Repertories and identities of a musician from Crete (Magrini)

4. Back to Crete: fighting for the violin

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Papadakis plays his Syrtós Rodopianós with laouto player Stelios Lainakis
In 1976, Papadakis returned to Crete, where he is still living at this writing in 1997. Here he began again playing exclusively the traditional dances of Crete, with the accompaniment of laouto player Stelios Lainakis. He recorded some LPs, including his own compositions, and performed for weddings and private radio stations of Chaniá.
Skordalos thumbnail Thanasis Skordalós, A well-known lyra player, wearing the Cretan costume as a symbol of his belonging to local tradition

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Thanasis Skordalós plays Oti skepazi o ouranós

But he could not play for state radio and television. Since 1955, in Greece, to perform Cretan music with violin was forbidden in all state mass media, because of the nationalistic policy and purism adopted by Greek folklorists. The violin, imported to Crete from Italy during the Venice domination, was interpreted as a foreign instrument, basically unrelated to the Cretan musical tradition, and banned, while the lyra was chosen as the heir and symbol of uncontaminated musical folklore.

This was a further expression of the position, prevalent among scholars of Greek folklore since the beginning of the 19th century, which wanted to associate today's Greece to "a golden age since when the purity of the original Hellenic culture had suffered endless contamination and enfeeblement." (Herzfeld 1987: 44). In this process of remodelling Greek musical folk culture, the lyra, whose presence was already testified in the Byzantine period and whose name evoked even ancient classical Greece, could be accepted. While the violin was considered a symbol of foreign dominance and "pollution".

"It is clear that music may have a particular, unique role in associating a society's present with its past" (Nettl 1996). As Philip Bohlman argues in this issue of EOL, "What becomes clear to us as we witness the return to musical nationalisms [...] is that music does narrate histories. Music does point the way toward origins and beginnings." This was perfectly evident to the prompters of the remodelling of Cretan culture, who chose a musical symbol to reconnect the present reality of the island to a remote past.

The insistence with which the stereotype of the lyra player was and is still presented in documents about Crete reveals that what is evoked by this image is considered necessary to spread a new sense of the history of Crete (see Hobsbawm and Ranger 1987). A composite image at a Cretan Web site ( devoted to the people and culture of the island shows a photograph in the foreground of a young man playing the Cretan lyra (a bowed lute) against a historical painting in the background depicting a player of the ancient Greek lyra (a plucked harp, an unrelated instrument-type). This juxtaposition too easily joins past and present to imply a continuity which should be considered with more caution.

It must be stressed that the action of remodelling the musical history of Crete begun in the 1950s underrated the very important role that the violin and violin-players had had in working out an important repertoire of Cretan dances and fostered the artificial revival of the lyra that took place after 1955. When Naftis came back to Crete in 1976, the lyra had become the musical symbol of Cretan ethnic identity, even if its organological aspects, performance practice, and repertory gave evidence of the strong influence exerted on it by the violin tradition (4).

Papadakis, who had recycled himself so many times when he was far from Crete, did not do the same in his homeland. To the contrary, he resorted to cultural resistance and engaged in a personal fight in favour of the violin, since the practice of this instrument began being seriously endangered at that moment. He undertook the task of testifying to the role of the violin in the history of Cretan music, taking advantage of the enquiries that he had begun during his childhood on the composers, names and origin of the various dances.

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Two celebrated Chaniá musicians
Papadakis drew up a list of the players who were active in the province of Chaniá in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (5). The list (appeared in Leydi 1983: 49-73) includes 115 violin players, 23 lyra players, a few laouto and clarinet players, and information on composers of dance music.

Later, Papadakis published a book, significantly entitled 'Kritikí' lyra: enas mythos ("Cretan" lyra: a myth, Papadakis 1989), where he offers his personal account of the history of Cretan music, sometimes tinged with mythical elements. He includes scores of his own Syrtós tis avghis, Syrtós Vatolakianos, Syrtós tou Nafti, Neos Seliniotikos, Ta orea tou Nafti, Koustoghierakiotikos, Syrtós Rodopianós, Neos Gramvousianós, and his version of the pendozalis dance melody.

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