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Crete: the City of Hania

Hania Prefecture Overview Page Seven

Hania's Landmarks continued

Quarters of Chania

The Cafe Harhalis Traditional Cretan Music Center

traditional cretan costumesOne place in Hania that isn't mentioned in guide books about Hania, is the Café Harhali, a kafeneio run by a syllogos (basically 'association', of which there are many in Greece dedicated to preserving and fostering traditional culture and music). This café is a gem of a hangout for some of the seasoned veterans of the older, authentic world of Cretan music. Though the place is rather barebones, resembling so many kafeneia all over Greece, and on a shabby back street, the difference is in the incredible collection of framed vintage photos on the walls- photos of musicians from decades of Hania's rich ethnic musical history. On one wall hand several instruments, ready to be played by musicians who wander in for a coffee, tsipouro or Raki . These include violi (violin), Cretan lyra) (upright held bowed instrument played with the fingernails) and the 'kafetzis' (who runs the kafeneio) is one of the veteran players of Cretan music on violin (which usually isn't associated with Crete, since the post-war years brought the lyra into greater prominence). Sometimes he gives lessons right there, and sometimes he plays too, with a bouzoukiCretan laouto (the larger, bass form of the Greek lute which played in Crete). Café Harhalis is named for one of the old fiddlers of Hania province, which is found at Grigoriou E 26, about a twenty-minute walk from the harbor. You probably won't find any English-speakers there, but if genuinely interested in the music of Crete, you'll likely be treated kindly. The kafetzis keeps some cassettes for sale in a drawer, though not all of them are the best to be found in Crete, though you might hit on a great one, since syllogi (plural of syllogos) produce local music with the aim of cultural preservation rather than commercial appeal. The down side of this, however, can be recordings of players whose value is more towards the cultural preservation end than towards the musical.

Though the music that happens at this wonderful café is a rather impromptu thing, you might be able to find out about some non-advertised events where Cretan music is happening, or connect with musicians and teachers if you are yourself a musician. The kafetzis (Manolis, by name) may give you a lesson right there (or call somebody up who will come give you one). For a wider selection of Cretan music recordings, look in Hania, Rethymnon and Iraklio.

Other traditional music places: Café Kriti Kalergon 22, corner of Andhroyio. Old style kafeneio with Cretan music and dancing almost every night. Skala Kalergon 12. Rembetika venue with all-night performances that begin after midnight. You might see posters for music events near the market or around town, and check to see if there are events at the Public Gardens. Be aware, however, that the words for 'traditional music' (paradhosiaka) doesn't always mean that you'll get to hear the older geuine article music, since, as with traditional music all over Greece, the old tunes have gotten slicked up in the world of commercial music, and further altered by extreme amplification complete with too much reverb, which makes the instruments sound muddy and unlike themselves.

Beaches are all to the west of the city. Buses leave from the east side of Platia 1866. Good places to get out are Oasis or Kalamaki. See section on Coast west of Hania for more details.

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