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Elias Kostas | Lemnos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Myrina, Lemnos
• Short biography

Kostas Elias was born in 1924. He played the violin, the santouri and the accordion on a professional basis, while also working as a builder. His son also took an interest in music: «Then I taught my little boy, my son, I showed him a few things [...], you should study with a teacher, there was a teacher down the road, you should study with him, so he went for two or three months [...]. I’d shown him the notes, the bass notes [...], how to handle it, a bit of everything [...]. I had him with me, I took him with me, and I’d bought him a small one [an accordion] [...]. Later he didn’t want it, he wanted a big one, and I’d take him with me, we’d go together, and he’d play, I mean he copied what he heard, the music, the rhythm, all of the songs.»

When he was about 14 years old [around 1938-39], Kostas Elias bought his first violin from Moudro and began to play, helped along by his teacher, Ilias Charos. It was around the same time that he began to play music professionally: «There were two musicians from Livadochori, a santouri and a clarinet player, and they took me along to play at weddings, at festivals. One of them played the clarinet, Georgios Darmakis [he’s dead], the other was Stamatis Klaris, he died in Australia, a good man. They were both good. They took me to play the violin, they gave me pocket money, some pocket money, nothing much, and that’s how I started [...]. In 1939 we played, I played, I played here [Aghios Dimitrios] for the first time, just here, on the street, on the 4th of August, under Metaxas’ rule. The 4th of August [the 4th of August festivals] was in 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939, by the party Youth, in general. Metaxas organised all that, it was all done by the state, you know. Those festivals were organised by the state, the state paid, and they lasted all through the night [...]. Then my dad thought, he told me ‘I’ll send you to Athens, I’ll send you to a Conservatory, he said, you should go, so you can start playing properly, he said’. He told me that in October of 1940. He sent a letter – he had a cousin over there – [...], and he wrote to him: ‘I want you to go find a teacher who can teach the kid to play the violin’ [...]. He went, found a Conservatory, he went to the Conservatory and found a teacher for one thousand eight hundred drachmas a month. In six months, he’d teach me music, I’d know it by heart, you know, as soon as I looked at it [the sheet music] I’d know how to play it. I said, we’ll do the festival and then I’ll go. The festival was on the 26th of October, for Aghios Dimitrios [at Aghios Dimitrios, in Lemnos], it lasted for 2-3 days. And then, on the 28th, war was declared! In 1940!»

Around the mid-1940s, Kostas Elias began learning the santouri. «I had a friend, an acquaintance, a tailor from the old Pedino, he played the santouri, and the violin, a bit, he was called Giannis Michail [...]. So I’d go, I’d play the violin and he’d play the santouri. It came to me, I started thinking about learning the santouri. I said to him ‘I want to learn the santouri’. So he cut up some paper, put down the notes of the santouri, from low to high. He said, ‘See? You’ll look at these notes and play them’ [...]. He said, these are the scales, I already knew them from the violin, so I started, I remembered the notes from other songs, the notes, bit by bit...»

Immediately after competing his military service [1950], Kostas Elias re-joined the musical bands of Lemnos as a santouri player. «Straight after my military service, [I carried on] with the santouri, once again, we started playing at the festivals again, until 1957, I was dismissed in 1950, in April, and we carried on until 1957. Someone from around here learned to play the clarinet, and we went round the festivals. Alexoudakis was his name, he’s dead, too, and he was from Aghios Dimitrios and he’d learnt the clarinet in Kornos, with Charalambos Proskefalas. Proskefalas [was a] good clarinetist [...]. Alexoudakis was a year older than me, and the three of us got together, the three of us formed a band, Dimitris Marinakis [violin], me [santouri] and Alexoudakis [clarinet and vocals].»

After 1957, Elias [also] learned to play the accordion, helped along by the knowledge and experience he’d gained from the violin and the santouri: «[...] the accordion [I learnt] by myself. I knew a bit from the santouri and the violin, the notes and that [...]. I practiced on my own, I didn’t go anywhere to learn [...]. It was Giorgos Markakis on the bouzouki, Sotiris Mavrakis on the bouzouki, me on the accordion and Ilias Markakis on the violin, we played together. In the beginning we played as a band, the four of us. Then a kid joined us, a kid, Dimitris, in short trousers still, a boy. He’d join the band and sing, he had a fine voice, a very fine voice, he’d sing with us, and bit-by-bit he became the best at singing, the best. [...] [This band lasted] around four years, then we parted, we scattered all over the place, someone joined one band, someone else another, but there was work, we all worked».

Around the same time, he collaborated, for a while, with the musician Giannis Morakis [accordion], who later got married and moved to Chios. Following that, Elias was one of the founding members of a new band: «I got a new one [a band], there was a violin, someone by the name of Sotirakis from Livadochori played the violin, Sotiris Papasotiriou. A clarinetist from Portianou, Ioannis Lyroudias, he was a young man then, now he’s in Kontias and he has a little shop [...]. We had a guitarist, too, he’s been in Germany for 33 years now, Mitsos Eleftheroudakis, from Aghios Dimitris [...]. And we had a bouzouki player, Chalkas is his name, he’s from Portianou, Kostas Chalkas». He played with this band until around 1971.

During that same year [1971], as his son was doing his military service, Kostas Elias stepped in to support his son’s band by playing the accordion with them: «I still played because they needed me, they couldn’t find anyone else to play the accordion, so I went and played, until 1971. And then, in 1971, my son left for the military, in July, and they said to him [the musicians in his band], there had a machine [an amplifier], and they plugged four instruments in, and they said, you’ll send us your dad, you’ll give us the instrument to play, and you’ll give us your dad, as well».

He played with his son’s band for about a year, while his son was serving in the military: «[...] so I went with the others [his son’s band], I went with them and stayed for a year or so, I stayed there [...]. There were four of us, a violin, a bouzouki, a guitar and an accordion».

During his thirty five [approximately] years as a professional musician, Kostas Elias took part in numerous musical events in Lemnos. His repertoire was influence by various factors, such as the place, time and occasion of each performance [either solo or with other musicians], as well as the meaning each audience imposed upon the term «modern». The passage of time also brought about certain permanent changes. Elias himself loved «folk» (laika) sings, but he tried not to let his personal preferences affect his professional life. He stopped performing regularly in 1972, and only took part, on occasion, in certain events held by various organisations [mainly cultural associations], or weddings and other celebrations.