Yannis Pantazis is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and instrument maker.
He was born in the Greek mountain town of Grevena in 1978. Yannis grew up in a musical environment—both his father and grandfather were percussionists—and was inspired early on by the unique musical culture of his region – Western Macedonia.
His musical career began in 1997, when he enrolled at "Delidimos Lazaros" Conservatory, Thessaloniki to study music theory and saxophone. In 2001, he joined the band Captain Sung and his Electric Tangerine, playing the accordion. In 2002, he continued his study of music at "Christos Papoulakos" Conservatory, Larissa. In 2005, he joined the ethno-Greek band, Namaste, with which he toured Greece and the Balkans. It was then that he was inspired seek out his roots in the traditional sounds of Greece.
In 2006, fascinated by a childhood memory of the sound of the tsabouna, he traveled to Naxos to find out more about the instrument. While there, he learned how to make and play the instrument from a local shepherd. His research led him on a journey through the Cycladic islands. On the island of Paros, he was taught by Nikos Tsantanis. In 2007, he arrived on Santorini, where he met the last living tsabounier. He began to play the tsabouna at traditional village festivals and revived local interest in a sound that hadn’t been heard in decades. With his playing, a tsabouna revival began and Yannis started teaching the instrument to young people. His very first students were the descendants of the renowned tsabounier of the Santorinian village of Akrotiri, Stathis Arvanitis.
In the winter of 2007 Yannis stayed in the southern Italian region of Grecia Salentina, studying the language and music and participating in local festivals on the tsabouna.
In 2011, he and his wife, Argy Kakissis, contributed to the organization of the annual Pan-Cycladic Meeting of Folk Wind-Instruments.
In 2012, he and Argy founded La Ponta, a tsabouna exhibition and workshop inside the tower of the Venetian castle of Akrotiri. At La Ponta, Yannis made bagpipes, flutes and percussion instruments, while hosting educational workshops and musical performances. Since then, he has represented Santorini at the annual Southern Aegean Meeting of Folk Wind-Instruments.
In 2013, he released his first album, "Aylos Aulos.”
In the course of his career, he has given concerts and conducted training workshops in Greece, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and the U.S.A. In the United States he has appeared at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Kingston Mines (Chicago), Nocca (Center for Creative Arts - New Orleans), Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge), and the Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale, MS).
He represented Greece through his participation in the European Union cultural program "Folk Music in MusEUms" in Estonia, Norway, Italy and Spain.
He has collaborated with Corey Harris, Marta Sebestyen, Thanassis Kleopas, Vino Louden, Wang Long, Manitarock, Vassilis 'Blue' Sotiriou, Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli, Captain Sung and the Electric Tangerine, and Tony Cedras. In addition, he has opened for Goran Bregovic.
His work has been covered by various media outlets, including BBC 2 (Scotland), OTE HISTORY (Greece) RAI3 (Italy), TV5 (France), ET3 (Greece), National Geographic Magazine (UK), Sunday Times (UK), NDR (Germany), VIV2 (Vietnam) SONGLINES Magazine (UK), and Chanter Magazine (UK).
In 2013, "La Ponta" was nominated for the National Geographic’s World Cultural Heritage Award in the Sense of Place category.
In 2018, La Ponta expanded and moved to the traditional village of Megalochori as Symposion by La Ponta, a cultural center that offers a unique experience of music and mythology to visitors from around the world. Here, Yannis gives performances using the tsabouna and a variety of musical instruments that he makes in his workshop. He also teaches instrument-making to adults and children and offers daily presentations and evening performances that introduce global travelers to the world of Greek sound.