Eleni Tsaligopoulou(Ελένη Τσαλιγοπούλου) is the most versatile singer in Greek Music. She can interpret oldies and rebetika songs in her fresh personal way “removing the dust” from them, also popular songs –’Laika”, ballads, and modern songs with prominent role to electric guitars, not hesitating to take adventures in the music and in the singing.
I remember well when I heard her voice for the first time. It was about nine years ago, in one of my favorite places, the “Ta Kochilia” (The sea shells) Taverna on the tiny bay of the village Mohlos in Crete. While we were eating a good meal I heard a soprano voice from the place’s speakers. As a “beginner” in Greek Music I thought it was Eleftheria Arvanitaki’s voice, but the owner of the place (who likes Eleni’s music very much) corrected me, wrote the new name for me on a piece of paper and on the next day we bought the album…
Her traditional roots come from her birth town and the family. She was born in 1963 in Naoussa, north Greece; The town’s musical tradition has been influenced by the Balkans and, as she says “We also have the Gypsies who are the ones who keep the musical tradition alive and for centuries now they carry on from generation to generation.”
And there is the family. “I come from a very large musical family. My parents had for 35 years a neighborhood tavern. My father had a great voice. He liked to sing traditional songs and he used to sing in church when he was young. I learned many of the traditional songs from him and I sang them later on in my career in his way of singing. I feel lucky that I experienced such a polite, innocent and spontaneous way of expressing the song. That’s why I loved the music and most importantly, the communication that happens through music. Because singing is communication, it is table, food, wine, family, friends, relief, excitement, crying, joy and fun!”
“Since my childhood I didn’t dream of doing anything else. I was certain that I was going to deal professionally with the song. I was the singer of the family, of the neighborhood, of the school and I had guts! I could do it easily and I was not embarrassed in front of the audience.”
She abandoned the traditional song in her adolescent years, and came back to it in her professional career. She realized that it is in her DNA.
The song “Armenaki” is from the Cyclades Islands and is telling about the seaman who asks the sea to embrace him and to send him a boat to take him to the harbour…
And now a very famous “Laika”- popular song from 1963 “Don’t wait anymore” (Μην περιμένεις πια -Apostolos Kaldaras); Eleni’s modern lively exciting version is a landmark in her repertoire.**
For English caps press the bottom on YouTube
Eleni Tsaligopoulou and Giorgos Andreou
After an early marriage that had brought a son as she was 19, Eleni left Naoussa to Thessaloniki. She was 23 as joining the town’s music scene. That time, the second part of the 1980s, Thessaloniki was endowed with gifted musicians who were eager to find new ways in music. (We had dedicated few of our posts to these musicians as Nikos Papazoglou, Sokratis Malamas and Melina Kana).Her first album of 1987 with Giorgos Zikas was a “declaration of intentions” of her personal, different and modern style.
Then was the encounter with Giorgos Andreou (Γιώργος Ανδρέου). It was in 1988 as they were working on a new show with three former members of the “Opisthodromiki Kompania” (in which Eleftheria Arvanitaki started her career). Andreou was a musician who was dealing mostly in orchestration and production, but Eleni’s voice drove him towards composition. “By working with her I made the thought, that if someone can sing so then I also like to write songs! It was like I found a voice that is my voice!” It took him only one month to finish writing the songs of his first (and Eleni’s second) album “Girl and woman” (Κορίτσι και γυναίκα-1989). Eleni says that this is the album she loves most: “This work found both of us in the beginning of our careers… we were young, very much in love, with a great material, searching for our own authentic expression.”
A song from the album is “To love me”( Να μ΄ αγαπάς). “This is a piece that accompanies me like fate” Says Andreou ” this strange Thracian (north Greece) jazz piece , which since then it has not stopped playing in mass media. Within 2.5 minutes it includes, I would say, all of my musical thinking -the relation between tradition and modern sound.” (no caps)
Giorgos Andreou and Eleni Tsaligopoulou became a couple. He admires her “healthy versatility” as he puts it, and her freedom and openness. “Tsaligopoulou combines ethnic and popular roots with originality and freshness, that characterizes the great singers… she is able to reattach within the Greek community of listeners, a 100 years song … and through her voice many songwriters and composers of our generation can express themselves…”
And she says about Andreou: He is my third eye. He is the man who will listen to my most important and also simple problems. He is the man who helps me figure out the “right” and “wrong… He is helping me to take significant decisions”
A song that I love very much “A voice like sea” (Φωνή σαν θάλασσα ) from a personal album of Andreou ” Swallows of the rain (Χελιδόνια της βροχής -2000) that Eleni took parts among others.
The lyrics were written by a poet-Dionisis Karatzas. “The album is my conversation with the poet” says Andreou. The orchestra is the Plucked String Orchestra Municipality of Patras (ορχήστρα νυκτών εγχόρδων δήμου πατρέων) English caps.
I loved you here (Εγώ σ΄ αγάπησα εδώ)
In a very early stage of her career “I realized that we have an immediate need to understand and write down our time through our art. I realized that it is very important to have a common language with young and talented people, than to use the (old musical) “world”, which is already known and beloved.
The cooperation between Eleni Tsaligopoulou and Kostas Leivadas (Κώστας Λειβαδάς ) is one of her important works with younger songwriters and it worth another post in this blog. Kostas is 10 years younger than Eleni. “I feel her like my big sister… We work together over the last 15 years (2013) and we shared the joy of people about our songs. Her voice is so gifted. Every night you will feel surprised and “stabbed” in amazement by her so unpredictable and direct interpretations, which, however, always unite the audience with the artist. No matter what has happened, in the end she’ll always win this bet” (the bet of managing to unite the audience with herself, the artist).
For ” I loved you here” Kostas wrote the song and he is playing here the piano. More than 2.5 millions watchers on YouTube are not mistaken…(caps)
Thousand Silences (Χίλιες σιωπές)
Here we find already electric guitars that Eleni and Andreou decided in the 1990s to use more prominently in the orchestration of her music. This is one of the songs that Eleni prefers herself and the public also.She says: “The song “Thousand Silences” describes the loneliness of today. It’s talking also about love’s great and liberating role and that through love we can declare or say something with our silence or truth” (caps)
In 2011 Tsaligopoulou presented her album which was titled “Ta ri ra”. (The sound we make when we don’t know the words of a song)
This album was her first attempt to write music. “For years I was jealous of the work of the songwriters and composers. Few people have the ability to handle with skill the Greek language; I am not one of them and it is very important to be able to express yourself and communicate with the people through your melodies…I don’t play any instrument. I had music in my mind and heart but never wrote it down on paper. I wanted to express through this attempt all the influences I had from folk (ethnic) Greek music till P. J. Harvey…” Musician and songwriters friends “who felt my truths” helped her and she feels that the result is very good! (Lyrics by Nikos Portokaloglou)
**Surprisingly enough, the main musical theme of the song, “Min perimeneis pia” can be heard in many Jewish synagogues in Shabbat. The Hebrew lyrics which goes to the 11th century Spain, describe the relations of God and his believers as love between man and woman , and here, the man asks the woman in fact to wait for him, to the right moment when love will come from itself. A link for this version: http://youtu.be/kOQtA5XozVA
Many thanks to Anastasia Thanela and Katerina Siapanda!!!