Musical treat for the ears and eyes

Europeans back home after summer vacations here may have not been able to take with them a part of Greece’s mild climate but they will be able to enjoy a Mediterranean audiovisual experience over the next few days. An exhibition on the craft of making Greek instruments, titled «Traditional Greek Instruments,» opened in Brussels on Monday and ends Friday. Interestingly, the event is not being hosted by a museum but one of the wings of the European Parliament, the Altiero Spinelli building. Traditional instruments used in Greek music are on show, such as the laouto, bouzouki, outi, baglama and mandolin. All are crafted using the dougas technique, an elaborate process that entails sticking fine strips of wood together to form an instrument’s body. On display are instruments crafted at the School of Craftsmanship and Study of Traditional Musical Instruments. The school’s best samples have been culled. Based in Kastoria, northern Greece, the workshop, founded in 1998, is considered the country’s first formal attempt at education in the field. Until now, skills were passed down from generation to generation informally. Besides promoting insight into the instruments behind Greek music abroad, the Brussels exhibition also serves to highlight the first wave of results produced by Kastoria’s new school. Workshops by craftsmen are also on the agenda. The school’s director, Yiannis Koukouringos, noted that apart from displaying the craft, this exhibition would also highlight other possibilities of the dougas methods beyond its traditional confines. «We’ll be presenting two guitars crafted with this technique,» said Koukouringos, who stressed instrument-making’s integral standing in ancient Greek culture, and the ancient skill’s role in the development of many modern-day stringed instruments. Crafting a high-quality bouzouki, craftsmen and experts contend, is an extremely complex process, which, if taken seriously, rivals sculpture as an art form. The idea for the exhibition was proposed by Myrsini Zorba, a Euro-MP for the ruling PASOK party and ex-director of the National Book Center, who set the plan in motion with the support of a colleague, Dimitris Koulourianos of the center-left DIKKI party. «The exhibition also includes some surprises. A concert featuring the instruments on display will include two Turkish musicians,» Zorba said, highlighting the event’s goodwill dimension. Greece and its neighbor Turkey, a historical rival, share more than a few musical elements. Timed to coincide with the one-week event to maximize exposure in the central European city, Brussels’ Musical Instruments Museum is providing its visitors with information on the parliamentary exhibition. The Brussels museum’s head curator, Malou Haine, co-launched «Traditional Greek Instruments» with Antonis Cosmopoulos, the head of the Cultural Policy Unit at the Directorate-General in Brussels.