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  • "Ta Kritika", the book cover"Ta Kritika", the book cover

Jordi Alsina Iglesias

From Argentona of Catalonia to Crete. A social anthropologist is impressed by the ‘phenomenon’ of Cretan music, writes his phd thesis for the University of Barcelona and publishes a book about ‘kritika’, the word commonly used to refer to Cretan music. And in this way, the tradition of Cretan music travels to his homeland, Catalonia, and the whole Iberian Peninsula…

A Catalan writes about ‘Kritika’

Why did you decide to study Cretan music? What motivated you?

Because when I compare it to Catalan traditional music, Cretan music is everywhere. Here there are specialized magazines and radio stations, festivals…exclusively for Cretan music! This is why I wanted to study it, to understand why this is happening. In essence, I wanted to address this question: what is the role and utility of Cretan music within society?

How difficult was it to write a book about Cretan music?

This book is more or less my master’s thesis for the University of Barcelona and the department of Social Anthropology and Ethnography, where I graduated 2 years ago. You need patience to write, above all, and the right methodology in my opinion. I had fun writing this book, I conducted 27 interviews with very interesting people, I attended many festivals, I listened to a lot of ‘kritika’ and I read many books.

Talk to us about the book. Which ‘chapters’ of Cretan music does it cover?

As I said before, I am more interested to investigate the role of Cretan music in society. As an anthropologist, I am more interested in music as a culture, as defined in the field of anthropology. The book presents an ethnographic approach of this music phenomenon on the island and an attempt to explore practices and perceptions related (ενσωματώνονται) to ‘kritika’.

The book was presented in Barcelona and Mataró, as well as at the national radio of Spain. How people received your work?

The presentation went very well. First in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, and then in Mataró, the national Spanish radio and in two more radio stations. I am happy, because I saw people were interested in my work. Few people know about Cretan music in Spain. I think Cretan music should travel outside Greek borders.

I believe that Psarantonis is one of the greatest musicians of our time, the “Jimmy Hendrix” of Cretan music.

Are there similarities between Cretan music and the music of Catalonia and Spain?

First of all, I am not a musicologist. I might have some music education, however I am not an expert in order to explain differences and similarities between the music of Catalonia or other regions of the Iberian peninsula and kritika. But I am sure there are differences!

From your experience, coming from a different culture, how ‘easy’ is it to listen to Cretan music?

From my experience, it depends on the piece of music. It is not the same thing to listen to rizitika (songs typical in western Crete, without instrumental accompaniment) for the first time, or a slow musical composition of Psarantonis. One thing is for sure, for me Cretan music was different from any other type of music I have listened to so far.

Who are your favourite Cretan artists – old and new- and why you distinguish them?

I like a lot Foustalieris, the way he played Bulgari. It is a very special musical instrument, and the way it sounded in his hands is hard to find anywhere else. On the other hand, I believe that Psarantonis is one of the most important musicians of our time, the “Jimmy Hendrix” of the Cretan music scene.

Which is your favourite Cretan dance – rhythm?

I like the rhythm changes, for example, when a siganos dance changes and becomes pentozalis. But my favorite dance is syrtos

Tell us something about Cretan music (an incident or information) that even the average Cretan wouldn’t know!

I wouldn’t know, because I everything I know I learned it from you. But I can tell you the three things I found out and surprised me. First, that the well-known syrtaki dance is a melody initially written by Giorgos Koutsourelis. Second, that there was a period after the civil war when violin playing was prohibited due to ideological reasons. And finally, that in the old times, about 60 years ago, traditional celebrations did not include only Cretan music. People danced tango, fox ect.

What’s next in your plans? Should we expect a Greek edition of your book?

My next plan is to study how a society –the Cretan one- is expressed through the lyrics of traditional music. As for the Greek edition, I hope it will be published, but I first need to find a publishing company.