On Thanasis Polykandriotis' initiative, in 2003, the Mediterranean Center for the Research of Culture OI EPOMENOI was established, along with the 40-youngster Musical Ensemble, aiming to popularize and preserve the foremost Greek musical instrument, the bouzouki.
Polykandriotis' priority is to integrate the popular bouzouki in the traditional folk instruments as well as to shoe everyone that the bouzouki is not a "decorative instrument", as he puts it, but that it belongs in the family of string instruments and should be eminent.
Actively involved in bouzouki education since 1993, he struggles for the establishment of a state-recognized certificate as well as its inclusion in UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list as a distinguishable Greek instrument.
"OI EPOMENOI" are comprised of more than 280 musicians from all over Greece. Their love for music and the bouzouki is housed by the MCF Michael Cacoyannis Foundation in Tavros, Athens.
The young "bouzoukistes" meet in the Foundation's facilities every week and exchange "musical" views, prepare for their next activities (concerts, seminars, presentations, etc.) and their rehearsals are open to the public.
The 40-bouzouki Musical Ensemble's roster is often renewedwith young musicians, mainly between the ages of 16 to 35, from all over Greece, Athens, Thessaloniki, Preveza, Igoumenitsa, Santorini, Ikaria, Arta, Crete, etc.
On Monday June 7th 2004 at 9pm, "OI EPOMENOI" were introduced to the public for the first time by their "inspirer" ThanassisPolykandriotis, at a concert of Manos Hadjidakis' "Cruel April of '45" at "Alekton" in Kerameikos. Two more concerts followed on June 11thand 12th..
Thanasis Polykandriotis chose Hadjidakis' work (a milestone in Greek discography) as the first composition to be played by "OI EPOMENOI", since it is holds great significance to him, having played it for the first time when he was at their age, after Manos' request in 1972.
The next compositions that "OI EPOMENOI" performed, were dedicated to great teachers, Chiotis, Zampetas, Tsitsanis, Papaioannou, AkisPanou, Kazantzidis, Theodorakis and others. This way, the young learn from them and honor.Thus they ought not forget them.
"OI EPOMENOI" have so far participated in many concerts both in Greece and abroad. One important concert of theirs, which was also released in CD, was given in November 2006 in the Megaron Athens Concert Hall, in the Hallof the Friends of Music- with the participation of Glykeria and DimitrisTypaldos' children's choir.
Another important appearance was on March 28th 2008 in Shanghai Concert Hall, under the aegis of the Greek Tourism Organization for the occasion of the Greek kiosk establishment in Shanghai.
On September 21st 2009, "OI EPOMENOI" participated in the concert titled "FADOS - FLAMENCO - REMPETIKO" which took place in the Odeon of Herod Atticus with guests Dulce Pontes and Paco Pena.
Thanassis Polykandriotis, the founder of the organization, has developed effective methods and successful teaching programs, collaborating with the West Macedonia University, the department of Folk and Traditional Music of the TEI of Arta, the P. Nakas, N. Skalkotas, Technis G. Fakanas, D. Tournavitis, NeaPenteli conservatories, the Model Musical Center of Piraeus, the Municipal Conservatories of Ioannina, Igoumenitsa, Acharnai and Kranidi and has fueled Greek music with young musicians who are highly knowledgeable in folk modes and the evolution of the instrument.
All of my books are written for the Epomenoi everywhere. That way, our young musicians complete their knowledge of our country's folk and traditional music.
Homer through his rhapsodies gave birth to the divine ancient Greek tragedy. From it, came our traditional music which in turn, brought forth rempetiko. No one knows what course our folk music could have taken, if it had not been for rempetiko. "OI EPOMENOI" play and sing like the rempetesMarkos, Bayanteras, Batis, Delias, Tountas, Papazoglou, Pagioumtzis did. With bouzoukia, tzouras and baglamas.
Thanasis Polykandriotis "OI EPOMENOI", the young soloists, already perform, either on their own or accompanying well-known artists and pursue their own careers.
Polykandriotis as the teacher and musical "father" says:
If one of the guys is absent from the rehearsal once or twice, everyone has something to say, they worry, they are concerned. My goal is for everyone to be there, but that's impossible since they are many and from different parts of Greece. When you do something for yourself, with no financial motive, then that thing is everything. And "OI EPOMENOI" are everything. I have been to the rehearsal only to see one or two people. In another rehearsal there are 40 of them. It saddens me, but I don't give up because I understand. The teacher personally deals with every student individually. When someone has a problem, the teacher is the first to know and both work together to solve it.
The orchestration of the pieces during rehearsal takes into consideration everyone's ideas, it's not something I alone do. I want them to be a part in it, because that way they learn. There is no funding. I would like things to be different, but unfortunately they still aren't. Maybe someday. Some people on the outside said that this coming together of so many bouzoukia wouldn't last. Others said that they didn't agree. Others,that the teacher is the only one who plays. Words don't daunt me, let them say whatever they want. The guys and their work have proven that what they do is worthwhile and they want it. Most of them work until late and drop by just to catch a glimpse of the rehearsal.
Since 2010 when the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation became our "home", things have been better because the space itself plays the important part of "a different level". The teacher's demands are not the same for everyone but depend on their level. So, wehearinteresting,differentthingsasaresult. The selection of songs is determined according to occasions but to what the guys want as well. When they're together, they joke around, laugh a lot, have fun and show that it's a family group, play their hearts out and enjoy it.When we rehearse Tsitsanis or Chiotis or Zampetas, what is essential to me is communicating their style and way of expression to them, not for the guys to mimic, but to learn their way of playing, what characterized them, and take them into their own hands using their own personality.
Attending the lessons is not obligatory, they do it for themselves, their friends and their teachers. Discipline is the principal means inorder to learn how to play simply andarti culately. When the young play in front of an audience, they feel great responsibility, their stress decreases and their artistic essence shows its potential.
When we take a break, instead of resting, they incessantly play as if they want something more from themselves. There are two stages of learning. First they receive the composition from the orchestra curator in its original execution and then we all set the performance on a new basis, without altering the original. We try to add to it and bring it out.
The result is watching "OI EPOMENOI" Musical Ensemble play and sing. Then you understand that this is Greece and only Greece.