Tassos Chalkias – The Top of Epirus

Tasos Chalkias is one of the most important musicians in the history of Greek folk music. He was born in Granitsopoula Ioannina in 1914. Member of the family of Chalkiades with a history of 150 years, Tassos Chalkias grew up in Despotiko of Epirus, in a home where the music never stopped. He was still a little boy, he had barely finished elementary school when a Roma passed by his house. “He had a clarinet that was dyed, with what looked like tar on, torn, and with its keys polished with sandpaper”. His mother gave the Roma after the excessive pressure of her son “six goats to take it”. And the Roma “gave us a trashed clarinet that was no good”. And that was the start for the young musician from Epirus. “It was my toy” Tassos Chalkias says “and even more. It was my love. I kept it in my arms. Under my armpit. I played without playing”


Until he started taking lessons from his cousin Manthos and his brother Mitsos Chalkias. At 17 he realised that he was able to “work” the clarinet well and so started to appear with his brothers. That was when he and his brothers Mitsos, Fotis, and Kiriakos formed the group “The blackbirds”. In the 50’s Tasos Chalkias records, for the first time, in Columbia Records. Then followed recordings for the Folklore Archives of the Academy of Athens and trips abroad to Cairo, Alexandria, and New York. And that’s where the well-known incident with Benny Goodman took place. It was in the night club “Ali Baba” in New York where he was working in 1962, and where the great American Jazz musician went to meet in person with the musician who could play for him a miroloi for the needs of the film “Andy” by Richard Sarafian. “I’ll play, I said“, Chalkias recounts, “But because they had informed me about how great a musician that man was, I first went over to the bar and had 2 or 3 shots of whiskey”. Then I got on stage, took my clarinet, and played the miroloi of ksenitia. As soon as I had finished the miroloi, he came close, got on the stage, and asked ”Do you read notes?”, “I don’t read notes, sir”, Chalkias said, “and yet you pass all these things in this instrument? If it were me, without reading, I would never make it.” Benny Goodman told Chalkias. 


Restless as he was in ’66 he founded the record company “Special Music” which was in business for ten years. As a composer, he wrote many songs, the most famous of which are “Ipirotikos Gamos”, “Den mporo manoula den mporo”, “Vorioipirotiko miroloi” “Mi me kitas pou gerasa” and many more. He also worked with Dionysis Savopoulos, Giannis Markopoulos, Christos Leontis, with the Theatre of Art, the National Theatre of Northern Greece, and participated in many festivals abroad. Tasos Chalkias the most expressive soloist, composer, and lyrics writer passed away with one grievance. That the State never recognized his value. “They used to tell him that he should have been a classical music composer and disregarded the fact that he was a successful folklore composer and also one of the best performers of the genre. His son Lakis Chalkias recalls that one of his best moments was when he did a memorial for the deceased and beloved colleagues of his who had passed and no one had ever commemorated. He was quite moved, because on that day a lot of musicians had come, as well as his folklore instrument players colleagues, a lot of intellectuals but also a lot of friends. “He told me: My son, today was the best funeral they could ever do for me. Because I saw all my old friends. I don’t care if I die now, it’s not that important. They acknowledged me…”

  Source www.wikipedia.org www.lakischalkias.com
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