2. THE INSTRUMENT (p, 259 Greek Edition)
Markos talking about the bouzouki:
The bouzouki has its skafos (hollowed out part) with the kapaki (the flat bit with the sounding board) on top and the maniko (neck). The neck has the plaka (finger board) where there are these tasta (frets) These bits between the two frets don’t have a name. Up on the neck are the keys for the tuning of the strings, or in other words, the telia (strings) of the bouzouki.
There is no craftsman that’s ever yet made a bouzouki just right. Because they can’t make the half, the half of the half, and the half of this half and so on - until they reach the whole so that the fingerboard and the scale are just right. But all the craftsmen from the best to the worst … the guy that can make the perfect bouzouki has yet to be found. They haven’t got it yet. I can hear it, this thing, where it falls short. Course I can. However much you tune it the tuning never comes out right.
Q: Mr Markos, do you think the bouzouki developed from the Saz?
A: That’s something I don’t know. The saz is one thing, the bouzouki another.
Q: Have you ever played a saz?
A: I’ve only ever seen one - I haven’t even heard it. I only saw it. I went to a guy who happened to be holding this thing that turned out to be a saz so now I know what it is if I see it.
Q: Mr Markos, are the intervals between the strings (διαστηματα) on the bouzouki the same as on the laouto?
A: That’s something I wouldn’t know because I’m not a musician.
Q: The same as on the guitar?
A: The guitar, the laouto, the bouzouki and the mandolin all have different intervals.
Q: These frets (tasta) now, did they use to have different intervals in the old days, or even in your lifetime?
A: No, the same.
Q: But the intervals maybe they were smaller or bigger?
A: I wouldn’t know.
Q: When you came to Piraeus did they have bouzoukia without frets?
Q: Has the bouzouki changed significantly since you first got to know it?
A: No, the same.
Q: Do you know anyone at all who has a bouzouki that’s different - as
regards these intervals?
A: No I never saw such a thing in my life. Never. But then I’ve never
travelled abroad to see, for instance, in China, in India, in Egypt … I
haven’t seen, I haven’t travelled, I can’t be sure.
Q: And do they have bouzoukia there?
A: How could they not have? For sure they’ll have them, but I haven’t seen
or heard such a thing.
Q: Fine. On the bouzoukia in the old days what strings, (χορδες) what telia (also
meaning strings) did they use?
A: The same they’ve got now.
Q: And what strings are these?
A: Thin strings … I wouldn’t know what they are.
Q: The same as the guitar?
A: The guitar’s are a bit thicker.
Q: And laouta?
A: I’ve an idea the laouta are same as bouzouki but there are more of
them. The bouzouki has DAD (Re-La-Re) but the laouto has more strings.
Q: Mr Markos, now there are strings for the bouzouki but before when there weren’t so many bouzoukia where did you get your strings from?
A: I was in time for the bouzoukia, the regular ones with the strings which they put on with karoulakia (winding pegs), which they put on the bouzouki. I used to take a little peg (karoulaki) to set it up and I used to take a big Re/D string from here, from the Re/D of the guitar and I put it on for the bourgana - the last string on top. To set it up like … I mean to put on the strings. The ‘first strings’ – the ones down at the bottom are Mi (E), very thin both of them; they’re the highest notes of the bouzouki. The middle ones, are a little bit thicker, and again they’re both the same - I wouldn’t be able to give them a name. And at the top there’s the one thin string which is the first, ie MI (E) and then the thick one the bourgana which is actually the Re (D) from the guitar.
Q: So what’s going on now with the four string bouzouki?
A: Those ones have Do (C) as well. I haven’t touched those. Now the youngster, Domenikos knows how to play them Re-La-Re-Do (DADC), the Do being up top you know … They put the same strings on … I don’t know how the kid sets it up.
Q: Who invented the four-string bouzouki?
A: I don’t know. It had been discovered. It’s not a matter of some new guy having discovered it, because Manetas, remember I told you I’d heard him playing, that was with a four string bouzouki. And another guy, Yorgos Skourtis, a printer in Athens who died, he used to play a four string in 1937-8. Maybe others played it too. Manetas used to play with the European bands along with the other instruments. He was one of those guys who played ‘European’, I mean waltz, fox-trot, tango, that sort of thing. He didn’t play laika.
Q: When did they replace the gut frets with metal ones?
A: A few years ago now, when the bouzouki first began to get ahead eh, that’s when the craftsmen began to make them a bit better – took out the gut frets and put in metal ones - the same ones they put now … so … yes I’d say from about 1930 onwards. The bouzoukia that I took with me to play at the companies all had frets, but not gut ones, metal ones. At the same time, during this period I still used to see the odd guy with gut frets but he’d be just about to replace them with metal ones. And those metal keys at the top, they replaced the wooden pegs, - again round about 1930 from the time when the bouzoukia began to take off in a big way. In Syros though when I was a little boy I was in time to see the striftaria (wooden pegs) like the ones a guy there used to play, Stravoyorghis, Maoutsos, one Manolis Stratodesiou. I was in time to see them with striftaria. These were the tsivouria. These guys, Maoutsos, Stravoyorghis, and Treisimisis are old bouzouki players. They had a kompania (band) and they had another guy who used to play the pagnali, which is a straw whistle, 5 - 6 holes up and down. These guys played various syrta, kalamatiana, but nothing much. They did the rounds of the tavernas just like me and my father did with the darbouka (drum). Some of them sang and others didn’t.