The Encounter with Radio and Discography
The years passed and in 1954 I joined EIR1, as an employee of the department of National Music, which was headed by my teacher Karas. He helped me to get the job of course and I started by making programs from recordings on record or tape. My work in the radio station has been a big experience for me because it was where I started coming in contact with the various local traditional musical groups. That is when I met Chronis Aidonidis, who had come from Thrace, Kostas Moundakis, Antonis Peristeris, Tasos Chalkias and Eirini Konitopoulou who was still an unmarried young girl. She had come over from Naxos with her father, who was a fiddler and nicknamed 'the baby', and her brother George.
It was the timewhen internal immigrants started arriving from the countryside and our best musicians from Epirus, Crete or Thrace, Macedonia, the Peloponesse, Roumeli or the islands, started arriving in Athens. They were bringing us their songs, the lyrics of their songs and each week people from a different area would appear on air. So I was getting in touch with the musicians and the music from all the regions.
I also had another task at the radio. There was a committee headed by Karas, in which we would evaluate all the records that companies sent us. The 45 rpm singles had started coming out at the time, and if they sent us say ten records, it was questionable if we would approve one side of one record. Because they were all fake, supposedly modern, folk songs. In order to be approved, the musicians had to be correct, the tune correct, the lyrics correct and the actual rendering correct. I would take down the minutes of the committee meetings. So I could see the abuse towards folk songs and I was very disappointed.
I decided then to start working with Mr Patsifas, who was the owner of Fidelity-Philips, where Nana Mouschouri and Hadjidakis were beginning to rise. I supervised record productions. I would find authentic groups and we would cut records. At the radio station, apart from making programs, I also did the musical supervision for programs dealing with folklore or for plays on the radio. To supplement my small salary, I used to get called in to select music for 'fustanela' films2.
Although I was working for EIR, from 1941 through to 1961, I continued to be in Simon Karas Association and a member of his choir. After 1961 I stopped attending. My first reaction to the apparent distortions that traditional songs were undergoing was to help records with authentic traditional music to be produced. Simultaneously I decided to make a great effort to save some money and buy my first Uher recorder. So in 1962 or 1963 I started spending my summer leave from work going to the countryside and collecting material. That way I went to Crete, Thrace, Macedonia, Chios, Lesbos, the Peloponnese and I still continue to collect material.
I wanted to acquire my own personal collection and to come into contact with the rural people, who are the main source for collecting material. I wanted to hear traditional songs sung directly by them, to record them so as to have the right mood and rendering. In the beginning this effort was not at all easy. I had to save up to buy the tape recorder, tapes, to cover the costs of travelling, food and lodging. But most demanding of all was to find the right people who knew folk songs and even more, to convince them to sing. Each time I would go for recordings in the countryside, I would find the right people (and I still do) by going and asking in cafes, in neighborhoods or in municipalities, since people who sing well or play an instrument well and do it with gusto, are well know in their areas.
I followed precisely Karas path. I remained close to him from the age of thirteen and everything I’ve learned I owe to him. I will say that till I die. But at one point I felt the need to do something of my own. It weighed upon me, because I knew how he had reacted in similar cases in the past. ‘What will Karas say and how will he react?’ I must admit I found it very difficult. I struggled to do something, to get away let's say. I remember with how much hesitation, cowardice and even fear, I finally dared to tell him that I would make some singles. Finally, as I started doing things of my own, he slowly pushed me away. It really saddened me, because I would have helped Karas a lot and he would have helped me too.
1EIR: National Radio Foundation, the first name of the Greek national radio station
2Foustanela: characteristic traditional kilt worn by men in the past in parts of Greece. Here the term is used to denote a specific type of Greek epic folkloric films referring to recent historical period.