Gracious, genuine, grateful, talented, gorgeous. It’s not hard to attribute an endless list of wonderful qualities about Greek American Krystalán Chryssomallis. Few of us get to see half the destinations she has been to, even fewer get a formal introduction to the world by Oprah Winfrey, which she experienced as part of a 2014 interview with her father, world-famous Greek musician Yanni. She has been lighting up social media ever since with her contagious megawatt smile and joyous energy. As effortless in front of the lens, as she is behind it when capturing breathtaking moments all around the world, we've come to love her photography, appreciation of nature and zest for life.
From mischievously organising surprise visits by Yanni to see unsuspecting fans to tirelessly working with the Egyptian Government to make Yanni's spectacular concert at the Pyramids of Giza and The Sphynx a reality, Krystalán is living the life dreams are made of.
GCT was able to chat to Krystalán on a break in the Yanni Live at the Acropolis 25thAnniversary tour about her incredible creativity, inspirations and growing up with one of the world's most famous, and nicest, musicians.
Where were you born and raised, and where do you live now?
I was born in Minnesota and have lived in Southern California for the past several years. I also get to South Florida often.
What part of Greece are your ancestors from?
Kalamata, Greece, home of the famous olives.
What was it like growing up with Yanni, one of the world's greatest musicians, as your father? How did it influence your taste and knowledge of music?
It has been an extraordinary experience for me to have grown up surrounded by music, especially with the blessing of having an incredible teacher in my dad to share music with me. I have had the opportunity to appreciate music from a unique perspective with glimpses into the creative process, the live performance aspect and to see how music is absorbed around the world. The lessons and experiences afforded me have helped me to cultivate a very diverse appreciation of music and culture.
I have found that I enjoy music of all forms and I know this will continue to expand as music is never stagnant and always changing and moving. Music is an “in the moment experience” for me and has become a companion for my life, staying by my side during good times, sad times, quiet times and hectic times. I know it will always be there and I appreciate that music will always be important to me as I continue to grow.
How did your life change following the interview on Oprah's Where Are They Now, where essentially you were introduced to the world?
Fortunately, my life did not change at all. With Yanni’s years of experience living with the scrutiny of being in the public eye, he was very careful about how and when he would introduce me to the world. Yanni has a special history with Oprah and felt this was the right moment and manner for us to talk publicly about our relationship. He knew Oprah would handle the experience with understanding and compassion, which was exactly how it happened.
I also have the benefit of watching how my Dad handles the public life and learned a lot about making sure I had good friends, close family and an appreciation for the important qualities of life so that I have a strong foundation surrounding me.
Tell us about your love of photography? Was it something that interested you from a young age?
I have always been fascinated by photography. The storytelling power of a photograph and how it can freeze a moment in time, capture the energy and essence of a significant experience and transport the viewer to feel it with you is incredible to me.
Photographs connect us. Similar to music, they can inspire emotions of joy, sympathy, sadness, fear, comfort or any other emotion. They relate to people all around the world, without the use of language, and can be used as a positive agent to show just how connected we all really are.
Yanni is an amazing photographer himself and we have a very close connection with each other through photography. We have gone out together shooting in nature and I have been shooting his concerts for several years. The privilege of traveling extensively, meeting such incredible and inspiring people, exploring our planet and learning new cultures has allowed me the opportunity to capture and share my experiences with others.
It was my dad who gave me my first camera. I didn’t know how to use it, I knew nothing about the technicalities of photography, but my camera never left my hand and I quickly fell in love and appreciation for the craft. My camera remains with me all of the time.
What inspires you?
I am inspired in many ways. Inspiration surrounds all of us, we just need be willing and open to take a moment and recognize the inspiration around us.
People inspire me. How they overcome adversity, find love, hope, and joy. It’s inspiring to see how we have a common thread that connects us all around the world. Music helps to illustrate this by showing how it can evoke the same feelings from people around the globe. A happy instrumental song receives the same exuberant response from a person in India as it does in Russia, Brazil, and Greece.
Nature inspires me. Everything in life has rhythm and nature achieves perfect harmony and balance. I’m in constant awe of our natural world, our oceans, animals, planet, and even space. If you are still and listen, you will notice that nature is in perfect pitch and harmony.
The monuments of humanity are also incredibly inspiring to me. You cannot stand at the foot of the Sphinx in Egypt or walk through the hidden passageways of Petra in Jordan and not feel this incredible energy radiating from them. The magnificence of what mankind is capable of, even with what would be considered very limited resources, is a constant inspiration for me.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Choosing any single moment as the best is impossible. There are so many highlights for various reasons and lots of lessons learned along the way. A particular highlight was being an integral part of the team that imagined, created and delivered the spectacular concerts of Yanni – Live from the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The production was staged beneath the Cheops Pyramid and the Sphinx. Working closely with the Egyptian government and pulling together such a magical night under the stars was an experience I will never forget. The energy that radiates from that location along with the attendees was undeniable. I remember watching the night unfold and knowing as the fireworks lit the desert sky near the end of the show, I was participating in an event that has never occurred before and may never occur again. Seeing my dad in this setting will be a moment that will stay with me forever.
We worked on that production for almost four years; however, we received the green light just two months prior to the event. The months of frantic working, planning, and execution leading up to the event was such a fulfilling rush of emotion. I had never worked in Egypt before, so for me, learning a new culture and understanding how to create a production like that was certainly an adventure.
Commander and Astronaut Scott Kelly from NASA also participated in the night by calling down from the International Space Station to our concerts as he flew over the pyramids. He sent a message of love and confirmed what my dad was sharing about how there are no lines on the maps separating countries from above and we are all part of the same global community, one that radiates peace and hope. I have had the opportunity to work with NASA in the past; however, this particular night was extra special… it was the first time Egypt heard their name from space.
What is the biggest challenge both in your line of work, and also touring with Yanni?
In this line of work, traveling around the world, crossing borders and always being on the go with a group from around the world and being away from any sense of “home” brings all kinds of challenges. With lack of sleep and unusual eating habits, I feel that staying healthy is the biggest challenge. That said, traveling with my dad and seeing his dreams come to life and witnessing firsthand the power of music in a culture really makes everything worth it. I love what I do and the fact that I get to do it with family makes it all the more meaningful.
What has travelling with the world's most talented instrumentalists taught you about artists and the music they produce?
Specifically, with Yanni’s selection of musicians, their music really is the universal language. The musicians on stage with Yanni represent 10 different countries and each musician brings their own unique personality and influence.
Each musician on the stage is the best in their craft; however, when they all come together, blending their diversity and sound, that’s when their full power is felt. Because of this unique blend, we can be anywhere in the world, Brazil, Oman, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the US it doesn’t matter… the audiences will respond to the music in the same way. Music transcends all borders and limitations we place on ourselves. It connects, it heals and it goes right for your heart and soul.
What is one piece of advice you have received that has stayed with you?
Gnosi S’eauton – an ancient Greek aphorism, which means “know thyself.” In my opinion, that is where everything else launches off from, it is the beginning of your foundation.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My dad is my biggest influence. I have learned immensely from him. Not only from his teachings or through conversation but from the opportunities he has opened me up to in life. He’s never pushed but has opened doors for me to walk through and try. He leads by example.
What is on your wish list in terms of places you would love to capture with your lens?
I’m hoping to explore Africa’s Great Migration. I have seen documentaries on this phenomena where you can see the largest heard movement of animals such as wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles on the planet. It’s so massive that it can be seen from outer space.
I imagine the energy and the emotion of being in the presence of such a natural spectacle would be a life-changing experience. Our natural world has me in complete awe. The idea of feeling the earth tremble with the thundering of millions of hooves and witnessing the herds fill the plains is thrilling to me. Simply having the opportunity to capture this with my lens would be the experience of a lifetime.
With such a busy lifestyle, how do you stay fit and healthy?
Staying healthy and active is no easy task on the road. You have to make a conscious effort to incorporate health and fitness into your lifestyle. When I’m on the road, yoga and stretching in my hotel room is my go to. I also love to run. It is a great way to see the cities you are in. If you don’t like running, even getting outside for a walk will make a world of a difference.
Trying to get quality sleep is important as well and healthy eating. We also never cook on the road. Eating out and not having control over what you eat can be challenging. The biggest and easiest change I made was requesting no salt on my food. If I want it, I will add it myself, but I’ve found most places put way more salt on your food than what you would do yourself.
Having travelled the world, do you have a sense of 'patrida' in a particular country, or do you feel more like a citizen of the world?
There are several places in this world where I feel a true sense of “home.” I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to develop incredible relationships with people in several of the countries I have visited. Traveling with family and friends who I have known for many years also helps make any new place comfortable and I have become accustomed to being “at home” almost anywhere.
The sense of home for me is truly in the company that I keep and the love that is felt. I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life who are all around the world.
What is coming up next?
A few exciting surprises are around the corner, so stay tuned! I will also continue touring with my dad in the fall and we will be going to countries we have never been before.
@krystalann – Instagram
@KrystalanC – Facebook