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The Bagpipe Society

Dimitrios Koukas

The Definition of Ecstatic Methexis

A great artist of folk tradition, where his tsambouna entertained generations and generations in the Cyclades, left for the neighbourhood of Angels. Dimitris Koukas, known as "Stravalogas" (which means in "Cock-Eyed Horse" due to the arrangement of his eyes and his physique) or "Pappous" or ‘‘Barbas’’ will remain engraved in the pages of traditional music history of Greece as a prominent and emblematic figure in the large family of tsambouna players.

His all-encompassing form, stature and genuine kindness were combined with the supreme torrential way in which he expressed his music. This peculiar "polarity" surprised anyone who first met him, as it surprised me. Whoever had the pleasure of being near him was not so much surprised by the stormy way he played the tsambouna but by the way he sang at the same time. His song had the quality to seduce you in his own world, a world that aimed to unite the company under the roof of the celebration. The music of Stravalogas is the “definition of Ecstatic Methexis.

I first met Stavalogas at a meeting of folk winds instruments on the island of Syros ... The meetings of Aegean folk winds was the best festival for the emergence of our favourite musical instrument, as we "the young" could be up close to the older generation, to distinguish the ways and techniques of expression.

Dimitris Koukas belonged to the famous company of Mykonian musicians. All internal immigrants who were in Athens for livelihood reasons and worked as workers and craftsmen in construction work. Almost at the same time they retired and returned to their island. There, the "patriarchs of the tsambouna" began to build new instruments and developed an endless repertoire in the instrument. All of them with the well-ironed shirts with straps and the well-known "fisherman's hat" Near them is the new generation of Mykonian tsambounierides, which, however, did not have their own attire but had an assimilation of its endless repertoire. They could literally play for hours without playing the same song.

There, in this company, I met Stravalogas who was waiting calmly and quietly for his turn. And those of us who waited for so long, Dionysos' gift flowed and the intoxication proceeded .… as a Naxian tsampouna player once said to me: - “The tsambouna without wine does not play, … Always remember to drink a glass of wine before playing and blow it through the skin; then the voice sweetens, the wine "bakes the reeds” . And so it happened…. space was given for Stravalogas, who then asks: “To play or to leave?”, ‘‘play’’ we responded… With four breaths he inflated the tsambouna…

We were electrified when he started singing, and this benevolent old man turned into a waterfall of emotion that magnetized us to get as close to him as possible… he dragged us into his own world . I just remember that I bent down and kissed his hands as he was playing… I do not remember how long he was playing… the party continued until the morning…

The next day I tried to find him and express my boundless admiration for him. I still did not understand how much I had been affected by him…. he answered me with a feeling of humility and said , “Yannis, We are both the same, we match .. and I saw you play and you know that you liked it very much!”

From that moment we were united by a deep friendship. In every meeting we looked for each other, until at some point, on the island of Naxos, I managed to "steal" him from his company. We went to a tavern in the mountains on the island and spent an unforgettable night.

You can see a video of that night: The Journey of Askavlos-Farewell to Dimitris Koukas

Last year he asked to see me three times but I could not go to see him. I learned the news of his departure from the internet.

I think that some people, whether they live or not, are already immortalized and that is because they leave an indelible mark with their art, not necessarily because they had a special technique but because their art was authentic. Stravalogas together with the other remaining Tsambounierides, patriarchs of Mykonos, influenced the whole new generation of tsambounierides of their island and not only that, they left their mark on both music, TV and documentary productions.

Stravalogas was honoured by the famous Greek musician, Giannis Zouganelis, with the production of a music cd entitled “From Dionysian Askavlos To Barba Mitsos Koukas Sambouna”, ΕΑΝ: 5204540111393 on the Aulos label. You can listen to the album by following the link below

A few years ago, considering the legacy that Stravalogas, together with Teo Voyatzis , a maker of figures for shadow theatre, we constructed his figure as a tribute to the ancient heritage he carried for us ... He introduced us to his own world, to feast, to sing and to dance hugging under the influence of the holy Methexis ... This photo is the last, taken a few days before his soul flew once again like a breath ofCycladic wind ...