By plane and steamboat – Dionysis Savvopoulos

Here’s another great Greek zeimbekiko song, the latest in a little series (see here for my posts on Roza and Love Song) I’ve been doing as a result of repeated listening to the CDs of the live zeimpekiko concert that Dimitris Mitropanos gave at the Akti Peiraias with Dimitris Mpasos and Themis Adamantidis in 2005. This time the lyrics and the music are by Dionysis Savvopoulos and it’s called By plane and steamboat:

By plane and steamboat
and with our old friends
we wander around in the dark
and yet you can’t hear us.

You can’t hear us singing
with electric voices
in underground galleries
until our paths meet
your fundamental principles.

My father, Mpatis,
came from Smyrna in ’22
and lived for fifty years
in a secret cellar.

In this place those who loved
ate dirty bread
and their passions followed
an underground route.

Yesterday evening I saw a friend
going around like a goblin
on a motorbike
and dogs were running behind him.

Stand up my soul and turn the power on
Set fire to your clothes
Set fire to your instruments
let our great voices
start up like a black spirit.

 

 

 

In the orchards – a song by Mikis Theodorakis

In a recent Greek lesson, my tutor, Maria, introduced me to this powerful song by Mikis Theodorakis. So I thought I would share it and provide my own translation of the lyrics which are also by Theodorakis.

In the orchards, amidst the flowering gardens,

As once we did, we will set up a round dance, 

And we will invite Charon 

To drink together and sing with us.

Take hold of the clarinet and the zourna [type of folk clarinet]

And I will come with my little baglama [small bazouki]

Oh, and I will come along…

You took me in the heat of battle, Charon.

Let’s go to the orchards for a dance.

In the orchards, amidst the flowering gardens,

If I take you along, Charon, to drink wine,

If I take you along to dance and sing songs

Then give me the gift of life for one night.

Hold your heart, sweet mother, 

For I am the son who came home for a single glance from you.

Oh, for a single glance…

When I left for the front, dear mother,

You didn’t come and see me off.

You went out to work and alone I caught the train

That took me far away from life.

The odd thing about the song which took me a while to register is that it is being sung by someone who has died. In fact he died fighting on the battlefront during the Second World War and from that state invokes the figure of Charon, the ferryman across the River Styx in Greek myth and the personification of death in Greek poetry and song.

The song vividly conjures up his love of life and longing for a chance to live again just for a night. I get the sense that the mother he invokes may be a personification of Greece itself as well as his own mother who didn’t see him go off to war.

I love the heft of Giota Negka’s voice in this song and her ability to control its power to add light and shade to the narrative, as the music moves between stately and solemn tread to intense longing.

Two other things to note from this recording. The first is the fact that the TV celeb audience to a man mouth the words with the singer. This is something I’ve often noticed when watching audiences in Greek concerts and it always surprises me. I don’t think this is anywhere near as common in the UK for example and is a specific cultural difference. I wonder why this should be the case?

The second thing is the way that, particularly at the end of the song, one of the celebs on stage raises his arm. Again I’ve noticed this at live performances in Greece and it sees to be at points in the music where someone identifies with the music or the sentiments being expressed (‘einai se kefi’).

Anyway, it’s a great song.