Greek music 101 for everyone

OK, first things first, I’m no music expert. But today, to save writing the same email over and over, it’s time for a mini Greek music lesson. The post about Dalaras seems to have sparked some interest as well as some questions – My top choice for everyone visiting Greece? Giorgos Dalaras. Yes, a few of my Greek friends may disown me, but let’s face it, not only has he brought popular Greek music around the world, he has also brought the world’s music to Greece. He is continuously reinventing himself, and after selling more than 10 million albums in his career, he is perhaps the best place to start for a Greek musical restrospective. Dalaras is a great intro to Greek music – his music is really varied and the great thing about him is that you’ll hear a bit of everything from authentic Greek blues to Latin to contemporary Greek pop.

There are so many pop singers today in Greece that I have a hard time keeping track. Anna Vissi and Elli Kokkinou are really popular “Madonna” types – Vissi’s concerts have her being lowered onto the stage by wire lift, with lights flashing, etc. She was also Greece’s entry to Eurovision last year (she didn’t win) – Elena Paparizou (, the Greek entry two years ago (she DID win). Marios Fragoulis, a handsome young Greek opera singer who ‘crossed over” and is as beautiful to look at as to listen to, is always a favorite. Garden of Hope is his newest, I think and it is a fun CD with a variety of musical styles on it, even a bit of tango music!

You may want to listen to Dionysis Tsaknis. You can hear some of his stuff at

Note that most talented Greek singers don’t remain in one genre all of the time – right now Eleftheria Arvanitaki has a top 40 “pop” song and album, but here she is performing in a typical bouzoukia club … and here she is with a currently very popular song that wouldn’t be considered to be “pop” and she also sang Dinata Dinata – the Olympic theme song

The best option when visiting Athens would be to find one of the street vendors on Imittou who sell CDs (I like them as an example since these same vendors are always on the same block, and for reasons given in a moment you will want to know where to find them the day after you have bought your CDs). Ask to see some of their compilations – they usually have a “Best of” CD, usually Best of Summer 2007, etc. But, big caution here: bring them upstairs and test them. Some percentage of the ones we buy don’t work – they will exchange it – but you need to test it before you leave. I do get a better percentage of CDs that work over DVDs (their DVDs are very funny – sometimes they are so bootlegged that in the middle of the movie you will hear someone’s cell phone ring or see someone get up out of their seat to leave the theater :-)

On a personal note for those traveling with “children” (you know, those are the ones who probably are taking their last holiday with the family as they cross that magical line into adulthood …). As a 20 year old single American woman, my first journey across the Atlantic had me backpacking solo around Greece, (well, I did have a backpack, but I was busing it mostly). I had a “walkman” cassette player at that time (yes, ancient, I know). My first day in Greece I purchased the tape “Den Pistevo” by Eleni Dimou (the song is about not believing in love, I had just broken up with my boyfriend, it was appropriate :-). At the end of my 8 week journey I knew every word to every song on the tape (though I really didn’t speak Greek at the time). I have some of the fondest memories associated with this music, so I would be remiss not to mention Eleni Dimou here. Both she and I are much more mature today, though while my own “maturity” shows itself in tiny lines around my eyes and not so tiny bulges around my waist, her maturity has made her a bit more “ballad-like” than she was before … but she still has the classic (read: too many cigarettes!) deep Greek female singer voice and, like lots of other Greek musicians, her music today crosses musical tastes and generations.

So, enjoy your journey in search of some Greek music… I hope you will find something like my old Den Pisevo cassette and that it will provide you with wonderful memories of your trip to Greece for a long, long time.