On this day we remember, perhaps, the greatest composer of Greek music ever– whose impact and legacy continues to the present day more than any other composer’s.
Vasilis Tsitsanis was born on January 18, 1915 in Trikala, northern Greece and lived through the dark years of the German occupation. From an early age he was drawn to music after picking up his father’s mandolin.
Tsitsanis composed and recorded more than 500 songs during his lifetime but what stands him apart from other composers was the talent of creating songs that would last, long after his death.
He was particularly attracted to Rebetika– a musical style that came to the mainland from Asia Minor in the 1920s and developed and evolved in the slums and drug dens in the port towns which were full of misery.
The fact that Rebetika were banned in the 1940s because of their dark nature, lyrics associated with drugs, prostitution and other elements of the underworld also attracted Tsitsanis to this music.
He once famously said in an interview that the “forbidden fruit always tasted the best,” when asked why he had such an affinity to the banned Rebetika music in the 1930s and 40s.
In a way, Tsitsanis can be credited as the composer who helped lay the groundwork for the contemporary “laika” or popular Greek music movement which is prevalent in Greece today, building a direct connection from their Rebetiko roots.
Today, there isn’t a Greek singer working that hasn’t performed a Tsitsanis song in a live repertoire, while dozens– perhaps even thousands of times, Tsitsanis songs have appeared on CDs of singers like George Dalaras, Glykeria, Haris Alexiou– even being transformed int unique remixes by new generations of artists, including a dance version of Zaira by Glykeria and a funk version of Akrogialies Dilina performed by the group Imam Baildi.
Furthermore– it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there isn’t a Greek alive anywhere on the planet that has even a slight connection to Greek music that hasn’t heard or even sung him/herself, Tsitsanis most famous songs, Synefiasmeni Kyriaki (Cloudy Sunday), Ta Kavourakia, Omorfi Thessaloniki and so many more.
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