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Tsapaliaris Aristotelis | Ikaria | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Christos, Raches, Ikaria
• Year of birth

1952
• Short biography

Aristotelis Tsapaliaris is a Physics teacher in Secondary Education, and an amateur musician. He has studied Byzantine music and plays the accordion and the dulcimer (kanonaki): «I liked music since I was a kid, I played the accordion. I sort of gave up on it when I went to the University, because I had no time […] and when I was posted here, as a teacher, I began again, more organised this time. Basically, a friend of mine knew some Byzantine songs and I started studying with him. Then I took it further […] and now, in 2004, I got my diploma in Byzantine [music], in the ‘Protoporia’ Conservatoire in Athens, with Chatzichronoglou – that’s my teacher. So these days I try to practice as much as I can. The dulcimer helped me a lot, because I can play the Byzantine scales there, which aren’t offered by any other instrument – apart from the violin, but you must listen to it played, immerse yourself, in order to begin. And I’m interested in, you know, traditional songs. Whatever I’m able to play, of course, because I don’t have a teacher for the dulcimer […]. [I began playing] the accordion in 1970. I had an uncle – who was a sailor – and he brought me an accordion. [My uncle is called] Charalambos, Charalambos Karoutsos. Well, I had to teach myself, because there was no way of finding a teacher here. I began to play along with my friends and a group of friends […]. He brought it for me as a present […], he brought me the accordion from Italy. He’d bought it in 1970, for 3,000 drachmas […]. My first Byzantine music teacher was a priest, father Lavrendios Gratsias, he’s an archimandrite in Athens [now]. Of course, I took some lessons there too, but I had no time, being a student at the University, and I stopped […].

“Well, then, in 1979 when I was posted here, in Ikaria, my wife’s cousin – she was a teacher – had a book on Byzantine music […]. Well, and from there on, with the help of a friend, Leonidas, I began to study it a little. I took course at the Prefectural Committee for Vocational Training, then […]. Of course, from then on, I spent many hours studying on my own, many hours. And then I’d go to church, so I could practice what I’d studied […]. And that helped me, so that I didn’t have to start from the beginning when I went to the Conservatory in Athens in 2000. In the ‘Protoporia’ Conservatoire, in Melissia – I was admitted to the third year and[…]. The dulcimer was given to me by a koumbaros from Turkey. But it was a few years ago, yes, in 2000».

He doesn’t play music in local festivals himself, but he takes part in organising school events, specalizing in the musical part: «Yes, at school, and especially a few years ago, I organised the annual school festivals […]. I organised them, yes. The musical part of these festivities».

Regarding the festivals of Ikaria, and the different instruments played, he said: «I always liked festivals, because I liked music. Traditional music like, for example, the violin and the lute. They had no other instruments then, with a lute and a violin they’d do a whole festival. And it was a very good sound. […] To begin with, they used to serve fish at this festival [in Christos, annually on 06/08], because people were fasting for Lent and they’d go, you know, to have fun and eat Lenten food. Well, that was abandoned later on, and now there is only meat […]. The festival used to take place inside the village, around the alleyways. And there were 4-5 groups of musicians, who would come from various villages, and the corresponding group of people would stay around them. These days, of course, it’s held here, in the basketball court, there’s one band and this covers the whole area».

During the festivals they would perform: «The Kariotikos dance, of course, which you can dance for hours and hours, other nisiotika, kalamatiana, syrta and European, too, which I think is something unique to Ikaria. While, you know, they don’t have European dances on the other islands, like the tango, the waltz, the […] all that […] fox […]. [The festival began] with the Kariotikos, usually. Straight in, with the Kariotikos. Big groups would get up and form a great cluster and dance. And around the musician, of course, because there were no amplifiers at the time, it was just whatever you could hear around the musician […]. Then, in between, they would stop, play the European dances, and then again kalamatiana, syrta, lovely syrta, they varied it that way. Of course, the repertoire wasn’t that large […]».

«These days the bands begin with their own stuff, and then they start with the Kariotikos and the […] that repertoire [….]. The foreigners who come here […] they want to learn to dance the Kariotikos. It’s a very joyful dance, it gets them going, you can’t hear it and stay sitting down. Like the Cretan dances. It’s a fast dance, like that. And though they all dance together, one next to the other, this is something different, that maybe doesn’t happen in other dances. I mean, you know, in other dances, you know, people face one another, whereas in the Kariotikos, you hold onto each other. We are all of us one, it isn’t me and you. We are all of us together. And I think that’s something beautiful […]. Some years ago, there was the Gerondikos Kariotikos (the Old Man’s Kariotikos) as they used to call it, which was danced by the older folk. It was slower».

Regarding the wedding songs: « …weddings, the weddings that took place. There are wedding songs, which are very good, and there are also the so-called ‘peismatika’ (stubborn), meaning, in a way, the groom’s friends and relatives line up on one side, and the bride’s on the other [side] and they begin, you know, saying […] one side praising the bride and the other the groom […]. Of course, even that is lost, little by little, these days. I remember, for example, when I was a kid, there was a special charm to those things».

Translator’s Note: nisiotika – traditional songs/dances of the Greek islands; kalamatianos (pl. kalamatiana) and syrtos (pl. syrta) traditional Greek dances; Ikariotikos/Kariotikos – traditional dance of Ikaria.