Psarantonis (Antonis Xylouris) was born in Anogeia, Crete Island during WWII. His early influences, among others, was the playing of the lyra by his older brother - myth of greek music, Nikos Xylouris (Psaronikos), Manolis Pasparakis (Stravos) and the other lyra players of his village.
Psarantonis was to become a living legend of music, enriching the cretan, mediterranean and world music with unprecedented sounds, with unheard and unique musics and interpretations.
"My influences come from what I listened to in a young age, which I was taking into myself, my own way..."
Self-taught in lyra, he played for the first time at a wedding feast at 13 and quickly gained fame playing at folklore parties and feasts in Crete.
"Inspiration, my child, is nature. Let's take with us just the finest of what we may live..."
Psarantonis entered the music industry in 1962 after releasing a 7-inch (45 rpm) disc although his first full length album was only released in 1973. By 1980 he was discovered abroad and successive invitations to important music festivals in Europe, America and Australia started to occur. To date he has appeared to dozens of major festivals of traditional, jazz and rock music. He has composed music for dance performances and theatrical plays.
"The cry of gods" - This is how they preface Psarantonis at the most important contemporary music festivals.
• In 1982 he was invited to the WDR Folkfestival, in Cologne (Germany) where was awarded the 1st prize by an international committee of experts.
• In 1985 he represented Europe in Journées des Cinq Continents (Meeting of the Five Continents), in Zurich (Switzerland) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).
• In 2005 he was invited to participate in the celebration for the 20 years of World Music Institute, in Manhattan, New York (USA).
• In 2007 he was invited to take part in the All Tomorrow's Parties, in Minehead (England).
• In 2009 he was invited for the second time at the All Tomorrow's Parties, in Sydney and in Melbourne (Australia) under the artistic direction of Nick Cave.
Psarantonis' lyra is exposed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona (USA) where a demonstrative video of him playing the lyra is projected.
In Greece, among the first to discover him, was Manos Hadjidakis who adopted a special award for "a strong and unique musical personality playing the lyra, called Psarantonis" and awards him as the "First lyra player of Greece", at the Musical August, held in 1979, at Anogeia.
Within Psarantonis' music lives the ancient mythology of Crete. Whether talking about Zeus or the construction of the first lyra by the mythical shepherd Chantiperas or Kourites or expressing with his lyra what he feels like an alive legend of his homeland, Psarantonis validates with his physical presence, the art of the ancient myths of Crete. Psarantonis animates myths not only by his virtuosity but also with his faith in them as he is approaching them with thought and dream, believing in their current existence and energy.
The vertical, sharp bowing on his lyra, brings in mind the steep slopes and peaks of the mountains of Crete. Through the lyrical whisper of his lyra, emerges sweetness by the murmur of tiny bells (koutsounaria), the singing of birds and the sound of the shepherds' pipes, at Psiloreitis. In the music of Psarantonis, one may sometimes hear running waters trickling, sometimes lonely trees that get hit by strong wind and sometimes "the roaring drone produced by land and air" like Kornaros has said. And yet, there are moments when his sudden bowing drags you to the edge of the cliff: "Where times come together, where they meet". And where possible, if you hear the second and third layer of music, you may witness the great goat, as Aggelos Sikelianos witnessed him, "up and standing" on a rock above the madding open sea...
Young and ancient at the same time, Psarantonis has the powers of a Rhapsodist and with the unbeatable boldness in improvisation, he manages to create the atmosphere of awe, agitation and shivering, like the great musicians of jazz music. Deep knower and real devotee to tradition but also undisciplined by his nature and restless, always surprising and apocalyptic, Psarantonis today is regarded as the dashing but also thoughtful innovator of tradition – a living essence of primitive and modern musical narratives.
The largest part of the text was written by Michalis Pieris.