Traditional laterna workshop 

 

 
   

LATERNA

The greek barrel piano

The laterna is a barrel piano which is indeed a little portable piano with an action activated by a wooden cylinder which is pinned with several thousands little nails; every nail being a musical note.

Mostly forgotten in the west as it was replaced by disc operated music boxes and player pianos, it was the main music reproducing instrument in Greece for almost a century until WWII. Therefore it was extremely popular, massively built and greatly adored by Greeks. It did in fact played a vital role in the evolution of the Greek 20th century popular music. Old generations remember its glamour and glory-newer generations see it as a begging tool and the young generation shows an enthusiasm with true curiosity and respect.

The figures are enormous: It is hard to imagine a society with no TV, radio, HiFi, tapes, Video etc. Live music was only allowed to rich and privileged except for special occasions. The masses could only listen to that blessed instrument which was the jukebox of its period. It circulated in the streets by the thousands built by an organized industry, which employed dedicated craftsmen and talented musicians... Figures compare the density of the first decade of the 20th century laternas to the pianos owned today.

All kinds of music were “stamped” on the cylinders. It virtually carried on its back most of the Greek musical tradition. Many instruments had a spare cylinder, which contained European dancing music, e.g. waltz, tangos, polkas etc. Today there are only a handful left, in bad shape and none of the old craftsmen exist.

A private effort commenced in the workshop of Panos Ioannidis to revitalize the instrument, it was a long and tedious process, as there were no manuscripts, notes, tools, technical information etc, and the instrument and its barrel are extremely complex and demand the greatest precision.

The first new laterna was built in 1996 complete with new songs. An effort is also made to transcribe old authentic songs and in the same time improve the sound, technology and aesthetics. It is a real joy listening to songs that have never been recorded and a delight to dance a waltz or a tango of a forgotten tune…

 

Panos Ioannidis

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links

Contact

In the Press

 

Site map

Home page

Laterna story

The greek laterna

1940 - today

Panos' resume

Glossary

 

 

© Panos Ioannidis 2007