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Poulis Lefteris | Ikaria | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Mandria, Ikaria
• Year of birth

1949
• Short biography

Lefteris Poulis (known as Skantzakas) is a professional musician and plays the violin: «My name is Lefteris, my surname Poulis. I come from a family of refugees. My wife is a local, from Mandria, this is where I got married. I got married at a young age, had a family. I live here, but not always. I go away, for my work […]».

Other musicians in his family were: «My grandfathers, I don’t know, my uncles, all of them, all were musicians. Not all, but my father played and my grandfather played, and one of my uncles played the violin […]. My father was a fisherman, he had a trawl net [and] he played the mandolin […]. My father was from Kastelorizo. My mother was from Ikaria, from Frandato […]».

He began playing music at a young age: «Since I was a child. When I was a little boy and I started, I had a grandmother who […] my parents were dead, my mother died very young, 38 years old. And I lived in Frandato, in a village, where my grandmother was a teacher at the time […]. And then when I was 10-11 [years old] they got me a violin – some aunt over there – and I started. When I was 15 I went to a festival and that way I started, little by little, on my own, without anybody showing me –not one person – not a single note. Not one person […]. Well, later, when I’d grown up, let’s say, when I started going out, spending time with musicians […]. But I’d begun all on my own». In Athens, where he used to go: «Then I sat down with the musicians and I learnt what I needed to learn, so to speak. But I’d learnt already. I’d started on the violin. I could play».

On his professional life: «In terms of work, I do almost anything. But my main […] my main job is this [music], because I don’t just make my living here, in Ikaria. I go abroad, too, I go to America, I go […]».

On his performances, nationally and internationally, and the records he’s made, he says: «I’ve worked in Samos, and Fournoi, and in Mykonos, and in Syros, I’ve been to Turkey for work, and to Italy, and to America. In all kinds of places […]. Now they’ve asked me to go to Australia, there’ll be a festival for Ikaria there […]. I work a lot in the summer, yes. And in the winter, too. We do weddings, balls, I go to various associations in Athens, well, that sort of thing […]. I’ve recorded a CD […], there’s one in America […], yes, I’ve done a lot. Now I’m doing a new one, with the guys, which will be released shortly. […] Another CD, ‘Symbol’, with the lyrics written by Maglaras, a composer. There are a lot of songs about Ikaria. They aren’t local songs, but he mentions Ikaria all the time […]».

He collaborated with a number of musicians: «I’ve worked with many people […]. I have a troupe with me, and I have good musicians with me now […]. I have a lutenist, I have an oudist, a bouzouki-player, well, the bouzouki-player doesn’t play all the time, just when we do rebetika. A clarinetist, a guitarist and a girl who [sings][…]. [Earier] I had a man who played the tsabounofylaka […] He played a Kariotikos […]. My wife was with me [in the band] when we were young. She played the lute. I’d shown her a few things on the lute […] and she would come with me and help out. Later, of course, when we had children she didn’t […] I formed a band […]. Yes, she accompanied me. She was a very dynamic person […]. I begin with a n improvisation, as they say. You know, an imporovisation. That’s personal to everyone. Then each musician does their own thing – along the same lines – their own piece, the guitarist plays his piece, and that’s how we begin».

Regarding the European dances played in Ikaria, and the local festivals, he said: «[…] They’d dance the tango, the polka, a little waltz, a fox trot […]. And even these days, they tell me: ‘Play us a little tango, so we can dance’. […] Even back then, there were associations organising the festivals. But the festival in Ikaria is not exploitable like other festivals out there. The festival in Ikaria was held by the associations of each village, to collect money […]. A strange thing. I’m playing in Akamatra, in a festival with 4,000 people – not all locals, you understand, mostly foreigners – and the band is playing all kinds of songs, and rebetika, and laika and nisiotika […]. As soon as I pick up my bow for the Kariotikos, everyone gets up [to dance]. The Kariotikos, when Ikaria was occupied by the Turks, they used to dance the Kariotikos crosswise. It was meant to symbolise the shackles, you know, it showed that the dance was sort of enslaved, just like Ikaria. When Ikaria was liberated, they’d hold each other’s shoulder, like this […]. I played with the Lykeio Ellinidon the other day, and they danced the Kariotikos crosswise. […] I’ve added a lot to the Kariotikos myself […]. I didn’t learn this [by myself] – let’s not be – […]. I’d watch people dance – there was some old folk, twisting and turning, and it was so inspiring to watch – and I added some things that complemented it, let’s say. It fit. It mellowed, as we like to say. […]. Look, we mustn’t be arrogant, those people, the old men [the earlier musicians] that’s where we all start from».

On the Kariotikos: «In Raches – up here – they had […] the musician who played, the violinist, played the Kariotikos with the same steps but slower, with different moves. Around Frandato, there was the ‘Tsamourikos’, the Perameritikos, in Agios [Kirykos] they had the Fanariotikos. Over in Karginari, it was the ‘Papadiotikos’».

Translator’s Note: tsabounofylaka – Greek island bagpipes; Kariotikos – traditional dance of Ikaria; rebetika – Greek urban folk music, traditionally played on the bouzouki; laika – Greek folk/pop music; nisiotika – traditional songs of the Greek islands; Lykeio Ellinidon – The Lyceum of Greek women.