Sifis Tsourdalakis: Music rooted in Cretan tradition

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Born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1975, Sifis Tsourdalakis was raised in a household steeped in the melodies and rhythms of Crete, where his parents, Socrates and Anna, cultivated a deep appreciation for Cretan music within their family.

Growing up with his twin sister Elefteria and his older brother Antonis, Sifis found himself immersed in Melbourne’s Cretan community. At the heart of this community were the Cretan Brotherhood of Melbourne and Victoria and the Rethymnians Association of Melbourne where Sifis and his siblings became members, of the traditional Cretan dance group “Arkadi.”

Young Sifis with his father

The musical legacy of the Tsourdalakis family can be traced back to 1918, with Sifis inheriting his musical talent from his grandfather, Antonis Tsourdalakis, a renowned mandolin player from the village of Agios Vasilios in Rethymno, Crete. This familial tradition extended to uncles and cousins in Melbourne who also demonstrated prowess in playing Cretan musical instruments, fostering an environment where Sifis, as a young musician could nurture his passion.

His father Socrates also played a pivotal role in shaping Sifi’s musical journey. As a founding member and Secretary of the Rethymnians Association of Melbourne, Socrates facilitated interactions with esteemed Cretan musicians invited to Australia, providing young Sifis with invaluable exposure to Cretan musical traditions. Musicians such as Mountakis, Sifogiorgakis, Papadakis and Skordalos would often visit the Tsourdalakis household, leaving an indelible mark on the young musician.

Group performance

It was during one such visit, in 1979, that George Papadakis recognised Sifis’ talent and gifted him one of his Cretan lyras. This act of generosity served as a catalyst for Sifis’ musical aspirations, igniting dedication to mastering the lyra. Guided by passion and dedication, Sifis embarked on a musical journey, driven by a profound love for his heritage and its melodic expression. In 2000 he left his homeland Melbourne to live in Crete where he could learn from the masters he grew up idolising. He is now based in Rethymno where he regularly mingles and plays alongside other well-known Cretan artists. This bold move offered further opportunities and international invitations. He has since performed for the Greek diaspora in America, Canada, Germany and throughout all regions of Greece.

CD

From those early days in Melbourne’s Cretan community, Sifis has emerged as a respected figure in the realm of Cretan music. His performances are a living embodiment of the timeless melodies that echo through the valleys and villages of Crete.  As Sifis says, “I thank God and my parents for putting me on this amazing musical journey.”

Group performance

To date, Sifis has also released a number of CDs.

Sifis Tsourdalakis is amongst many Greek Australian artists who have participated in the GAAD (Greek Australian Artist Directory). An initiative by the Greek Australian Cultural League (GACL), the GAAD celebrates Greek Australian visual and performing artists by showcasing their works and contributions to the Australian arts landscape.  By preserving and promoting the artistic legacy of Greek Australian artists, the directory ensures that their talents are duly acknowledged and cherished, cementing their place in Australia’s artistic narrative.

Sifis at the Antipodes Festival

Interested artists can register their profiles by visiting www.gacl.com.au and clicking on the dedicated GAAD section.  For any inquiries related to the GAAD, individuals can either email GACL President Cathy Alexopoulos infogaclm@gmail.com or contact GAAD Co-ordinator Vasy Petros on 0412 242557.

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*Written by Vasy Petros. This is a Greek Australian Cultural League Initiative supported by The Greek Herald.

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