Greek bouzouki legend Thanasis Polykandriotis who led an army of bouzouki players and percussionists at the 2004 Athens Olympics with that memorable and proud zembekiko, is coming to Australia next month to perform with Stelios Dionisiou; another name connected to another Greek legend: Stratos Dionisiou.
Australian audiences can expect to hear the duo perform some of the greatest Greek hits from legendary names such as Kazantzidis, Dionisiou, Parios, Marinella, Voskopoulos, Alexiou to name a few.
Polykandriotis has performed in the greatest theatres and concert halls of Europe, the United States and Australia, such as the Albert Hall (London), the Opera House (Sydney), the Kennedy Center, the Carnegie Hall (United States), and Shanghai Concert Hall (Shanghai).
Polykandriotis was born in 1948, in Athens, Greece.
Son of a folk music teacher, Theodoros Polykandriotis, it was not long before he started studying music and at the age of eight he took his first guitar lessons. In early 60s, he participated as a guitarist, in music bands of those days (JUNIORS, TRIO ESPERANTO) with other young musicians and three years later his professional career began unfolding.
Although a devoted classical guitarist, his talent as a musician was first discovered in the summer of 1964, through bouzouki. He came to be recognized as one of the best bouzouki players worldwide and in the years that followed, he participated in the 90% of the Greek music recording industry.
In 1971 he appears with Nana Mouschouri and Marinella in a BBC show. Right after, Manos Xatzidakis features him as a soloist in the “Hard April of 1945”, a musical work which is currently re-released. At the same time he worked together with all of Greece’s great singers, such as: Kazantzidis, Dionisiou, Parios, Marinella, Voskopoulos, Poulopoulos and others.
In 1968 Thanasis Polykandriotis starts composing and until today he has recorded more than 1.000 songs. He has also written music for TV shows, series and radio.
The musical interests of the composer were not limited only to Greek folk music paths. Following the many years of co-operation with Hungarian musicians, in October of 1993 he appears in the ATHENS CONCERT HALL “MEGARON” with the HUNGARIAN GIPSY ORCHESTRA, thus marking a new beginning in his career.
In October of 1995 he recorded in Budapest, 11 out of the 21 dances of BRAHMS with the FAILONI ORCHESTRA of the HUNGARIAN STATE OPERA.
In 1996, his dream of composing a concert for bouzouki and symphonic orchestra became a reality. He presented his work in the ancient theatre HEROD ATTICUS ODEON, with the STATE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA of the OPERA of BUDAPEST. The presentation of the concert no 1 for bouzouki, proved that these to two different types of music: classical and Greek folk music can co-exist in harmony.
In 1999 his first book is released – a contemporary method for learning the bouzouki with title “It is easy to learn bouzouki”, which was published by the Music Publishing House Philippos Nakas.
The last few years, Thanasis Polykandriotis has been active in the field of music education, having established the School of Folk Music Tradition, where Greek folk musical instruments such as bouzouki, tzouras and baglamas, are being taught. His aim is the preservation and the spread of the Greek folk music tradition, and that’s what he does by also teaching music in the Greek University of TEI (Arta) and University of Florina.
In March 2003 he gave a concert with the Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra of Tirana at the Tirana Opera, in celebration of the Greek National Holiday. The performance included the composer’s own creations, along with parts of the work “San allote… alla simera” (Like in another time… but today), with compositions of Sougioul, Attik, Morakis, Gounaris, Hiotis, conducted by Andreas Pylarinos and instrumented by Klement Markou. A 2001 recording of this work by the same orchestra is available in CD form.
He is the founder of the group “EPOMENOI”, which consist of 40 young bouzouki players. This group was chosen to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the XXVIII Olympic Games “Athens 2004”.
On the 21st of June 2005 Thanassis Polykandriotis obtained his Harmony diploma. He was the resident bouzouki player for ERT’s Musical Ensembles for the 2005-2006 season.
In 2006, he wrote his first television series score for ALPHA’s “San Oniro”.
Starting from the 2005 academic year, he has been appointed as a Specialist Scientist Lecturer in Florina’s Pedagogical School of the University of West Macedonia.
In November 2006, the composer and his 40-bouzouki group “OI EPOMENOI” gave a concert at the Athens Concert Hall “Megaron” (Friends of Music Hall) – with the participation of Glykeria and the children’s choir of Dimitris Typaldos for the benefit of the General Oncology Hospital Agioi Anargiroi. After this performance, the “EPOMENOI” group published their first CD. It haw been the first time that such a multi bouzouki group ever appears in big concert halls.
On March 28, 2008 he, together with the “OI EPOMENOI” group, gave another great performance at the Shanghai Concert Hall, under the auspices of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, for the grand opening of the Greek stand in Shanghai.
On June 8, 2008 he was awarded the international music award “Maestro International”, awarded annually to soloists from the Balkans, in a ceremony at the National Theater of Belgrade under the auspices of the Serbian Ministry of Culture and the Municipal Council of Belgrade.
In May 2009, following his first book, the bouzouki learning method “Einai eukolo na matheis bouzouki” (Learning bouzouki is easy) was published by the Filippos Nakas publishing house, Thanasis Polykandriotis is now presenting his newest book “Folk harmony”.
This book is an effort to fill a great gap in Greek music bibliography, concerning the method of harmonizing the folk modes. Its target audience is a wide range of musicians, Greek and international – the book is bilingual – who want to get to know the folk and traditional music of Greece. A CD is included with the book, containing the composer’s exercises, as performed by him.
In September 2009, he performed along with Dulce Pontes and Paco Pena, at Herodium, in an extraordinary concert consisting of the blending of three different Mediterranean cultures such as Portuguese (Fados), Spanish (Flamenco) and Greek (Rebetiko).
Since 2011, Thanasis Polykandriotis with his bouzouki group OI EPOMENOI, have established a collaboration with Michael Cacoyannis Foundation where they meet for their rehearsals and seminars.
In October 2012, on Thanasis Polykandriotis’ initiative and for the first time in Greece, a two-day convention about Greek music’s foremost soloist instrument, the bouzouki and its contribution to Folk Music, was held in the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation having large attendance.
In December 2012, Polykandriotis and his musicians performed a concert with music from Greece and Cyprus in the National Theater of Havana, as guests of the Cypriot Embassy to Cuba. The concert took place on the main stage of the National Theater of Cuba, which has a seating capacity of 2000. It was the first time that the venue was granted to the Cypriot Embassy by Cuba’s Minister of Culture. A surprise was given by the collaboration and improvisations with Pancho Amat, Cuba’s most famous guitarist.
In January 2014, the second convention was held, with the main appeal of establishing a state-recognized certificate of the instrument’s specialization. A special moment at the convention, was Conductor and President of the Athens Conservatory Nikos Tsouchlos’ speech, when he announced that for the first time, there would be a bouzouki class in the Athens Conservatory under the tuition of Thanasis Polykandriotis, causing excitement in the audience.
Thanasis Polykandriotis is the inspirer and coordinator of a team of scientists who aim for the bouzouki to be recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
In June 2014, Polykandriotis accompanied by The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra under the baton of Richard Cock, featuring SAHETI School Performers, performed the symphonic concert for bouzouki at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg under the auspices of The Embassy of Greece in Pretoria.
Since 2014, he is the Head of the Folk Music Department and related instruments in the Athens Conservatory and from September 2018, he is in charge of the section devoted to Greek folk music of the Athens College – Psychico College Conservatory.
In December 2019 he was invited by the Istanbul Technical University (ITU), by the Turkish Music State Conservatory to give a seminar in which he presented the different variations of the bouzouki (three string and four string, tzoura and baglama) to the students of the University.