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Explore Symposion: Santorini’s unique music and cultural center

Symposion is a place that should be on any ‘must-visit’ list for music lovers visiting Santorini, history buffs and anyone interested in the fascinating story of music making in Greece.

A one-of-a-kind cultural center mixing mythology and music, Symposion (the word comes from the Greek – sympinein – meaning ‘to drink together’) was conceived by Argy Kakissis and Yannis Pantazis and comprises a performance space, a cafe (the Homeric Wine Café), a herb garden (where visitors can enjoy plants and herbs from Greek mythology), and an instrument-making studio and art shop.

Yannis is both a wind instrument constructor and award-winning musician with a special interest in mythology and the music of ancient Greece. His musical career began at the Conservatoire Delidemos Lazaros (Thessaloniki) and the Conservatoire Christos Papoulakos (Larissa), where Yannis studied music theory and saxophone. From there he joined the ethno-Greek ensemble Namaste and became inspired to seek out his roots in the traditional sounds of Greece. He was especially captivated by a childhood memory, one particular sound, the keening of the ancient Greek bagpipe, the tsabouna.

In 2005 Yannis travelled to Naxos to learn how to construct and play the tsabouna from a local shepherd. Traveling on to Santorini he began playing the instrument at traditional village festivals, reawakening interest in an instrument that had not been heard in a generation. In 2012 together with his partner Argy Kakissis, they established La Ponta, the Greek Bagpipe Exhibition Workshop in the Castle of Akrotiri. Six years later La Ponta expanded and relocated to the traditional village of Megalochori, and opened its doors as Symposion.

Here Yannis performs on the tsabouna and an array of instruments he constructs in his workshop. He also runs instrument-making workshops for adults and children and gives daily presentations and performances. It’s hardly surprising that Yannis’ unique role in the reinvigoration of the Greek bagpipe has received international attention, and been regularly featured by global media.

Argy Kakissis told the Santo Maris blog: “Our mission as a cultural centre is influenced by Greek mythology’s timeless relevance to life as it is lived today. Inspired by the nine muses, our work is about encouraging people to think differently about music, its history and the links between ancient and modern times.”

For Yannis, music is a toy for learning. “It’s not a coincidence that we say ‘to play’ an instrument”, says Yannis. “Symposion is our celebration of music and mythology, and we very much look forward to welcoming you – to learn, to listen, to enjoy, and even to make your own instrument!”

Symposion is open between April and October. For more details go to www.symposionsantorini.com

Cover photo: Antonis Eleftherakis, www.symposionsantorini.com