World music comes to Canterbury after strings were pulled at a guitar lesson.
Andy Dawson, The Marlowe Theatre’s Head Of Creative Projects, was being taught to play by Yiannis Zaronis, a Greek-born musician, now living in Canterbury.
Yiannis works with people from different backgrounds who are often in difficult circumstances, including offenders, detainees, and young people at risk – “environments where music is not accessible”. He also works at youth centres and in schools. He taught music at Canterbury College for two years, and is a familiar face to many in the city for his live performances. These include Greek music nights at Zeus Ouzeria and Taverna, in Orange Street.
As director and co-writer of Stacked! this year’s Marlowe community production, Andy immediately spotted Yiannis’s potential and signed him up to write the music for the show, and appear in it.
The 35-year-old began learning the guitar at the age of nine, and in 1998 enrolled in the jazz programme of Fillipos Nakas School of Music in Athens, where he studied guitar with Takis Barberis, a highly-regarded and popular musician.
Yiannis and his partner made their home in Canterbury in 2003 (the couple now have two young children). He completed his BA Music at Christ Church University, followed by a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology at SOAS, University of London, and a PGCE (teaching qualification).
“For my Masters, I studied the anthropology of music, which means I know a little bit about world music,” says Yiannis, modestly. “And this is important for Stacked!”
Stacked! is a modern-day Canterbury Tales, interweaving different stories with a common theme – a gridlocked city, where everyone is stuck in a pub (the Canterbury Tales, of course).
“I know of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and my first thought was to make Medieval English folk music for Stacked! But Andy didn’t want it to be so predictable, so I had to think again! It was challenging, but not so difficult.”
The different stories that make up Stacked! will feature music from different eras and of different styles – jazz swing from the 1940s, European waltzes, Middle Eastern drumming – and will be played live on stage by Yiannis and fellow musicians Roberto Soto (Venezuelan), Mark Camateras (half Greek/half English), and Thanos Ahtipis (Greek).
The musicians will accompany the singers: there are six songs, written by Andy, and performed by the actors (all from The Marlowe’s various creative workshops). While the songs have more of a western feel, the music will have stronger elements of world music, including the instruments played: the oud (necked bowl lute), bouzouki (necked bowl lute), and yaylil tanbur (bowed long-neck lute), among others.
“The music will take you to all different places and that’s the point of it, to travel through space and time,” says Yiannis, whose favourite music is traditional Greek, and Mediterranean – “music with soul”.
He adds: “I urge everyone to come along to see Stacked! Its topics are so very relevant to now and the large, passionate cast are all giving their 100 per cent. It’s going to be very entertaining.”
Stacked! : Wednesday 13 & Thursday 14 July. Book here.