Manolis Hiotis died at the young age of 50 but by the time of his death in 1970 he had revolutionised the bouzouki both as a musical instrument and in the way it was perceived by the masses.
In the 1940's and 50's the bouzouki was the lower class' instrument and the music produced by bouzouki players was mostly listened to by blue collar workers and the population that was most affected by the economical troubles of the time.
A popular style of the time was the Rembetiko which we will look at at a later post.
The bouzouki at that time was a three string instrument and the songs were simple, raw and uncut.
As a consequence the bouzouki was relegated to the taverns where the working class gathered to drink, smoke some hashish, dance, sing and escape from the difficulties of daily life.
The bouzouki was outlawed for some time and because of its strong association with hashish, bouzouki players were a hunted and outcast breed.
This is how the baglama came into existence. The baglama is a miniture bouzouki. It looks like a bouzouki, it is tuned like a bouzouki but it is much smaller than a bouzouki allowing the player to hide it under his coat and avoid being caught by the authorities.
The Four String Bouzouki
Manolis Hiotis changed all that.
He was originally a guitar player, so he must have found the three string bouzouki quite a limitation. The three string bouzouki is tuned D A D.
Manolis Hiotis added an extra string to the bouzouki greatly increasing the range of music that could be played with the instrument. The four string bouzouki is tuned D A F C.
The musical intervals and beats that he produced were reminiscent of the jazzy, classy ballroom sounds of the American 1920's.
Although his lyrics didn't always ring of optimism, gone was the drudgery of the downtrodden worker and in was the four string bouzouki with jazzy complex scales and bigband beats that launched the bouzouki into the ballrooms of the high class, accompanied by philarmonic orchestras.
Manolis Hiotis ultimately changed the way people perceived and played the bouzouki.
Manolis Hiotis: The Ballroom Bouzouki Player
Manolis Hiotis was way ahead of his time. The Rembetiko sound-of-the-people style of music did not disappear: Manolis Hiotis was a contemporary of Manolis Mitsias, Stelios Kazantzides, Vasilis Tsitsanis, Apotolos Kaldaras and other great composers and he even wrote and performed with many of them; however, his style wasn't accepted by everyone.
Musicians who were accustomed to playing simple three, two and even one chord songs were plagued by the complexity of Manolis Hiotis songs: They were simply too difficult to play and for many, were even too difficult too listen too for there were too many notes and unfamiliar beats like Cha Cha, Bosa Nova, Swing, Bolero and others.
My New Bouzouki Teacher: Manolis Hiotis
Manolis Hiotis changed my approach to playing bouzouki, my style and my technique.
After taking lessons for a year with my teacher, Panikos, after performing with him over the summer of 1985 at Esperia night club in Ayia Napa and spending hours upon hours studying and playing he told me that there was nothing more that he could teach me and that I was on my own.
The bouzouki was my passion and my outlet for all the inquisitive energy that I possessed and I felt that I had a lot more to learn and that there was a lot more to the bouzouki than the simple songs I had been playing until then.
My lessons in classical music theory and harmony coincided with my discovery of Manolis Hiotis and a new musical journey began in my life. Manolis Hiotis became my new bouzouki teacher and I spent hours applying what I was learning at music school to crack his complex code of bouzouki playing.
I strongly recommend that students of the bouzouki study Manolis Hiotis' musical style and bouzouki playing technique.
Manolis Hiotis and Mary Linda
Short Biography of Manolis Hiotis (Taken from Wikipedia)
He was born on March 21st., 1921, in Thessaloniki. He died in 1970, allegedly on his very birthday. He first started playing on the violin, then eventually moved on to the guitar and the bouzouki. From very early on, he was recognized as a great talent.
He began his stage and recording career in 1937, at age of 16, playing with Bayanderas. A year later, in 1938, he recorded his first song De les to nai kai 'sy (Δε λες το ναι και 'συ). As a result of the shut down of the record companies in Greece, because of the German Occupation, he was already one of the major musicians and played Bouzouki and Guitar in many recordings, besides his own. His career took-off after the German Occupation.
He has composed many great songs that became timeless hits, and just to name a few: "O Pasatémpos" (Ο Πασατέμπος), "Apópse Fíla me" (Απόψε Φίλα με), "Miázis san Thálassa" (Μοιάζεις σαν Θάλασσα), "Vouno me vouno" (Βουνό με βουνό). Chiotis is known as an incredible virtuoso on both the Bouzouki and the Guitar. He started to play and popularized the four-course bouzouki (tetrachordo) after 1959.
He was married three times. His first marriage to wife to Zoe Nahe; his second and most well-known to Mary Linda who sung many of his hits; and his third to Beba Kyriakidou.