Michael Platyrrahos: Preserving the Musical Traditions of Crete

Music and dance have been woven into the fabric of the Cretan psyche and their social life since antiquity. Traditional music and local dances play a significant role not only at festivals and social occasions but also in the daily of Cretan families.

The importance of music on the island dates back to prehistoric times, and it has continued to evolve until today whilst maintaining elements of its original character.

As such, the musical culture is one of the most authentic in Greece and in Europe as a whole.

Traditional Cretan music includes instrumental music usually accompanied by singing, a capella songs known as the rizitkia “Erotokritos,” Cretan urban songs (‘tabachaniotika’), and folk genres.

Michael Platyrrahos Cretan Lyres
Cretan Lyres
Cretan musical instruments
Cretan musical instruments

Instruments such as the lyra, violin, and laouto (Cretan lute) predominate Cretan music, which also commonly features the mandolin, mandola, oud, thiampoli (souravli), askomandoura, classical guitar (especially in Eastern Crete), boulgari, daouli (davul) and the viololyra – a hybrid of the violin and lyra.

Ancient scholars and artists have spoken about the unique music of Crete, proving its value and importance since ancient times, including Plato in the “Laws” and “Minos”, Euripides in the “Cretans”, Sophocles in the “Daedalus”, Herodotus in his “History”.

Music remains an integral part of the islanders’ lives as they continue to perform it, listen to it, dance to it, and sing it to this day.

It was into such an environment, where Cretan traditions were focal, that Michael Platyrrahos was born in 1977.

At the age of 10, he asked his father for a Cretan lyra as his youthful eyes admired famous Cretan musicians who resided at his parent’s home in Sydney during their tours in Australia.

Stored deeply in Michael’s childhood memories are words of advice from masters of Cretan folkloric music such as the legendary Kostas Mountakis – a name synonymous with the lyra, the bowed string instrument of Crete and most popular surviving form of the medieval Byzantine.

Michael Platyrrahos
Michael Platyrrahos as a young boy with with teacher, the legendary Kostas Mountakis

With a few introductory lessons from Sydney compatriot Sofoklis Sfakianakis Michael acquired the basic knowledge needed to go on to master the Cretan lyra. With Crete’s music and dance, he evolved and continued to gather, ask and learn about the island’s folklore, traditions and customs.

From 1996 till 2015, Michael was involved in the instruction of Cretan music and dance and has taught Cretan folkloric music and dance to many students by reviving and promoting correctly Cretan folklore, in its original form without jeopardy to tradition and alienations.

Michael has played the lyra, viololyra, lyraki, Cretan and Nisiotiko or Steriano lute and mandolin at many multicultural and Greek Festivals in Sydney, at various concerts, private events, tavernas and restaurants through the Cretan Folkloric Company which he transformed in 1998 from his initially formed “Musical-Dancing School Platyrrahos” in 1996 in his efforts to familiarise non-Greek audiences with Crete’s cultural heritage.

Michael Platyrrahos
Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Angelicas

Michael has also performed on Greek-Australian Television, SBS Radio, outside the Sydney Opera House and at Sydney’s Town Hall as a lead soloist in a symphonic orchestral composed and conducted by maestro Themos Mexis.

Michael has travelled to all of Australia’s and New Zealand’s major cities with his lyra as well as to Crete, performing at many events and on Cretan radio.

A milestone of sentimental value was his participation at the Feast Day of Agios Titos which took place at the birthplace of his father’s village in 2001, the village from where his father left to migrate to Australia, 30 years ago at the time.

Michael Platyrrahos
Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Angelicas

Michael’s dedication and love for Cretan traditions and folklore continues, every Monday night when, for two hours, he promotes Cretan music, traditions, customs, history and Cretan literature through a radio programme he broadcasts and presents.

Michael has staged and directed 8 major concerts 5 of which have been under the auspices of the Greek Festival of Sydney; in 1998 “The Traditional Cretan Costume Through The Ages”, in 2000 “Tribute To Nikos Xylouris” marking the 20 years of his death, 2001 “60 Years From The Battle of Crete” and in English narration in Gosford the same year, 2002 “Tribute To The First Masters Of Cretan Music”, 2007 “Cretan Music Without Borders” in English narration also as a Marrickville Council Cultural Event & 2012 “Customs And Traditions Of Our Homeland”.

In 2014 Michael branched out with his Cretan lute as a founding member of the Aegean Quartet, a musical group that specialises in the presentation of music from the Greek Islands, and staged a series of events initially at the St George Auditorium under the Greek Festival Of Sydney in 2017 known as “Songs Of The Sea” that continued at Camelot Lounge Marrickville.

In 2019 in a combined venture with Christina Bacchiella, a concept around the gathering of Sydney musicians was embraced by both musicians and the community which resulted in a monthly “Sydney Greek Jam”.

Michael Platyrrahos

In 2020 Michael’s love for Greece’s musical traditions branched out even further to the coasts of Asia Minor in preserving and reviving the long lost but not forgotten music of Greece’s eastern heritage through the formation of another musical group Banda Politika, specialising in the presentation of music from Constantinople, Smyrne, Pontos, Cappadocia and Cyprus.

Leading into 2021, Michael’s musical knowledge and abilities have led him into collaborations with musicians of other ethnic backgrounds by engaging and bringing to the stage motifs of “World Music.”

Michael Platyrrahos
Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Angelicas
Michael Platyrrahos
Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Angelicas

Michael proudly closed 2020 with a historic moment for the Cretan lyra and the fulfilment of a childhood dream of playing his Cretan lyra inside the Sydney Opera House for the first time, through his participation in the “Songs Without Borders” event – an event reflective of what is envisaged as the expression of the arts in Australia’s multicultural society of the 21st century.

We hope that you enjoy this latest episode of our Live in L0ckdown series,  premiering on Greek City Times featuring Michael Platyrrahos,

You can also catch Michael Platyrrahos here:

Michael Platyrrahos Facebook page: (1) Μιχάλης Οδ. Πλατύρραχος | Facebook

Cretan Music Group YouTube: https://youtube.com/c/CretanMusicGroupSydney

Banda Politkia Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bandapolitika/

Aegean Quartet Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/aegeanquartet/

Sydney Greek Jam Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sydneygreekjam/

Cretan Music Sydney Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cretanmusicsydney/

Michael Platyrrahos
Michael Platyyrahos with Archbishop Makarios at the Sydney Opera House performance

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