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Magic From Crete: The Stelios Petrakis Quartet at WOMEX 2013 (video)

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"Will you LOOK at the size of that Bass Lyra!!"
--Jeff Greene, delegate to WOMEX, and president of Evergreene Music, upon seeing the setup on the stage for the Stelios Petrakis Quartet.

First off, all the instruments you see being played in this video were made by Mr. Petrakis, the man playing the Cretan Lyra. He is a luthier as well as a musician, and has studied to be both, with the best. He was raised in Crete, and started his musical studies at the age of seven, and was taught by Ross Daly, and then by Eleni Drettaki, who he describes as "heroic."

The Stelios Petrakis Quartet at WOMEX 2013 from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

At any rate, here is a wonderful performance of original music from Crete, based on traditional forms. The moods range from the somber to the intoxicating, and as far as I am concerned it is all simply grand. I am no expert on the music of Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, so I simply enjoyed the passion and sheer enjoyment that was coming off the stage -- along with a formidable amount of technique. Upon writing to Mr. Petrakis, to learn more specifics about the music, I received a warm letter, with plenty of information.

The excerpt I am presenting here is a 3 song suite: "Kavo Sideros" (Stelios Petrakis -- Yiannis Petrakis) "Pare me nyhta" (Stelios Petrakis / Mitsos Stavrakakis) and "Syrtos Nikaias" (Patrick Vaillant).

And here are Mr. Petrakis' explanations:

"Kavo Sideros" is a piece inspired by the music of Sitia and Karpathos, and as Cape Sideros, on the eastern cape of Crete, is between Sitia and Karpathos, I named it for that. The lyrics speak about nature -- "I search to find places "on the edge", where nothing bad has been done by human power. Come to Kavo Sideros and give me your hand, to walk around the neighborhoods of the world."

"Pare me nyhta" is a typical fast and powerful Cretan Syrto (a dance in 4/4, which in fact is very popular in Crete. The lyrics are in mandinada form -- traditionally 15 syllables in a couple of lines, concluding in a rhyme) and is a love poem. "I want the night to take me away, in order to escape from love which has conquered me again..."

"Syrtos Nikaias" is a composition from the French mandolinist Patrick Vaillant, who stayed in Crete 20 years ago and had lessons at that time from the violin player Kostas Papadakis -- Naftis. I liked this piece from the first moment I played it 14 years ago, on a trio we had with myself, Patrick and Bijan Chemirani. It is a Syrto in form, but it is very "fresh", bringing new ideas and style; no traditional Cretan composer would have composed like that.

As to that bass Lyra, which Mr. Petrakis created and calls a Cretan Cello, it is the only one of its kind. (so far)

For more information about Mr. Petrakis visit:

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