There is a quartet of songs that bring me to tears, though by nature I am not a weepy person. I didn’t understand the lyrics of three upon hearing them the first time, as I knew little or no Greek back then, but I believe music has the ability to transcend boundaries.
by Christos Dantis (with Martakis)
I was living near the American Embassy during this period, it was raining, and this song came on the tiny radio that was my only entertainment. By the time it ended, I’d been weeping without knowing why.
While walking alone on Ag. Konstantinou a few days later, a car pulled over and a man jumped out and popped open the hood. I knew what was coming.
Man: Hello, how are you? (as I walk by)
K: Fine. (continue walking)
Man: Wait! Where are you going?
K: Home. Bye.
Man: Wait! Do you want to go for coffee?
K: No thank you, I don’t know you.
Man: Oh sorry, I’m Vasili. And you are?
Man: Great, now we know each other. We can go for coffee.
K: No, because I’m busy.
Man: Ela! What will it take?
K: I’m going.
K: No thank you.
Man: I can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Man: What can I do to convince you?
K: How about I talk to your friend in the passenger side, and if I like his answers, then I will speak to you again, OK? And if not, I go.
Man: OK, I’ll wait here.
K: Hi, wh..?
Man 2: (Laughing and covering his face) He’s crazy, don’t go out with him.
K: Does he do this a lot?
Man 2: No, first time.
K: And how long have you known him?
Man 2: He’s my best friend, too many years.
K: Does he have a girlfriend?
Man 2: No, not for a long time.
K: What’s wrong with him?
Man 2: Look at him, many things. (Gesturing to Vasili and laughing)
K: Does he have a job?
Man 2: Yes, he’s a ____ .
K: Hmmm, really? My brother is a ____ .
Man 2: Maybe you should ask your brother to have a talk with him.
K: And what’s your name?
Man 2: Yannis.
K: Is his name really Vasili?
Man 2: Oh, yes.
(Vasilis is hopping around, waving, looking nervous)
Man 2: You know, he saw your face as we drove by, he said you are very beautiful, and we are going to meet you. Look, it’s very traffic. We had to drive around the block many times and almost crashed the car. He’s crazy, I tell you!
K: OK, thanks.
K: Fine, we can go for coffee another day.
Man: Can I offer you a ride home?
K: No thank you. I don’t get into cars with strange men.
Man 2: Ela vre!
(Just then, “Kommatia” comes on the radio)
K: Hey, I like that song.
Man: Get into the car.
K: I think I will.
Vasilis didn’t take me home; he took Yannis and me straight to Flocafe where we were forced to have coffee. Our many and frequent protests were ignored, although I did eventually make it home safely without incident.
Our first date was the only time any man in the world has cooked me dinner on a date, and Vasilis turned out to be a very sweet, down-to-earth person. He was brute, beauty and brains. But when his childhood sweetheart came back to entice him, he knowingly fell into another bout of inevitable heartbreak…and Vasilis and I were “kommatia.”
And did it end there? For Vasilis and I, yes. But his best friend Yannis asked me to marry him a year later, and I had to respectfully decline.
The original is done with Dantis alone and with a voice-box during the chorus.
This is the live version with Kostas Martakis.
Έπαψες Αγάπη Να Θυμίζεις/Epapses Agape na Thimizeis
(You stopped remembering love)
by Pix Lax
Back in the day, this classic was played at clubs during the “Greek” segment starting at 3 a.m., if the overall genre was non-Greek. Everyone knew the words, but I could only listen with my heart.
I revisited this song on the island of Aegina, where my boyfriend had taken me for a three-day weekend. My friends were back in Athens, and I was sad I couldn’t see them during this short visit from NYC — we always clubbed on Friday and Saturday, which of course lasted until Sunday. As a surprise, they hopped on a ferry and met me in Aegina.
After dinner and first drinks, we went to a beachside club with plush sofas, drank, danced like there was no tomorrow and gazed at the dark blue sea. We then hopped over to Elliniko, which was ironically an American rock club. Like clockwork, this song came on at 3 a.m. and we all went crazy, sang the song together, sobbed and danced together in a closed circle with our arms joined at the shoulders. When it was over, my friend Nick looked at me and said, “We always have more fun when you’re here.”
It was one of the best nights of my life.
I miss you, Nick.
Το Σ’ αγαπώ/To S’agapo
(The ‘I love you’)
by Michalis Hatzigiannis
Hatzigiannis’ song is the only one I could understand, and the only song associated with a relationship. For those who know the lyrics, they refer to myself and my choice to leave, thus closing a long chapter of my life and starting over.
Greek National anthem
by Dionysios Solomos
In February 1998, a young woman from California set foot in Greece for the first time after celebrating Carnival in Venice. It was winter, she was alone, and it was Sunday in Athens.
Vassilis Sofias closed to traffic to make way for a contingency of evzones going to Syntagma Square for the official changing, all stomping in unison, all staring straight ahead, all wearing hand-stitched uniforms steeped in historical meaning with sleeves of flowing motion. The band announced their arrival, two men deemed “best of the week” were threaded from the group by a senior officer to “allagi” and the national anthem began to play.
As colors of blue and white waved gracefully in the wind, and I looked upon the dichotomous marriage of young and old, modernity and tradition, present day and historical past, a powerful surge of emotion came over me, though I’d never heard the music or knew its lyrical poetry before this moment. Tears fell uncontrollably. After the evzones turned their heads in honor toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they left the square to the triumphant tune of “Evzonaki.” This was the day I vowed to make Greece my home.
For years, I made a point of going to the square every Sunday or visiting on the last Sunday during visits to Greece when I was living elsewhere. But I stopped this ritual because it became impractical, though the experience is still relevant to who I am and what I feel.
There was no one who cried harder at the Athens 2004 Opening and Closing ceremonies, and the same wave of emotion that came over me 15 years ago is ever present. I have no explanation for it. It just is.
So say what you like about me, call me names, swear at me, tell me I am not welcome here and to get out of Greece. It’s nothing I haven’t heard a million times before. A deep-seated part of me will always love Ellada, and she and I have been — and will always be — inseparable.
But the day to bid her goodbye is on the horizon, as some loves are not meant to be together. Some grow stronger when they are apart and longing, some loves are pulled back by the forces that bind only when other forces are pushing away, and some can only grow in perfection in one’s heart when the realities of daily life are no longer eating away at the soul.
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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