Review on La Ponta by Lee Commer Pharr
Exhibits and Programs Coordinator
Delta Blues Museum
1 Blues Alley
Clarksdale, MS 38614
I work at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting Yannis Pantazis and Argy Kakissis (co-founders of La Ponta-Venetian Tower) at the museum. This wonderful couple turned our small classroom in the Mississippi Delta into ancient Greece and Santorini for one afternoon, to the delight of our 40 visitors in attendance. They have preserved a Venetian Tower on the island of Santorini and turned it into an exhibition & workshop studio for the Greek bagpipe—Tsabouna. They are open to tourists during the summer season, April through the end of October, but they took a break to visit the U.S. and travel around speaking about their project to help raise awareness and money to complete their vision—The restoration of the tower and creating a center for cultural exchange and musical education.
During their visit to Clarksdale, Argy and Yannis presented as a team for almost 2 hours in the museum’s classroom space. We had a mixture of local youth, adults, and tourists in attendance. All were treated to a wonderful slideshow depicting the beauty of their homeland, the history of the Venetian Tower they are restoring, and also the history of Greek music… including how it is inextricably tied into their philosophy and religion! The photographs alone will make anyone want to visit their island home. They explained that the iconic blue, domed roofs on all of the buildings are the same shade of blue inside and outside, and the reason is typically romantic and endearing. The architects and painters painted each roof and ceiling a slightly different shade of blue. They painted them to match the sky on that particular day.
Yannis, an extremely talented musician and craftsman, explained the history of Greek music. He tied the instruments to the various Greek gods and traced their origins back for us to the beginning. He then worked his way through the instruments as they evolved. He started with simple flutes and concluded with the majestic Greek bagpipe known as the tsabouna. The best part of the presentation: he played each and every instrument incredibly well! He also engaged the audience and turned us all into musicians. We kept rhythm and sang with him. Children and adults played authentic goat-bells and tambourines side by side. He drew similarities between ancient Greek music and the Delta Blues we preserve and honor here. Music is truly universal, and Yannis and Argy know how to demonstrate this to people all over the world. La Ponta tower sounds like a magical place that needs support and that everyone should visit. We were lucky to have them visit us, but everyone here hopes they can return the favor, if you can call it a favor to visit Santorini!