Vasilis Triantis (on lute) and Kostas Karapanos (on violin) play traditional instrumental songs from the Epirus region of north-western Greece. A traditional Epirotic company would usually consist of clarinet, violin and lute as accompaniment, where the main role of the lute is to support the singer and clarinet. Vasilis and Kostas have rearranged this format to “allow the audience to experience the lute in all of its roles,” says Vasilis, “both as support and as solo, together with the violin.”

VT: What we play is very challenging. And every traditional musician must learn to play these songs if you learn to play in Epirot. We believe that the audience will like these songs even if they don’t know the music. A lot of melodies, a lot of parts, and a lot of history behind them.

The duo participated in last year’s edition of Kinisi Festival of Sound, and are due to return for a performance this year on Sunday 23 October.  

Though they mainly perform in Greece, they often play for a wider audience with diverse backgrounds and nationalities, such as Kinisi. The difference between performing for a Greek audience and a broader European one is, according to Vasilis, the level of affectation the audience displays. Whilst Greek listeners react with strong displays of emotion, Europeans will be inquisitive and wanting to learn and understand the music.

An excerpt from their remarkable performance at last year's Kinisi Festival

VT: When I play for one audience I miss the other. So you need both types of audience members: both those who understand the traditions and those who don’t. When we performed at Kinisi last year the audience learned and progressed. The audience that knows less will become the other audience by learning to feel the music.

HH: Do you know how long this type of music has been played?

VT: No we don’t know, because here in Greece as in other countries we didn’t have a system to write our music. We call this oral tradition, or traditional oral music. It means that the music has been transmitted from generation to generation. And it has been taught without notes. It’s very old music and we don’t know how old, or who wrote the music. We don’t have recordings. The first recording was simply titled “traditional music.” We don’t know the composers. The music has travelled throughout the years, for centuries from mouth to mouth, ear to ear.

Both Vasilis and Kostas started off in classical music training and moved on to studying the traditional music of their region in adulthood.

Kostas began studying classical violin when he was 12 at the Epirotic - and later the Municipal Conservatory of Ioannina, and became interested in traditional music at the age of 19. To pursue this field he sought apprenticeships with leading violinists within the Epirotic tradition including: Kostas Kostageorgos, Vaggelis Haliasos, Yiannis Panou, Yiannis Baos and Achilleas Halkias. Since then he has participated in the recording of traditional music from Eiprus together with the Ensemble of Traditional Music as well as for the Cultural Association of Laista, to name a few projects.

For Vasilis the road had a few more bends, which in many ways led to the same Rome. Born in Preveze, Greece, he started taking lessons in classical guitar at the age of 11 but quit after a couple of years, “because I just couldn’t study that much classical music.” After having completed a degree in Physical Education with a specialisation in traditional dance, he decided to follow up with a degree in Traditional Music from the Technological Educational Institute of Epirus with a specialisation in lute. He mastered the lute by studying the unique technique of Christos Zotos, with whom he also collaborated with on the album ¨Χρήστος Ζώτος¨ for Music Corner Production.

Besides their joint project as the Epirot Musicians, both artists have collaborated with a host of traditional Greek musicians and composers on recordings featured on discographies, in orchestras, playing at concerts, festivals and celebratory events in Greece and abroad for the last 20 years. Both artists are also teachers at respective music schools: Vasilis teaches the lute at various music schools in Athens, and Kostas teaches classical violin at the School of Music in Ioannina.

VT: Kostas and I have been working as teachers in music high schools for many years. We teach children from the age of 12-18. I teach in Athens and Kostas teaches in Ioannina. I like teaching very much. But the school gives you a lot of time off, we have a period of two months during the summer where we don’t work, there are a lot of celebrations during the summer. So we manage to work as musicians and as teachers.