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Fouskoudis Christos | Lemnos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Skandali, Lemnos
• Short biography

Christos Fouskoudis was born in 1923. He was a practical musician, and played the lyra professionally, from 1940 until the late 1960s. Other musicians in his family: “I was the youngest in my family – there were five of us, three boys, two girls […]. My father played the lyra. After my father, one of my brothers [Dimitris] learned to play. He was killed in Albania during the war, well, he wasn’t killed, but he wouldn’t have died if it weren’t for the war […]. He was the best musician in the family. Then another of my brothers learned [Panagiotis, born in 1911], he’s dead now […], he died only recently”.

He was self-taught and, like most folk musicians, he took up the lyra at a young age: “[…] the lyra is a blind instrument, you can’t teach, and nobody can tell you anything, teach you, it’s a monotonous instrument. I taught myself, I didn’t take lessons anywhere. My brothers played, but that’s not how I learned, no. […]. [When] the other one learned, my [second] brother [Panagiotis] […], I was a kid, I’d get up earlier than he did in the morning […] and he’d tell me to make the tea or whatever, and I’d say “if you don’t make a lyra for me, too, I won’t make you tea”, and he said “make the tea and I’ll make you a lyra when I get up”. [His brother, Panagiotis, specialised in, and had made lyras for several local musicians.] He was the craftsman who made the lyras – [even though] both my brothers knew how – and he made me a little lyra and I went from there, on my own […]”.

He began playing the lyra at weddings and festivals, in his local area, during the 1940s. Between 1950-60, he performed either on his own or with his brother Panagiotis: “Thirty years ago, me and my middle brother, Skandali, Fysini and Aghia Sofia, be it a wedding, be it a festival, engagements, parties, any event, we played, no other musicians came out here. We played all the dances, European, kalamatiana, syrta, zeibekika, chasapika, we played it all! We played the two lyras, my brother and I, yes, easy enough. […]. Just two lyras, nothing else. We’d synchronise them, tune them to the same note. We played in the same style, exactly. And I also played on my own, and my other brother also played on his own. We only played the tune, we didn’t sing. The lyra’s a hard instrument, you have to concentrate, it’s a tiring instrument. […]. Because, you see, I’m playing a dance, and there are twenty or thirty people dancing. Well, it only takes a slip of the finger, a false note, and you lose track of what you’re doing, and then the dancers lose their footing, and it needs a lot of attention, and a lot of practice”.

He regularly performed at parties and entertainment events in the local villages. He shared his memories of the largest festival, which was held in honour of Aghios Sozos, in the chapel dedicated to the saint: “The sixth of September, the eve of the festival, was when the crowds gathered. Strangers, from all over Lemnos, would stay until the early morning, they’d stay up all night, there were cells, houses, shelters, and they’d stay there. And there was no transport in those days, cars like we have now, they came on carts, on donkeys, most of them […]. The festival of Aghios Sozos was on the seventh of September, but the eve was on the 6th, that’s when people would arrive, they’d arrive from the day before and spend the night. Some would stay for the service in the morning, in the church, and then they’d set off again, on their donkeys or whatever each of them had. They’d come on the boats, too, from the area, from Moudros, from Myrina […]. There was music, and they danced. Yes, the day after, when most people left, some of them stayed behind, from various villages, those who were big on dancing and having fun, and we’d come down from the village, from Aghia Sofia, from Kaminia, from the nearby villages, and we’d have a party like nothing you’ve ever seen! It was a bigger party the day after the festival, the second day. The third day was the same, another party, more dancing […]”.

On the weddings he performed at, and the role the lyra played in wedding traditions in Skandali, he said: “On the Saturday night, they’d go to the bride’s house and dance, until midnight or one o’clock. Then they’d leave. On the Sunday, the day of the wedding, people would start gathering from eleven o’clock. At twelve, they’d begin shaving the groom, singing, dressing him up […]. [A characteristic local wedding tune was the “Gambritsios”, played on the lyra while the groom was shaved:] It goes on and on, they might sing for an hour non-stop, it’s not a tune you dance to. They sang couplets, they knew them by heart, there were two or three people in the village who knew them. It was the same in every village, in Fysini, and Aghia Sofia, there was an old man in Aghia Sofia, he knew everything […]. [Then, the guess and the musicians had to:] take him [the groom] from there, with the lyra, and go to the bride’s house, to pick her up, and head to the church for the ceremony. On the way back, we’d go to her house [the bride’s] and the dancing would begin. All through the night, till morning! […] Those were the customs, around here […]. And we had another custom for Monday, when morning came, the close family would stay, and they’d keep us, too, and we’d go round all day, to the all relatives’ homes in the village, along with the groom, of course […]. And then, when night began to fall, we’d take him back home, the groom, and they’d dance in the house for a while. They’d give us a drink, a bite to eat, and then we’d leave him and go.”

Their repertoire for weddings parties and other entertainment events included both the local tunes and the so-called “European”, such as the waltz, the tango, and the fox trot. He also played zeibekika, karsilamades and rebetika on the lyra. The dancing would begin with syrta and kalamatiana, which would be succeeded by the “European” dances; the local dances were saved for the end. The latter included – apart from the most well known, the “Kechagiadikos”: “There was a lyra player in Moundros, and he was called Livyzos […]. They said that he was a good musician, and he came up with this tune, the “Livyzikos”, as it’s now known – they named it after him […].It’s a syrtos, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back […]. That’s the “Katsivelikos”, which I used to play for hours on end. The “Katsivelikos”, a local tune. It’s a dancing tune, it’s got a lot of clever moves, those who danced it would do squats, stamp their feet, it’s a nice dance […]. The “Patima” can be played at many different tempos. The way we played it on the lyra at the time, we played it – I don’t know – I learned it from my brother, you know? […]”.

Christos Fouskoudis stopped playing music professionally in the late 1960s, on one hand because he felt he could no longer keep up with emerging trends and compete with the other bands and, on the other hand, due to the particular conditions of musical performance. Other professional activities he developed alongside music were: “I was a farmer, and I also did some building and decorating work, and I worked on the boats, too, as a sailor […]. I had three sons to put through school at the same time, and I heard that there was work on the boats, and money to be made, so I had to try […]. I didn’t last too long. It was my bad luck, I kept ending up on bad ships […]. [He was also involved in beekeeping and fishing]”.