My Sani Festival
It was September 1996 when the President of SANI S.A., Mr. Stavros Andreadis, proposed that I become the artistic director of the festival, which, although taking its very first steps, had already been hosted at the premises of Sani Resort and known as Sani Festival.
The proposal was not merely tempting. It was one of those moments that make your knees buckle, because Sani had been the place where I had spent every summer while growing up; it was a land of dreams, loaded with all the memories and ‘first times’ of my childhood and adolescence. I was now invited to bring my professional life onto this emotional landscape.
My first Sani Festival. The first event I organised on Sani Hill, the landmark of the festival and the place I used to visit when I ran away from home and rushed to the beach of a marina that was no longer in operation. I used to take off my wooden clogs and cross the shallow waterway to get to the other side, where an imposing tongue of land surrounded by the sea was standing, with a looming tower, which we used to call a tiny remnant of a Medieval observatory on the rock; we imagined maidens of the manor still living in it.
The aim of this ‘adventure’ – as it used to seem to my child’s eyes – was to allow me to look at the sunset from up there.
These were the images coming to my mind as I was going up the Hill, as I was pacing up and down during the sound rehearsal of the first concert I organized there. It was mid-July. The venue was ready to receive on stage a world acclaimed jazz musician, the King of Mambo, Tito Puente.
There was a big turnout – more than 3,000 people crowded at the feet of the rock waiting to ‘climb’ up Sani Hill. Some acquaintances and friends among the audience waiting for the ‘gates’ to open, saw me running around, seeing to various last-minute matters and ‘picked’ my emotional charge in the air; I was in a floating state of mind, between professional perversion and mental bliss, experiencing the carefree feeling of Sani holidays.
They called out heart-felt, encouraging words to me. My eyes welled with tears. The concert started with some serious hiccups: there was a general blackout sending the entire first finger of Chalkidiki into total darkness. We managed to reach the end of the event in the most touching way: the whole of the Hill was vibrating, dancing to the live rhythms of the artist. Tito Puente’s eyes welled with tears. The love of the people was the cause of these tears of joy.
It’s getting closer. It’s almost here. So am I. Nineteen years later, still at the helm of a festival with its own cultural character and identity; a favourite summer habit – an encounter and a dialogue between local and international visitors to the district, its vehicle being artistic creativity and expression; a bridge linking tourism and culture.
A festival now included among the most important ones held in Greece and honoured by fans from beyond the country’s borders.
Ready to sail away on the Hill, on a journey of tone colour, which this year opens its 23rd event on July 11.
Mid-July again. The curtain rises this time with the excellent double bassist Dave Holland, the unique saxophonist Chris Potter, the virtuoso Lionel Loueke on guitar and the incredible Eric Harland on drums. It is the love of the people that encourages us and urges us to keep going.