On Thanasis Polykandriotis’ initiative, in 2003, the Musical Ensemble OI EPOMENOI “THE NEXT” of 40 young musicians was established, aiming to popularize and preserve the foremost Greek musical instrument, the bouzouki. The first bouzouki ensemble was in 1996 with their first appearance in Harama, Kaisariani, next to their teacher.
Polykandriotis’ priority is to integrate the popular bouzouki into traditional folk instruments, as well as to show everyone that the bouzouki is not, as he puts it, a decorative instrument, but belongs to the string family and should play a leading role.
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.
“THE NEXT” consists of more than 280 young musicians from all over Greece. Their love for music and bouzouki is housed by the IMC Michalis Cacoyannis Foundation in Tavros as well as the Athens Conservatory where seminars and rehearsals are held.
The Musical Ensemble of 40 bouzoukis is renewed at regular intervals with young musicians mainly from 16 to 35 years old, from all corners of Greece, Athens, Thessaloniki, Preveza, Igoumenitsa, Santorini, Ikaria, Arta, Crete, etc.
On Monday, June 7, 2004 at 9 pm, “THE NEXT” were presented by their “inspirer” Thanasis Polykandriotis for the first time to the public in a concert with the work of Manos Hadjidakis, “Skliros April of ’45” at the “Alekton” in Kerameikos. Two more concerts followed on 11 and 12 June.
Thanasis Polykandriotis chose Hadjidakis’ work (a milestone in Greek discography) to be the first play to be performed by “THE NEXT” since it is extremely important for him, who first played it when he was a child, at the call of Manos 1972.
Homer with the rhapsodies gave birth to the divine ancient Greek tragedy. From it came the folk song which in turn gave birth to rebetiko. Nobody knows what the course of folk song would be if there was no rebetiko. “THE NEXT” play and sing like rebetes, Markos, Bagianderas Batis, Delias, Tountas, Papazoglou, Pagioumtzis with bouzouki tzoura, baglama.
“THE NEXT” by Thanassis Polykandriotis, the young soloists are already appearing either alone or next to famous artists and making their own careers.
Polykandriotis, as a teacher and musician “father” of children, states:
If one of the children is absent once or twice from the rehearsal, everyone has something to say, they are worried, they are interested. My goal is for everyone to be there, but it is impossible because there are many from different parts of Greece.
When you do something for yourself without financial incentives then that’s all.
And “THE NEXT” is everything. I have gone to the rehearsal and only two people are gathered. In another rehearsal they are 40. I’m upset but I don’t put it down because I know. The teacher deals with each child personally. When someone has a problem, the teacher knows it first and solves it in collaboration with him.
The orchestration of the musical pieces in the rehearsal is born from everyone’s ideas, it’s not just mine. I teach them four voices, the first with octaves, the third, fifth, kontra kanti, so that the possibilities of the instrument can be exploited. I want them to participate because that’s how they learn. There is no funding. I wish things were different, but unfortunately they are not. Maybe one day this will happen. Some outsiders have said that this gathering of so many bouzoukis will not last. Others said they did not agree. Others said only the teacher was playing. I’m not afraid of words, let them say what they want to. The children with their work proved that what they do is what they really want and it has value. Most of them, work until late for their living and come for a while to “smell” a bit of rehearsal.
The requirements of the teacher are not the same for everyone but according to their level. The repertoire is determined according to the circumstances and what the children want. When they are together they make jokes, they laugh a lot, they have a good time and they show that they are a family team, they play with their soul and they are happy. When we present Tsitsanis or Chiotis, or Zambetas, what is necessary for me is that I have to convey to them their style and style, not to become a copy of them but to learn how to interpret them, what characterized them and to bring them into their own hands with their own personality.
Attendance at rehearsal classes is not mandatory and children do it for themselves.
Discipline is the key to learning to play simply and understandably. When young people play in front of the public, they feel a great responsibility, their anxiety is reduced and their artistic status results.
When there is a break, instead of resting, they play various pieces non-stop as if they want something more for themselves. There are two levels of study. One is that they receive the musical work from the orchestra’s curator in the first performance and the other is that we all put it together on a new playing basis without altering the first performance. We try to add and highlight it.
Now I have the great pleasure of educating young people, 10 to 12 years old, whom I named Next ones. What my eyes have seen is not described when they coexist with the great ones, that is, the Next ones.
The result is when you watch the Music Ensemble “The Next” to play and sing as Mikis said in 2014 when he saw and heard the concert at the I.M.C. in his honor.
What we heard today is Greece, Greece the beautiful, the strong the upright.