Artist of the day: Ellada
The bouzouki is a traditional Greek instrument. It is a distant cousin of the ancient lute, has a long neck and a half-watermelon-shaped bowl where the strings, usually in sets of three or four, are played with a pick. The bouzouki is more like a mandolin than a guitar, though not quite like a mandolin either. It's tuned differently and looks different and sounds different.
It's also something of a dying art form.
In Tarpon Springs, where old Greek culture hangs on, George Soffos is the king of the bouzouki. He can play many styles: classical Greek and the island music known as nisiotika. He teaches it to a new generation at the City of Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum.
Soffos' bouzouki is the centerpiece of his band, Ellada, which also features Elias Poulos on vocals and Dino Theofilos on keys. It is as thoroughly Greek a group as you're gonna find in Tampa Bay, which comes in handy for weddings and celebrations in Tarpon Springs. Ellada plays at Mythos, a Greek restaurant and nightclub in Clearwater, every third Saturday of the month. Their fans begin filing in early. When the show starts at 8 p.m. every chair and every stool is taken.
For much more on Soffos and the art of the bouzouki, click here to read Jeff Klinkenberg's profile.
Photo: Maurice Rivenbark, tbt*