He was born in a picturesque village that no one ever gave thought to leaving, and he's now known in every corner of the globe. Yanni is, without a doubt, a musical phenomenon, one of those rare artists whose music defies borders and boundaries - whose music speaks to people of all races, all nations. And there is more than ample evidence to support such statements.
How many artists have become the favored composer of every Olympic broadcast for the past decade? Sold-out Radio City Music Hall for ten dates? Played in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City and the Parthenon? Toured China and more than twenty other nations? Had a TV special seen in 65 countries by half a billion people, was one of the top fundraising artists for PBS, and released what became the #2 best-selling music video of all time? Mounted the #1-ranked concert tour for 1998, and #2 for the entire year even though he did not tour for the second half?
Yanni has always charted a solitary and distinctive path. A champion swimmer and self-taught pianist with the gift of perfect pitch, he left the comforts of Kalamata, Greece, on the spectacular shores of the deep blue Mediterranean, and then began to fashion his own kind of American success story, later to become an international success story.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in psychology, after trading the Grecian sunshine for frosty winters, he would seek a life in music, though he could not read a note and wrote wholly original works that, then and now, defy categorizing. From the beginning, he operated with a simple creed: a faith in hard work and keeping an open mind.
Yanni's first Grammy-nominated album was Dare to Dream (1992), which produced the vocal single "Aria," popularized by an award-winning British Airways commercial. His following album, In My Time, a gentler collection of piano-focused pieces, was also nominated for a Grammy Award and attained Platinum status. In 1994 Yanni achieved a personal triumph when he returned to his Greek homeland and recorded an album at the 2,000-year-old Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens. The result, Yanni: Live At The Acropolis, would be a sensation. It has almost continuously remained on the charts since its release, sold more than seven million copies worldwide, earned more than 35 platinum and gold albums, and risen to becoming one of the best-selling music videos of all time.
How to follow the unprecedented success of Live At The Acropolis? By becoming the first major Western Artist ever to perform and record at India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City, resulting in the multi-platinum album Tribute. This is an artist who invested millions of dollars into the project before a single sound was recorded, whose organization mounted a near biblical effort with the regional of Uttar Pradesh to improve roads and build two bridges in order that the flood plains surrounding the Taj Mahal could be transformed for three historic concerts beneath one of the world's greatest wonders.
While allowing India's citizens to see a musical performance in front of the country's signature structure, Tribute ultimately led to three million dollars in donations to a Taj preservation fund. The recording of Tribute proceeded to China, where Yanni staged a new historic feat at another of the world's great architectural achievements, The Forbidden City. Between India and China, Yanni played to a collective audience of 250 million people. In 2000 Yanni released his first studio album in seven years, If I Could Tell You, an introspective and deeply personal project which came in the wake of a two-year sabbatical, a move to the east coast of the U.S., and other changes which refocused his life and his life's work.
Yanni is an artist that crosses all demographics in his appeal. Recently he returned to PBS with a new television special, Live At Royal Albert Hall, London, offering not only a spectacular concert appearance in this historic venue, but also the first glimpse into his family home in Greece and recording studio in Florida.
In February 2003, Virgin Records released Ethnicity, his 13th album and third on Virgin. Extending the "One World, One People" philosophy that has been the hallmark of his career, Ethnicity offers an upbeat collection of tracks that pulse with the rhythms and voices of cultures around the globe. Its instrumentation is equally diverse: from the aboriginal depth of the Australian didgeridoo … to the haunting tone of the Armenian duduk … to Celtic-flavored violin … to the percussive plunk of the Indian tabla … the album brims with international flavor. "Many of the world's cultures and musical genres are represented on this album. It has a lot of ethnic color - in other words, it has ethnicity," says Yanni. "Ethnicity has to do with race and culture, and - in the way I use it for this album - the color and beauty of a multicultural society."
One element distinguishing Ethnicity from previous albums is the extensive use of human voices, not only solo arias and group chants, but also bona fide lyrics, a rare departure for the artist. "The Promise," for example, is an adaptation of an earlier composition, "Secret Vows," featuring lyrics from longtime friend Pamela McNeill and soulfully sung by Alfreda Gerald, a member of Yanni's Tribute tour. The album's final track reflects his own cultural heritage with a traditional Greek island folk song, "Jivaeri."
After a five-year break from touring, Yanni began an ambitious 2003/04 tour in March, 2003, opening at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and featuring many of his new compositions and spotlighting the talents of solo musicians the world over along with his core band and symphony orchestra. The month before his tour opened, Miramax Books published Yanni's autobiography, a story that spans his fascinating and inspirational life: from his childhood in Greece to his college years in Minnesota to his success as an international music artist. The memoir, written in collaboration with David Rensin, also includes deeply personal details including his intense nine-year relationship with actress Linda Evans.