Archive for November, 2012

Five Milestone Songs of Nikos Papazoglou

November 25, 2012

Nikos  Papazoglou (1948-2011) is one of the most watched Greek singers in YouTube. Some of his videos got more than two millions watchers; many of them are not from Greek users.

For me personally this was a surprise.  I was unaware that he has been getting such a huge audience in America and North Europe. With his special Greek style which is a combination of folk music and rock, he filled for more than 30 years auditoriums and arenas in Greece with enthusiastic crowd, being one of the most appreciated artists in his country. I and other none Greek new comers to Greek music discovered him quite recently, for some, like myself, it only happened after his death, but it looks like that we are a very small minority…

He was born in Thessalonki and in 1972 he moved to West-Germany with a musical group in order to break into the international music scene. He had return to Greece in 1976, and using his capabilities as a sound engineer built his own studio in his hometown, a studio that became very influential in the underground rock music for many years to come.  This studio hosted the recording of the first album he had participated in, “The revenge of the Gypsies” (1978). He lived in Thessaloniki with his wife and two children until his death in April 2011, at 63.

Out of music, lyrics and interpretation, Papazoglou, considered “most important is the interpretation which makes people radiate and glow, or not. ” He created some myth around him. In his crowded concerts he used to perform with his band Λοξή φάλαγγα meaning “Oblique order”,  playing the baglama, a red scarf round his neck, long hair and jeans -“The Indian” was his nickname.

He had a special musical style of folk and rock which got the name “School of Thessaloniki” or “Papazoglou’s school” and a style of singing which also got his name, the “παπαζόγλιος λυγμός” –the “Papazoglou sobbing”-a voice with a feel of crying which becomes more intense in high-pitched phrases and at the end of sentences.

About the origin of his singing style and music he says: “It existed always in me. I should have gotten from my mother, whose singing was like this…But, look, my singing is tropical anyway. The scales on which songs are tropical, there are not those that correspond to the keys of the piano, and maybe that is reminiscent of flamenco or Arabia or Turkey. Probably better Anatolia. This mixture that was there: Armenians, Greeks, Jews.  Moreover, the neighborhood I grew up in (in Thessaloniki) was a little “Macedonian salad” as it was called.”

This “School of Thessaloniki” of folk and rock became important and opened the way for distinguished singers and creators like Socratis Malamas, Orpheas Peridis, Thanasis Papakonstantinou, Giannis Mitsis, Melina Kana and others, each one of them paint it with his own personal character.

Let’s have five of Nikos’ famous songs.



No one is singing here (Κανείς εδώ δε τραγουδά)

This is one of Papazoglou’s most famous songs.  It originated in a 1978 album “Revenge of the Gypsies” (Εκδίκηση της γυφτιάς) in which he was participating along with other singers. The album was initiated by the singer and song writer Dionysis Savvopoulos, who introduced on this record for the first time, besides Papazoglou, the lyricist Manolis Rasoulis and the musician Nikos Xidakis.

The title reflects a challenging on the prevailing style of that time. In the mid 1970s all one could hear in stadiums and concerts was, in Savvopoulos’ view “cultural” songs which he thought  “describe the reality but doesn’t expresses it”, stressing (to his view) more the aesthetic side rather the emotion and were influenced too much by European music, even if they were created and sung by leading Greek artists. He says; “The lowest strata of society reacted immediately with a kind of music that later was called, by the ‘defenders of the purity of the breed’, Indian or gypsy or Turkish-gypsy”(in a demeaning way).  This music was the aspiration for the music created in their new album.

The idea for the title came into Savvopoulos’ mind on the night train to Thessaloniki, as he and his mates travelled for the recording. After he got there, as he was walking on the platform ” seeing figures in the windows of a train, which was starting slowly, gliding over the rails, tears came to my eyes and I thought ‘Oh my God, help the folk song, because alone it will not make it”.

As one might expect the revolutionary project was denied by leading record companies, accepted by “Lyra” after a lot  of convincing. The recording took place in Papazoglou’s own studio, using musicians who for the most part were recording professionally for the first time. “Revenge of Gypsies “was naturally received negatively by media and critics, but gained  popularity firstly among students, and then in the wider Greek public…and then the world…

“No one is singing here”, Lyrics by Takis Simotas, to Niko’s music:

(Click on the red bottom on Youtube for English subtitles)



August (Αύγουστος )

Six years after this album, Nikos Papazoglou first personal album came to the world.  It was «Χαράτσι»*** (1984). “A personal record of songs that I had created in the years before and I worked, I worked, I work on them. It seemed initially that there is mismatch between them. But I decided to put them together to coexist and I was not wrong.   There were all things I loved: electric band that I knew very well, acoustic band which I also loved very much, and the compositions proved to be good. This LP record was loved dearly by the audience”

The song “August” has personal story. “In the big earthquake of Thessaloniki (1978) Nikos Papazoglou sent his pregnant wife to relatives in America as their house was damaged very seriously. Mikis Theodorakis invited him to stay with him in Volos .There, however, he fell in love with a girl so passionately that he could not bear to stay near to her as he felt a great attraction but did not want to cheat his wife”.  He decided to return to Thessaloniki and  he wrote a song which was inspired by his emotions to the woman who he had fallen in love in the first part of the song and to his newborn daughter in the second part…



Papazoglou and Rasoulis

The artistic way of Nikos Papapzoglou and the lyricist  Manolis Rasoulis started together in the “Revenge of the Gypsies” album in 1978, they went together for more than thirty years, and left us within forty days of 2011, both  early in their lives, Manolis at March (He was 66) and Nikos at April.

For Rasoulis “The performer is the “town crier” of the song. The performer who is trying to peddle the song to the people and he determines to a large extent the acceptance but also the identity of the song”.  He found in Papazoglou the ideal “co-creator” performer.

From “Ogdoo”: “Papazoglou, temperamentally matching to Rasoulis, respects his work by incorporating in his interpretation the structural elements which form it. So the origins of the lyricist illuminate and glow and despite their verbal anarchy, manage to be accepted and ultimately gain even the public that, up to a point, does not understand the complexity of their messages. Papazoglou is not trying to usurp Rasoulis’ raw materials. He attempts to meet with them, to share their truth and spirit. This explains the great popularity of Rasoulis’ songs which Papazoglou gave at the audience of different tastes”**

The young Manolis and Nikos sing “Here in the crack of time” Εδώ στη ρωγμή του χρόνου (Music, Nikos Ksidakis).  This is a song full of metaphors. Katerina Siapanda says: the first verse describes the problem: Hiding from a knife that threatens not only the physical being but the spirit as well, and its’ right to be free. The second verse describes the hope and the third verse the decision to fight back, to react, using any spiritual means that could help to that direction.”*

Maybe the crown of their cooperation is “Ah, Greece  I love you”-Αχ Ελλάδα σ΄ αγαπώ which as its composer Vasw Alianni tells, was invented on the road: “We were in Crete and had missed the buss.  For an hour we were walking into a wilderness, and I began to sing a melody that came to me at that time. Manolis then began to put lyrics and sing upon the melody with me……alternately, I sung one stanza of the song and one Manolis…and then we were singing together. We felt like shouting for the bus to come and we started to laugh…”

The song according to Natalie Rasouli, Manolis daughter and a singer herself, “talks about the love for the homeland, and recognizing the plight of the odyssey inside and outside its borders” in lyrics that are “away from nationalist crowns and patriotic hysteria… Manolis lived as an immigrant in England at the end of the 60s and throughout his life he wandered to many places as a modern Odysseus.”

In contrast to the previous song Rasoulis use here simple and direct,sharp words.



I am not a poet (Εγώ δεν είμαι ποιητής)

Another beautiful song…

Lyrics: Lazaros Andreou

Music:Nikos Papazoglou

Notes and links:
*  Katerina has also other comments in this post. Thanks Katerina!
*** χαράτσι comes from the turkish word haraç and nowadays has the meaning of an unfair and especially high tax.During Greece’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire, haraç was the tax that all non-muslim citizens had to pay to the Empire.
Translations and research Nata Ostria
Editing: Shahaf Ifhar and Dan Matz

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