Musicians' coffee shops

In the old days every craft or trade had a particular street or neighbourhood where their shops and workshops were clustered together. When a villager came to town he headed straight there, for he was sure of finding exactly what he wanted. In Athens, for instance, all the smithies were in Hephaistou street and all the cobblers in Pandrossou street in Monastiraki. In the last twenty years or so, however, there have been great changes and only a handful of these shops and workshops remain, as a reminder of past habits.

Musicians too were wont to congregate in certain coffee shops where they could meet fellow players with whom to form a takími (group, ensemble), as well as look for potential clients. Even today there is one such coffee shop in most towns. It is there that the father-in-law or the koumbáros goes to find players for the wedding, the village president or taverna-owner to hire musicians for the patronal feast. It functions as the headquarters for the musicians' association of the wider region and there players and singers while away their spare time playing cards, chatting, waiting for the offer of a job. From here they depart together for the village where they have been invited to play.

The musicians' coffee shop is an ideal place for one to get to know these purveyors of traditional music, to talk with them about the dance customs of a particular village, to learn details about weddings and patronal feasts, to seek out the most elderly habitues, who no longer play or sing but who are a mine of information. Of course, those musicians who still live in the village and play only occasionally - often the best - are not to be found in the town coffee shop. Unfortunately, their services are rarely called upon for the patronal feast nowadays, since professionals are engaged from the nearby provincial town, or even Athens, because their playing is more modern.

Very few people know about these coffee shops, even those involved in folklore studies or dance. The following list of addresses should help those in charge of folk dance troupes to find suitable musicians from each region. It should also be of help to anyone interested in traditional dance and its music, in giving them an entree into this domain.