Greek songs which also became international hits, are more than you might think! However, few people today realize that some classic songs were actually written by Greek composers,
When you regularly visit, you definitely have understood that music plays a very important role in the life of Greeks. In joy and sorrow, Greeks sing. And the truth is that they have the opportunity to choose among several categories of songs, in order to express every time their feelings: there are plenty of folk songs, rebetika, laika, entexna as well as rock and pop songs.
The Golden Decades of the Greek songs
Among all these songs, the ones from the 50’s and the 60’s stand out from the rest, even nowadays. Two golden decades of the modern Greek songs with composers of distinction and unique performers. In fact, some of these songs managed to attract attention beyond the Greek borders; they were performed by well-known artists abroad, several times even in the Greek language! So, let’s listen to some of these songs which made it to international success:
(the list is much longer than what we mention, but you get an idea..)
The song ‘Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά’ (The children of Piraeus)
Without a doubt, one of the most popular Greek melodies all over the world is that of the song ‘Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά’ (The children of Piraeus). The unforgettable Melina Merkouri performed it in her own unique way in Jules Dassin’s film ‘Never on Sunday’ and mesmerized the audience worldwide. For this song, in 1960, Manos Hadjidakis won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. In the late 90’s, the well-known band Pink Martini presented to music lovers their own version of the song –in Greek– and ‘Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά’ enjoyed international success for one more time!
And of course we should not omit to mention the performance of the song by the ultimate diva Miss Piggy from The Muppet Show!
Curious about the movie “Never on Sunday”?
Melina Mercouris is acting as Ilya, an independent prostitute who hand-picks her clientele, and Dassin plays Homer, an American intellectual enamored of all things Greek, and determined to steer Ilya onto the straight and moral path.
2. The song ‘Μες σ’ αυτή τη βάρκα’ [On this (fishing) boat]
In 1960, Manos Hadjidakis composed the song ‘Μες σ’ αυτή τη βάρκα’ [On this (fishing) boat], for the film ‘Madalena’. The performer of the song was one of the most famous and beloved actresses in the history of Greek cinema, Aliki Vouyouklaki. But the very same song was also performed –in fact in Greek– by the well-known artist Harry Belafonte!
3. ‘Το Νησί των Γενναίων’ (The Island of the Brave)
In 1959, another great Greek actress, Tzeni Karezi, recorded for the soundtrack of the film ‘Το Νησί των Γενναίων’ (The Island of the Brave) a sweet melancholic song titled ‘Μην τον ρωτάς τον ουρανό’ (Don’t ask the sky), composed by Manos Hadjidakis. Three years later, in 1962, the popular American singer Brenda Lee performed the song in English, this time titled ‘All Alone Am I’; the song instantly became an international hit.
4. The song ‘Κάπου υπάρχει η αγάπη μου’ (My love must be somewhere out there)
In 1959, Nana Mouskouri participated in the first Greek Song Festival and won the first prize performing the song ‘Κάπου υπάρχει η αγάπη μου’ (My love must be somewhere out there), composed by Manos Hadjidakis. The song was also performed by a male artist, well-known Georges Moustaki.
5. The song ‘Τι είν’ αυτό που το λένε αγάπη;’ (What is this they call love?)
In the 60’s the natural beauty of mainland Greece and Greek islands served as a backdrop to various films shot in the country; as a result Greece became internationally known. A typical example of these films is the American production ‘Boy on a dolphin’, directed by Jean Negulesco (1957), most of which was shot on the picturesque island of Hydra. Sophia Loren and Tony Maroudas performed in Greek a sweet and very romantic song titled ‘Τι είν’ αυτό που το λένε αγάπη;’ (What is this they call love?) (music by Takis Morakis, lyrics by Giannis Fermanoglou).
6. The song ‘Misirlou’ (meaning ‘Egyptian woman’)
‘Misirlou’ (meaning ‘Egyptian woman’) is the title of an old rebetiko song. The number of artists who have performed it as well as its instrumental versions is impressively large. Among these versions, instantly recognizable is that of guitarist Dick Dale in the 60’s, especially after it was used in the film Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino (1994). Ten years later, ‘Misirlou’ was performed at the Closing ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens by renowned singer Anna Vissi.
Omilo and Greek Songs
Of course, the Greek song could not be missing from Omilo! In fact, many of our students actually started learning Greek, out of love for Greek music and because they were curious to know what the lyrics of their favorite Greek songs were about! That’s why we always make sure that our students are given a presentation related to Greek Songs during our intensive courses (as an extracurricular evening activity). In other words, fun and learning go hand in hand, as it’s always the case with Omilo!
In the songs above, you have read many times the name of composer Manos Hatzidakis. If you want to learn more about his music, and other composers writing “entechno Greek music”, then the following eBooks are a very good source of information