The Santouri has metal strings stretched lengthways across its trapezoid-shaped body. Three to five strings, tuned to the same tone, correspond to each note. It is played using thin sticks whose ends are wrapped in cotton wool or leather. The sticks are held between the index and middle fingers, with the help of the thumbs, and titled upwards slightly, and the movement comes mainly from the musician’s wrists rather than their fingers. Playing the Santouri generally involves placing it on a base that rests on the seated musician’s lap, although, on certain occasions that require the musicians to be moving around a lot, such as festivals or weddings, it is hung from their shoulders. Each of the Santouri’s strings corresponds to two notes (usually in fifths, e.g. D and A on the dominant octave are produced on the same string). Its melodic range is around three and a half octaves (like the Kanonaki), and it has a total of 100-110 strings. Musicians either use it as a solo instrument, or combine it with others, as it can produce chords that follow the rhythm. Its name probably derived from the Byzantine tern Psaltiri, which evolved, through the centuries, into Santouri, as follows: Psaltiri – Psaltir – Santir – Santouri. In another version, its name originates from the Persian San Tar, meaning “one hundred strings”. The Santouri is often a part of Greek musical bands, and especially those formed in the Eastern Aegean (Mytilini, Chios and Samos). Its prominence in those areas is due to Greeks from Asia Minor who migrated to these islands after the Destruction in 1922. The Santouri was, of course, played in both mainland Greece and the islands before 1922, but its presence was rather limited. It wasn’t long, however, before it became established as one of the key instruments of a typical band (a folk or traditional orchestra), along with the Clarinet, the Violin and the Lute. The Santouri is also popular in Romania and numerous Middle Eastern countries (Arabia, Iran, etc). In modern Greek musical tradition, the Santouri makes regular appearances in a wide range of tunes and songs connected to the musical genres of mikrasiatika (of Asia Minor), nisiotika (of the islands) and steriana (of the mainland). A highly-acclaimed performed, and a great teacher, was Aristeidis Moschos, who passed away in 2001. Other contemporary Santouri virtuosos include T. Drakogiannis, N. Kalaitzis (“Bintagialas”), N. Karatasos, and the younger generation, A. Karagiannis and M. Papadeas.
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