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Who Zozef was

Updated: May 19, 2020

Zozef Terjivasian (1916-1999)

He was born in 1916, in Aphioh Karahisar of Asia and after the catastrophe in 1922, he has moved to Piraeus and settled in Nikea.

He was the greatest Luthier of the Greek traditional string instruments and his signature was on the musical instruments of all the major Greek composers and Bouzouki Virtuosos; Markos Vamvakaris, Vasilis Tsitsanis, Manolis Chiotis, Apostolos Chatzichristou, Giannis Papaioannou, Dimitris Gkogkou (Bagiantera), Giorgos Mitsakis, Costas Kaplanis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Giorgos Zambetas. It is a fact that the songs recorded using a Zozef Bouzouki, cover the 90% of the Greek repertoire from 1934 to 1995.

For 60 years he was committed to his job, which he considered to be a function. Vasilis Tsitsanis, who was Zozef's personal friend, once said: "Zozef using his ear and intuition, always makes the scale of the bouzouki unmistakable”. Zozef, explaining his craftsmanship, using his own words, had stated that "everything starts from the production process. First, you need to "stutter" and "drain" the woods, both for the instrument’s body (i.e. the speaker) and for the neck. Because only with "drained" wood the sound becomes rounded and magical. But it is also the top of the bouzouki which also needs good and worked wood, but mostly of good quality.

Anyone who asked Zozef what is most important thing during the construction process of a bouzouki, he used to answer in only four words: "The hands of the craftsman". It’s not a coincidence that Manolis Chiotis called Zozef "The Bouzouki Stradivarius". Fun fact; Chiotis used to greet Zozef with the Phrase; ‘’Hello Stradivarius!’’, and Zozef used to reply with ‘’Hello Paganini!’’, as the noble man he was.

After perfecting his technique with the Bouzouki manufacturing, in 1940, Zozef obtained a patent for a new musical instrument he called "Gerevan". It was a musical instrument which was something between a bouzouki and a guitar. Gerevan was created during a time in which the Bouzouki was marginalized by the majority of the society as an instrument referring to criminal behaviour, as well as the artists in the folk music of rembetiko movement. Nevertheless, Zozef managed to build and ensure the production and circulation of this new musical instrument. When he was asked what the Gerevan was, he used to reply ‘’It’s the capital of Armenia’’, so he managed to avoid any further conversations with curious people.

His job was like a religion to him, he enjoyed it in whole, and was aware that he was a good Luthier. His big experience, combined with the Gerevan creation and a request by Manolis Chiotis, drove him to the biggest milestone of his career, the 4-String Bouzouki. Chiotis asked Zozef to create for him a Bouzouki-Guitar. The guitar has 6 single strings, while the traditional bouzouki has 3 double strings. Zozef has increased the width of the traditional Bouzouki’s neck in order to fit 2 more strings, changed the positions of the frets and increased them by 3 (27 frets in total), and the 8-String Bouzouki was born. He also introduced a new innovation to the new design; The common construction was made with buttons which came flat on the surface of the neck. Zozef moved the buttons from the flat side to the back of the musical instrument and decorated the neck with a branch in the position of the buttons, which depicted either a leaf or a twig.

Until the last months of 1998, Zozef continued to deal with his art. He also built and repaired Bouzoukia that belonged to well-known soloists or to apprentices.

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