Yannis Pantazis and Argy Kakissis are on an odyssey. Their music and history tour started, as much of our civilization did, in Greece, where they live. They departed that country in December and are now on a road trip that will bring them to Beaufort after Pittsburgh and Boston, then on to Athens, Ga., New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago.
Pantazis and Kakissis usually present their music in an ancient castle tower they're restoring as a venue for cultural exchange and musical education on the island of Santorini, south of mainland Greece. At 36 degrees north in a cozy spot in the Aegean Sea, the island is 28 square miles and has 12,000 residents. In the summers, thousands of visitors arrive by boat and plane. Sound familiar? Beaufort's 23 square miles are at 32 degrees north and home to 12,000 residents who also entertain tourists arriving by boat and plane, though not quite as many, even with the draw of Hunting Island.
The ambition of Pantazis and Kakissis is one of the formulas for "creative place-making" that so many communities seek -- the right artistic talents illuminating the right location with the right natural and cultural resources. In Beaufort, Pantazis and Kakissis will exhibit their odyssey and play their ancient Greek instruments Jan. 26 at ARTworks in Beaufort. On Santorini Island, they work in La Ponta, a 1200s castle tower with a view of the town and the sea where the wind blows through time.
"A Wind Through Time" is the title of Pantazis' performance. He's a musician, composer and instrument maker, and his work is a tribute to the ages, to the primitive time periods when the essence of sound was created. The journey is embodied in his handmade instruments, and a few other surprise instruments too. His harmony, melody and rhythm use a mythological narrative to explain the development of primitive wind instruments, from the double-flute to the tsabouna (Greek bagpipe.) He will also put bells and handmade Cycladic Greek drums in the hands of the audience.
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One of Pantazis' compositions is "Louder than the Voice of God." Played on the tsabouna, it sounds like dragonflies flitting through the Old Testament. As a boy on mainland Greece, he first heard the tsabouna on TV.
"The sound of this ecstatic Dionysian instrument swept my mind and still today transports me through time to the customs of the Aegean culture," he said. "It's a sound that is synonymous with the sea, the sun and its people."
His folklife research lead him to Santorini Island, where many of the locals hadn't heard the tsabouna since their childhood, a gap that is reminiscent of Gullah people losing their creole.
To address those gaps, Kakissis' history presentation is a look at the history and renovation of La Ponta.
"It's a 13th century Venetian tower of the Castle of Akrotiri. I'm an explorer of history," she explained, "dipping into the Venetian and Byzantine time periods, and going back to antiquity. The locals have embraced our project and understand the validity of the restoration. They think it's unbelievable. We're protected by the Byzantine Department of the Ministry of Culture, and we've been doing internal preservation on our own, sanding the wood and preserving the features. This grassroots movement is liberating."
To continue that renovation, their tour is part of their One Stone Tower Raising Campaign, which includes a drawing for five nights on Santorini. The tower has been severely damaged by the ravages of time as well as the devastating earthquake that struck the island of Santorini in 1956. The Lowcountry's last big shake was in 1886.
The creative-destruction parallels continue: Beaufort has tabby ruins and marsh-preserved indigenous canoes, the island of Santorini has remnants of neoclassical architecture and Roman doors.
"La Ponta was privately owned by the same family for four generations," Kakissis said. "We musicians have stewardship now, and we're so happy to be working with a child from the family to cultivate the next generation" -- which is a great reason to squeeze the bagpipes.
Lisa Annelouise Rentz's latest short story, "A History of Fine Objects," is set in Beaufort and published in Prick of the Spindle magazine.
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