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Stelios Petrakis began learning the art of the Cretan lyra in his hometown of Sitia. In 1983, he started his studies at the Sitia School of Music, learning to play the lyra with teachers Giannis Dandolos, Ross Daly, and Eleni Drettaki under the directorship of Kostas Mountakis. It was not long before he extended his interests to include Greek, Turkish, and Bulgarian repertoires, as well as that of Crete.
Petrakis’s interests have led him to work with an impressive list of international artists who represent multiple Mediterranean musical traditions. He has appeared in concert and recorded with major musicians in world music (Ross Daly, Bijan Chemirani, Keyvan Chemirani, Ojos de Brujo, Patrick Vaillant) and traditional Cretan music (Giorgis Xylouris, Vasilis Stavrakakis, Michalis Stavrakakis, Mitsos Stavrakakis). In addition, he has worked with Greek musicians and composers (Christos Leontis, Stamatis Spanoudakis, Achilleas Persidis) and Spanish singer Manolo García. He formed an instrumental trio with Valencian multi-instrumentalist Efrén López and Franco-Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani; the ensemble has toured Europe and India, and recently appeared at the Jazz sous les pommiers festival in France.
Petrakis has performed as soloist at such major venues as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Herodeon) in Athens, Royal Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris. He also has a lutherie workshop in Heraklion, where he makes his own instruments.
Petrakis’s love and admiration for Cretan music led him to form the Cretan Quartet, with which he focuses on the great musical traditions of Crete with a repertoire that consists of traditional pieces and his own tradition-inspired compositions. The quartet produced a live recording in 2015, Avgi ts’ avgis (Crack of Dawn), which won the Coup de Coeur prize of the Académie Charles Cros. The ensemble has appeared in such prestigious international festivals as WOMEX (Cardiff), globalFEST (New York City), Rainforest World Music Festival (Malaysia), World Sacred Spirit Festival (Rajasthan), and Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco).
Thanasis Mavrokostas began dancing at a very young age under the guidance of his parents, Dimitris and Eleni Mavrokostas, two of the best-known and innovative dancers of Crete. He grew up in Anogeia and Agia Galini, two villages with rich music and dance traditions. He currently teaches in his own dance schools in Heraklion, and has given dance seminars in Greece and abroad. He has performed in countless concerts and events in Greece and internationally, including at such venues as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Herodeon) beneath the Acropolis. He plays the lyra, askomandoura (a traditional Cretan bagpipe), and Cretan cello—a large Cretan lyra with the range of the classical cello that has been designed and constructed especially for the artistic needs of the Cretan Quartet.
Born in Heraklion, Crete, Antonis Stavrakakis began playing and learning Cretan music from teachers in his own family—Vasilis and Michalis Stavrakakis, two of the most important musicians of Crete today. He incorporates the style and technique of his family, while maintaining his own personal singing and playing tone. Stavrakakis worked closely with Stelios Petrakis in the ensemble of Vasilis Stavrakakis, a collaboration that formed the artistic cornerstone of the Cretan Quartet.
Giorgos Manolakis was born in Heraklion, Crete. When he was eight years old, he began learning the Cretan laouto, taught by his father, Kostas Manolakis, who was one of the major laouto players of his generation. After six years, he began studying the bouzouki with several remarkable teachers. Today, Manolakis is considered to be one of the leading virtuosos of his generation on the laouto and bouzouki. He has worked with many notable musicians and composers, including Ross Daly, Hainides, Naseer Shamma, Psarantonis, Sokratis Malamas, and Zohar Fresco.