Greek Blues Scene: Q&A with counterculture artist Giotis Kyttaris, storyteller and 'Blues Quixote' of local scene

"If it wasn't for the blues music rock and roll wouldn't never exist which eventually shook up the world's culture. In today's emotional coldness, the sounds and lyrics of that kind of music provide a direct outlet to real human essence, building a world that is more sensitive and hopeful."

Giotis Kyttaris: Blues, Roots & Black Jug

Athens Greece based musician and tattoo artist, Giotis 'Blues' Kyttaris is a counterculture figure in Greek Blues scene for almost two decades. He lived as busking musician, knowing from firsthand the Blues culture and learned from the great master of Blues, such as: Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf and many others. He traveled in Europe and shared the stage with many local musicians and blues greats as Louisiana Red, Nick Gravenites, and Greek bluesmen Zorz Pilali, Dimitris Politymos, and Dimitris Poulikakos in various clubs and bars. In Italy, Giotis caught the attention of many Italians musicians and producers and they’re offered to incorporate a song to an Italian collection with blues/rock songs. Giotis is a virtuoso player and imaginative craftsman for cigar box guitars.

"The blues are popular music... And the folk music touches more the working classes. So it is inevitable to have loyal listeners." (Photo: Giotis Kyttaris, composer, singer and musician of Blues/Americana music)

In 2014 released the album "Blues Spell" with 7 original tracks. Giotis plays acoustic roots blues, blues/rock, country or rembetiko with many difference projects: Black Jug, Mortes and Blues Session. Previous albums by Giotis are: DOWN TO THE DELTA OF ALPHEUS (2015), ACOUSTIC LIVE AT "EMPROS” (2015), ROOTS RUN DEEP HERE (2016), GIO BACK TO LOUISIANA (2022), and the latest release titled JELIAFRICA BLACK JUG (2024). Giotis Kyttaris will be involved in the upcoming new album of Daddy's Work Blues Band.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I learned that the blues is not a sign. It's a way of life. You never think that now my life is blues. Just live. The blues is a musical like all the others. That is music. That's all. And as we know there is no man without music because I will not be human. The blues, there is a feeling. That make you feel very bad. The blues have been a sickness, and there was a pain that you never had. Now here where the blues going. It jumps on you early in the morning. And it worries you until you go to sleep. Then after you go to sleep you get to dream all that bad dreams. And is giving you nothing but the midnight creeps. This is the blues.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN? Which is the most interesting period in your life?

There is no good or bad blues. There is not even blues. There is a man confronted with his passions, his wants, his experiences and his need to "heal" playing music. My whole life was interesting for me because I lived and live intensely everything.

How do you describe Giotis sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I have never thought about how I sound. This question should be in I do you. Characterizes the need to express myself.

"There is no good or bad blues. There is not even blues. There is a man confronted with his passions, his wants, his experiences and his need to 'heal' playing music. My whole life was interesting for me because I lived and live intensely everything." (Giotis Kyttaris / Photo by Miltos Papadimitropoulos)

How has the Blues influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues moves me erotically. So, everything else comes second.

Where does your lyrics creative drive come from? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

I get inspired from personal everyday matters. I started with my soul, and I conclude in my heart.

What moment changed your music life the most? What touched you from the African music?

It was my first harmonica when I was 5 years old, and it was a present. The traditional instruments and the earthy contact of theirs.

The blues was a challenge for me to delve into African music, searching for its social identity similar to our own rebetiko expression. But above all, I discovered its romantic erotic structure, which inspired me to write similar lyrics.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

The blues are popular music... And the folk music touches more the working classes. So, it is inevitable to have loyal listeners.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

All the jam that I do is magic. Why you not think those who play with but the complement of emotions holing when playing with them. So your expression is above a pebble to yields exactly what you want to say. I cannot remember what gigs are what but I can tell you that all had something memorable and special.

"Feeling... And certainly the events have changed shape anymore but remain the same. I hope nothing I fear nothing, I play blues." (Giotis Kyttaris & Dimitris Polytimos, Greece / Photo © by Zois Louvaris)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Certainly is the master of the genre. But with everyone I played was a special experience. The best advice is: keep going!

Are there any memories from recording time which you’d like to share with us?

Yes when an album that was making lost a whole piece. It's like a lost moment of my life. Again recordings but it was not like that which was lost.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Greece. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene and why?

There are many bands playing blues in Greece, but in my opinion interesting time for the blues in Greece never existed.

From the musical point of view what are the differences between Greek and European music scene?

The difference is that in Europe have their own musical roots and influences the same in Greece. But ultimately music is one and there are no borders for this.

What are been your experiences from the road with the blues? Which was the best and worst moment?

You live two lives at once. The rich and the poor. Joy and sorrow. The possible and the impossible. The feeling and tyranny. The beauty and ugliness. All these together. So there is a good and a bad time, kitten all happening together. Good and bad times there, just happen.

"The blues was a challenge for me to delve into African music, searching for its social identity similar to our own rebetiko expression. But above all, I discovered its romantic erotic structure, which inspired me to write similar lyrics." (Giotis Kyttaris / Photo by Sofia Panailidou)

What do you miss most nowadays from the past blues? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

Feeling... And certainly the events have changed shape anymore but remain the same. I hope nothing I fear nothing, I play blues.

Which memories from Louisiana Red, Nick Gravenites and Dimitris Poulikakos makes you smile?

From Louisiana Red as the innocent face, by Nick Gravenites attempt to pronounce his last name in Greek and by Dimitris Poulikakos phrase that usually tells me when we play a song: come on, it's nothing, is three chords.

What is the impact of Blues music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

If it wasn't for the blues music rock and roll wouldn't never exist which eventually shook up the world's culture. In today's emotional coldness, the sounds and lyrics of that kind of music provide a direct outlet to real human essence, building a world that is more sensitive and hopeful.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths in Greece?

I'm always reachin' for the perfection and at the same time I remain humble.

Which incident of Blues Rock history you‘d like to be captured and illustrated on a tattoo?

A guy in a crossroads to sell his soul to the devil to play blues.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

In a dive in the delta of the Mississippi.

Giotis Blues Kyttaris - Official website

(Giotis Kyttaris / Photos by Teri Papa)

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