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‘I owe it to my father and grandfather’: Tassos Lambrou on his passion for the bouzouki

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When people hear the name Tassos Lambrou, they instantly connect it to the bouzouki legend himself – Tassos Bouzouki.

For years now, Tassos has been entertaining Sydney’s Greek community with his bouzouki playing at venues such as The Cyprus Club and The Lemnos Club.

Just last month in July, Tassos also added The Greek Herald to that list when he performed on our Facebook live to lift the spirits of our followers during lockdown.

He was so well-received we just had to find out more about the live Greek music specialist and bouzouki teacher. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My father George is from the island of Lemnos, a beachside village called Platy. My mother Helen is from a village called Anglisides about 15km southwest of Larnaca in Cyprus.

Tassos playing the bouzouki. Photo supplied.

Growing up, I was exposed to Greek music from birth since my father (also a Greek musician) played the keyboard and accordion and sang in a Greek band. My late grandfather, Anastasios (whom I was named after), was also a Greek musician that played the clarinet. My eldest sister Penny completed up to 7th Grade piano at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney.

Greek music was embedded in me from a very young age, growing up in a musical family. My mother Helen and other sister Patricia, even though not musicians, always loved listening to a range of Greek music, from traditional to modern.

I have learnt to appreciate and love all styles of our Greek music from Classical, Nisiotika, Dimotika, Kritika, Kypriaka, Makedonitika, Ipirotika, Thrakiotika, Palia Laika & Modern Laika.

I studied 3-Unit Music in Year 12 for my HSC back in 1997 and received full marks for both Assessment and Examination components, majoring in Performance. I was selected by the Board of Studies of NSW to perform at The Sydney Opera House, as part of the ENCORE 97 concert on February 22, 1998. 

Tassos is a favourite at Greek events. Photo supplied.

Encore is an annual concert of outstanding music performances from HSC Music students and is presented in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. I performed one of my six HSC performance pieces, an instrumental called “Bouzouki & Whiskey” composed by bouzouki extraordinaire, Giannis Stamatiou.

2. When did you first start playing the bouzouki?

At the age of around four years old, my late grandfather had bought me a bouzouki and baglama as a gift from Greece. This was great inspiration for me to get into learning the bouzouki but it was even before this, just hearing my father and grandfather practising at home with various band members at the time and even on their own. I would approach my father at family gatherings whilst he played away at his accordion and loved to sing along to the Greek songs he played.

People say I had it in me to become a musician, due to my passion for Greek music at such a young age, listening to a range of styles and genres. I owed it to my father George and grandfather Anastasios for their enormous inspiration.

A few years later at around seven years old, my father started taking me to a professional bouzouki player, “Chris Olympios” aka “Christaki” for bouzouki lessons. This is where I began to learn all the technical and theoretical aspects of the bouzouki. I’m extremely grateful my father had chosen one of the leading bouzouki players in the world to be my one and only teacher of this beloved instrument, the bouzouki.

Tassos is now teaching his own students. Photo supplied.

Chris and my father had me performing, doing floor shows from around nine years of age and various Greek clubs and dances. I clearly remember Chris inviting me to perform, not even a year after starting lessons, at his sister Helen’s engagement reception and then he invited my father’s whole band for his sister’s wedding reception not long after. I can also remember my first full night with my father’s band “Morias” was at a NYE Greek Dance in Newcastle 1990/91 at just 10 years old. 

3. Do you have any musical highlights which made an impact on you?

In 1995, performing at a tribute concert for the great Greek composer, Manos Hatzidakis, under the instruction of maestro, Themos Mexis. In 1997, I started performing at The Cyprus Club in Sydney on my 17th birthday and was the resident bouzouki player there for the following four years, performing every Friday & Saturday night, throughout my year 12 and Bachelor’s Degree thereafter.

In 2007, performing at Sydney’s elite bouzoukia venue “NΟΤΕΣ LIVE.” In 2015, performing alongside my teacher Chris at the City Recital Hall in Sydney. This was the AXION ESTI concert held in celebration of Mikis Theodorakis’ 90th birthday. And in 2016, performing for Greek singer, Dimitris Basis, at the City Recital Hall in Sydney.

4. You were the first Greek bouzouki player ever to perform at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall as part of ENCORE 97. How did that feel?

Tassos Bouzouki.

An amazing achievement and experience to be up on stage at the Concert Hall inside Sydney’s Opera House. Felt on top of this world, and also met popular Greek-Australian singer Maria Maroulis backstage for the very first time, who also qualified for ENCORE 97. We ended up working together a decade later at “NΟΤΕΣ LIVE” bouzoukia.

5. What do you love the most about playing the bouzouki and singing?

I love sharing and promoting Hellenism through my bouzouki playing and singing, and it gives me great pleasure to entertain and be able to provide lots of “kefi” to people of all ages and ethnicities, at various functions & events. 

6. What would you say to someone else who wants to start playing the bouzouki?

Don’t hesitate to contact me on 0404 035 715 or info@tassosbouzouki.com, 1st trial lesson free. Online lessons via Zoom also provided during times of lockdown. Music is life and the bouzouki is a traditional Greek instrument that gives lots of joy with both playing it as either a hobby or professionally.

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