“Some people think that my second name is a pseudonym” says Pandelis Thalassinos (Παντελής Θαλασσινός). Thalissinos means seaman and perhaps these people think that the name is a reflection of Pandelis’ songs that have a maritime and island’s scent.
But the name is original and the substance. “Love, Journey, Sea” is Pandelis Thalassinos’ motto. All what make him sensitive in music is embedded in these three notions. In the song “Ships from Chios” (Καράβια Χιώτικα), from his first solo album of 1995 “Night Waves” (Νύχτας Κύματα), love, journey and sea become one. The beauty of the beloved girl shined by Chios’ moon, by the daylight and reflected in the crystal sea; her kisses has the aroma of the island, her eyes are journey to lovers and broken hearts and her desired body is the shore of the homeland to which the lover rides in an exciting sea voyage, just to find “the hidden and different moons”- the hidden, yet unexpressed secrets of their love. And all is sung in an “elation of maritime mirth”!
Pandelis Thalassinos in a video with Chios’ landscape and traditional orchestration.Press on the bottom in YouTube for English caps.
This post is about seven of Pandelis Thalassinos’ songs that were released from 1995 to 2001.
Pandelis Thalassinos was born in Piraeus in 1958. Both his parents originated in islands; his father, Michalis was from Chios, and his mother Evangelia from Serifos. “I am 100% islander. My father, who was a sailor, decided for the family to go and settle in Chios. I was two years old then. There he would work at the yacht club of Chios for the operation of which my uncle had a contract for 7 years. The music came into my life as something magical, like a fairy tale. I felt to understand it and loved it from my early youth. When I was seven my father bought to me and my brother Yannis a guitar and we learnt anything we could from the musicians who were performing from time to time at the club” (there were some famous names there like Viky Moscholiou, Marinella and Zabetas). “In 1967 the whole family came back to Piraeus. Along with Yannis I began to participate in bands, playing rock music of the 70s and when we finished school I wanted to learn what was beyond horizon and with two friends I embarked on “Capt. Stamatis” ship (1976) as assistant sailor. Just being a year away from your goals and your own people is hard! When we reached Japan, I bought a classical guitar. Yearning for homeland I was playing to the crew some songs I knew,songs of Theodorakis, Hatzidakis. I began to pay more attention to the lyrics and read lyrics of Gatsos, poems of Elytis and Christodoulou ” All the years he has been an enthusiastic reader of poetry.
As he returned he began to sing in various places and taverns in Piraeus, working for living in shipping agency. In 1985 he meets Yannis Nikolaou (Γιάννης Νικολάου) and despite their different music background they became a very successful duet–The ‘Lathrepivates” (Λαθρεπιβάτες -Stowaways). They cooperated with many notable composers and both of them contributed songs of themselves. Their most successful songs that I have been watching on YouTube are in pop and soft rock style. In 1993 they ended their collaboration. Pandelis returned to his roots and moved to Chios.
“For three years in Chios I was collecting songs and I really wanted to take a decision if I would follow the current of the era and the music market at that time, or I would follow my own path. I was playing music in events, where traditional dance groups participated and slowly I had been influenced by traditional music and used some musical motifs in my ballads. I established my music style in Chios. I think the peace I had there and the free time to move into this peace helped me a lot.” His first two recordings were with musicians from Chios, students and friends.”So what I offered was Chios and nothing else.”
Pandelis had founded clubs, in Chios, than in Paros and later in Athens which were named Mirovolos. Here is a photo of him and his wife Eleni in Paros club (1995)
“I have traveled a lot, but I believe that we think of a place as “our homeland” not because of heredity, genes or because it happened for us to be born there, but because our soul tells us to think that it is a homeland. Ask seafarers in Chios how many homelands have in their heart. The longing of going back home is a very sweet feeling, but the soul chooses its homeland.”
“Many times I miss my island, but I try to go often there…When I go there it is like not a single day passed since I left …I meet my friends and we go to the joints of our youth and when I leave I don’t say “goodbye”, leaving open the issue of another visit of me there, soon”
The lyrics of “Two black pebbles” (Δυο μαύρα βότσαλα, 2001) caught my heart. It is a hymn to the simple and modest life on the island, were two black pebbles from a Chios’ shore hold the modest room’s blue shutters of a window facing the sea. “My mother lived for many years all alone in a house in Chios and had all those described within the song. We used to keep some pebbles at our windows in order to keep the shutters steady, and when I was visiting my brother to Paros, I used to take these pebbles with me and put them at my window.”
Lyrics: Manos Eleftheriou. English caps (in all the videos of this post)
Pandelis Thalassinos and Ilias Katsoulis
The lyrics of “Ships from Chios” and the next three songs were written by Ilias Katsoulis (Ηλίας Κατσούλης, 1939-2008) Katsoulis was a notable lyrics writer who wrote for many important composers and singers but I feel that his collaboration with Pandelis Thalassinos was something special. They produced so many wonderful songs! It seems to me as an outsider that the reason for their success was that to some extent these two creators are “twin souls”. Reading, especially poetry for both has been a place of shelter, consolation, knowledge and inspiration. The calm nature and way of life , the quality time to a beloved and warm familiy, friends , daily habits that give pleasure and the space of time and place they have been taking for themselves to creat, result in beautiful songs that flow in a soft and pleasant way even when they express pain. “Most songs I had written on the road, walking on cigarette packs.” Katsoulis said.
Katsoulis was a devoted teacher of Philology. Both his loves, teaching and lyrics originated in his childhood.”Although my family had no educational tradition, I do not remember myself wanting to become something other than a lecturer; I saw the teacher and said: “I will become a teacher.” I was fascinated to have people in front of me, talking in front of the young ones, to discuss with them” and “I was writing lyrics since school. When we had homework in literature I wasn’t responding in the proper way as other students, but in an arbitrary way and usually with lyrics”
Reading poetry helped him to write, but writing lyrics is different from writing a poem, he says. “The poem is written in absentia of the reader. The poet writes without having in mind the reader, while the lyricist must think of the listener, the composer, the singer… the company…many things”
One of the most famous songs of their cooperation is ” The Songs of Smyrna”(Τα σμυρνέικα τραγούδια – 1996) which refers to the city in Asia Minor that had been destructed in 1922 and its Greek population had been massacred.
Once, at the end of the 60s, Katsoulis had read a book by K. Politis about Smyrna and was impressed and touched by its descriptions. He had never been there, and had no other connection to the place but he felt that he had a deep and meaningful relationship to this city which prevailed all his life and he couldn’t explain it…
Pandelis: “Katsoulis asked me to write music on the lyrics that he wanted to give to the niece of Sotiria Bellou, Areti. The result was so magical that I kept the song for myself…”
In the video Katsoulis appears as the grandfather who unfolding memories from Smyrna to his granddaughter who is presented by Thalassinos’ daughter, Phaedra. (Here she is younger. Today she is sound engineer)
The song had caught the hearts of people from the first moment. Pandelis:”Can you imagine, when I presented the song for the first time on stage, the audience already knew by heart the lyrics and rhythm of the refrain and was singing with me. It was as if a miracle had occurred. It was a magical moment.”
“Lemon tree of paradise” (ׂΤου παραδείσου λεμονιά – 1999ׁ) is a beautiful song that Pandelis has been singing on stage for years. In an interview he said: “This is a poem by Katsoulis.”Lemon tree of paradise, a twig of oblivion keep for me too” Although I sung this line all the time, when Katsoulis died then I realized all the hidden meanings of this song.”
Had you a special relationship with Ilias Katsoulis?
Yes we had and certainly Ilias Katsoulis is in paradise”
Two delicate love songs
“Ticket in your pocket” (Εισιτήριο στην τσέπη σου – 1995) is one of Thalassinos and Katsoulis most beloved songs. It is a delicate, full of eroticism love song. The loveand the pain are lying gently in the background in words like in “I would like to be the feel at the edges of your fingers/ whatever you touch to have something from me too”
It seems that the story of the song’s creation had the course of many great songs… the lyrics were at first rejected with decidedness by a very well known producer and then Katsoulis presented them to Thalassinos; he loved them and composed the music in few hours…
Damn you-“Anatema se” (Ανάθεμά σε – 1998), is a song of complaint but is given so gently! A burst of emotions is delivered in a way “that takes the mind and calms the soul! Thoughts and emotion…sadness and anger together…pain and oblivion…bitterness and contemplation…a confession in depth” Our friend Katerina comments that the intention of the phrase “Damn you” is not to insult; it has the meaning rather of “What kind of person are you to behave in such a way to me?”
Pandelis Thalassinos wrote also the lyrics .
The last song, “My Father” (Ο πατέρας – 1999) has been touching hearts and bringing to tears many people who, like me, have been experiencing a loss of a most dear person.
Lyrics: Ilias Katsoulis
I would like to thank Pandelis Thalassinos for giving his kind permission to use his official videos for English caps.
I would like to thank Anastasia Thanela for sending me so much useful information and to Katerina Siapanda for explanations and ideas that bring a lot of clear light to the lyrics.
Official site: http://www.pandelisthalassinos.gr/