d go and learn and follow in the footsteps of that bum [his older brother] and we’d be staying up all night… My mother thought it was a good idea and she used to say, let the boy learn to play”.

Tryfonas Chatzistylianos took his first practical santouri lessons during the German Occupation, in the early 1940s, from Giannis Paksimadas [clarinet] from Kondopouli in Lemnos, who gave music lessons in return for cash, and was quite well known in the local area at the time. He was taught by Giannis Paksimadas for about a month: “Well, where could I go, I had no money or anything, so where could I go. They told me, so-and-so plays well, you should go to him if you can. The man [Stelios Roulis, who’d shown him a few songs on the lyra] told me the truth. Well, I went to a couple of places, asked around […] and I went to him, old Paksimadas, I stayed for about a month, I knew a few things from the lyra, I had a bit of rhythm, you know, so I was in a slightly better position than his other students. Anyway, he said, the clarinet – when he played […], he played well, beautifully – I know [he said], but on the santouri I’m not as good as I should be. The man told me the truth. Then, after a month with him, I learned around fifteen songs, the ‘Smyrnios’, how do you call it, ‘Syrtos’, ‘Politikos’, ‘Kalamatianos’, some heavy ‘Zebekakia’ [Zeibekika], ‘Oraia Aigiotissa’, the usual”.

Straight after taking lessons from Giannis Paksimadas, Tryfonas Chatzistylianos began playing the santouri professionally, alongside his brother Stelios, who played the lyra. Their band usually also included two other musicians from Plaka, Lemnos, Giannis Midelias [lyra] and Vangelis Skaliotis [clarinet], with whom he worked regularly for quite a few years [until the mid-1970s]: “I played the santouri. Giannis Midelias played, he played the lyra beautifully. And another lad, he was called Vangelis Skaliotis, clarinet. They had the clarinet, I had the santouri and [we had] the lyra, and they had the clarinet and another lyra [two lyras, clarinet and santouri]. Yes, sometimes we played together, sometimes separately, depending. If the lads from Plaka weren’t busy, they joined us here, and if we weren’t busy, we joined them over there, that was the arrangement […] as a band, we went to Kalliopi, to Kondopouli, wherever”.

Tryfonas Chatzistylianos usually performed around Plaka, either on his own, or with his brother, and/or the two musicians from Plaka, Giannis Midelis [lyra] and Vangelis Skaliotis [clarinet]: “[We usually played] at weddings, engagements, various parties in the village, festivals… There was the 15th of August, the festival of Panagia [The Assumption of the Virgin Mary], and the village is Panagia [the village is called Panagia]. Then there was the Enniaimera [the novena of the Virgin Mary], and many more festivals besides”. Some of the villages of Lemnos where he performed were: “There’s Aghios Charalambos in Plaka, we used to go there. In Kalliopi, the festivals of Aghios Giorgis, Agios Georgios on April 23rd. They [even] had horse racing, the horses would race, and then there’s music at night, we’d go there sometimes. [We’d go] to Kondopouli and Repanidi, anywhere. [Moudros, Fysini, Skandali and Kaminia] are too far for us, other lads went there, other bands. We went as far as Atsiki sometimes… [We’d go] on donkeys, there weren’t any mopeds, or cars, or motorbikes – nothing. I’d prop the santouri up here, on my shoulder, it weighted eight or nine or ten okas [Ottoman measure of mass –1 oka = around 1.28 Kg], something like that, and I’d go to Plaka. Those were different times, compared to now, those were the days of poverty”.

Regular activities included: “[We usually played] at weddings, engagements, various parties in the village, festivals”. On the wedding rituals, he said: “[At the weddings] the groom wasn’t supposed to touch the bride. No ‘European’, no ‘waltz-anglais’, no ‘fox-anglais’, no ‘tango’, the bride was not allowed contact with the groom. Later, around three or four in the morning, the best man [koumbaros] would say it’s time for the newlyweds to join hands, to come into contact, let’s say, for the bride and groom to dance together, to come close, as we say in the village. And before the best man would give the couple permission to come close, they sang: ‘Fyge koumbare ap’aftou, pare kai to mandili’ [‘get out of here koumbare, and take your handkerchief’] […]. And it was an opportunity for us, the musicians, to make some cash, so we sang: ‘Provale mana, provable mana, provable mana tou gambrou, kai pethera kai pethera tis nyfis, na deis to gio sou to stavraeto, tin perdika tin ploumismeni’ [‘Come, mother of the groom, mother-in-law of the bride, to see your son the eagle, and the beautiful partridge’] […]. And they sang ‘pan’ stis nyfis to kefali, valame chryso stefani, kai ti nyfi mas tin eichame stin kola diplomeni, tora tin ksediplonoume chrysi kai timimeni’ [‘on the bride’s head we put a golden wreath, and we had our bride wrapped up in paper, now we bring her out, golden and honoured’, and many other such things”. In certain cases, we also performed during the antigamos [anti-wedding]: “A week later, antigamos they called it, the best man would go to the house, to the newlyweds, and again, fifteen days after the wedding, they newlyweds would go to the best man’s house […]. They had musicians over, if they wanted”. He also sometimes played at various local, traditional events, such as the Epiphany, a local custom known as “Batatsoudes”, and various festivals held in the villages of his local area.

The musical repertoire at the events he performed at included: “[We usually played] what you call heavy laika [folk songs], ‘Syrta’, ‘Kalamatiana’, the ‘Silivrianos’, the ‘Smyrnios’. There are only a few ‘Lemnia’ [songs of Lemnos]. There’s that one – you must have heard it many times – ‘Kechagia Perifane’, there’s ‘Panagia Choro’, which is like the syrtos, and the ‘Patima’. [At weddings] there were many songs, in the old days. When there was a wedding, they sang another song when they were shaving the groom […] [They sang:] the’ ‘gambrikios’ and the ‘barberikos’ […]. And when we picked up the groom from his house, to take him to the bride, we played the ‘March’ […]. [At weddings, they also danced] the ‘Fox Trot’, the ‘Waltz’, that sort of thing, the ‘Polka’. Well, they danced the ‘Waltz’ and the ‘Tango, too”.