Don’t ask me why, but Crete is my most beloved place on earth. “The earthy place that is the closest to heavens” as Eli Mohar, an Israeli writer had put it once. Just let me to be there this moment! There are few Greek songs that rise nostalgia for the island, and I would like to tell you about an album that inspires my travel instincts…
In August 1987, when he was 18 years old, Miltiadis (Miltos) Pashalidis (Μιλτιάδης Πασχαλίδης) flew from Athens (were he had been living) to Heraklion to study mathematics in University of Crete. He got the degree in 1992 and decided to take post-graduated courses in philosophy at the University of Rethimno. By the moment he came to Crete he was planning to stay four to five years, but finally he spent 16 years on the island. Academic studies were not the reason. It was the place and the people that had captured him. Throughout these years he “naturalized” as Cretan and this Crete experience influenced his sensitive and talented music soul.
Miltos was a musician before he thought about mathematics. Born in 1969 in Kalamata and grown up in Athens, from the age of six he was playing classical guitar and finished classical music studies. He was listening to the famous foreign pop and rock bands but of course also to the great musicians of Greece. “Therefore the song is in my life since I can remember myself”.
From his very first years in Crete he made music; as he was 21, he founded with others the famous Cretan band “Hainides” (Χαΐνηδες-see below). He begun writing songs and singing professionally in and outside Crete and in 1995 released his first personal album, “Fairytale with a Sad End” (Παραμύθι Με Λυπημένο Τέλος) which its title song was inspired by the island’s Lake Kournas.
He wrote in 2010: “I left by boat on July 2003. There is luggage from the return trip that stayed intact, hidden in the basement till today. For a long time I avoided going down to the basement, sometimes out of boredom, sometimes by denial and sometimes because it is dark”. And then, after few years the memories went up from the basement and flooded him. « I become more “traditional” as long as the misuse of “globalization” is blackmailing my ears, tongue and emotion. I am seeking more in my kernel without unnecessary ornaments».
So the album “Host -Crete within me” (Ξένιος – Η Κρήτη εντός μου) was born .This is a musical personal journey of Miltos with songs that he had created himeself or by others and traditional ones-his own inner Crete. In this journey he takes us as a “xenios” – a host to his beloved island, just as Zeus, (who according to Mythology was born in a cave in Crete) was the God of hospitality. (Xenios-Zeus) “I wanted for the listener to be able to “see” a succession of various images … of mountains and sea and of the industrial zone outside Heraklion” He said. “. If I imagine these sixteen years as a movie or as a book, this album is their music soundtrack”
The memory feeds the present”, says Miltos, citing from “Old summers” (Παλιά καλοκαίρια)* of the Katsimihas Bros. “One must face the past looking back a little because if he is not looking at all, he won’t understand what’s happening to him now”.
He starts gathering his memories with a waltz. “The Waltz of Electra” (Το βαλς της Ηλέκτρας) a melody that he had played for the little girl Electra, and as she heard it she had stopped crying and begun to dance…
Heraklion –Kalamata (Ηράκλειο Καλαμάτα)
“Some call it paradise and others call it homeland”…(English captions)
During his time at the University of Crete, Miltos formed with four of his fellow students in 1990 the band, which was called “Hainides”. The name comes from the Arabic word “hain” which means “the rebel, fugitive, and the one that moves mountain”. I think that these characters describe well the Cretan tradition, especially of the mountains’ inhabitants who had rebelled against conquerors. Hainides rebelled against the “clumsy” modernization and commercialization of the Cretan music. The roots of their art are Cretan music and poetry as well as the young and fresh student atmosphere of the campus. The band member Dimitris Apostolakis (Δημήτρης Αποστολάκης) integrated the legacy into new songs. Their first appearance in the campus auditorium immediately won the audience and the University Press released their albums.
Here is a good example, a touching song “The Acrobat” (Ο ακροβάτης), a song that I mistakenly thought it was traditional. When this songs was released along with the album of 1994, two members of the band were doctorial candidates in Physics and Miltos had left the band, but since then he has been singing it many times and also in this album.**
I don’t drink anymore (εγώ δεν πίνω)
Sung with Hristos Thivaios(English cap.):
Maybe one of the nostalgic pictures of Crete which fill our imagination is that of the highest mountains of Crete, the Psiloreitis (Ψηλορείτης) with its snowy peak. There, in the village of Anogeia, which has a rich history of rebels and music, was born Andonis Xilouris (Αντώνης Ξυλούρης), who became a well known composer, singer and a lyre player known for his nickname Psaradonis. His elder brother was the late great singer Nikos Xlilouris and also his younger brother Giannis and his son Giorgos are Cretan musicians.
“In Anogeia we all have nicknames. Psaradonis is my nickname that comes from my grandfather. He was the member of a group that used to steal the Turks. He was the fastest. He was gathering them all together as “fishes’ (“psaras’ in Greek is a fisherman). I was playing the lyre at the age of 10 and after two years I made my own music. Music is like the kilometers …endless … Do not listen to those who put dots (musical notes) on a paper or others who read them. You can’t capture the emotion of the artist on paper. The music is the character. Can all papers and dots to make me a Nikos? (Brother) When I get on stage I only tune the instruments. I start playing and then the rest musicians accompany me… I close my eyes, I have my landscape. I go to places that I like to make nice music…We humans have nothing, Nature has it all. This is God. This gives birth to, to eat, to punish. This gives us the music. I’m standing opposite to the Psiloreitis for hours… at Idaeon Andron (were according to a tradition Zeus was born) and as I am staring at him he is sending me music….. I have found there a tree that has a cavity. When I get in the birds are frightened and leave …but as soon as I play music they come back and other animals come close (dogs, sheep….) and we play music all together”.
Miltos Pashalidis tells:
Since the day I met him till today it is hard to me talking about him… In the spring of 93 I met him at Daidalou Street. He made me a nod and I approached him.
– “Tell me my boy, you, that you sing traditional songs, from which part of Crete are you?”
– “From Kalamata…”
He seemed to be surprised, as a man from Anogeia can be surprised and then he said: “So, a Cretan!”
He saluted me and left. Psaradonis is the most convincing storyteller I’ve ever met and the only one that Zeus could forgive if ever would return to Crete…”
Here is a live performance of a song from the album. Miltos Pashalidis with Psaradonis sing ” As heavy as the irons”(Όσο βαρούν τα σίδερα ), for the memory of Nikos Xilouris who had sung it few decades ago.
As heavy as the irons are pounded aman aman/so heavy the black clothes weigh on me/Because I wore them too, phony world/for a love I had
Aman I’ve had and I was deprived my sweetheart /I remember and sigh heavily/Open earth for me to get in, phony world,/not to look at people
The last song of our post (which is the second of the album after the waltz) created by Miltos in Cretan style and describes Zeus, the “xenios”, the host, , the God of the travelers, returns to his island. “Zeus would be stranger in modern Crete. He wouldn’t like at all the changes, the fast growing of wealth…. the almost absolute poverty of the music…The only thing that could redeem him is the sound of real lyre players” …like Psaradonis…
(*) “I was jealous of the song “Old summers” of H. & P. Katsimihas. “It encompasses all my Cretan experience” He included the song in the album
** the same song sung by Hainides
Two post in our blog on Crete:
Loudovikos Ton Anogeion: https://greeksongstories.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/collector-of-beautiful-moments/
And the booklet of the album
Thanks Anastasia Tanela for research and Katerina Siapanda for advice!