Prominent musicologist leaves insightful oeuvre on Greek popular music

Foivos Anoyiannakis, one of the country’s most prominent musicologists who passed away last week at the age of 88, leaves behind a body of work that includes insightful studies on traditional Greek music as well as an immense collection of instruments, some now obsolete, that have been on display at an Athens museum for over a decade. The Cretan-born musicologist, whose state funeral was held in Athens last Friday, conducted abundant research throughout his life with emphasis on two fields, traditional Greek music and contemporary academic Greek music. He published numerous studies, including «Music in Modern Greece,» «Neo-Hellenic Stringed Instruments,» and «Greek Popular Musical Instruments,» worked as a music critic for various Athenian newspapers, and also contributed to an authoritative French music guide, «Larousse de la Musique.» Other career activities included serving as musical director for the Dora Stratou Greek Dance Society and the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation. Anoyiannakis’s book «Greek Popular Musical Instruments» ranks as its category’s most comprehensive. His studies offered advanced insight into Greek musical heritage. At times, though, Anoyiannakis needed to battle against the tide to establish innovative theory. He is credited as being the country’s first music authority to highlight the artistic wealth and importance of rebetika, in 1947, when the urban musical form was still being neglected as a music for the underprivileged, drugged-out periphery. The musicologist linked the style’s roots to Greek folk music hailing from rural areas. Not long after, by the early 1950s, rebetika – a once-outlawed form linked with the hashish dens of the port of Piraeus in the early 20th century – had spread from the fringe to the mainstream, in milder, more socially acceptable form. Anoyiannakis, who amassed some 1,200 traditional instruments over a five-decade period, donated his collection – dated between the 18th century and the contemporary era – to the Greek State in 1978. It was put on public display in 1991 in a well set-up museum, the Museum of Popular Musical Instruments (MELMOKE), in the capital’s Plaka district. Anoyiannakis traveled the country extensively, often reaching remote parts, to gradually accumulate his priceless collection of instruments. Even during his days as a political exile, during the 1940s and ’50s, the musicologist did not stop collecting regional instruments. In recognition of his lifetime’s work and achievements, the University of Crete rewarded Anoyiannakis with an honorary degree in 1991, while the Athens Academy bestowed the musicologist with an honorary medal.