The anthem of the soul

This is a story of a song that has virtually become a kind of national anthem for the Greek people. It is lodged deep in their collective soul:

Cloudy Sunday
you look like my heart
which has always cloudiness
Christ and Holy Mary

When I see you rainy
I have no moment of quiescence
you bring darkness into my life
and I sigh heavily

You are a day like the one
which I lost my joy
cloudy Sunday
you make my heart bleed

The song is “Sinefiasmeni Kiriaki”-Cloudy Sunday and here is a version by  Poly Panou, Glykeria, Manolis Mitsias, Lakis Halkias, Pitsa Papadopoulou, Marios Kostoglou, Gerasimos Andreatos, Giannis Lempesis, Eleni Gerani

These simple and blunt words are well-rooted in the suffering of the people at the time of the German-Italian occupation of Greece during World War II, a time of “hunger, misery, fear, repression, arrests, and executions” as the song’s author Vassilis Tsitsanis puts it, arguably the greatest Rebetica composer and lyricist.

In a 1972 interview, Tsitsanis speaks of the circumstances of the writing of the song:

“I remember the blockade by the Germans being put up, overnight. I was in a tavern and none of us inside there knew who would leave the place alive. They put me up and I played [Bouzouki] till morning. They let us leave at dawn. Outside it was covered with snow, and as I went home I saw spots of thick red blood. Inside the dim light I saw the lad who was killed. I went home and wrote the song.” The song’s initial title was “Bloody Sunday”.

In an interview a year later he added: “The gloomy atmosphere of the occupation had inspired the lyrics of the song and its music… I wanted to cry for the black despair that we were all beaten by at the time of the occupation; the notes were talking only of despair.”

But this song spread its wings among the people, and many found in it their own “Cloudy Sunday” – the voice of their pain in distressing times, whether as individuals or as Greeks, like those who were living abroad and were missing their homeland, or the Cypriots and their memories of the British occupation. I believe that many feel that the same words express the mood of many Greeks these days that face very hard times. Tsitsanis is “the bard of the poor, wounded, to lovers” (John Tsarouchis). He touched the heart of the people exactly because he lived a life that was no different to theirs.

Vassilis Tsitsanis had been challenged by two persons who claimed that they have a part in writing these lyrics; one case was brought to court in the 70s and Tsitsanis won. His rights on the lyrics are recognized by The Hellenic Society for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AEPI)* but, as someone had said, “it belongs to all Greeks.”

“Without the song ‘Cloudy Sunday’,Greece would be nothing,” said the famous lyricist Manolis Rasoulis. “A song can be a cornerstone. Therefore, one song can change the minds of people… With the songs ‘Cloudy Sunday’ and ‘My Whole Life’ by Akis Panos I saw the world more vibrant and more hopeful….”

*According to an article by Maniatis in the “Ta Nea” (The News) newspaper in 11.7.2011

Here is an  old version from a film by kaity Grey and Tsitsanis:

I want to thank here to Nata Ostria for her significant help. She has at least equal rights in this publication.However, I have the sole responsibility for mistakes if any.

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4 Responses to “The anthem of the soul”

  1. Lyrics and Song Says:

    I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your
    blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice
    blog like this one today.

  2. Katharina Volpers Says:

    Thank you very much for all the interesting information. I have just come back from Santorini where I heard this wonderful song for the first time and we translated it in a Greek language class.

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