Giorgos Zoumbas – “Stin Agkalia sou Pare Me”

By Sotiris Bekas

The Zoumbas family became widely known through references made by the American ethnomusicologist, record collector, and author, Christopher King, in his book “Epirus Lament.” There is a special mention of Alexis Zoumbas‘ lament (Mississippi Records, New York) and how King discovered this very rare and valuable recording. The story of Alexis Zoumbas, a virtuoso violinist, moved and was discussed alongside the book’s release by King. However, what may be less known to those who do not live in or do not trace their origins to Epirus is that Alexis Zoumbas was one of the first links in the “chain” and musical tradition built by the Zoumbas family from the Grammos region throughout the past century, a tradition that continues to the present generation.

Perhaps the most distinguished—among equals—musicians of the family are Napoleon Zoumbas (clarinet) and Christodoulos Zoumbas (lute, composer, and record producer), who have left their mark with their performances on Epirus music albums considered classics. Both are very accomplished musicians who managed to leave a vast body of work, with their sound being recognizable.

Giorgos Zoumbas

The reason for this brief retrospective on the family’s history was given to us a few days ago when one of the representatives of the younger generation, Giorgos Zoumbas (musician, composer, and lyricist), published a song online that he wrote himself (lyrics and music) and is performed by his brother, Makis Zoumbas (singer). This song is titled “Stin Agkalia sou Pare Me,” (Take Me in Your Arms) and it features a number of very noteworthy elements. The orchestration relies on a piano in the introduction, which blends beautifully with the classic instruments of an Epirus ensemble (clarinet, violin, lute, percussion) and continues with the theme of a song whose melodic line and lyrics are very difficult to distinguish from classic Epirus songs. It is no exaggeration to say that “Stin Agkalia sou Pare Me” could already be a folk song if it had been written at a time when creators were not credited, answering the question often posed: “Can a folk song be written in our days?” The answer lies in understanding, assimilating, and creatively using those elements offered by systematic study and interpretation of this music, while locality brings experiential experience as another critical asset for someone aspiring to do something similar. However, what usually makes the difference is the appropriate aesthetic approach, so that the essence of this music is maintained, the emotion and musical color are not distorted, and it is rendered with dignity, even if creative experiments are attempted. This particular recording contains most—if not all—of the above elements, and upon further listening, one can see exactly this musical continuity carried by a musician who is fortunate to have such valuable information available in his daily life from a young age, due to his family.

Giorgos Zoumbas began studying traditional percussion at the age of 8 at a conservatory in Ioannina, following the example of his father (Thomas) and his uncle (Christodoulos). His teacher was also musician Kostas Dimitriou, while for the Epirus tambourine, he took lessons from Giorgos Simos, a well-known musician of Epirus music. Nevertheless, he embraces other influences besides Epirus music, such as Manos Hadjidakis, Stavros Xarhakos, Antonis Vardis, Antonis Apergis, Giorgos Dalaras, and Kostas Hatzis. He also admires musicians like Duke Ellington (top jazz pianist and composer), drummer Steve Gadd, and Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea, one of the best jazz pianists.

Among musicians of domestic folk music, Giorgos Zoumbas highlights (among others) Manos Achalinotopoulos, Alexandros Arkadopoulos, Lefteris Zervas, Tassia Verra, Giannis Konstantinou, Pagona Athanasiou, Stathis Koukoulari, and Evgenia Verra.

Regarding his involvement in songwriting, his uncle Christodoulos Zoumbas was the example that led him to write his own songs and oversee recording projects. Thus, a year ago, in 2023, he released his first song titled “Colors and Scents” (FM records), and now it is time for “Stin Agkalia sou Pare Me.”


Giorgos Zoumbas spoke about this work to and explained that “Listening to new releases in the discography, what I missed was an Epirus song with lyrics about love and a melody that would refer to older, classic Epirus songs, such as ‘Halasia mou’ or ‘Magia mou ‘heis kamomena’. After much thought, I managed to fulfill this desire. I do not consider myself a composer or lyricist because great qualities, much knowledge, effort, and dedication are needed to earn that title.

He also refers to the dual (family and professional) relationship he has with his brother, singer Makis Zoumbas: “I am 10 years older than Makis, and life brought it so that we lost our father at a young age. However, we always stood together in difficult times. The musical journey is what gives us life and strength to continue the work we received from our family, adding our own elements and aesthetics, so we can also pass on what we received. After all, the word tradition has that meaning.

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