Vassilis Tsitsanis

1915-1984

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Vassilis Tsitsanis may be the most well known Rebetis from the " Classical "  era , as well as one of the most prolific and respected composers of the genre. One of the things that set him apart from the other Rebetis who had preceded him, was the fact that he had the benefit of a formal education and had actually been trained as an Attorney. Thankfully he did not allow this fact to inhibit his evolution as a musician and went on to pen some of the most poignant Rebetic compositions ever created , many of which are now recognized as " standards "  for the art of  " Ta Rebetika".  Born in 1903 in Trikala Thessalia, he grew up in a middle class family where both his Father and Brother were quite proficient with the Bouzouke. He inherited the instrument following the death of his father, learned to play and later went on to perform in numerous Tarvenas, while pursuing his studies as a Lawyer. His first recordings date from about 1937. His very distinctive instrumental style has been characterized as a type of "Free form"  technique , that used various elements of " Oriental " ornamentation and grace notes, in a way that had previously not been heard. His capacity in the art of instrumental improvisation was rarely equaled. This was especially true with his use of the " Taksim ". This was usually an instrumental introductory Prelude played on the Bouzouke, that often sets the mode (as well as the mood) for an entire composition. This method of instrumental expression is often heard and probably originated with Arabic music , but Tsitsanis unique conception along with his virtuosity , developed this practice in such a fashion, that it had practically became a new genre in and of itself.  Many of Tsitsanis most famous compositions, were created during the Nazi occupation , so naturally it was this difficult period , that both he and his music are most associated.  Understandably there is an enormous degree of sentiment regarding his work. However sentiment aside, the quality of his compositions can more then stand on their own merits. His vocal style might best be described as one with a markedly pronounced nasal intonation and was indicative of a certain Slavic influence he occasionally incorporated in some of his compositions.       

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