Michalis Tzouganakis

Michalis Tzouganakis
Michalis Tzouganakis

Michalis Tzouganakis life begins on a summer’s day far away from his beloved Crete. He is born in Beligum, in a neighbourhood of migrants, in a town called Beringen.

Michalis Tzouganakis’ life begins on a summer’s day, far away from his beloved Crete. He is born in Belgium, in a neighbourhood of migrants, in a town called Beringen. His parents are Cretan immigrants and he is the eighth addition to the family.

There, in the little Beringen hideouts, Michalis takes his first steps, plays with his toys and his friends; also children of immigrant parents. These are children from different parts of the globe; Belgians, Turks, Greeks, Polish, Egyptians, Italians, bringing with them a particular flavour and aroma from their countries of origin, which shapes their every day lives, conversations and music.

Just on two years of age, Michalis' eyes catch glimpse of his brother’s lute hanging high on the wall of his bedroom. Determined to grab it, he makes it his own. Strumming the first few chords his musical journey begins. Enchanted by the lute’s melodies, it now becomes his favourite toy, entertaining friends and family with music and song at the tender age of four.

The colourful conversations of Michalis’ friends do not go unnoticed by him, blended with his own country’s musical dowry, he develops his own musical inclination, massively influenced by the elements that surround him.

Repatriation to Crete – Michalis is nine years old and begins to attend school learning music, traditional dance and song. He immerses himself in the musical events of the city. He is so small and yet so mature and passionate when he plays, he attracts everyone’s attention. An outstanding boy, “a child-prodigy”, the crowds cheer.

At eleven he meets important Cretan musicians Giannis Sergakis and Vangelis Zacharioudakis and works with them professionally. The latter invites him to record together – the first time Michalis sets foot in a recording studio.

Michalis Tzouganakis is thirteen when the great lyra player, Leonidas Klados, discovers him. Klados the composer, Michalis the lyricist, and together they record. For five years they give concerts in Crete and in Athens, gaining great experience.

Kostas Mountakis, another of the great lyra players, recognises Michalis' rare talent and approaches him to work with him. They tour Toronto and Montreal. Their recording in 1990 for the University of Crete, which was Mountakis’ last recording, is down in Greek musical history as one of the more memorable pieces of work.

At the age of fifteen he studies more musical instruments: lute, outi, sazi, boulgari, mandolin, cumbus, lyra. At seventeen he takes singing lessons, at the National Conservatory of Athens for two years.

Eager and creative, he forms his own band: lute, lyra, percussion instruments, guitar, contrabass and violin. He travels Greece, the USA, Canada and Germany giving concerts to Greeks of the diaspora.

In 1993, MINOS-EMI releases “Achtides” (Beams), which includes the song entitled ‘Pali-Pali’ (Again and Again). The famous singer, Manolis Lidakis, adds it in his album “O Helios tou Genari” (The sun of January), 1997, as well as in his live recordings. The song becomes a great hit in Greece.

In 1997, Michalis Tzouganakis meets Nikos Mamagkakis, a great turning point in his musical education. Mamagkakis takes Michalis under his wing for five years and inspired by his voice and interpretation, Nikos Mamagkakis composes “Ta tragoudia tis palias polis” (Songs of the Old Town), based on the lyrics of late Rethymnian poet, Giorgos Kalomenopoulos. This album seals their friendship.
Michalis takes part in the re-arranged and re-edited work of the great composer, as vocalist and lute soloist.

Tzouganakis, over time, has collaborated in musical events with a high calibre of artists including Mikis Theodorakis, Eugenions Spatharis, Pyx Lax and P. Lalezas.

Through his voice and technique, has brought about important variations to the Cretan traditional song (mantinades), not only with his interpretation of songs but also with the contemporary sounds he has added. While respecting and keeping the traditional element alive, he continually enriches it and lends it a different musical dimension.

In October 2010, Michalis Tzouganakis ventures to Australian shores for the very first time in his already illustrious musical journey. Accompanying George Dalaras and Melina Aslanidou, he plays Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in what will be one of the highest calibre musical experiences we have had in a very long time.

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