"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."