Greece

The Soul of Crete

Psarantonis and the music of myth

Psarantonis plays and sings with closed eyes. And dreams. The snowy profiles of Psiloritis, Zeus in the guise of a shepherd, and the taverns in the shade of the mulberry trees of Anogeia. Like a royal eagle proudly in the sky of Crete, the sharp sound of the lyra and its primeval voice forcefully lift the shepherds’ gaze from the ground, intent as they were on watching their flocks graze the grass, bring out the wrinkles on the faces of widows who for decades have been weaving the impossible canvas of Penelope, and make the feet of the elderly – dressed in the ancient Cretan way, with high boots, black shirts, trousers, and nets on their heads – move in time. Then the silence falls and Antonis Xylouris reopens his little blue raptor eyes. His spirit has already flown beyond the stars, to return to Olympus, from where he certainly comes.

Antonis Xylouris, together with his brother Nikos, who died in 1980 at the age of 44, one of the principal voices of dissent towards the regime of the colonels, is the head of a family of musicians from Crete, now in its 3rd generation. Natives of the village of Anogeia, at the foot of Psiloritis, that very Mount Ida inside of which the legend of Zeus nursed by the she-goat was born, the Xylouris family represents the incarnation of the rizitiko, the “roots” of the traditional music of Crete, an ancient rhythm played on the lyra and lute. This music even managed to capture the attention of Vinicio Capossela, who has gone on to play with Psarantonis and his children numerous times.

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