4. Back to Crete: fighting for the violin
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.
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
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 (http://www.intranet.gr/icom/crete/people/PeopleDances.html)
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.
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
(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