Stelios Petrakis began learning the art of the Cretan lyra in his hometown of Sitia. In 1983, he started his studies at the Sitia School of Music, learning to play the lyra with teachers Giannis Dandolos, Ross Daly, and Eleni Drettaki under the directorship of Kostas Mountakis. It was not long before he extended his interests to include Greek, Turkish, and Bulgarian repertoires, as well as that of Crete.
Petrakis’s interests have led him to work with an impressive list of international artists who represent multiple Mediterranean musical traditions. He has appeared in concert and recorded with major musicians in world music (Ross Daly, Bijan Chemirani, Keyvan Chemirani, Ojos de Brujo, Patrick Vaillant) and traditional Cretan music (Giorgis Xylouris, Vasilis Stavrakakis, Michalis Stavrakakis, Mitsos Stavrakakis). In addition, he has worked with Greek musicians and composers (Christos Leontis, Stamatis Spanoudakis, Achilleas Persidis) and Spanish singer Manolo García. He formed an instrumental trio with Valencian multi-instrumentalist Efrén López and Franco-Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani; the ensemble has toured Europe and India, and recently appeared at the Jazz sous les pommiers festival in France.
Petrakis has performed as soloist at such major venues as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Herodeon) in Athens, Royal Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London,Carnegie Hall and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris. He also has a lutherie workshop in Heraklion, where he makes his own instruments.
Petrakis’s love and admiration for Cretan music led him to form the Cretan Quartet, with which he focuses on the great musical traditions of Crete with a repertoire that consists of traditional pieces and his own tradition-inspired compositions. The quartet produced a live recording in 2015, Avgi ts’ avgis (Crack of Dawn), which won the Coup de Coeur prize of the Académie Charles Cros. The ensemble has appeared in such prestigious international festivals as WOMEX (Cardiff), globalFEST (New York City), Rainforest World Music Festival (Malaysia), World Sacred Spirit Festival (Rajasthan), and Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco).