Yiannis Hryssomallis (Greek: Γιάννης Χρυσομάλλης, Giánnis Chrysomállis; born November 14, 1954), known professionally as Yanni (// yah-nee), is a Greek pianist, keyboardist, composer, and music producer who has spent his adult life in the United States.
Yanni continues to use the musical shorthand that he developed as a child, blending jazz, classical, soft rock, and world music to create predominantly instrumental works. As this genre of music was not well suited for commercial pop radio and music television, Yanni achieved international recognition by producing concerts at historic monuments and by producing videos that were broadcast on public television. His breakthrough concert, Yanni Live at the Acropolis, yielded the second best-selling music video of all time. Additional historic sites for Yanni's concerts have included India's Taj Mahal, China's Forbidden City, the United Arab Emirates' Burj Khalifa, Russia's Kremlin, Puerto Rico's El Morro castle, and Lebanon's ancient city of Byblos.
At least fourteen of Yanni's albums have peaked at #1 in Billboard's "Top New Age Album" category, and two albums (Dare to Dream and In My Time) received Grammy nominations. Through late 2011, Yanni had performed live in concert before more than two million people in more than 20 countries around the world, and has accumulated more than 35 platinum and gold albums globally, with sales totaling over 20 million copies. A longtime fundraiser for public television, Yanni's compositions have been used on commercial television programs, especially for sporting events such as the Tour de France, World Figure Skating Championships, U. S. Open Tennis Championships, U. S. Open Golf Championships, and Olympic Games. He has written film scores and the music for an award-winning British Airways television commercial.
Yanni has employed musicians of various nationalities, and has incorporated a variety of instruments from around the world, to create music that has been called an eclectic fusion of ethnic sounds. Influenced by his encounters with cultures around the world, his music is said to reflect his “one world, one people” philosophy.
In November 1972, Yanni moved from Greece to the United States to attend the University of Minnesota beginning in January 1973, majoring in psychology and for a time earning money by washing dishes at the student union. Yanni later explained that learning English forced him to read each paragraph several times in what he called a slow and frustrating process, but which helped him memorize the material and do well on tests. He received a B.A. degree in psychology in 1976.
During his time as a student, Yanni played in a local rock band and continued to study piano and other keyboard instruments. Upon graduating, when he dedicated himself exclusively to music for one full year and found he was the happiest he had ever been, he said he decided music would be his life's work.
Yanni formed a band in 1987 and began to tour in 1988, when he went on the road with an ensemble including pianist/singer John Tesh and drummer Charlie Adams, touring to promote his early albums, Keys to Imagination, Out of Silence, and Chameleon Days. A highlight of the tour was a performance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra that elicited a positive review, considered seminal to Yanni's public recognition, from a Dallas Times Herald critic. Yanni's emergence was said to be "timed perfectly" with the growing popularity of contemporary instrumental music.
Dare to Dream, released in 1992, was Yanni’s first Grammy-nominated album. It included "Aria," a song based on Léo Delibes' The Flower Duet (Lakmé, 1883) and popularized by an award-winning British Airways commercial. A second Grammy-nominated album,In My Time, followed in 1993.Yanni gained visibility as the result of his November 1990 appearances in People and on The Oprah Winfrey Show with actressLinda Evans, with whom he had been in a relationship since 1989. However, high visibility appearances on public television, best-selling records and videos, and overflow concerts earned him recognition beyond his relationship with Evans.
The five-month An Evening with Yanni tour began in March 2012, starting in Mexico (2 stops), and continuing to the United States (66 stops) and Canada (14 stops). A South America tour in September–October 2012 included performances in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The March–July 2013 World Without Borders tour included stops in Oman, Qatar, Hungary, Romania, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, China, Israel and Lebanon.
Yanni's 2010-2013 tours included new vocalists, distinct from the 2008–2009 Yanni Voices vocalists.
Yanni performed in China in the February 9, 2013 CCTV Spring Festival Gala (annual audience 700 million) with Chinese zither artist Chang Jing in what was the first year that CCTV had invited foreign artists to perform.
From childhood, Yanni accepted a wide variety of musical styles, listening to radio stations from Northern Africa, Arab countries and Europe; he observed that "there were no rock stations orclassical stations--each station would just play everything." Yanni's music has been said to reflect his encounters with cultures around the world and embody his philosophy of “one world, one people.” In this vein, Booth Newspapers' Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk perceived the eclectic inspirations of Yanni's music to be an element of his success: Yanni's "Middle Eastern and Oriental scales and mixed meters sound just exotic enough to entice his middle-of-the-road fans, but not so authentic as to mystify folks who grew up with a backbeat, so you can’t lose it," adding that certain songs "leave you with a sense that you’ve just heard a bit of a steel drum or a Greek bouzouki or a Japanese koto or possibly all three."
Yanni explained that "the most influence I’ve ever had from music was doing (soundtracks for) movies, ... mostly instrumental music," mentioning his love for the work of Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. The Augusta Chronicle's Kelly Jasper noted that most of Yanni's music is instrumental, indicating that Yanni surmised that the lack of lyrics is what allowed his music to become popular internationally.Yanni explained: "There are no lyrics in my music for the most part, so the whole message is transmitted through the rhythm, melody, and sounds, and I think that has to do with crossing all the borders and being able to go to different countries.” "It is very difficult, if not impossible, to lie with instrumental music because it deals in emotions only." He has also said that words operate in a different area of the brain, and lyrics "tend to put a song into a box."Yanni's musical influences include music from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as classical, rock and roll, and electronic music. Yanni explained that the 1970s, with its new technology and electronic instruments, were particularly influential at that stage in his career, and that even recently his Truth Of Touch album (2011) was started by experimenting with new sound designs. Having been exposed to classical music very early in life—listening to Bach at age 8—he counts several classical pianists and composers among his influences, citing Beethoven as a favorite and Chopin as "No. 2 favorite." Yanni mentioned being influenced not only by classical composers like Mozart and Bach, but also rock and roll bands such as Led Zeppelin, the People, and Black Sabbath.
However, Yanni performed with four vocalists in the forefront in Yanni Voices (2008-2009), and performed with two vocalists on tours (2010-2012) and in the Yanni Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico concerts (December 2011) and CD/DVD (2012). In late 2011 Yanni remarked that he tends to prefer instrumental music "because it's more open, but the human voice too can be the most expressive instrument known to man. There is power to it." Referring to his creative experiences on the 2009 Voices project, Yanni explained that "while most of the music I write is instrumental, I love to use the human voice as another instrument
While Yanni has said New Age is "a spiritual definition more than a musical definition," his music has been said to be "adopted by"the New Age movement as it gained mainstream momentum. His music is also called contemporary instrumental and has been described as "an instrumental blend of fusion-jazz, world music, classical and soft rock." However, at least as early as 1988, Yanni was said to shun labels such as "Greek" and "New Age," emphasizing that "when someone says new age music, I think of something that you put on in the background while you're vacuuming the house. I don't want to relax the audience; I want to engage them in the music, get them interested." Distinguishing his work from what others have called ambient mood music, Yanni pointed out in 1994: "New Age implies a more subdued, more relaxed music than what I do. My music can be very rhythmic, very energetic, even very ethnic."
In 2012, Yanni remarked that he has never liked putting art into categories or assigning labels, adding that he always composed music "to honestly reflect the lessons learned and the experiences I have shared throughout my life." For example, Yanni's university study ofpsychology influenced his music: “When I create music, it is a reflection of my soul, my experiences in life and my relationships with other people and cultures. Psychology, and understanding who we are as people in this world, is present in almost every creative thought I have."
Yanni took an unconventional path to recognition, for example, by risking his personal fortune to fund historic-monument events such as his 1993 Acropolis concerts, by producing specials on public television, by creating alone in his home-built studio, and by performing many of his own production duties—thus by-passing the conventional music industry. In 2000, The Los Angeles Times' Don Heckman wrote that Yanni was "a living metaphor for Success on Your Own Terms, the dream of every American with an idea that is either ridiculed or ignored."
The Morning Call's John L. Moser wrote that "trends come and trends go," but that Yanni's music "seems to defy trends and... feels like it’s music for all time." Moser interviewed the composer, asking if he intentionally tries to create "something that’s going to last forever as opposed to something that’s just going to sell 1 million copies right away," Yanni replying that "There’s no way you can create art to last forever... so you can’t have that in your mind." Instead, describing his creative process, Yanni explained that his knowledge of music and instruments and his experience in different cultures is a "primordial soup that comes together and it shows itself and it appears. And it’s fluid. It’s effortless."More recently, Allmusic's Mark Deming characterized Yanni's compositions and performances as having "a pronounced sense of drama, dynamics, and romanticism," writing that Yanni has a "commanding performance style." In 2012 Howie Grapek remarked in The Palm Beach Post's PBPulse that "there are few modern-day composers with a unique sense of music and style which is truly their own. To compare new-age music with classic rock is a stretch, but for Yanni, it is possible. This Greek composer marries contemporary new-age spirituality with today’s pop attitudes and delivers a unique sound." Yanni has employed musicians of various nationalities, and has incorporated a variety of instruments from around the world from an Australian didgeridoo to a Peruvian charango, to perform with his classical orchestra, rock rhythm section, and electronic keyboards. His music has been described as "an eclectic fusion of ethnic sounds, from Native American chants to African rhythms and Asian harmonies."
Yanni's popularity with the public and his success on public television have contrasted sharply with views of some critics. The more extreme criticisms have been paraphrased as characterizing Yanni as a "no-talent poseur" whose music has little intellectual weight, while his fans' opinions have been paraphrased as calling Yanni a "highl