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Music

Musician Eleftherios Samartzidis Talks to TNH about Traditional Greek Music

March 3, 2020

NEW YORK – Eleftherios Samartzidis shares his love and dedication to Greek traditional music every time he performs on keyboards. A member since 2012 of the renowned Greek-American band Power Station which performs all the best-known traditional Greek music for all occasions, Samartzidis spoke to The National Herald about his life and music.

Originally from Serres, he told TNH that he studied music with the best teachers there and has performed on keyboards in concerts, events, and venues throughout Greece, especially in Thessaloniki and the cities of northern Greece, but also in Crete and Rhodes. In his career, he has performed with many well-known artists in Greece, including Kourkoulis, Karras, and Melas, among others.

With roots in Pontus, Samartzidis has also performed with many Pontian artists and for the Pontian Association and its dance group, but noted that he plays all the types of regional Greek music, from Thrace all the way to the islands, nisiotika, that are part of traditional Greek folk music.

He told TNH that he appreciates all music, especially, of course, Greek music, “I don’t deny that I love Greek music, traditional music, it’s our culture, legacy, and our history, but I also listen to jazz and other types of music.”

When asked about the Greek composers that he admires or who have influenced him and his work, Samartzidis said, “Polykandriotis, Nikolopoulos, and going further back, Vamvakaris and too many others to mention, but the source for all is traditional music.” Samartzidis noted that Greece has such a varied and rich musical tradition and history that should be honored much more as it is such an important part of the culture of Greece. He pointed out, for example, that the legendary Stelios Kazantzidis who is known worldwide and beloved across cultures for his music should be honored much more or at least in a more profound way in the homeland. “Even in the simplest way to give an honor, not with millions of dollars, but we don’t do it. I don’t know why,” Samartzidis said, adding that “when you lose tradition, you lose your roots, if you lose your roots, if you forget where you came from, where you are going, you become a victim of circumstance, you lose your identity. Music and tradition are part of our identity.”

When asked about the current state of Greek music in the diaspora, he told TNH that the Greeks living abroad are often more dedicated to traditional Greek music than the Greeks in the homeland, as they should be, since they are so far from home, the music is a vital part of continuing to uphold the unique traditions and customs of Greece. Samartzidis noted especially how different wedding traditions are from one culture to another and how essential music is to the traditional Greek wedding, making it such a special and memorable, cultural event.

When asked if any of his family members are also musical, Samartzidis told TNH that no, but the only member of his family who was also musical was his namesake great-uncle, his paternal grandfather’s brother Eleftherios, who was “saved” by his music when the family fled from Asia Minor. During the population exchange, on the journey to the port, Barba [Uncle] Lefteris had been captured by the Turks and jailed along with his brothers and others, and would likely have been killed. As a last request, Uncle Lefteris wanted to play his music. He played oud and saz. The people had gathered in the square to hear the music and it was the public, the Turkish people in that particular village that saved his life because he played so well, they let him go.

Of upcoming performances, Samartzidis said that once a month, he and the band perform at the Greek Night at Platia Greek Kitchen in Syosset, as they did for years at Central Next Door in Astoria, and of course, Power Station performs at weddings and christenings practically all year round.

More information is available online: https://powerstationentertainment.com.

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