Blog posts

Α Cretan Legend: Nikos Xylouris and the music of Anogia

Α Cretan Legend: Nikos Xylouris and the music of Anogia

Destination Crete

On the north face of Mount Psiloritis, a sacred mountain in antiquity, at an altitude of about eight hundred meters above sea level, stands the village of Anogia with a history as old and as turbulent as Crete’s. A rallying-point of resistance against foreign invaders throughout the centuries, Anogia was one of the villages of Crete that were razed in 1944 by the Nazi forces.

Nowadays Anogia is renowned for its music that incorporates the brave and tragic history of its people and is the birthplace of some of Crete’s greatest traditional musicians. Among them stands out Nikos Xylouris, a lyra player, who became famous mainly for his unique voice and whose house-museum you can visit in the district of Perachori at Anogia.

Nicknamed Psaronikos, Nikos Xylouris was born in 1936 and was the pioneer of a great musical family, since his younger brothers Psarantonis and Psarogiannis are great musicians as well, and this amazing lineage of musicians is continued today by his nephew Psarogiorgis, son of Psarantonis, and his sons.

His father bought him his first lyra at the age of twelve, despite his initial refusal, since Xylouris proved to have a great natural musical talent from a very early age. Soon after, the young Xylouris was the lyra player in all the local social events and the early 50’s find him performing in Heraklion, playing tangos and waltzes that was the modern music of that times in order to make ends meet.

In 1957 he falls in love with Ourania Melambianaki and in 1958 they secretly get married. In the same year his first album is recorded, followed by many others, and his reputation grew beyond Crete. In 1966 he participates in an international folk music competition in Saint Remo and takes the first place playing Syrtaki on lyra.

In 1969, during the Greek military junta of 1967 -1974, the couple moves to Athens with their two children and Psaronikos starts playing in small music halls. He sings in legendary anti-regime plays and performances and soon his voice becomes a symbol of resistance against the regime. It is then that he acquires his other nickname ‘The Archangel of Crete’, but then at the peak of his fame he is diagnosed with cancer. In 1980, death comes to silence him and at the age of 44, Nikos Xylouris finally dies after a chronic battle with cancer.

Throughout his life, Xylouris remained humble, true and free-spirited and will always be honored and adored by Cretans.