Antonis Xylouris (Psarantonis)
In the stony landscape of the legendary Anogeia, in Crete that became even more cruel and naked by the fires of World War II, Antonis Xylouris (Psarantonis) came to the world in 1942, destined to become a living legend of music, enriching the cretan, mediterranean and world music with unprecedented sounds, with exquisite musics and incomparable and unique performances.
"My influences come from the sounds I heard since a young age and I was getting those within myself in my own way..."
He is a self-taught lyra player who played for the first time for a marriage, at his 13 and quickly gained fame playing at parties and festivals in Crete.
"Inspiration, my child, is the nature. Let us take only the good from what we live..."
He entered the music industry in 1964 with a 45 rpm record while his first full length album was released in 1973. He was discovered from abroad in 1980 and he received successive invitations to major festivals in Europe, America and Australia.
"The cry of gods" - At the most important festivals of contemporary music they preface the great lyra player - representative of the generation of Xylouris, with such words.
* In 1982, he gets invited at the WDR Folkfestival, in Cologne (Germany) where he was awarded the first prize by an international panel of experts.
* In 1985, he represents Europe at The Journées des Cinq Continents (Meeting of The Five Continents), in Zurich (Switzerland) and in Amsterdam (The Netherlands).
* In 2005, he was asked to participate in the events for the celebration of 20 years of the World Music Institute, in Manhattan, New York (USA).
* In 2007, he was invited to take part at All Tomorrow's Parties festival, in Minehead (England).
* In 2009, he was invited again at All Tomorrow's Parties, held in Sydney and Melbourne (Australia), curated by Nick Cave with The Bad Seeds and Dirty Three.
Psarantonis' lyra is exposed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona (USA) where a video is also displayed with Psarantonis playing his lyra.
In Greece, among the first who discovered him, was Manos Hadjidakis who adopted a special prize for "a strong and unique musical personality who plays a lyra, called Psarantonis" and awarded him as "The First Lyra Player of Greece" during Mousikos Augoustos, held in 1979, at Anogeia.
In Psarantonis' music lives the mythology of ancient Crete. Whether talking about Zeus or the construction of the first lyra by the mythical shepherd Chantiperas or Kourites or expressing with his lyra what he feels like a living legend in his homeland, Psarantonis validate with his physical presence, the art of the ancient myths of Crete. Psarantonis animates myths not only by utilizing his skills but also with his faith in them as he is approaching them "with thought and dream", believing in their current existence and energy.
The vertical, sharp bowing brings in mind the steep slopes and peaks of the mountains of Crete. Through the lyrical whisper of his lyra, emerges "sweetness" by the murmur of tiny bells (koutsounaria), the singing of birds and the sound of the shepherds' pipes, at Psiloreitis. In the music of Psarantonis one may sometimes listen running waters trickling, sometimes lonely trees that get hit by strong wind and sometimes "the drone that the land and the air produce and roars" like Kornaros said. And yet, there are moments when his sudden bowing drags you to the edge of the cliff: "Where times come together, where they meet". And where possible, if you hear the second and third layer of music, you may witness the "great goat", as Aggelos Sikelianos witnessed him, "up and standing" on a rock above the madding open sea...
Young and ancient at the same time, Psarantonis has the powers of a Rhapsodist and with the unbeatable boldness in improvisation he manages to create the atmosphere of awe, agitation and shivering, like the great musicians of jazz music. Deep knower and real devotee of tradition but also undisciplined by his nature and restless, always surprising and apocalyptic, Psarantonis today is regarded as the dashing but also thoughtful innovator of tradition - a living essence of primitive and modern musical narratives.