Dec 19, 2011

Christmas Carols from Different Parts of Greece

The beauty of Greek tradition is that such a small country is divided in numerous little "pockets" of varied cultural shades of sound and scent. Greek Christmas Carols couldn't be far behind; each region has its own, each with its own characteristic dialect and music tonalities, all shedding Hellenic light.
Here is a small selection of favourites, each very different from the other.

Christmas Carols from Kefalonia in Western Greece

Christmas Carols from Crete island in Southern Greece

Christmas Carols from Corfu in Western Greece

Christmas Carols from Thrace in Northern Greece

Christmas Carols from Cappadokia (Grecobyzantine region, now part of moden Turkey) and of Mytilene island in Eastern Greece

Dec 12, 2011

Migration and Diaspora: The Greek Fate?

The moon has put a spell on me
and I walk on foreign lands.
The house is orphaned.
The sunset is unbearable and
the mountains seem crying.
Heaven, please send a bird
to fetch patience to my mother.


To fetch patience to my mother,
tied in a scarf,
a dowry to my little sister
and a sweet kiss to the lips
of my little neighbour girl.

 From The Song of Migration

Lyrics by Eric Thalassinos (translation by me), music by Mikis Theodorakis. Sung by the Trifono trio.

Nov 14, 2011

Greek Goddesses: 4.Irene Papas

Irene Papas is like the Doric* ideal incarnate: solid, austere lines, drama in attitude, fortitude in distress. Beauty in the face of tragedy. And in tragedies she played indeed, with great aplomb.

Irene Papas in Antigone, 1961

[*of the Dorians, but also of the doric column style aesthetics]

She has said: "I never wanted to play sensational parts, or those of desirable women. I wanted to play me... the independent fighter...".

Zorba the Greek, 1964, by Michael Cacoyannis. Based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Shot on the island of Crete, Greece.

Scenes from The Trojan Women in which Irene Papas plays Helen of Troy. Song Asma Asmaton/ Song of Songs lyrics set to music by Vangelis. 

Irene Papas in A ciascuno il suo

Irene Papas in Z by Kostas Gavras

Born as Irene Lelekou in 1926. She looks amazing for her age, with absolutely no "work" done.

photo taken a few years ago

photos via,,,

Nov 12, 2011

"Study of the Classics is the Foundation of Our Culture"

Clip from the 1994 film The Browning Version, a remake directed by Mike Figgis, starring Albert Finney as Andrew Crocker-Harris, an embittered and disliked teacher of Greek and Latin at a British public school, forced to retire on pretext of his health and unhappily married to a wife who is unfaithful to him and wounds him constantly.
In his despair he finds parallels between his plight and Agamemnon, the Greek king coming back from the Trojan War only to be murdered savagely by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, as told in the tragic play Agamemnon by Aeschylus.

Nov 10, 2011

You're an Hellene...Rise!

"Εἶσ' Ἕλληνας; Τί προσκυνᾶς; Σηκώσου ἀπάνω! Ἐμεῖς καὶ στοὺς θεοὺς ὀρθοὶ μιλοῦμε..."
You're an Hellene [i.e.a Greek]. Why are you bowing down? Rise! We even talk to the Gods standing up...
The quote is attributed to Alexander the Great of Greek Macedon, talking to his soldiers, but also to Greek National Revolution hero Theodoros Kolokotronis. Showing a continuation of the same spirit.

Somehow subservience is the least Greek trait of them all. Even if it means there are consequences. Especially when there are consequences.

Bust of Alexander the Great from the British Museum, via wikimedia commons

Nov 5, 2011

Raining Pleasure: Greek Pop

Pop hit "Fake", popularised by a telecommunications company TV commercial.

Cover of Abba's classic Dancing Queen, scenes from 2004 Greek film "Hardcore" directed by Dennis Iliadis.

"Nostalgia" from the homonymous 1998 album.

Oct 31, 2011

Greek Goddesses: 3.Sofia Vempo

"The singer of victory" she was nicknamed, for her patriotic and satirical songs that inspirited a whole nation during the Italo-Greek War, just before the plunderous Nazi occupation winter of 1941-1942. But Sofia Vempo (1910-1978) was so much more. "The voice of Greece", some said after the War.
A wonderful, memorable mezzo voice at any rate and a spirited actress retaining her integrity till the end.

Her debut? Anecdotal, as were many things in those old singers' lives. Living (after involuntary extritation of her family from Constaninople/Istanbul in 1914) in Volos and homesick of her brother Georgie who was studying in Salonica and hadn't written in a long time, in September 1933 she boarded the passengers' ship Cephallonia with her guitar and started singing to pass the time en route. Within minutes, the whole ship was around her, clapping and urging on, delighted in her voice.

She looked rather plain, compared to other beauties of the time, but her very feminine wiles, her generosity of spirit and her "brio" made her a very attractive woman.

"If only for a little while", 1943 slow foxtrot
Music by L.Rapitis, lyrics by M.Traiforos

Mysirlou (original version, sung by Sofia Vempo)
Music & Lyrics by Nick Rubanis

"It's the 13th of the month (accursed day)" a Zeibek dance
(Music by Manos Hadjidakis, from the 1955 film Stella by Michalis Cacoyiannis)
"They think I'm superstitious,
but fate wanted it that way,
that I'd remain an orphan on the 13th,
on the 13th to remain a widow as well..."

Her husband (and longtime musical partner) Mimis Traiforos wrote on her tombstone:
"My unbreakable Sofia, your glory is such that it cannot go any further.
And your soul has levered itself so high off your body, that you're sky, of earth made no longer."

Oct 28, 2011

To certain people there comes a day when they must say the great Yes or the great No

The historic Greek Ohi/ "No" (to voluntarily surrendering the country to the fascists) was absolutely right then; it built the nation as it came through the grandest adventure of the 20th century, fighting against Fascism and the powers of evil for whatever was good and decent and right. As mentioned on big international sites:
"it was a "No!" that brought Greece into the war on the Allied side; for a time, Greece was Britain's only ally against Hitler. Greece not only did not give Mussolini's forces free passage, they seized the offensive and drove them back through most of Albania [...] One theory suggests that had Greece agreed to surrender without resistance, Hitler would have been able to invade Russia in spring, rather than making his disastrous attempt to take it in winter. Western nations, always happy to credit ancient Greece with the development of democracy, may owe modern Greece an equal but usually unrecognized debt for helping to preserve democracy against its enemies during World War II."
Erick Mauraise in his book "Armored Warfare"about WW2 states that the two month delay caused to the Germans (April-May 27) by the resistence of the Greeks (France fell in two weeks) may well have caused Germany to lose the war, since without Greece the invasion of Russia (operation Barbarossa)would have taken place on May 1st as originally planned and the German army would have had 64 days (1st October-4th December) to capture Moscow before the coming of the Russian winter.
The same is hinted in the Historical archives of the Wermacht (in Alexandria-US) -'The Years of War' vol.8 "Vom Serbien bis Creta" (From Serbia to Crete)

«...On October 28th 1940 Greece was given an ultimatum with 3 hours time to reply to, not 3 days or 3 weeks. But even if it were 3 years' time, the answer would have been the same: No!"
  [from a speech by Franklin Roosvelt, on 6/10/1943.]

"For reasons of historical necessity, I have to admit that only the Greeks, out of all the adversaries who have confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death" ~recorded by Herman Rauschning in Hitler's adress to the Reichstag on 5/4/1941 (chronicled as he did with all Hitler's speeches and mentioned in his book "Hitler Speaks")

Where's today's "No" when you need it??

"Duce Puts On His Uniform" (Music by Theophraste Sakellaridis, lyrics by George Thisbios, sung by Sofia Vempo) A parody of the song "Mario knits her dowry" as heard in the satirical drama «Bella Grecia», at the Mondial theatre in 1941.

"Children, children of Greece" (Music by Michael Soyoul, Lyrics by Mimis Traiforos & Emilios Savvidis, sung by Sofia Vempo) was first heard on the satirical play "Wartime Athens" at the Mondial theatre during the winter of 1940-1941.This song is written on an already existing melody, Zehra, a love song sung by Sofia Vempo. The melody was known and loved and Mimis Traiforos along with Vempo decided to change the lyrics and adjust them to the Greek reality of the time, creating a song for the Greek Soldiers; a song that would encourage the soldiers but would also inspirit their mothers and women who were waiting for their sons and husbands -or even fathers- to come back from the war.

The title of the post comes from Constantine Cavafy's poem ‘Che gran rifiuto’. Somewhat giving a different spin.

Oct 27, 2011

Greek Crisis T-shirt

Someone responds with a vengeance: "Your culture". (Click on the photo to see it written with pen on the right hand bottom corner)

Oct 21, 2011

"Greek Crisis Will Be Remembered as a Success Story"

Italy’s former EU Commissioner and president of Bocconi University, Mario Monti, speaking at the launch event of EurActiv Italy said there is no crisis of the euro, because the symptoms of a weak currency, inflation and exchange rate, are not there. Instead of this, Europe is going through a public debt and banking crisis, which can be tackled through rigorous structural reforms. “Even if Greece will not do all that Germany asks, they are putting in place the restructuring of their own rules, which is what Germany asked.” [quote]
Greeks are intent on an attack on nepotism and corruption which have destabilised the country.

Art is Thriving Amongst Greek Crisis

"Beyond the depressing headlines, there’s a manic side of Greece today, especially in Athens, which has an energy not seen elsewhere in the slow-moving Mediterranean. Art galleries are thriving. Street artists paint tiny gems amid the growing downtown squalor. A new generation of filmmakers has captured the air of uncertainty by making the familiar strange. Athens is an anarchic, overcaffeinated mess of a city, filled with oleander and concrete, jasmine and car exhaust: part Milan and part Karachi, a strange combination of European sophistication and third world chaos. The economic crisis has accentuated the divide".

From an article by Richard Donadio appearing in the New York Times. Read it here.

Oct 17, 2011

The Greek: A Guinea Pig of the Future Man (Now Available for International Distribution)

From the French satire «Les Guignols de l’info» a video criticizing the guinea-pig state on which Greeks are reduced to. An omen for people all over the world? It remains to be seen.

If can't watch the clip below, try this link.

Sep 26, 2011

Greece: Against the Stereotypes

Presented to you by the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce people: Busting the myths surrounding Greek crisis, Greek debt, Greek way of life...

Sep 16, 2011

With the First Raindrop...

"With the first raindrop,
summer was killed.
The words, which were filled with shining stars,
got soaked.

Many were the words which were only destined for you.

Before my eyes existed, you were light.
Before eros, you were eros.
And when the kiss got you, you were woman.

Where to lay our hands, now that time doesn't care for us.
Where to lay our eyes, now that the faraway lines have capsized in the clouds.
We're all alone, surrounded by your dead images".

Lyrics by Odysseas Elytis (tranlsated by E.Vosnaki), music by Manos Hadjidakis from his Magnus Eroticus* LP (1972).

*Magnus Eroticus is a pop God who lives in our imagination from the time we're born, till the time we die; beautiful, pubertal and constantly alive." ~Manos Hadjidakis

Sep 6, 2011

The Wedding Procession

Photo copyrighted by Elena Vosnaki, shot on the island of Sifnos, Greece, summer 2011. Click to enlarge.

Sep 1, 2011

Greek Beauty: Ros Georgiou

Ros Georgiou shot by Thanassis Krikis for Vogue Hellas.

17-year-old Rosanna "Ros" Georgiou is a model of Greek/Dutch origin, but I think it is her Greek DNA which brings out a certain "pride" attitude on her face, making her an exceptional canvas for classicism.
At the same time she possesses a defiant stance on proceedings, maybe due to her newess in the field or coming out of left-field (living in Athens, rather than one of three predictable fashion metropolises) which makes her totally modern.

ROS GEORGIOU by HARIS FARSARAKIS from haris farsarakis photography on Vimeo.

Jul 16, 2011

Humble Herbs, Rustic Roots

There is something about the herbs of Greece: They're sprouting with the insolence of the race, haphazardly and defiantly, surely against all odds. They're fragrant with a rustic honesty that is superior to artificial pretence. And they stand best when they stand proud on a most formal of setting: a wedding procession.

Shot on the island of Sifnos, Greece, summer 2011. Click to enlarge.
Photo copyrighted by Elena Vosnaki

Jul 14, 2011

Colour me In

The sparkling background of the white-washed church brings out the pastel hues of this wedding guest's outfit. Greek women shouldn't be afraid of colour. Or fresh fragrant flowers in the hair.

Shot on Sifnos island, summer 2011. Click to enlarge.

Photos copyrighted by Elena Vosnaki.

Jul 8, 2011

The Continuity of Greek Elegance

fresco from the palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece, at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, 
15th century BC

mature Greek woman attending a wedding on the island of Sifnos, Greece, summer 2011

Jul 6, 2011

Craziness Street

The signpost reads: "Craziness Street: You can walk this street fearlessly. We own it." Indeed we do.

As seen on Apollonia, Sifnos island, Greece. Summer 2011.
Picture author's own, copyrighted by Elena Vosnaki

Jun 29, 2011

Two Statues: "It was for them we fought"

George Seferis, the Nobel prize poet (and Greece's ambassador to London in the 1960s) wrote of a beloved leader of the revolution, General Makriyannis; Makriyannis had no formal education and in his old age taught himself to read. In his battling days he had been able to preserve two ancient statues until the liberation. At that time he found that some soldiers were thinking of selling them.
Seferis quotes Makriyannis: "I took these soldiers aside and told them this: You must not give away these things, not even for ten thousand talers; you must not let them leave the country; it was for them we fought".

And Seferis wrote: "You see it is not a great scholar, nor an archaeologist speaking. It is a shepherd's son from Roumelia, his body covered with wounds: 'It was for them we fought'.

~from the memorandum submitted by Jules Dassin to the British Parliament (on occasion of a plea to return the Elgin marbles)

On this fateful day, may we remember "it was for them we fought" and not be swayed by false dilemmas and hyenas: where one head gets cut off, two spring up again. You must burn the cancerous in order to get rid of it once and for all.

Further reading:  
Makriyannis: The Memoirs of General Makriyannis 1797-1864 (ed. & trans. H.A. Lidderdale), Oxford: OUP, 1966 (in English).

Jun 6, 2011

Vogue France: the June issue is dedicated to Greece

And right when we were called "the burden, the vermin of Europe" (we, the ones who gave Europe its very name!), there goes Vogue France and dedicates their June issue to Greece. Greece seen through the classical but also the modern, contemporary eye: the one of growth, of young people, of healthy businesses, of innovative ideas and creativity and of eternal natural beauty. That latter part isn't going anyplace...
At last, a breath of fresh, optimistic air in the border of a sleazy campaign to blacken the name of an entire people, just for the powers-that-be to make fortunes on their (literally) poor backs...

The photos are scanned by It's all beauty to me, borrowed with many patriotic thanks. Click to enlarge.

May 22, 2011

The (Greek) World is Based on Chaos and Cheap Smokes

"Every morning will see me give myself 10 secs to realise where I am and why. There goes another 5 secs to accept my total incapability for any work. The realisation of my tragic financial situation is visceral, a fact that helps me gain time and devote it to my fish. There are times when I long to tell them everything about my life...But even if they weren't deaf, their memory retention ability doesn't last longer than 3 secs, as long as it takes them to swim around the bowl. Maybe that's why I can see my whole life reflected in their eyes, a continuous swirl, a happy nil. These are the first moments of the day, when inspiration comes to rescue me.
 The world is based on Chaos and I'm going to cross it without searching for logical order...This is my life, capiche?"
          ~Renos Haralambidis, Cheap Smokes(2000)

It's not hard to see how the pseudophilosophizing nihilistic types who construct poetic mock-noir films such as Cheap Smokes on a zero budget are in reality nothing of the sort. But this diarrhea of the spirit which takes place in front of an existential mirror is reflecting the plight of the modern Greek to a T: The world is based on chaos and I'm going to cross it without searching for logical order. I wonder though whether this isn't some trait encrypted into the Greek DNA. The classical adherence to Law as the ultimate order of any society of free men addresses probably people who were deeply chaotic to begin with. Otherwise why the marked insistence?

Elsewhere the anti-hero inwardly wonders in a voice-over: "I should be subsidised by the Ministry of Culture. Why should they pay someone to make a statue and not me to wander around town like a moving statue? Damn country! It doesn't appreciate artists!"

Another trait of the modern (and perhaps eternal) Greek: "Why them and not ME?" (Sarcastic) self-loathing is taking a very sideways patriotic course: The country would only be rescued if I were given half a chance!
In a place where you have to be "poniros" (i.e. cunning without being evil) to make things go by, there isn't too much shortage of chaos in the first place. This eternal self-loathing is best spent at a "cafeneion", a coffee shop, "a  place with a huge industry of lost time. It is the art of allowing time to pass by without leaving its mark". Which probably explains why the modern Greek revolutionary spirit is mollified into (intricate) words rather than swift action: Contrast with the Heroic Outlook.

May 16, 2011

The Wick

Crazied, mad, left over, bankrupt,
tied to dreams, selling out rhymes.

I cling on to the wick, amidst the storm;
my right, my own, I am not bequesting it to anyone.

The Wick (Θρυαλλίδα) is sung by Suzanna and Helen Vougioukli. 

Apr 30, 2011

Fata Morgana

I'll take communion with sea water,
distilled from your body drop by drop,
in an ancient copper cup from Algiers,
as done by pirates of old before the fight.

Where are you coming from? From Babylon.
Where are you going? To the eye of the cyclone.
Whom do you love? A Gypsy maid.
What is her name? Fata Morgana*.

A leather sail, all smeared with wax,
smelling of cedar-wood, of incense and of varnish,
like the smell of the hold in an aging ship
built in olden times on Euphrates in Phoenicia.

Where are you coming from? From Babylon.
Where are you going? To the eye of the cyclone.
Whom do you love? A Gypsy maid.
What is her name? Fata Morgana.

Fire-hued rust in the mines of Sina,
the capes of Gerakini and Stratoni.
That ship-coating, that old blessed rust ages us,
It feeds us, feeds on us, and then it kill us!

Where are you coming from? From Babylon.
Where are you going? To the eye of the cyclone.
Whom do you love? A Gypsy maid.
What is her name? Fata Morgana.

The poem Fata Morgana by sea-faring Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias is set to music and sung by Mariza Koch.

*A "fata morgana" is a mirage, an optical phenomenon caused by abrupt variances in air temperature. Objects on the horizon, such as islands, cliffs, ships or icebergs, appear elongated and elevated

Apr 28, 2011

"All Alone Am I" or the Adventures of a Greek Song

"Word upon word, we lost sense of time.
We recounted our pains and the night lapsed.
Wipe the tears with your handkerchief,
so that I can drink the sun from your lips.

Don't ask the sky,
the cloud and the moon.
Your dark gaze,
something of the night has got.

Whatever found us, whatever made us sorry
struck us secretly like a knife.
Wipe the tears with your handkerchief,
so that I can drink the sun from your lips".

Sung by Jenny Karezi in the Greek film The Island of the Brave

"All Alone Am I" is the title of a song from 1962 by the American singer Brenda Lee. The music was originally composed by the Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis and recorded by Tzeni Karezi for the soundtrack of the film The Island of the Brave. Later, a new version of the song was produced by Owen Bradley and appeared as the title track on one of Lee's albums. But did it all come to that?

In 1960, the Greek film Never on Sunday was released to considerable acclaim, earning multiple Academy Award nominations in the US. The film's star, Melina Mercouri, was nominated for Best Actress, while the title song from the film won the Oscar for Best Original Song for Greek musician Manos Hadjidakis, who had composed the music used in the film. A melody that appeared in both Never on Sunday and The Island of the Brave was sent to Lee's management as a tune to be considered for the singer to record, and after being translated into English by Arthur Altman, it became "All Alone Am I"

"All Alone Am I" became a Top 10 pop hit in both the US and the UK. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1962 and reached #7 on the UK Singles Chart in February 1963. The song also spent five weeks atop the US Billboard easy listening chart, Lee's only song to do so!

Lyrics were originally written by Ioannis Ioannidis.

Sung by Alkinoos Ioannidis and Demetra Galani.

Translation of lyrics by Elena Vosnaki.

Apr 20, 2011

Greek Easter: A Celebration of Spring Awakenings

It's no hyperbole to say there is no celebration more joyful, more optimistic, more heart-wrenching, in its way, in all of the Greek calendar (and it is already full of those) than Orthodox Easter. The awakening of spring, which sheds its pagan archetypes shining upon everything is walking hand in hand with the tradition of a pious Christianity that is nevertheless smiling, instead of morose, and lenient, instead of boasting a stern Biblical face.

In the processions of the Holy Week, especially in the sunny, picturesque countryside and on the numerous islands, I can still witness the joie de vivre that can exist only in cultures that have been deprived for long; it is only then that people can appreciate the smalleest pleasures, the generosity of nature itself, the simple human contact that needs no social agenda whatsoever. Man is enjoying life, much like he did in the classical era, because he's not entirely convinced there will be a better one, even though the prospect of one delights his soul through the promise of spring's and Christ's resurgence. In Greece where the National Revolution also symbolically sprang along with the first throes of spring, resurgence takes on a loaded nuance: the soul fills with renewed courage for every hardship ahead.

The spring air is aromatized with fragrant effluvia from trees and plants, an intoxicating bouquet that is hard to forget: bigaradiers with orange blossoms in full bloom, bushes of lilacs (called Πασχαλιά/Pashalia in Greek because they bloom exactly during the month of April, when Pasha is celebrated), violets in deep shades but also stocks (Mathiola longipetala) with their spicy, skatole-rich, intense aroma. Dill, thyme, spearmint and humble chamomille are beginning to make the countryside smell like a giant pasture or one enormous kitchen herbs cabinet.
And of course food, glorious food: from red Easter eggs, which make households smell of vinegar and onion peel (traditionally used to "anchor" the dye on the hand-painted egg) as they're prepared on the eve of Good Friday, to the succulent, sweet, cardamom-laced Eastern bread which whets the appetite for the feast of Sunday.

Greek Easter is a Dionysian celebration...

Mar 28, 2011

Rembetika, the Greek Blues

The 1983 film "Rembetiko" by Costas Ferris recounts the life of old "rembetes" (musicians and songwriters of the urban outcast sub-cultures, originally in the Greek-Anatolian coast and then refugees in port-towns of Greece where they fled in 1922); especially of Marika Ninou, but also based on other artists' lives. They wrote rembetika songs, what are affectionately termed "Greek Blues" due to their mood. But watching the film we not only get a glimpse of the culture of the rembetes, but also a glimpse through Greek history from 1917 to 1957; from the aftermath of WWI, the Asia Minor Catastrophe, WWII and the Nazi occupation, the Civil War, the political upheaval and the return to a legally represented government.

The harrowing, foreboding music is written by Stavros Xarhakos, the lyrics by Nikos Gatsos. Sung by Sotiria Leonardou.

The first song (Kaigomai Kaigomai i.e. I'm burning, I'm burning) follows the Anatolian mode of "amané" (from the poignant cry "aman" throughout), a heavy, deeply sorrowful tune, here reminiscing of the plight of the refugees who had to flee Asia Minor and especially Smyrna/Izmir in 1922.

When man is born,
a sorrow is born.

And when the war erupts,
the blood cannot be count.

I'm burning, I'm burning,
throw more oil in the fire.
I'm drowning, I'm drowning,
throw me into a bottomless sea.

I swore upon your eyes, which I considered Gospel,
the slash you gave me to turn into a smile.

But you, deep in Hell, break the chain,
and if you drag me there beside you, blessed may you be.

The second song (The Net) is as Greek as it gets: concept, melody, style, lyrics and mood. A life lesson, distilled times seven...

Every time you open a road in life,
don't wait till midnight catches up with you.
Keep your eyes wide open, day and night,
because right in front of you, there's always a net spread.

If ever you get caught in its mesh,
no one will be able to get you out.
Alone you'll have to find the end of the thread
and, if you're lucky, to start over.

This net bears heavy names,
written in a seven-times-sealed scroll.
Some call it underworld's treachery,
and others yet call it first springtime's love...

Translation author's own.

Mar 25, 2011

If only '21 would come back...

1821 that is...

"One by one the glorious years come back to me,
if only '21 would come back for a moment.

To cross the wide plain, my horse astride,
and alongside Kolokotronis to drink wine.

To fight on the castles during the day,
my sword sprinkling sparks.
And to hold a beauty under the stars
during the night".

What made the Greek National Revolution of 1821 the seal of valour that it truly is to this day is, in my opinion, that it was bitterly opposed by every single one of the European countries and administrations when it erupted as the just complaint of a people rising up again an opressor. The French Revolution and the surge of Napoleon throughout Europe, you see, had convinced the chancellors of Europe that the status quo should not be distrurbed ever again.
The revolutioners fought against every adversary as if they were protecting what was eternally theirs: their right to rule their own lives, the soil of their fathers and their classical culture as the identity by which they wish to be identified. The chancellors of Europe only changed their stance when they saw that, after years of successful fighting, the outcome would not be in their favour if they did not implicate themselves into the procedure.

Faces and incidents change, but history remains the same.

Painting by Theodore Vryzakis (1865), The Oath at Aghia Lavra
Lyrics by Sotia Tsotou from the song "If only '21 would come back" by Stavros Kougioumtzis, sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis.

Mar 14, 2011

Democracy is self-desctructing

"Our Democrazy is self-destructing because it abused the right of freedom and equality, because it taught citizens to consider insolence their right, to consider law-breaking freedom, to view impertinence of speech as egality and anarchy as bliss."

No, it's not a quote from some modern politician or statesman. It's a quote by Isocrates, ancient Greek orator (436-388BC).

Greek Goddesses: 2.Elli Lambeti

Probably the most sensuous and sensitive actress of the Greek cinema & stage: Her gaze was a sigh.

Clip from the film The Counterfeit Coin, 1955, by Yorgos Javellas. Elli Lambeti says "I love you" to Dimitris Horn.

Clip from the film Woman in Black, 1956, by Michalis Kakoyiannis.

Mar 1, 2011

Nostalgic old Athens

The tragedy of Athens and its urban landscape is that it was meant to contain only a 10th of the population it holds today. The nostalgic tour within its wide spaces and neoclassical buildings confirms that only careful planning can effectuate beautiful cities.

Music on the clip by Manos Hadjidakis

Feb 16, 2011

The Hellenic Race

"...there is the bond of Hellenic race, by which we are of one blood and of one speech, the common temples of the gods and the common sacrifices, the manners of life which are the same for all"
Herodotus, Histories 8,144

Feb 14, 2011

What is This Thing Called Love?

Sophia Loren sings amazingly (and perfectly) in Greek a lovely older Greek song by Tonis Morakis, "What is this thing called love?"

Alternative title: "S' agapo" (I love you). Composer: Takis Morakis / Lyrics: Danai Stratigopoulou, Giannis Fermanoglou. From the film "Boy on a dolphin".

Feb 11, 2011

Greek Goddesses: 1.Melina Merkouri

Personality personified. Everything she did, she did with passion, a distinctly Greek trait. Even when misguided, petty things slided off her like water slides off a swan's feathers. Her grace and natural elegance were juxtaposed to a certain je m'en fous attitude and her adherence to who she was.

To the manor born and a prominent actress of international fame, when she was participating in the socialist governemnt of A.Papandreou during the 1980s she was advised to tone down her appearence when going to give a talk in poorer districts of Athens. Melina, defiant and true to herself, refused to get out of the YSL saying "this is who I am, I would be an imposter to don a chinz to go and pretend I'm something I'm not".

Loved and despised like few people have been, she never let anyone indifferent. Isn't that the very essence of being interesting?

The Greeks will be eternally grateful to her for championing the cause of the Elgin Marbles; the missing parts of the sculptures of the Parthenon up on the Acropolis, which were smuggled off the country during the Turkish occupation and the upheaval of the National Revolution by Lord Elgin and were deposited in the British Museum where they remain to this day.

"I flirted down to the last minute of my life", she's quoted to say. The cigarette that was perennially hanging off her lips cut the thread of her life. It was well spent. Opa!

Feb 10, 2011

There is no Ship for You, There is no Road...

The City

You said, "I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.
Another city will be found, better than this.
Every effort of mine is condemned by fate;
and my heart is -- like a corpse -- buried.
How long in this wasteland will my mind remain.
Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I may look
I see the black ruins of my life here,
where I spent so many years, and ruined and wasted."

New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same
streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
in these same houses you will grow gray.
Always you will arrive in this city. To another land -- do not hope --
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have ruined your life here
in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1910)

translation from the Greek original by G.Barbanis
Clip recital by Dimitris Horn, a prominent Greek actor

Feb 8, 2011

To Death I say

Today is the 31st anniversary of the death of Nikos Xylouris. In his memory...

To Death I said, to Hades I say,
To Death I said, to Hades I say:
"Damn you Hades and a curse I put upon you!"

And I say to Hades' wife and to Hades' children:

"I have a green garment, never worn before,
I wear it and I laught at your face.
I hold the bread, seven-times leavened bread,
I eat it and I look you in the eye".

And I say to Hades' wife, and I say to Hades' children:
"Damn you, snakes, and no more shall I cry."

To Death I said, to Hades I say:
"Damn you Hades and a curse I put upon you!"

Mourning song by H.Halaris, sung by Nikos Xylouris and Hrysanthos Thoedoridis. From the album "Akoulouthia"

Jan 30, 2011

Sapphic Plea: "Come back to me, Gogyla"

"Come back to me, Gogyla, I beg you!
Show yourself to me again...wearing the milky-white robe.
Oh, what beauty!
If you but knew what passions you awaken, thus adorned...
and how joyful I am that it is not I, but the Goddess from Cyprus herself that is reproaching you;
whom I have for many years begged and beseeched.
It is as if I long to die on the river banks where the lotus flower blooms,
gazing through the mist at Acheron."

Nana Venetsanou sings a classic poem by Sappho in the ancient Aeolic Greek dialect, put to music by Manos Hadjidakis. The accompanying paintings are mainly by the Pre-Raphaelites, greatly influenced by classical antiquity.

Jan 8, 2011

The Eternal Adolescence of Voice

"Elsa, I'm scared of you. Elsa, I love you.
One moment with you is slaughter. And when you dance alone, walls break and the ceiling falls down.
I thought I was a free bird...but the only one who's free is YOU".

Gone-but-not-forgotten Greek singer Flery Dadonaki sings a song by Dionysis Savopoulos from the 1960s, "Elsa, I'm scared of you" in her own unimitable way. (Recording is from 2000, album "Flery Dadonaki, The Eternal Adolescence of Voice").