Tsit­sa­nis mu­seum in Trikala

In­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to one of Greece’s great­est re­betiko per­form­ers is ready to open

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IOTA SYKKA

Vas­silis Tsit­sa­nis (1915-84) penned won­der­ful melodies, wrote lyrics that spoke di­rectly and emo­tively to the lis­tener and was a mas­ter of the bouzouki. Dur­ing his life­time the Greek folk singer reached out to a broad pub­lic and to­day he con­tin­ues to gain new fans from ev­ery walk of life.

The town of Trikala in cen­tral Greece, where Tsit­sa­nis was born in Jan­uary 1915, has for years been try­ing to cre­ate a mu­seum be­fit­ting one of Greece’s great­est re­betiko com­posers and singers – the artist who de­fined the fu­ture of Greek mu­sic in the 20th cen­tury.

Housed in a 16th cen­tury Ot­toman bath house which served as a prison in more re­cent times, the Vas­silis Tsit­sa­nis Mu­seum – Re­search Cen­ter has fi­nally been com­pleted and is slated for inau­gu­ra­tion this month. It will open with a tem­po­rary ex­hibit that is set to be en­riched with more ma­te­rial in the months to come.

“We had to open now be­cause the pro­gram we were re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from was about to end,” says the new in­sti­tu­tion’s vice pres­i­dent, Vasilena Mit­siadi, who is cur­rently the act­ing pres­i­dent. She ex­plains that some work is still on­go­ing and that once the mu­seum is in full work­ing or­der it will show­case a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion on Tsit­sa­nis with me­mora­bilia per­tain­ing to his life, in­clud­ing items do­nated by his fam­ily.

The new mu­seum com­prises four halls of roughly 100 square me­ters each – the same size as the cells that once housed 70 pris­on­ers.

The first hall will fea­ture au­dio­vi­sual ma­te­rial and a chronol­ogy of ca­reer land­marks such as Tsit­sa­nis’s col­lab­o­ra­tions with Marika Ni­nou, Sotiria Bel­lou, Grig­oris Bithikot­sis and, of course, Mikis Theodor­akis and Manos Had­ji­dakis, both renowned com­posers who were in­spired by the re­betiko mas­ter.

“The sec­ond hall will in­clude ma­te­rial from an ex­hi­bi­tion cu­rated by Costas Hadzi­doulis on the 25th an­niver­sary of the com­poser’s death which he has do­nated to the mu­seum. The same hall will also have an in­ter­ac­tive dis­play al­low­ing vis­i­tors to lis­ten to songs from old vinyl records, in­clud­ing some orig­i­nal ver­sions, on the tele­phones once used by in­mates to talk to their vis­i­tors. This is the most im­pres­sive part of the col­lec­tion, es­pe­cially for younger vis­i­tors,” says Mit­siadi.

The third hall will be used for var­i­ous func­tions and events, while the last room is all about the his­tory of Trikala, the Ot­toman baths and the prison, which closed in 2006 – along with songs writ­ten by Tsit­sa­nis about the prison ex­pe­ri­ence.

The per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion is ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of this year with per­sonal items be­long­ing to the com­poser that have been listed for preser­va­tion by the Cul­ture Min­istry’s Direc­torate for Mod­ern Cul­tural Her­itage. The ob­jects in­clude gramo­phones and cam­eras, among oth­ers.

The re­search part of the mu­seum is also re­spon­si­ble for stor­ing all of Tsit­sa­nis’s record­ings in dig­i­tal form and putting to­gether a col­lec­tion of books.

“The hamam that was dis­cov- ered dur­ing con­struc­tion work is part of the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Mit­siadi.

The prison was built di­rectly above the Ot­toman baths in 1896, ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by the 19th Ephor­ate for Byzan­tine An­tiq­ui­ties. The ex­is­tence of the baths was dis­cov­ered thanks to an ar­chae­ol­o­gist work­ing at the site who no­ticed that one of walls on the ground floor was par­tic­u­larly thick while con­duct­ing an in­spec­tion so that the site could be trans­ferred to the own­er­ship of the Trikala mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­ity.

The hamam is thought to be one of the big­gest in the area and had two en­trances, one near the Kour­soum Mosque lead­ing into a steam room for men, and the other that led into an area strictly re­stricted to women.

Dur­ing his life­time, Tsit­sa­nis reached out to a broad pub­lic and to­day he con­tin­ues to gain new fans from ev­ery walk of life.

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