Repertories and identities of a musician from Crete (Magrini)


audio icon
Papadakis plays his Syrtós Rodopianós with laouto player Stelios Lainakis
The life history of Kostas "Naftis" Papadakis develops uniquely after a conventional beginning. His learning violin and its repertory within his family, then becoming a professional player, follow a pattern found in many Mediterranean regions, apart from his performing at feasts for money at an early age. Papadakis would probably have remained in Crete and continued performing as a demotic musician but for the vendetta involving his family, which forced him into long periods of emigration.
Kosta & self-portrait thumbnail
Papadakis & self-portait depicting him wearing traditional Cretan man's costume, symbol of his allegiance to local tradition
As an emigrant, Papadakis was obliged to recycle himself as a musician. Since he could not earn a living performing Cretan music in Athens, he became a rebetis. Then he became an interpreter of Panhellenic repertory for communities of the Greek diaspora during his American period. To play music is not a question of identity or nostalgia for him, but a profession, and Papadakis adapts himself to the market demands in the different kinds of realities where it happens that he lives. Thus, he changed instrument and repertory according to the different circumstances, and at the same time his status changed from the respectable musician of the Cretan villages to the member of the musical sub-culture of Athens' underground, and then to a full-time professional who toured throughout the world.

Yet Papadakis did not lose his first and basic identity; in the final part of his story, he ends his career fighting in defense of his true instrument, the violin, and its repertory of Cretan dances. His deep feeling of belonging to a tradition was not destroyed, but perhaps reinforced by his manifold experiences. Sharing other musical cultures seems to have let Pakadakis become more aware of the dignity and importance of his native one. His resistance against the remodelling enacted by mass media arises out of this awareness, which finally transforms the musician into a sort of historian.

The life history of Kostas "Naftis" Papadakis gives evidence of the active role which may be assumed by musicians within a society. His living "within" history, experiencing and sharing the main musical practices of his time and even engaging in a fight against an action of remodelling, lead us far from the stereotype of the passive and conservative folk musician and leave us aware of the way music makers perceive, interpret and act on the social contexts where it happens that they live.

Back | Home | Comments