Where Greek Music Belongs: On the Global Stage


On Saturday, February 1 at 8:00 p.m., internationally renowned Greek singer, Eleftheria Arvanitaki makes her Carnegie Hall debut bringing a distinctive blend of the urban folk music genre rebetiko and contemporary Greek music to Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage.

I was honored to meet and have dinner with Eleftheria last week in Athens, together with Steven Priovolos, and share with her the multitude of projects we are involved with and hear her own take on music, life and things she’s passionate about.

We shared stories about Ikarians— she’s a proud one— and all of those crazy Ikarians I know back home. She also expressed her concern for Greece and how everything she does, artistically, she carries with her the burden of representing Greece’s rich musical heritage.

For me, seeing a singer like Eletheria Arvanitaki on one of the most prestigious stages in the world— and definitely in the United States— is the ultimate of what we all want— to showcase the beauty of Greece— whether it’s music, food, culture, history— in relevant and mainstream environments so that the entire world can learn about who we are and what we represent.

I’m not saying that music only belongs on the great stages… Oh no. Give me a good bouzouki nightclub and I’ll be the first to throw flowers and even dance on top of my table. But Greek music is more than a and should be shared with the world.

Eleftheria— through her music, also teaches. Her rebetika and Micrasiatika share the painful years of the Asia Minor Catastrophe; her collaborations with Balkan artists show how all of our countries are inter-connected. Eleftheria also shares the personal distinction of performing so eloquently one of my all time Greek songs, Parapono H Ksenitia. Every time I play this song on YouTube I tear up.

I plan to be in New York City to support this concert and to thank Carnegie Hall for inviting Eleftheria Arvanitaki to perform on their prestigious stage. I hope others will too.


In addition to her reputation for seamlessly transitioning between these genres, Arvanitaki is also well known for high-energy live performances and eclectic collaborations including her interpretations of the works for contemporary composers and poets whose works she sets to music. Of the singer, Folk Roots notes, “…the music that Eleftheria Arvanitaki has been singing embodies in the most essential way a country whose past is steeped in the Orient, but at the same time tends to look towards the West. Either as a solo artist, or with her earlier group Opisthodromiki Kompania in the ’80s, her work is the amalgamation of the best of the two worlds.

Her exciting, expressive voice made her a favorite with many talented songwriters that helped her fulfill her artistic vision.” Rebetiko has its origins in an oral tradition where improvisation played an important role in both the music and lyrics.

The music often features a rough, almost raw sounding vocal performance which reflects the musical tradition born during turbulent times in the large ports in and around Greece—specifically the resettlement of over a million Greeks refugees from Asia Minor in the 1920s—as well as the realities found in Greek underground culture and shanty towns grew up around Athens, Piraeus and other cities. These refugees brought their music with them, and it had a prominent effect on the urban music of Greece.

The songs explore the collective human experiences with themes of pain, nostalgia, tenderness, death and love. Arvanitaki’s voice and musical style has been shaped by the living tradition of rebetiko as she takes the intense emotions found in the rhythms from the Mediterranean and the Oriental worlds and fuses them with the rhythms existing in the dances of the traditional Greek feasts (or glentia).

About The Artist

Eleftheria Arvanitaki’s musical career began in the early 1980s in Athens where she made a name for herself fronting her own group, Opisthidromiki Kompania, before launching her solo career in 1985. By the mid-1990s, she had gained an audience in Greece and beyond when the historic jazz label Verve issued her album, Eleftheria Arvanitaki—The Very Best of 1989–1998. This proved to be a springboard into her international acclaim and started her along the road towards years of celebrated musical collaborations and appearances at international music festivals and concert halls the world over.

Throughout a career spanning three decades, Arvanitaki has toured extensively, performing in celebrated concert venues including: La Cigale in Paris; Madison Square Garden and Town Hall in New York; Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Barbican Centre in London; the

Sydney Opera House in Australia; Teatro Albeniz in Madrid and Palau de la Música in Barcelona; Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna, Carré in Amsterdam and many more. Festival appearances include performances at Womad, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Sfinks festival in Belgium, the Millennium End Festival in Barcelona, “Los Veranos de la Villa” Festival in Madrid, and the Stimmen Festival in Germany, among others. Notably, in June 2006, she opened the renewed Greek Festival, giving two sold out concerts at Greece’s renowned Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens in which she performed the songs for films created by Greek Academy Award-winning composer Manos Hadjidakis. In 2000, she had the honor of singing for the Pope as part of the Jubileum della Terra, and in 2004 sang as part of the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games.

Notable collaborations include performances with Cesaria Evora, Buika, Dulce Pontes, Teofilo Chantre, and Amaral among others. She performed the traditional Greek song Tzivaeri as part of composer Philip Glass’s work Orion—a piece inspired by the musical traditions of the five continents. She also collaborated with Spanish composer and Grammy winning-producer Javier Limón on two albums—her own Mírame, which combines sounds and rhythms from Greece, Spain, Cuba and Northern Africa, and his album. Mujeres de Agua alongside vocalists Mariza, Estrella Morente, and Buika.

In September 2010, Arvanitaki travelled to Ivory Coast as a UNICEF Ambassador for the Campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Her forthcoming album is expected in spring 2014.

Program Information
Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Vocals
Alexandros Arkadopoulos, Clarinet, Flute, and Kaval
George Georgiadis, Double Bass
Yannis Kirimkirides, Acoustic Piano and Keyboards
Thomas Konstantinou, Mandolin, Lute, Bouzouki, and Oud
Alexandros Ktistakis, Drums
Kostas Meretakis, Eastern Traditional Percussion
Dimitris Tsakas, Soprano Saxophone and Nylon Guitar

Special Guest Ara Dinkjian, Oud and Cumbus


Ticket Information

Tickets, priced $30—$75, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.


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