Traditional Music of Greece

Ziyiá is an old Greek word for the small ensembles of rural Greece and a fitting description for this group of musicians; Beth from Boston, Christos from Seattle, and George, Lise, Rumen Sali and Dan from the San Francisco Bay Area, drawn together by a shared love of traditional Greek music.

George Chittenden: clarinet, saxophone, gaida, zourna. George has been playing Balkan and Near Eastern music since the mid-1970s, having previously become familiar with the music through his experience as a dancer and performer. He has studied music extensively abroad, focusing primarily on regional dance music of northern Greece and Anatolian Turkey. This has included traveling to remote corners of both countries to experience the social celebrations in which music plays such a central role, as well as learning regional styles from both rural and professional musicians. George performs regularly for ethnic communities and for folk music and dance events throughout the country and has toured abroad. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Lise and plays with two bands; Ziyiá and Édessa, known for playing high-energy dance music of the southern Balkans.
Christos Govetas: vocals, bouzoúki, oúti, laoúto, clarinet, zourna. Christos was born in the village of Proti in the province of Serres in Greek Macedonia. He is a well-known singer and instrumentalist. After emigrating to Boston in 1978 he joined the Greek rebetiko band Taximi as a bouzouki player and their main vocalist. Since then he has played classical Turkish music on the oud and bendir with The Eurasia Ensemble, Greek, Turkish and Arabic music with Karaváni and regional Balkan music with Tito's Revenge and Akshambelah in the Boston area.

He has performed extensively in the U.S., Canada and Greece and has for the last ten years taught and performed Greek regional music in Balkan and Middle-Eastern Music and Dance Camps on both coasts of the U.S. Currently he is a member of the nationally known bi-coastal band Ziyiá and performs regularly with Pangéo in the Seattle area. Christos is the 1999 recipient of the prestigious Northwest Folklife Fellowship Award honoring his cultural contribution to the Greek-American and Folk dance communities. When he is not playing music Christos is in the architectural design and construction business.

Beth Bahia Cohen: violin, Macedonian lyras, baglamá. Beth plays the violin, various lyras from Greece, and the Turkish yayli (bowed) tanbur, performing Greek music with Ziyiá, Demetrios Tashie, and others. She has studied and played with violin and lyra players in Greece ( Vangélis Zagoráios, Yiórgos Avissinós, Manólis Manourás), as well as with composers, kemençe and yayli tanbur palyers in Turkey (Ihsan Ozgen, Cinuçen Tanrikorur, Sadun Oksut, Ozcan Korkut, and kanunist Rehas Sagbas) and in Hungary (Csaba Okros, Béla Halmos, and Ujstilus). She has performed with Libana, The EurAsia Ensemble, The Klezmer Conservatory Band, Karavani, Taximi, Sophia Bilides Folk Music Ensemble, Sarkany Hungarian Ensemble, and on t.v., radio, and in festivals in Greece, Turkey, Hungary, the U.S., and Canada. She teaches at the Balkan Music and Dance Camps, the World Music and Dance Camp, in universities, and in her studio in Boston.

Lise Liepman: santoúri, baglamá, accordion. Lise began her involvement with Balkan music in 1976 in the vibrant dance scene of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was a member and director of Westwind International Folk Ensemble for many years. At a Balkan music and dance camp Lise first heard the sound of the santouri (Greek hammered dulcimer) and was hooked. She began studying santouri with the Philadelphia-based musician Yiannis Roussos. She and her husband George Chittenden moved to Athens, Greece, where she continued her studies with the master musician Tásos Dhiakogiórgis. Lise plays santouri, accordion, and baglamá in the bands Ziyiá and Édessa and has toured internationally with the band Rebetiki Paréa. She has taught santouri at Balkan music workshops on both the west and east coasts as well as in Hawaii.

Rumen Sali Shopov: doumbeléki, daoúli, defi. Rumen Sali Shopov hails from the Turkish Romani (“Gypsy”) mahala (neighborhood) of Gotse Delchev, a crossroads town in Southwest Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountain range, neighboring the borders of Greece and Macedonia. He began his musical career at the age of ten when he joined his uncle's wedding band as a doumbek (goblet-shaped hand drum) tupan (double-headed bass drum), and barabani (drum set) player. Soon thereafter, he began playing tambura, the Bulgarian/Macedonian folk lute. When he was only thirteen, he won an audition to join the Nevrokopski Ensemble, Bulgaria’s first professional national folk ensemble.  At the age of 18, Rumen became the Nevrokopski Ensemble’s concertmaster and toured as an ambassador of Bulgarian culture with the group throughout Eastern and Western Europe, the Near East, and Canada for more than 20 years. Simultaneously, Rumen was also a lead member of several of the Pirin region’s hottest bands Biljana, Shturo Make and Orkestar Orbita, and an accompanist to a long list of Bulgaria’s most popular folk singers. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, he performs regularly as a percussionist with Edessa and Anoush, and as an accompanist to the vocal ensemble Kitka and numerous West Coast folk dance ensembles. Rumen has been on the teaching staff of the East European Folklife Center's Balkan Music and Dance Workshops, Stockton Folk Dance Camp, Balkanalia, and Kosmos World Music Camp.

Dan Auvil: doumbeléki, daoúli, defi. Dan was first exposed to Greek music as a college student in the San Francisco Bay Area and was interested in the new melodies and foreign instruments. Dan was especially drawn to the large two-headed drum called daoúli. He met George at these events and soon they were playing live music for a small dance group. Over the years his skill and reputation have grown and he is known as a "dancers" drummer. He also teaches at the annual Balkan Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino, California. Dan does design for Ziyiá including this website and the graphics for our recordings.



photo:  April Renae