Stelios Foustalieris or Foustalierakis as he is sometimes called, lived and worked in Rethymno (1911-1992): one of the highest ranking artists of the First-Generation, he is particularly Rethymniot. His is a musical tradition distilled from the musical ferment produced by political interactions down the centuries – redolent of Asia Minor, the Aegean archipelago, infused with elements of rembetika and the like.
Foustalieris belonged to those who set Cretan music on its inter-war path, along with such as Charilaos, Rodinos, Baxevanis, Kareklas, Lagos and so on. His name and fame were associated with the bulgari (a stringed instrument), the so-called ‘Cretan tampoura’. Self-taught, with some guidance from his uncle Antonis Papadakis (aka Kareklas). Foustalieris developed into a genuine virtuoso instrumentalist.
His career as a professional musician was set at an early age: he participated in local folk groups at weddings, baptisms and fests (glendia) in the villages round and about. Later he became a watchmaker too. In 1937 he made his first album – Odeon, the first of thirteen.
One of his most important artistic achievements was to bring forward into prominence the bulgari in his work in Rethymno and on disc .. moving it centre-stage as a solo instrument away from the supportive role it had always had to the lyra and laouto.
To Meraklidiko Pouli - Stelios Foustalieris
The measure of his personal success may be taken when it is realized that the bulgari has today almost vanished from Crete. The influence of rembetika from the Piraeus is clear in his recorded works – as are rhythms and melodies, improvisational techniques, occasional old Greek and asia-minor wordings.
In the same way, the Piraeus players knew well ‘Stelio from Crete’ or Batis as he was also called: they loved his playing!