We will tell today on one of Greece most beloved singers , Tania Tsanaklidou and her encounter with the composer Stamatis Kraounakis and the lyricist Lina Nikolakopoulou (who we already met in the previous post), an encounter that has produced unforgettable moments.
“We all need something unexpected”, Tania Tsanaklidou had been quoted as she decided 18 months ago to take a surprising action and to perform in the streets of Athens as a street singer to show her empathy and love to her people, to cheer them up in hard times.*
This need for independence and for “something unexpected” or unusual was in Tania since childhood. She loved people who come into contact with danger like acrobats and tamers; at 11, she performed with one of them “The Round of Death”. As she grew up she studied theatre and dancing but she eventually found that singing is the exact way that reflects her nature. “I chose singing because there you can find a freedom that you can’t find in a play. You can choose the song, your partner, the way you will sing it, even the place most of the times. Freedom makes me feel real. Freedom is always little further away and the journey you have to do to find it is beautiful.” And she feels that all her theatrical expression is completely covered in singing.
So Tania (born 1952) was one of a group of emerging artists that appeared in the mid 70s. In 1978 she represented Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest in an “acting song”, “Charlie Chaplin”, and in the 80s she was a well-established singer. “A girl with eyes that were full of fire and passion”, who was performing what may be called ”Greek Chansons”.**
Tania made a studio recording but she didn’t like it so much, preferring strongly the direct contact with people in live shows. In 1988 special circumstances brought her to the studio…
On Stamatis and Lina
The composer Stamatis Kraounakis and theatre are one, in all aspects. He writes music for theatre and cinema, and of course to lyrics. He also directs and works as theatre manager. One has to listen to Stamatis Kraunakis singing one of his own songs to realize how much theatrical soul he has.***
We are in the late 70s. Stamatis is in the beginning of his 20s, a student of political science at Panteion University. Here he meets a classmate, Lina, who is two years younger, and a love bursts, “teenage love” he says. They shared love to music and songs, of different styles and countries ” Our home was the song”. With such commonality between them it transpired that “later we managed to transform this passion, as spiritual persons, into a strong loving relationship.” Says Stamatis and he adds “I beatify life, because the years have brought us to a very special moment as the same look of things around us unites us, although we are such different persons as characters”
Lina on Stamatis: “My acquaintance with Stamatis, I think it was fatal, and fatality often brings a burden, but in our case it was creation – and I owe him a lot. I do not know what I would have dealt with if I had not met him so early, because I was also flirting with theatre, cinema and journalism. So I think that the fact I came so close to a man that fascinated me by his personality, and that I heard the melodies informally, before they were released, was the main reason why I followed the same course and started writing songs together… by loving him I started to love myself.”
Lina wrote her first lyrics for Kraounakis in 1981 and this duo begins to rise slowly in the 80s, collaborating with a great performer, Alkistis Protopsalti, to produce songs that were different, fascinating, unprecedented. They both became established, Stamatis as musician and Lina as lyricist, or a “born poet”, as Stamatis describes her.
…and now is the time to make the match and to have Tania joins our story again….
Mama, I am getting older
These three creators met in Tania’s album “Mama, I am Getting Older” (μαμά γερνάω) with the title song that opens and closes the album. Let’s hear a version of this song from when Tania was younger, I think about 10 years ago:
(Press the red bottom on the YouTube video to get English subtitles in this and the other videos. You can enlarge the subtitles by editing “Definitions”)
We tell the story of the song in Tania’s words:
“I have met with Lina and Stamatis and we were thinking of doing something together, but it did not occur until that time. Meanwhile my mother died. November of ’86. I’m crap; I do not want to go out, do not want to eat… One evening, in the beginning of the new year, they invite me to their performance “Avenue A”, where Alkistis Protopsalti and Eleftheria Arvanitaki were singing. But I’m inconsolable. They asked me again to do something together and I replied that I didn’t want to make an album. The only thing that mattered to me at that time was a song through which I could tell to my mother all those things I didn’t have the opportunity to tell her while she was alive. Some days later we were playing cards with Stamatis and I had the feeling that he wanted to say something to me…” Lina has written a song for you, so good, that you are not going to believe it… “We called Lina immediately and asked her to meet. I couldn’t rehearse this song like the album’s other songs… I couldn’t stand it… we, the three of us were in the studio and we were trying to find the right tone to sing it… as soon as we managed I started to sing and after a while no one was near me… not Stamatis, nor the sound engineer… only Lina was there reading a newspaper… everybody in the studio was crying… Eventually we saved this first “rehearsal” and we put it at end of the album… it was the “Postscript”
“After I finished the recording of the song, I went with my sister to our mom’s grave and we were listening to the song from a tape recorder, while drinking whiskey. We dedicated the song to her – after all it was written for her. The song tells things that I would not dare to tell my mom while she was living. But you feel relieved when you finally do it. We were alike in character, so we were always in a conflict. She would often hug me and cry. And I, being a reactionary person, I would get angry. My mother was a very good woman.”
From that time up until today Tania sings this song, every time in a different style, according to the circumstances and her feelings (the age of the daughter who is speaking has been changing in the text over time). She and her audience are moved. I can say that in a performance I had attended, she received extremely loud and long applause after this song as if it was the closer. She excited us and the audience identified with her.
Another version of the song, this time from 2010:
Another famous song from the album is “Floor”. Let’s listen to Tania and then say something about it.
Lina Nikolakopoulou describes emotions through scenes and metaphors. She says that many of her verses are built in a way that can be interpreted in different ways; in this way she let the reader to bring something of his own to her lyrics. The song “Floor” became very popular inside and outside of Greece. I asked a friend, the singer Katerina Siapanda to make her own interpretation, giving special focus to the tricky last lines that arouse much curiosity in our Greek music-lovers’ community.
A woman is building a palace on the seaside; she desires to flee from the painful reality into the imaginary world. She puts chains on the gates to keep it to herself and shut everyone else out of her life. She throws her bed into the sea to get rid of this “meeting point” of many her false love affairs that have taken their toll on her life. She sleeps on the floor; going for “all or nothing”.
At midnight, from her isolation, she opens a window to the world. Feeling like nothing, worthless, she looks at the infinite stars… the wide sea… As she compares her nothingness to the infinite cosmos she understands deep inside that her failures are not only of personal character but it is also the human world which is not perfect. It will never be equal to the great infinity because it is full of flaws, it is crippled but only in some aspects- “in points”; the human world is not “all or nothing”. Her personal flaws are part of human disability. This gives her strength. “And who told you that what I am doing is a weakness?” she asks. She kind of comes to term with this situation and accepts fate, and the unknown that lies ahead.
Tania and “Mama”
In the years that followed, up today, all the three partners of the album kept their influential status in Greek music.
In this album Lina Nikolakopoulou established herself as a female lyricist, writing feminine characters, (we see it in the album’s songs presented in this post). As for Tania,she realized that women are a prominent part of her audience. She feels that in her shows she can talk openly with women about things that “we don’t usually talk about, from fortune tellers to menopause, and rejection from men.” With her, she says, women feel free of guilt.
Like the daughter in “Mama”, Tania today has a fear of getting old. She thought in the past that she wouldn’t mind it a lot “but eventually it shocked me… I am a free woman, and fear is terrible slavery. When you get older, you feel that time will come when you will not have sovereignty… I thought I had stronger resistance, but I was defeated. Maybe on stage I look strong and independent, but I’m afraid that at some point I will lose all this…”
But in contrast to the daughter in “Mama”, Tania has no regrets at all that she is unmarried and has no family. She feels no deprivation. She has been following her wishes in life and has known men’s love, and still, “every time I sing it, I see mothers hugging with their daughters. This touches me very deeply, and gives me great happiness. I did not do it. The song did it. I became the catalyst for this to happen.”
Two More songs…
The First is “The Fates” (οι μοίρες) ,with Dimitra Galani
For those who can’t watch the video here is an audio:
The second “This night remains” (Αυτή η νύχτα μένει ) is not from the album “Mama”. It is from 1999 movie with the same name and Kraounakis wrote also the lyrics. Stamatis as a lyricist follows here Lina, with a song of metaphors and lyrics that have their own life and that one can interpret it as he feels. One writer feels that this song is ” a tribute to the forgotten lovers, lost in the heat of their bodies…”
It is one of the highlights in every Tania’s show and it shows best Tania as a performer and the enthusiasm of her audience.
** Here is a song from 1982 “File”-“Friend” a song about a casual meeting for one night affair between a lonely woman and some anonymous guy http://youtu.be/jL-oAezs6Ec
*** Stamatis Kraunakis in one of his songs http://youtu.be/6H3yUzbf_CQLinks: http://topontiki.gr/article/1719 http://to-trapezi.blogspot.gr/2011/03/blog-post_25.html http://www.hyper.gr/makthes/951007/51007g07.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamatis_Kraounakis http://www.tralala.gr/stamaths-kraounakhs-gennhthhke-san-shmera-to-1955/ http://www.tanea.gr/politismos/article/?aid=4652627 http://www.greeksongs-greekmusic.com/lina-nikolakopoulou-greek-lyricist/ Translation and research: Nata Ostria Editing: Shahaf I fhar and Dan Matz Thanks to Katerina Siapanda for good advices