- One good thing about music,
- when it hits you, you feel no pain.
- [Bob Marley]
What do I know about music?
I know more than you ever thought, dear readers.
Perhaps because my mother was Italian, perhaps because music has been for me a good way to soothe a temper often volcanic, or just because I have strong lungs and throat, I have always sung and I think that my singing is not completely unacceptable to a trained ear. I’ve never had a musical education, and yet during a year or two of my crazy young days I could sing folk songs and jazz music from Hungary – and all that in Hungarian, oh yeah! 😀
What I cannot do, and that’s a life fact, is to dance.
All I do is jump and kick and dangle and that’s a pity because I love Greek music and all the music of the countries around Greece and that music is (90% of it) associated to dancing. So, I listen to it, sing it, but all the dancing is done within me.
What to do? Nobody is perfect.
This was just a soppy introduction. Bloggers are expected to write a couple of soppy things before getting into the subject, aren’t they?
The subject here is the Music Seminar of Ikaria («Μουσικό Σεμινάριο Ικαρίας») also known as Musical Yards («Μουσικές Αυλές») and Musical Fireplaces («Μουσικά Τζάκια»), a long course of lessons, workshops and concerts organized by a small group of young Ikarians in the village of Christos Ráches every February and July.
You would say, what’s big about it? There are several prestigious and popular music seminars taking place in Greece, the most known ones being in Mount Pelion and Crete. Why a seminar in Ikaria? What more does it offer? And who are this “small group of young Ikarians”? It sounds like one more boring folklore festival. At best perhaps a more sophisticated, DIY generational “panigiri”. Nothing new here.
Oh no, readers! Everything is new here! The seminar’s webpage does not explain very clearly the novelties of the event, so I have decided to say a few more things about it. For example, everything that goes around the Musical Seminar of Ikaria is hand-made, home-made and ever-evolving.
Everything about the Seminar is countless hours of unpaid collective work done by local resident volunteers without support from the authorities, without sponsors and with only some help from few small hotel owners, car rentals and bus drivers.
The most remarkable thing about it is that they don’t have art directors, managers, public relations, don’t have «connections». Totally independent and willing to pay the price for this, all and all these guys have is each other and the support of their community. All and all what they want is to do it. And by some magic trick, they do it.
But how? What’s the trick?
The trick is, first of all, dear readers, that it’s not a “big event”. Only capable of hosting a rough maximum of 200 students, the center of everything is the large yard of a countryside chapel near the village of Christos.
Several classes take place under the oak trees in that yard, while other classes are hosted -guess where?- in the yards, patios and spare rooms of the surrounding family homes in the neighborhood. Hence, the meaningful name of the Seminar («Musical Yards»*), a name which does not only signify the location; it says a lot about the character of the event.
(* The same houses, plus/minus some, during the wintertime Seminar turn into Musical Fireplaces. Cool!)
No buses, no traffic, everything is nested in nature, including the participants themselves, around 1/3 of which choose to accommodate themselves in the campsite set by the organizers near the church.
Secondly, “the small group of young Ikarians” is no other than the environmental, political and cultural association “Citizens’ Movement of Ráches Ikaria” («Κίνηση Πολιτών Ραχών Ικαρίας»), a 20yearold group still and always active in various fields (see my 2 footnotes down below).
None of them are idle or leisured patrons of arts; on the contrary, all of them are ordinary working people, faces that you see in the streets on their way to work in the morning.
But there is an unseen difference: in spite of their smallness, in spite of their very limited financial resources, these people care! Moreover, they have skills and experience. Even though none of them are graduates of the Conservatory of Vienna, they know how to make things go right.
Thirdly, the teachers! If anyone ever thought the Music Seminar of Ikaria is some kind of groovy thing, just a glance at the list of teachers is enough to change their minds. Each one in his or her own music, mostly the Oriental, traditional Greek or Balkan genre, as far as I can tell, they are the best among the best!
Because these teachers trusted the organizers and they liked the concept. Some of them even, who come again and again every year, have proved to be truly committed to this event. They brought along their own students, they helped the organizers with valuable advice and in general, they did a lot to improve the Ikarian Seminar and gradually establish it in the agenda of musical education in Greece.
Against the tourist legend that no serious work can be done in Ikaria because everything is unfocused and relaxed, the classes are as demanding and as strict as anywhere in a city environment. Besides this, every year the teachers, to show their understanding of the concept of the Seminar, offer three evening concerts which are open to everybody. Arranging themselves in small groups in these concerts, the last of which always blows up to a big party, they play for hours without being paid.
A large audience from all over the island gathers to attend that last concert in the Yards and all the money collected is used for the causes of the Citizens’ Movement, the first of them always being the preparation of the next seminar.
The goal of the Seminar:
«Culture, communication, living together and playing music, teaching and being taught, knowing each other and having a good time too».
Yeah, we know, we know…
I know you know but I don’t think you know everything.
So, let me elaborate and add a few throughts of my own. They are strictly personal -although I don’t think I am totally wrong in what I am going to say. It’s no coincidence the Ikarian Music Seminar “Musical Yards” started in 2012. That was the terrible year when the Greek economic crisis peaked. That was the year of suicides, the year of social cannibalism when everybody blamed each other for the crisis and the dept.
In several occasions during that year, Art, and more particularly Music, did a lot to keep Greek society from breaking apart. To say the least, Music, and more particularly Greek (traditional and post-traditional music), reminded to us that in spite of our differences, we can still love the same songs and can still sing together.
Because 2012 was a bad year for Ikaria too, this was, in my humble opinion, the reason why the Citizens’ Movement, instead of some other activity, chose to put their bets on music. After all music plays an important role in the life of the island.
One out of four mostly younger inhabitants play a musical instrument, one out of three is an excellent dancer and absolutely everybody loves to go out to places where there is live music – no matter what kind, no matter how good. So, why not invite other musicians to the island, not just for a concert or two, but to stay longer and share their art?
To cut this short, against all odds, with crisis on one hand, and the love for music on the other, without any support from the authorities and no sponsoring, the first Musical Seminar of Ikaria was crowned with success.
Although small at that time, Musical Yards was a pool of forgetfulness and forgiveness, a pocket of equality and fraternity, a refuge for the young for inspiration and hope, a spot where music was played, taught and performed without interruptions or interferences – other than the song of the cicadas on those old oak trees in the hospitable churchyard of Ai Giannis.
Last year I was there for only one day but that one day, as I was guided around by a friend, was enough for me to witness all of the above. The Music Seminar of Ikaria is cultural and social barrier breaker and meltdown. I think everybody involved in musical education – and I dare say all education- have something to learn from the way things go during its course.
June 15, 2018
Except the first taken by kikiller all photos featuring in this article belong to Musical Yards. They can be found in the files of their website and their page on facebook. © All rights reserved 2012-2017.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A few articles in our blogs about the action of
«Kinisi Politon Rachon Ikarias» through the years:
. . Please forgive my ignorance if I made one or two mistakes in giving the sanskit names of the different yoga postures. I thought the terms of that magical old language connect well to the original spiritual meaning of the exercises. The title of the entry is a tribute to the unforgettable «These Mountains Are For Dancing», a brilliant performance on the mountains of Ikaria by OPS Ikarias in 2014.
Tuesday, September 1, 2014
You know me, I am not exactly a romantic lanscapist or an extreme preservationist. Yet I have always been always enchanted by the wild
uncivilized and precapitalist 😉 mountain landscapes of my island, I have always wanted to show them and talk about them, so when I finally learned a few things about cameras in the couse of two years I took and posted many pictures in Flickr. Later, when things took a bad turn and for a while Flickr allowed only 200 photos unless we paid for our accounts, I deleted 132 photos. I did that with a lot of regret because though no one could say they were masterpieces, nevertheless they had a personal value: for me they were documents of my commitment, my puzzlement, my many surprises and discoveries. So before I start with this new project, let’s remember the brave days of 2005-2007 through this gallery :
But now, ladies and gentlemen, enough with the past. Let’s see what other landscapists have done! After I have posted «τα γυμνα των αλλων» it’s time for me to blog and praise «τα τοπια των αλλων».
Sunday September 28, 2014
Guided Tour in Ancient Nas
«Here in the crack of time
Here in the crack of time
I am hiding to ripen…»
Many years ago when there was only a small cafe with a grill in Nas, my father, who was a historian, gave us a tour round the archaeological site. «The penteconter sailed in from out there. They tied the ropes here. It was a temple up there. Priests came to bless the boat. The captain stepped out with gifts and a slaughtered animal for the sacrifice.
Today my daughter is at the age I was when in Nas there was only a small cafe with a grill. We went for a swim in the summer and she asked: «There is something about the place. Though there’s nothing much to see. There’s something about it. What?»
I am explaining to her. I am tour-guiding her -and you too.
The location and its use – the temple and the cult
In ancient times at the mouth of the river Chalares there was a long narrow bay, like a fjord, indented-in the steep and rough northwestern coast of Ikaria. Neolithic men and women who lived in the mountains, descended to hunt and catch fish there. Later in the Bronze Age, the Karians arrived from the East in their fast boats. They were proud warriors and seamen who shared the Aegean with the other Prohellenes -the Cycladians and the Cretans. The Karians were probably the first who used Nas as a port -to attack and loot ships- and also founded there a place of worship.
The Karians were displaced around 700 BC by Greeks who came from Miletus in Asia Minor. With them they bring goats and sheep, grapevines, olive trees, improved grain seeds and new gods. Apollo (or Asclepius) for Therma, Dionysus for Oenoe and Artemis for Nas. The virgin huntress Artemis, protectress of nature, mistress of the winds, to who sailors prayed in the gales of the Etesians. The Milesians could not have made a better choice.
The tiny port at the mouth of the Chalares was for the Ionian sailors the last stop for food and rest (and a last prayer) before sailing off in the dangerous Icarian Sea to reach Delos, the commercial and religious center of the ancient Aegean. The slopes of the gorge and the mountains provided game, gift from the goddess, the villagers brought food and wine, while the river and the sources supplied them with plenty of fresh water. However, despite the frequent passage of ships, Nas never developed into a «polis» but remained a small community structured around a holly site. The temple -rather small (9,70 x 3,75 m) and of unknown architectural style- was built in the late 6th century with marble shipped from Petrokopio in Fournoi isles. The site was swampy, so first they raised a strong platform and there upon they founded the temple. In front of the platform they built a wall to protect the foundations from the water, which also served as a pier and dock.
The statue of the goddess was a «xoanon», chiseled on a single log, painted, dressed and decorated like a «sacred doll”. In the late 19th century linguist Hatzidakis, while visiting western Ikaria to record the archaic idiom still spoken there, accidentally discovers a ceramic shard with the inscription «TAUROPOL”, providing thus evidence that the temple of the Ikarian Artemis was a «Tauropolion»-one of the many that existed in ancient Greece.
The Tauropolion was a ceremony during which the priest of the goddess was bathed in the blood of a sacrificial bull while the animal was slaughtered. Originating from the ritualistic purifications performed by the archaic hunters for the killing of their prey, Tauropolion (or Taurobolium) became a particularly popular ceremony in the Hellenistic and Roman era. The Temple of the Icarian Artemis, known since classical times, along with the idyllic scenery round it, became then an attraction for the people who lived in the over-crowded cities of that time. They would set up hunting trips from Samos and Ephesus. They would climb the wooded slopes of Chalares with local hunters as guides. They would attend ceremonies still performed there «like in the good old good times.»
Yet it wasn’t idyllic all the time. During the revolution of Aristonicus (133-130 BC) that shook Asia Minor and the eastern Aegean, rebellious slaves, persecuted by the Romans, seem to have taken refuge in Nas. Whether as result of battle or bombardment with catapults from ships, the temple suffered major damage. The Roman general, however, hastened to repair it, and the notables and priests proclaimed him a benefactor and honored him with a statue.
The end of the harbor
In the Byzantine period, the temple may have served as living quarters for the crews of light cruisers stationed in the harbor. The stone pier that now appears along the lagoon is from that time. In conjunction with the watchtowers on the hilltops, Nas may have had some importance in the wars against the Saracens of Crete who had also taken the Cyclades.
Until one day, probably after the 11th century, due partly to the silting of the river and partly to the gradual elevation of the sea floor, the «fjord» of Nas began to close. The pier became too high, while the harbor became too shallow, filling up with stones, silt and sand. However, it seems that in the so-called «Age of Aphaneia» (15th-16th century), the current beach hadn’t formed yet and Nas could still be used as an anchorage. Those were times of piracy, so the Ikarians, in order to prevent Nas from becoming a pirate den, dropped rocks and tree trunks and blocked the entrance of the port. Now, the port was also the outlet of the river to the sea, so as the little bay was closing, the river flooded the area during the winter. It was probably during a tremendous flash flood that the waters knocked down the southern (internal) corner of the pier. The river must have swept across the platform and shaken the temple from the foundations. Oral tradition preserved the memory of such violent floods which occurred after the people of Raches deforested the slopes of the gorge to make charcoal in the 19th century.
The end of the temple
The same oral tradition, however, said that despite the floods, the temple was in good condition (“with columns, statues and walls over a man’s height”) until the 1840s. German archaeologist Ludwig Ross who was investigating antiquities in the Aegean, visited Ikaria in 1842. He had read the ancient authors and he was hoping to find a temple. There was none on the southern side, so he decided to travel to the northern part. But a meltemi gale prevented him from making the round of the island by boat. He was advised to cross the mountain Atheras on foot, but again he could not find pack animals. What bad luck!
If Ross had been to Mesariá or Raches, he would surely have learned about the temple of Nas. He would have visited the site and given us a full and accurate description. Ross’s presence would perhaps have even managed to prevent the damage done to the temple only a few years after his visit. The villagers of Raches, while building the church of Christ, facing a lack of lime and probably encouraged by ignorant, fanatic clergymen, demolished the temple. They got what marble parts they needed for the church and melted the rest in a limekiln. The worst loss was the statues. Later settlers from Asia Minor were shocked to hear about the incident. They asked the locals why they hadn’t at least spared the statues. The locals replied that the leaders of the destruction were saying: «You do not see how they look at you? On whichever side you go, they look at you. They are demons!«
The details of the crime were unveiled to Leon Politis a century later. In 1938 in Nas this famous Greek archaeologist found no temple, not even ruins, except the limekiln and piles of burnt chips of marble. Despite his disappointment, however, Politis conducted an exemplary excavation. In a few days he digs, he identifies, he dates and collects findings. And finally confirms that Nas was the site of the temple of the Icarian Artemis mentioned by ancient sources. He was planning to return, so he left the findings of the excavation in Raches. This never happened because of the war that broke out few years later. Some of the findings were stolen by the Italians during the occupation, however, the most important ones were saved and are now exhibited in the museum of Kampos. This beautiful small museum, built with little money from America and lots of personal work by the residents, washed perhaps part of the shame for demolishing the temple of Nas.
Are there still antiquities?
If there is anything, it will be in the sea. But what shape will it be in? I was a kid in Armenistis in the summer of 1967 when, after a big storm, word spread from nearby Nas that a statue was seen in the bottom of the small bay. An American archaeologist who was on holiday in Raches, was told about the discovery. He was excited and he took up to organize the haul. Eventually the divers hoisted into the boat the headless statue of an Ionian Kore in the typical robe with the beautiful folds. The Kore can be seen now in the Museum of Campos, more or less looking the same as on the day of the haul: hopelessly eroded by the sea and the friction with gravel and sand. Based on this, my father believed that if anything else was found in the bottom of Nas, would be in a similar condition, that is, almost shapeless.
The archaeological importance of Nas
Tourists wonder. An archaeological site without antiquities? Not even a fragment, a column or a column capital? Seen from above the pier of the old harbor is no different from the dry stone walls of the terraces, and the blocks of brown stone on which the temple once stood, look like steps to nowhere –without meaning. There is nothing to see, yet the tourists climb down to the site and most of them return quite satisfied. Why?
It is the landscape. Which, thanks to the timely proclamation of the archaeological zone, remained almost intact, with no buildings, no roads, looking much like it was in ancient times. It is the canyon, wild and precipitous, and the bay, wild too, yet one feels something of the warm welcome the Karians felt thousands of years ago and they chose to settle. The landscape that inspired the Ionians to dedicate to a great goddess who they honored with a temple. The archaeological importance of Nas lies in the morphological characteristics, the very ones the ancients, with their unmistakable judgment, detected and utilized in the best of ways. The magic and the sanctity of the site wasn’t due to the temple. On the contrary, the temple was a subsequence of the magic and the sanctity of the site. Thereat, even though the temple vanished, even though the statues melted, the magic and the sanctity remained. Nas is an «ancient landscape» surviving in our day.