Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Just Wanna Dance the Night Away

When I first started coming to Greece in the late seventies and even on into the eighties, it wasn't hard to find a taverna of an evening with a little live music. Often there'd be a Bouzouki player accompanied by perhaps a keyboard, or a guitarist, even occasionally a little band in a corner somewhere. If there was music, then there was always an area set aside as a kind of dance floor and you could be pretty sure that, as the evening wore on, someone would begin to dance. It wasn't unusual for a regular-sized taverna to even have a few dancers in costume come out and do a bit of a show before tugging the diners out of their chairs and on to the floor. I suppose that I sort of took all this for granted.

I remember countless tavernas in places like Poros Island, Poros village and Argostoli on Kefallonia, Samos, Paxos, Corfu and a few more besides, where my better half got up and strutted her stuff, occasionally with me in tow. In fact, way back before our friends John and Wendy decided to build the house we now call home, they came to Greece with us and we started their Greek experience in Skiathos, where John proved, much to my surprise at the time, that he was a party animal. He may not have known the steps, but he'd be up there bopping around, arms stretched out at shoulder height, to raucous cheers and claps from the Greeks at the tables around the floor. He'd often earn us all a free drink for his trouble. Happy days.

But as the years wore on it became more and more the exception rather than the rule to find this kind of place as it seemed that, even though the staff were still friendly and attentive, often taking time to sit and talk with us toward the end of an evening, the makeshift dance floor gave way to a few more tables and a lot more dedication to getting the tourists to part with their money rather than learn a few steps to the Hasapiko.

Anyone who's read my ramblings for any length of time knows that my wife has dancing in her blood, since she was brought up by a Greek mother who always danced, even when in her kitchen whilst cooking Sunday lunch with one of her old Greek long-playing records playing at full tilt on the stereogram. So, for the first ten years or so of our visits to Greece I always knew that quite a few of our evenings would involve a bit of a knees-up and it was good. 

By the time we got into the mid-nineties, though, things had really moved on. We'd come to Greece and search in vain for that little taverna with a Bouzouki player, that tell-tale sign of a modest clearing among the dining tables that betrayed the fact that, if you were lucky to come on the right night, you'd be treated to a bit of an impromptu show, possibly from my wife! In order to find some real Greek dancing, you'd have no choice but to go to a Bouzoukia, which is a night club where Greek music throbs along from around midnight to dawn and is usually packed to the gills with young Greeks tsifteteli-ing for hours. To get in you'd have to part with serious cash and, once inside you could forget any conversation as the volume of the music would be felt more by your stomach than by your ears. On the plus side, I never felt any fear for my safety in such places, merely for my hearing and my loss of a good night's sleep.

As we grew older it became more and more irritating having to sacrifice a night's sleep just so my wife could get her fix of dancing for that year. So we gradually left off bothering to seek out the clubs while in Greece and became content (which probably isn't really the right word) with the fact that in Cardiff there was a very good taverna called the Hasapiko as it happens, where on Friday and Saturday nights they'd have live music and dancing. As far as I know (and that link you've just passed bears this out) they're still going strong. So, if you live within striking distance of Cardiff in South Wales, I'd recommend you give it a try.

Weird as it may seem, once when we did a city-break from the UK to Brussels in Belgium, we spent one of the nights in a Greek restaurant in the lower corner of the beautiful "Grande Place" in a Greek restaurant where my wife even ended up on the table for a while. How's that for irony? To get a little Greek culture while eating out in a taverna, we had to go to Brussels!

So, anyway, we moved out here to Rhodes in 2005 and have now been living here for eight and a half years. Each time we've gone out for a meal we've again looked for somewhere where they may just have the right idea. Sometimes it only needs a Bouzouki player, or a guitarist on his own to create an atmosphere, but, frankly, not much luck. Perhaps there are establishments in Rhodes Town, but that would entail a very long drive home afterwards for a simple evening out.

Imagine our delight, then, when we were told about Taverna Chrissa in the village of Pilona, not ten minutes drive from home. Every night they do an incredibly good value €10 a head food and drink deal for diners, but on Saturday nights every week they have live music and for €12 a head you can eat as much and drink as much as you want. They've been doing this now for a couple of months and last Saturday we finally made it there to find out if it was up to scratch. Well, folks, it was!

We found the music to be excellent, with two musicians, one playing Bouzouki of course, harmonizing their vocals really nicely and playing non-stop from around 9.00pm until we left at around half past midnight, when it was still in full swing. We'd have stayed longer but rarely, as it happens, we had to get up the next morning. It was just like the days of old when the place was packed to the gills with locals and the dancing was virtually non-stop once it got started. Needless to say, the better half was up there for most of the evening and even I joined in with the Kalamatiano and a few others now and then.

I asked the young man who served us if they intended this Saturday night live thing to continue on during the tourist season and he told me that yes it would. So, folks, if you fancy an authentic night out with some real Greek music and local people dancing, then you'll do a lot worse than check it out if you're staying toward the south of the island.

We shall definitely be going again soon!! Meanwhile, here's the evidence (these were all taken with my phone. I've got a new one folks!!)...

Food decimated, it was time to get up...

You'll probably recognize my significant other on the right here

Probably getting the picture now, eh? You know, about how much she loves dancing!! I got up too, but she couldn't hold the phone steady for all the laughing while I was on the floor.

Since Taverna Chrissa's initiative has evidently proven to be a success, we're hoping that others in the surrounding area will sit up and take notice. For years we've been saying to each other that if any enterprising local taverna owner were to remember the old days when a little live music would pack 'em in, they may perhaps realize that there's an opportunity going begging here. 

We do like to think that there are still a lot of visitors who'd delight to pay a visit to a place where there's a bit of action. There surely are those Grecophiles out there who, at least once or twice during their holiday, just wanna dance the night away!


  1. Go and visit Tilos John--we often have "impromptu" music nights there--and not just for tourists

    1. Yes Anon, we've wanted to visit Tilos for quite a while. Just haven't got around to it. One day though!!

  2. Loving the happiness in these pics John.

    Reminds me of times gone by, particularly at Flora Bar back in the early eighties when George & Vassilli danced while Capt Stergos served up the Fix.
    Not forgetting Jack down at the Pallas Beach with his bouzouki.
    Great memories.

  3. We enjoyed a great evening of music with Jack & his son at Courtyard Bar in Lindos last September, quite a few of us up dancing, hope to be doing it again this year! Lyn

    1. Yes, Lyn, we've heard that the Courtyard may be worth checking out. Might yet see you in there!!