by Carmen Russo
(Photo Jack Cowles and Marien Cuesta Garcia)
“If even Hyppocrates said that the music is the cure for diseases, why right us, the Greeks, should not play everywhere and always?". This is the question of Alexandros, the 23 year-old street guitarist, born and raised in Thessaloniki. Alexandros is one of the many musicians who came together to protest Sunday, Dec 11th on the long promenade of the capital city of Macedonia.
The idea to come together to play all the known instruments is the result of recent events, which have seen fined and arrested some street artists simply because they there exercising their art in the open air. After that meetings on Facebook followed and the protest took place. The political party United People Front decided to support the event: "We are deprived of the opportunity to be free”. Say the party’s representatives Athanasia Petsa and Antonis Sapountzis. “This is a very aggressive policy towards the artists, it's like they were taking away our rights. In this very bad moment of crisis do street music is a way to survive for someone. During this protest we do not force people to pay for what they hear, but they are free to finance these musicians".
So it was, in fact, a lot of people in a warm, sunny December day on the waterfront, with the blue sea as a backdrop to trumpets, guitars, ukulele, saxophone, drums, but also improvised and antique instruments which may not have rebirth if they were not present in the streets in the hands of young artists. This is the case of Kostis, 18, that below the White Tower is playing the Lira Pontiac, hailing from the island of Pondo, differs from the traditional Cretan lira for the way in which the strings are touched. "In this country there is a real economic crisis and this is a fact. The musicians are not so important as they are in other countries. Even though they are studying or they studied. Even if they are the most qualified, with a diploma to do this job. The money is an important issue: there are people who actually live in this. There is also the right to freely play is removed to the artists”.
Not only there are individual artists performing, but also groups of friends or organized groups such as the Christian Religious choir of the Evangelical Church has decided to join the protest: "Everyone should have the right to leave a message. Ours is a religious one and we invite people to follow us, but the point is that anyone who has something to say should feel free to do so "- explains Georgia, member of the group of young people.
“There should be laws to protect the street performers and instead there is persecution, right here in Thessaloniki", says Ioannis Domianidis. With some friends they get together, time to time, to cultivate the passion for music. "We play especially in the summer, but participate in these events means supporting those who live for this all year".
An event that proved to be very successful given the turnout of people who have enjoyed a lot of good music and improvised performances. Sounds in different languages that tell different cultures gathered in Thessaloniki, the crossroads of folk traditions. A trip of a few meters from the most traditional Greek music to the more romantic jazz, up to the Spanish flamenco, result of the jam sessions of different artists.
"This is also the spirit of this event to talk amongst musicians and to talk to people. Explain our reasons. Music should not be just a private paid activity. I have travelled to many places and I could see how it works abroad for street musicians. Here we have the sun, the sea and the ships which are resources that can be the stage to many shows. And above all we have the tradition, we are Greeks, we have laid the foundation of the art and we should continue to support the talents that we have. Here's what we tried to explain to the people". This thought full of hope that Alexandros tries to revive the great musical tradition of Thessaloniki right under the statue of Alexander the Great, one that was aware about the importance of the culture.
And people's reaction to your words? "They replied: You are right, but now play!".