- 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:
WTF is this word? 😵 ❓ ❓
According to YourDictionary: Oasification
«The process of restoring water, soil, and plant life to an environment that has been degraded by soil erosion.»
According to the Wikipedia: Oasification
«In hydrology, oasification is the antonym to desertification by soil erosion. This technique has limited application and is normally considered for much smaller areas than those threatened by desertification.»
«To help the oasification process, engineers aim to develop a thriving dense woody plant cover to redress the hydrological, edaphic and botanical degradation affecting a slope.»
According to writer F. R. Chateaubriand: Oasification
«Forest precedes Man and desert follows him. Thus has ocurred with many civilizations that we know, settled in arid and semiarid territories. However, desertification is not an irreversible and hopeless process. In this new millenium we must be able to find the solutions to the problems that we generate. Against desertification: Oasification!»
According to the declaration of the three Ikarian Associations mentionned
at the end of my previous article «The little house in the desert»
«Besides that, again with our voluntary work, we intend to fence an area of at least 8.000 square meters around the shelter in order to protect it from the goats. This way, we will allow at least a small part of the overgrazed, eroded and almost desertified mountain plateau to grow green again like it was in the past.»
«Among the benefits resulting from this [project will be] the awakening of the local community concerning the desertification of the mountain volume of Ikaria through creating a visitable framed green space where endemic species will grow. This way, it will be proven in practice that this phenomenon and its disastrous effects (flashfloods, landslides, impoverishment of the soil) is not a natural, inevitable process but something that started for specific reasons [only] few decades ago and therefore, there is a way to stop it.»
«But most of all, what we want to do is to show with a project of our own -no matter its smallness- the great love we feel for our mountain, its freedom and its wild beauty.»
Well, they’ve done it!!!! Against all odds (bureaucracy, indifference, fatalism, pessimism and hostile goat barons) on Sunday, September 24, more than 40 young local people gathered on the mountain and after several hours of hard work, they secured an area of 8.000 square meters around the old mountain shelter on Ammoudia plateau with a long line of welded wire mesh panels.
They ‘ve done it! Look at them at work! You can tell from the pictures which are all first quality, the feelings of joy and fulfillment shared by the participants. I am so glad I’ve helped in my own small way to this project. If things go well -and I have every reason to thnk they will- in less than 3 years, instead of that depressive, although sometimes also impressive, goat desert, we will have an oasis!
Notice: The gallery above is made up of 56 pictures I discovered in three posts at the OPS Ikarias Google+ page. They redirected me to three of their facebook posts: the first one, containing 12 pictures taken by my friend Angelos, the second and the third one containing a total of 44 pictures, taken by our friends from Italy, Paola and Ivo, founders of the association «Η ‘δική μας’ Ικαρία».
All pictures © OPSIkarias & DikimasIkaria 2017
For the title of this article I am gratedul to
who looked up the meaning of the term «oasification» for me and
suggested that it would be more appropriate to describe the project
of fencing instead of the akward «fencing against desertification»
which wouldn’t make much sense to a reader who is not familiar
with our strange island and its strange problems.
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
On the wuthering heights of mount Atheraς in the center of a sandy plateau surrounded by windswept round boulders lies a tiny cube-like building with a chimney on its flat roof. This is «To Spitaki tis Mamis» (the little house of the midwife), or «Saint Panteleimon Mountain Refuge», as the marble plate in the wall next to the door says. Built by a kind woman in 1960 for the benefit of all mountain walkers, Spitaki tis Mamis, despite its miniature size, is a mountain shelter properly speaking, not associated to a church or mountain chapel, as it is usual in Greece, but built hiking-wise at important crossroads in a location where a hiker cannot possibly miss. This makes Spitaki tis Mamis, if not the oldest, undoubtedly one of the oldest mountain shelters in the Aegean islands. With my own ears I have heard about the lives it has saved through the years. On the chimney there was a fog bell to guide lost souls in the mountain and inside, as if by a magic hand, it was always provided with firewood, cooking pots, lamps and lamp oil, coffee, sugar, rice etc.
It was a place that wrote history.
However and in spite of all that, in the course of events and new road building in the 1990s Spitaki tis Mamis was forgotten and fell in oblivion. As a result, today -57 years after it was built- it’s in very bad shape: cracked walls, no door and window and a roof almost ready to fall in.
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Last month, answering to a request made by several local associations, Spitaki tis Mamis was declared by the Town Council as a cultural monument – standing reminder of the times when there were no roads and cars in Ikaria and the only way to travel from one part of the island to another was by walking long hours across uninhabited, mountainous landscapes in rain, snow or fog. Following this desicion, the Town Council granted permission to the interested parts to repair the old shelter and adapt it to modern needs. As they said, that would be done on the own expences and voluntary work without help from either central or local government…
Volunteers going to work in the wilderness on dream project…?
Oops! I know that! I must help!
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Dear readers, the purpose of this article is to advertise the aforementioned project and call for funding and support. To do so I can’t find a better way than to show you a set of 16 photos taken many years ago on a hike along half the length of the mountain ridge. That great, mind and soul filling, two-day trip would not have been possible if Spitaki tis Mamis didn’t exist.
In the middle of that desert of rocks, sands, ferns and srubs, although abandonned and broken, it was still there marking the way, connecting the present with the past. It still said «Hello, I am here for you». I want it to be repaired. If not for any other reason, because of an experience I will never forget. Many years ago when I was single and young, while lying in my sleeping bag on its old cracked concrete roof, still warm from the sun, I gazed at the biggest and brightest summer night sky I’ve seen in my life!
……… The pictures
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
That was all from me for now. You can read the official account of the project at this link. For donations, as well as for extra hands, you may write to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com. I will keep you up to date for further developments.
Follow me up!
Eleni Ik ❤
Saturday, June 6, 2017
- νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλήν σου, ἐν εἰρήνῃ·
- ὅτι εἶδον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου. …
Why am I chanting the Canticle of Symeon? Why am I feeling so relieved? 😀
Because I who dropped from the sky in the beginning of winter of 2006 and discovered, among many other things, the amazing wealth of the mountainous hinterland of Ikaria and since then never stopped talking about it, insisting against the walls of indifference and ignorance, fighting against the dogma that the mountains are good only for rubbish dumps, free-grazing goats and perhaps several dozens of gigantic turbines on top of them all, I finally lived to witness the revolution. Two years ago when Angelos announced the closing of the trail network because of lack of support, I wished so hard that something happened and things took a different course. And there it was! The people of Ikaria are taking things in their hands! The news appeared in the Ikarian e-magazine ikariamag last week in an article under the title «How Ikaria… takes the mountains!». I found that was worth translating and blogging about it. Though I know it may seem to you a rather dry account of events strewn with place names that make no sense, yet to my ears it was music.
Most of the photos in this entry came to me through my spies in facebook from the groups: a) Ορειβάτες Πεζοπόροι Ικαρίας, b) Καθαρίζω την Ικαρία, and c) Αυτόνομη Συσπείρωση Πολιτών Ικαρίας. The links open to pictures in Flickr.
How Ikaria… takes the mountains!
Eventually, as time goes by, the mountains of Ikaria cease to be considered inaccessible and they reveal their greatness more often. Thanks to the initial longtime effort of a few stubborn dreamers, more and more local people are discovering their beauty, while more experienced hikers do bolder things or create new routes. Finally, last weekend the action came to a peak. The map below shows the trails followed, cleaned or traced by four different groups of people who were active in our mountains during these two days.
In red color we have marked the progress of the first group of local hikers who started from Agios Dimitrios in Pounta on Saturday afternoon. After they crossed Zizokampos and Erifi, they came to Agios Isidoros from where they took the trail to Karkinagri. Once at the shore, they spent the night in the cove of Kalou near Trapalou. On Sunday morning they took the old broken-down dirt road along the coast and finally reached Manganitis.
In pink color you can see the long route from Cape Papas to Cape Drakanon taken by a group of people from Rahes who since long are dedicating their Saturdays to hiking. Most of them aren’t young anymore, yet their physical condition is so good that they decided to perform the crossing of the entire Ikarian ridge within two days. They spent the night in Ai-Stathis and on Sunday afternoon they reached Drakanon where they put out their weariness in the shallow and warm waters of the cove of Ai Giorgis. Another pleasant surprise there.
In the same area, earlier that morning, residents of Faros village and several volunteers had taken up to clean and repair the trail that had been abandoned for years, leading to the church of Ai Giorgis and the beach further below. The operation included picking up and carrying the garbage from the coast. Meanwhile signboards are being prepared for the wider area of Faros which stays without signage for years. These signs will be painted by the students of the elementary school.
In blue color is shown the most difficult part of an ambitious project taken up by the Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club of Ikaria. On Sunday they visited the area of Ryakas searching inside this impressive tubular canyon for a way out on a trail to Selini and Agios Theologos in Geli close to the mountain tops. They had already made their preparation, they achieved what they wanted and in a short while they will be ready to announce the crossing of Ikaria widthwise from south to north. When this is completed, hikers will be able to admire one after the other the two most beautuful canyons of the island, Chalares and Ryakas, on a single hike from Nas to Manganitis.
In green is shown the old traditional lane from Xylosirtis to Kampa which was closed and covered with vegetation for ages. At the initiative of the municipal party «Aftonomi Syspeirossi Politon Ikarias» and the participation of several villagers the difficult job to clean this lane started on Sunday. With other similar projects running at the same time in different parts of the island, baring unforseen, the beautiful lane from Xylosirtis to Kampa will be ready within a month.
The article ends there, but the action keeps on. It seems that there is always a new thing of this kind going on in Ikaria every weekend. If you are interested, get in touch with the right people and get involved. The best is that these actions are not sponsored by coorporates or funded by either the local or the central government. These actions happen and they will go on happening because the people want to take over their mountains! They want to work together to do something, no matter how small this may be, for the good of the island and for their own good as well. As the slogan in one of the pictures says,
«None of us can do everything, yet each of us can do a small thing. All of us put together can do many things.»
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A Love Story
An Adventure Film
An Initiative of Volunteers
«…and the river -come on, red-haired wife of the priest-
and the river was muddy and the river was muddy,
muddy and turbid, dragging boulders –come on, red-haired wife of the priest-,
dragging boulders off their roots, dragging boulders off their roots,
trees that have been uprooted, dragging a -come on, red-haired wife of the priest-,
dragging a sweet apple tree, dragging a sweet apple tree,
loaded with black plastic pipes!»
(old Greek folk song)
[On October 18, 2010 torrential rainfalls hit the western side of Ikaria island causing an unprecedented flushflood which destroyed the vegetation and leveled the rivedbed of the most beautiful mountain ravine of the river Chalares, commonly known as «the river of Nas». Besides that, if not the worst, at least the ugliest result of the flood was the hundreds of pieces of broken plastic pipes used for irrigation purposes, piled up and tangled in every part of the ravine. So, the following spring a team of volunteers responded to the call of the local Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club (OPS Ikarias) to remove all that trash from the river and let nature heal its wounds as nature knows best. The text below is the chronicle of that huge volunteer project. It was written day after day with a lot of emotion so it’s sometimes difficult to understand. But I hope the photos will help.]
Day 1: Beginning of December, three from the board of the Mountain Club of Ikaria and other two friends we go to Chalares to see the devastation after the terrible flash flood of October. Shock. A new unknown landscape. Without plane trees, caves, waterfalls, pools. Barren, even river, broad, with a lot of water. And with a lot of light. Merciless, ample sunlight, without shade anywhere. In this light pieces of plastic pipes are seen everywhere –thousands of meters of black pipes of water intake that the river carried and broke. Pipes that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and yet they were; cut in pieces, fortunes wasted, reduced to trash. Nobody was aware that they were so many. We are thinking: we can’t remake the old river, we can’t eliminate the reasons that led to the doom. But we can remove the trash pipes. “But it’s not our business”, “But it will be hard”, “What are we going to do with them?”, “They ‘ll say they needed them. We will get in trouble”. But something like a tantrum has taken over us. We must do something. Let’s do this. Let it be like a gesture. Pick up the trash. For reasons of honor.
on facebook 😉
From that moment on we call ourselves “Initiative of Volunteers”. Write a petition, collect signatures, apply to the Municipality of Ikaria, step somewhat absurd (“please, let us pick up the trash”). Yet necessary. Responsibility, awareness, reliability, honor. Permission from the Council is granted, a “committee of inhabitants of Nas” supports us, we go for dates and finally the… ANNOUNCEMENT!
on facebook 😉
Good Thursday. K. is expecting a lot of volunteers. He has taken the hubbub on the internet for cash. A. is worried about the weather, the swollen waters, the bad shape of the trail into the gorge. G. is off to Athens. L. shows up smiling with his dog K. -mascot of every dangerous mission- who ‘s smiling too. Early at the rendezvous on the bridge there is a car, we think they are volunteers; no, they were night owls, stopped for some sleep. We meet D. who we until then knew only on the net. Orange overalls “Greek Speleological Society”. We meet K. who we knew not, yet we knew her dog V.! K. is wearing a long raincoat, hood and rubber boots to the knee. Weather rainy, north wind, the river in hissing. G. is in K.’s restaurant in Nas, making sandwiches. E. has sent 150 € for provisions, she hasn’t come herself though. There are not enough hands. We are desperately few. Embarrasment. A., K., L. and D. start picking and bundling pieces of pipes. Suddenly, bam!, the “foreign factor” turns up (“Kalimera!”) -S., J. and little R. from England. Raincoats, leather boots, woolen caps.
But we still are too few. A. exhausted (“What are we doing here?”). Little R. asks her mother who is struggling with the pipes, “Mummy, what do normal people do in their holidays?” We laugh. Young D. rides by. She’s studying for exams and she’s taken a break. “Grab a saw, go in” We take a good look at the river, the part that we have cleaned. It’s a river without trash pipes. A river that we had never seen so clean before -even in its best. OK then. We are doing a good job.
Hours later at lunch at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 2.
on facebook 😉
Day 3: Good Friday. The Longest Day of the War. Super-Production. Highlights : ◙ Two volunteers from Athens! ◙ We lost the cook! ◙ A young Greek American with family origins from Ikaria joined us. He was in the Navy Seals. He and his girlfriend ripped to work! ◙ V. showed up late, already noon, yet she brought with her a platoon of 3 men; they all fought very bravely. ◙ Even later came E. (sent by M.) who, however, helped incredibly a lot (honoring the arms of Messaria) with the pipes in the hardest part of the river at the hardest hour of the day. ◙ Volunteer G. (honoring the arms of Rahes) was carrying heavy bundles of pipes two by two. ◙ A., D. and K. who tied the bundles with wire, grew calluses in their hands. ◙ At a certain moment old man V. from Kato Raches who was also picking up pipes and repairing his own, shouted to the team. Though he was only asking to save for him a piece that he needed, his yells alarmed the English. “I think we have a political issue in there…”, they said as they were leaving. ◙ On their way back to Nas they run across a rare toad and take a photo! ◙ Except broken pipes, the only pieces of trash that we found in the canyon were a car tire, a tent pole and… a bra!
Hours later at lunch at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 3.
on facebook 😉
Day 4: Wednesday after Easter. Ungrateful, heavy carrying. Dirty weather. We are very few. K. is already working in the field, unruffled in the rain, she is carrying up bundles from the large Angels’ pool. She loves that place. She wants it to be clean. We are impelled and we get busy. K. is throwing bundles to young K. from one side of the turbulent river to the other. Young K. has freaked out yet manages to grab and carry the bundles. But Ch., a newcomer, ran away as soon as he saw what we were doing. We didn’t see him again. A.’s camera freaks out too, and it jams.
Hours later over coffee at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 4.
on facebook 😉
Day 5: Sunday. We are nobody! G. comes by K.’s place, he finds A., then the other G. comes by, they have coffee, they recruit two tourists and later they find another two, they all go to work, and… miracle of miracles, magic power of casualness…
the job is done!!! 🙂
Request: Just now the river is (almost) clean of trash to the beach of Nas. No other pipes must be cut and removed by anybody under pretext that “they are trash” or that “they are illegal”. The pipes that remain in the river are functional. They carry water to the farms and the village of Nas, therefore, until the area is properly connected to the public network, they must be respected. Any damage to them, will cause trouble. To anybody who would like to help the nature of the river to reborn faster, we suggest planting olianders, local river plants that are found everywhere and can be planted easily any time of they year. Also, the goats don’t like them and they don’t eat them. Thank you very much.
For the volunteers