“You had planted melodies in me, my mother and father”

(Fania Bergstein)

Yannis Parios is one of Greece’s most popular singers. He is “the great lover of Greek music,” as someone dubbed him for his romantic love songs, for his soft voice and his melodies, a part of which he composed himself. He has enjoyed a career that began in 1969 and continues to this day, with huge sales of albums inside and outside Greece.

Yannis was born on the island of Paros, one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea. His birth name was different, and he changed it to Yannis Parios for his love to his native island, Parios being the origin of the island’s name.

From his early childhood he would hear “the songs of my cradle”, as he put it, the Nisiotika – the folk songs and dances of the Aegean Islands, songs and dances in which the tenderness of the arid land ornamented with greenery, small white houses and the blue sea is mixed with various human feelings such as love, sorrow, anger, happiness, and courage. They are songs of the soul of the islander.

Here is Parios, younger, singing and dancing:

As Parios tells, his father was the one who had “planted the melodies” in him as a child:

“I have memories of my life from the age of six. I remember very strongly the mornings…. My father used to get up early every morning and I liked to nestle up in his hug and he sang to me or chanted.  Every Sunday morning he went to the cafe and my joy was to go get him late at night. I used to hit the window that he would see me and my wish was to get the pasteli (sweet with sesame and honey) or yogurt, rewards of his victory in cards. If he was the winner he came out quickly and if not I had to wait a little, because he would go to buy it instead and tell me that he had won it. After we would leave the cafe we would walk along the coastal road  to go home. I remember he had a long black coat, very thick, from the army. He was a lighthouse keeper and needed something warm. He would open the coat, cover me with it. I felt  at those moments so secure, it was like I was keeping in me the whole world.

We lived in a room which had a kitchen, a bedroom, everything, and had a fireplace that was useful to keep warm, to cook and for ventilation. We usually ate potatoes with a little salt…”  Sometimes Yannis would go to the lighthouse to give his father blankets, food. He would sit there watching the ships in the sea and wondering where they were going, what is beyond the horizon…

After high school Yannis left for Athens: “Even today I remember the white boat at the port of  Paros, the paper bag, my mother and my father, the nest egg of 750 drachmas, their blessing and their hugs just before I turned my back to get into the boat. ‘Farewell, my son.’ I took the paper bag that was full of fears, dreams, hopes and insecurities.”

In the middle of the seas I sail 

and I have for a bow my longing

and I have love at the stern

and for mast the separation

 

Sea, don’t send me away

separation, you make my heart bleed

 

Black Fate has written

to leave away from shore and get lost

far away from my island

and from the girl I love

(Kostas Moundakis)

An audio of the song:

In 1982, as Parios was a well-known and admired singer of love songs, he entered the studio to record songs of his “most beloved place in the world” –Paros and the Aegean islands. It was a time of enthusiasm and high spirits for him. The album made history in Greece: the Aegean atmosphere captured people everywhere and it has the highest sales record ever in Greek music.

The poet and lyricist Lina Nikolakopoulou says: “In one song Parios tells about his life. He is happy because he was wounded by love, because he lived, believed in love and was a convict of love. One night, I saw him dancing a dance of his island; I saw the ‘yes’ that he said in life and the source of his power, a blue horizon”

I would like to thank Nata Ostria for her broad research for this story.

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