Roumeliotis Ilias

Lesvos

Place of birth: Plomari, Lesvos

Year of birth: 1916

Short biography:

Ilias Roumeliotis was born in 1916. He was a professional musician with a background in music theory, and a singer. He worked as a labourer in olive oil transportation in Plomari for several years. When he stopped playing music professionally, he dedicated his time to cultivating olives on his private olive groves.

Ilias Roumeliotis took lessons in music theory and the santouri from Vasilis Kaldis, a music teacher based in Plomari. He began playing the santouri on a professional basis in Plomari, during the late 1930s, alongside his older brother, Stavros, who played the trombone, and Panagiotis Stergellis, also known as “Stravellis” or “Papalas”, who played the violin.

At the end of the 1940s, he abandoned the santouri and began playing the guitar, because: “Back then, because of the war (after 1945) we couldn’t find strings for the santouri. So I decided to take up the guitar and I left the santouri – I still have it. So I decided to take up the guitar, it was a easier instrument.” For a while, he played the guitar in the band formed by the renowned violinist Poseidonas Karavas, and his sons Giannis and Dimitris, who later migrated to Australia (in the early 1950s).

During the 1940s and 1950s, he also regularly performed with a band from Plagia Plomariou, which consisted of the brothers Panagiotis and Stratis Christou, and the famous santouri player Giorgos Kavarnos or “Arapis”.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, he played the guitar and sang in nightclubs and cafés in the area of Plomari. During that time, he also collaborated with female singers, whom he sought out himself, on behalf of the café owners, in agencies based in Athens: “They sent me to Athens to hire singers. We made contracts, that they’d come to Plomari for 4, 5, 10, 15 days. I’d bring them over, they’d do their fifteen days, food, accommodation, and a salary. When one finished, another one would come. The café owner paid for my expenses, my tickets…” During that same period, he also worked with Michalis Giannikos, or “Patentados”, who played the violin, and the Ververi brothers, also known as “Tourkogiannides”, Michalis, Panagiotis, and Megaklis, who played the violin, the violoncello and the santouri, respectively.

Ilias Roumeliotis sang the local songs of Plomari, such as the couplets “of sorrow and love”, to the tune of the “parapounikos”, or “Plomaritikos” or “Plagiotikos” [from Plomari, from Plagia], the Eri-pale (a Carnival song with nautical or erotic lyrics), the “trechantirakin”, the “trelalalelalom” (names of songs), which, according to him: “is the most ancient song of Plomari”. Most of all, however, he sang and played on the guitar laika (folk), rebetika, immigrant songs, etc. On laika, he said: “We heard them on the gramophones, but we also got the sheet music from Athens sometimes. The music and the lyrics. But if they didn’t send us some of them, we played them on the gramophone, we studied them and worked out the notes.” On the songs that were played in the nightclubs, he said: “We played at random (there was no schedule), laika, not local songs.”

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Recordings

1. Christmas carols Plomari | 1996 carols Sung by Elias Roumeliotis or “Karachalias” Origin: “Aegean Ark” – Musical crossroads in the Aegean. Lesvos, 19th-20th century
2. Tou Giomitzi to Filima (A Seaman's Kiss) Plomari | 1996 Parapo(u)nikos Sung by the Plomari singers: Ilias Roumeliotis ("Karachalias") and Antonis Sofiadellis. Origin: “Aegean Ark” – Musical crossroads in the Aegean. Lesvos, 19th-20th century
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