“I Never Bowed to Anyone”

My path of discovering Greek Music passed through many wonderful songs. I remember that one of the songs that caught our ears and hearts just in the beginning is “The greatest moment is now” (Η πιο μεγάλη ώρα είναι τώρα):

(singer: Lizeta Kalimeri)

This song, which describes so wonderfully the most intimate moment between a man and a woman, was written by Akis Panou to whom we dedicate our post today.   We will present mainly, but not only his love songs, even if his personal and social songs are very important and reflects his life story. I like all these songs very much, and in this way we will see the two opposite sides of Akis Panou.

Akis was born in 1933. His father was that time the manager of the Royal Guard “Short little man, a pinch, but with great strength in character” a man with a military clockwork logic who demanded from his children to speak to their parents in a formal, respect way, a demand which Akis transferred to his own children.

From childhood he played music and performed professionally with his big brother, Evangelos and his sister, sometimes in exchange for a portion of meatballs. When he was 17 Evangelos died in a street accident. “He was my teacher, my father and everything of mine…”

akis3

Akis’ talent for handicraft was revealed in the mid 1950s as, along with music playing, he became a very sought-after musical instrument maker. His beautifully decorated bouzoukis produced wonderful sounds. In 1958 he released his first songs and in 1964 he turned to song-writing exclusively after an accident with the chisel caused him an injury which prevented him from continuing to make instruments.

Although he was involved in music from childhood, it was the lyrics which fascinated him. His grammatical level was quite basic but he decided to be an autodidact “Since I left school, I decided that all my life I will be a student.”

In the 1960s one could hear some of his songs by popular (Laika) singers, but as the lyricist Lefteris Papadopoulos admits, he and other leading writers and poets didn’t appreciated Akis “simple” unsophisticated popular writing, they didn’t see him as their peer. And Akis did not show that it minds him. He didn’t make any effort to promote his songs, he didn’t get in touch with famous journalists (except one, from an obscure publication) and didn’t go to parties, receptions and news conferences.. He had his own way.

So only in 1967 the year which “The greatest moment is now” was released, he begun his most fruitful 15 years of contribution to Greek Music.

 

 

Protest and love

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Akis Panou saw himself as a successor of the Rebeticans, whose songs had been originated in the miseries of the urban neighborhoods, songs that put forth the sorrows and hardships of life.” I am 100% rebetis, a volunteer rebetis…not conscript” He said. He never wrote on demand and felt that songs of him should reflect the unfairness in the world. “He was writing verses to express himself…to send a message…to claim…” (Stelios Eliniadis). “All my life” is one of his most famous songs which we had already presented in another post.

(http://youtu.be/aMj88Or6P0Q)

In 1967, at the time of the Colonel’s dictatorship he wrote the song “I will close my eyes”(Θα κλείσω τα μάτια). Here are some lines:

Love was poisoned by misery

poverty broke the heart into pieces

the summers haven’t been there for us 

and life became so heavy

 

I will close my eyes

I will reach out my hands

away from the  poverty

away from the misery

I will take the road,

the big one,me too

I will close my eyes

and wherever it will lead me

The song had been recorded by Gregoris Bitikotsis but it was in the market for only 15 days before the censorship put its hand on it.  The regime couldn’t stand such sharp words…

After three years Akis, changed the lyrics. I don’t know what he had in mind when he changed it to describe an ideal love. Anyhow this version stands by itself and it is very popular and much beloved during all the last decades. Here is Vicky Moscholiou (Press the red bottom for English subtitles. one can enlarge the subtitles by editing)

(For viewers in Germany, here is an audio: . The lyrics in the appendix)

 

 

The Anarchist

akis4

Akis Panou was never convenient person.. On the contrary, his great songs went hand in hand with a turbulent personality, self centered, temperamental and cranky.” The world is not my friend and I am not its friend “, he wrote in one of his songs. The anarchist philosophy fitted fully with his personality. “I am an anarchist in the true sense of the word, not a shop-windows breaker. I have my own party, of which I am a founder, leader and follower alone. I am trying to attack this system with the only means at my disposal: my persistently shaped logic”  This meant to him clashing with anyone and avoiding contact with any establishment persons, from the music industry which exploit the artists (a clash that caused his early retirement in the mid 80s), to the press and politics. He spoke in 1972 against Theodorakis at a time when he was the idol of the Greeks, against great poets like Elytis and Gatsos wondering ironically why their poems are accepted without being understood, and even wrote contemptuously about the users of the four-chord bouzouki while he used the three-chord one.

So it seems that his prescribed way of life was: “I never bowed to anyone, when they say no I say yes”. In such a way there is always an enemy – the self

His song “Myself” (ο εαυτός μου) speaks about this best friend and enemy of him. When he wrote it  he might not imagined the tragedy that this enemy would lead him to…

If you can’t watch the video here is an audio with the lyrics at the appendix:

 

 

Murder and Trial

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Akis  Panou had lived and had a family with his second woman Anna without being divorced from his wife Dimitra. His children describe a man that was not so uncomfortable at home as people may imagine, but still a tough and strict person that had his principles and values.

His beloved daughter was Eleftheria. He drew her image on his bouzouki. Sometimes around 1997, as he was 64 he discovered that his 19 years old daughter has a love affair with the 30 years old Sotiris, a married man with a child. He felt being stabbed in the back by his daughter. His family pride and especially his pride had been insulted. He cut any connection with his daughter.

One day in August 1997 Eleftheria and Sotiris came to his home in Xanthi, trying to settle the crisis. The atmosphere soon became hot and tense and Akis took a gun that he held illegally and shot at Sotiris three times.  The third shot was fatal.

“I don’t repent because I didn’t understand that I kill him” he claimed typically in his trial. He was sentenced to life in prison, but his greatest personal injury was the involvement of his art in the trial.

Akis lawyer claimed for a mitigation of the punishment due his cultural contribution. But Akis was then more than ten years into retirement  and so the state attorney could easily declare his 200 songs irrelevant: “Please  rid society from this gentleman (term used in irony) and his outdated songs”.

Akis knew that he would be sent to life in prison; he had not been offended by this. What hurt him greatly was that the court accepted the prosecutor’s view, saying: “The defendant did not contribute all that much to the country’s cultural heritage”.

Akis felt that time is running out quickly for him…

 

 

Akis Panou on songs, singers and Kazantzidis

panou6

For Akis Panou, there is a clear hierarchy in song: first come the lyrics which are the “food”, and then comes the music which is the “sauce”; the melody gives the meaning to the words and the music rhythm exists in the harmony and the musicality of the syllables.

And thirdly come the singers who are “kept alive” only by good songs.  This attitude has naturally caused many clashes between him and singers that did not agree to only stay in the role of the voice that he granted for them.  In his performances he asked the bouzouki players to be in the first row on stage and behind them the singers, almost unseen…

Panou-Kazantzidis

But there was one that was far above all that, the singer Stelious Kazantzidis. “Even if you put all singers in a cauldron, they won’t make half Kazantzidis”(…) He had said.

They both entered into the studio in 1974. Akis brought with him his views on the singer’s limited role and very quickly the emotional and anxious characters of both men triggered an explosion. Only six songs were recorded. Akis was crying when he heard Stelios singing his songs…

However, Stelios was the only musician who visited Akis in prison.

In the winter of 1999 they met by chance on the street.  Akis was already terminally ill and he knew it. He was on his way from hospital to prison, accompanied by two policemen.

Under the tolerance and the understanding of the men in uniform they hugged in the middle of the road and “they spoke for the last time in an unforgettable joy”

Not long time after this meeting death took both of them.

Here is  “Hatred” ( Μίσος) in an audio of the song by Kazantzidis and after a video from Greece Tv with subtitles

 

 

Epilogue

Shortly after this meeting Akis Panou was released due to his poor health. He passed away on April 7th 2000.  He, who wrote in his song “Open St. Peter,open”(1982):

“Only the Almighty will say if I’m a right person

I went wild with my mind, but hardly in practice

and if He find me guilty,  he will smite me

You are a plain doorkeeper and keep the order.”

*****

 
 
Links:
http://www.musicheaven.gr/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=793
http://eglima.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/akispanou/
http://stelioskazantzidis.blogspot.co.il/2008/11/blog-post_20.html
http://www.lifo.gr/mag/features/931
http://www.sansimera.gr/biographies/357
http://pisostapalia.blogspot.gr/2011/12/blog-post_3850.html
http://www.sansimera.gr/biographies/357
http://www.monopoli.gr/our-views/item/107271-
http://www.flowmagazine.gr/article/view/akhs_panou_enas_laikos_filosofos_ston_pureto_ths_mousihs/category/culture
http://www.athensvoice.gr/article/city-news-voices/news-voices/%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%AD%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CE%B4%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%85%CF%81%CE%B3%CE%BF%CE%AF-4
http://www.ethnos.gr/article.asp?catid=22784&subid=2&pubid=63641137

Research: Nata Ostria

Editing: Shahaf Ifhar and Dan Matz

Thanks to Katherina Siapanda

Appendix: I ‘ll close my eyes

 

I watered you with my sweetest tear

you watered me with the sweetest sorrow

I touched you at the edge of my dream

and I wringed out the first sigh

 

I’ll close my eyes, you will reach out your hands

white doves to go nesting

my first love, my great love

I will close my eyes

And wherever it will lead me

 

I ached for life out of your life

You ached for the light of the morning star

I walked on the clouds with you

and the doors of heaven opened

 

I’ll close my eyes, you will reach out your hands

to go nesting white doves

my first love, my  great love

I will close my eyes

And wherever it will lead me

 

 

Myself

 

Of my many friends and all my family

nobody loves me like myself

we are one thing, one thought and one life

and nobody will love me like him

 

My best friend, the one closest to me,

the one closest to me, is myself,

my best friend is myself

 

Of my many enemies who hate me so much

I truly fear only of myself

he is the only one who wants to condemn me

and for the same offence to be tried again

 

My worst enemy, the worst of the world,

the worst of the world, is myself,

my worst enemy is myself

 

My best friend and my worst enemy

is myself, is myself,

My best friend and my worst enemy

3 Responses to ““I Never Bowed to Anyone””

  1. Edna Rimon Says:

    Thank you. Interesting and fun together.

  2. Numbers Says:

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    on the net. I am going to highly recommend this website!

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