“The tsabouna cries, labors, aches… It is the sound of the Earth,” says Yiannis Pantazis speaking of the traditional Greek wind instrument, much like a bagpipe, that enchanted him as a child and defined his adult life. Raised among musicians in a small town in northern Greece, he spent years traveling around the islands of the Cyclades following the trail of a dying tradition to learn the art of playing and constructing the ancient bagpipe from shepherds and musicians.
“When I first started out I didn’t even know what it looked like but nothing is too hard when you love it,” he says, pointing to a tsabouna he made by hand, using a goat’s skin, shin bone and horn.
A visit to La Ponta, a workshop and museum he created with his Greek-American wife, historian Argy Kakissis, in 2011, is one of the most memorable experiences for any visitor. Located in a former ruin in the Venetian Tower of Akrotiri, with a lot of hard work and funding it out of their own pocket, they did an excellent job remodeling the space and welcome some 40,000 visitors a year, coming to see traditional Cycladic percussion instruments, to listen to the music and – why not – to learn to play.
Every afternoon and evening, Yiannis marries music to stories taken from history and mythology in an interactive performance “that can turn your average person into a musician in 10 minutes flat,” he says. The inspiring story of La Ponta soon made the rounds and last year, the workshop was nominated for the National Geographic World Heritage Awards in the “Sense of Place” category.
LA PONTA GREEK BAGPIPE EXHIBITION – WORKSHOP
Venetian Tower, Akrotiri
• Tel. (+30) 22860.85.374
• Open daily: April 1 – November 7,
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5-8 p.m.
• Historical tour and musical presentation, daily: noon to 12.45 p.m.
& 6-6.45 p.m.