Archive for November, 2014

Manos Hatzidakis and Nikos Gatsos

November 28, 2014

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Our post today tells about one of the most influential collaborations in Greek Music, the one  of the composer Manos Hatzidakis (Μάνος Χατζιδάκις 1925-1994) with the poet Nikos Gatsos (Νίκος Γκάτσος 1911-1992). Beautiful, exceptional songs emerged frpm their partnership in about four decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Manos Hatzidakis was born in Xanthi, north Greece; his father was a lawyer;” I am the offspring of two people who, as far as I know, never cooperated except the moment they decided about my creation. That is why I have in me thousands of conflicting elements and every kind of mixed blessing. However, my bourgeois conscience, along with my “European tutelage,” so to speak, yielded an impressive result” .After his parents had separated he left with his mother to Athens (1932). He learnt to play musical instruments but decided in the 1940s that music lessons are useless to him and stopped them right after the War. He never attended a conservatory. In those times Manos got acquainted with Athens’ intellectuals and writers and took courses in philosophy. Gradually he gained appreciation and fame as a composer for the dance and the theater.

Hatzidakis’ music belongs, along with that of Theodorakis and others, to the “Folk (popular) art song” trend that links folk/popular music to art ( Έντεχνο λαϊκό). His music is not just sophisticated version of the folk/popular music; it is much more than that.  He is an obesrver as an artist and from different social class ,so the term “popular” has a special abstract meaning for him. In his famous lecture on the rebetika of 1949, as he was only 24, he pointed out the genuine qualities that the music of the lower, rejected class of society has; beyond the habit of playing the bouzouki and the baglama there is the most authentic preservation of Greek nature and cultural history: “In the melody, the lyrics and the dance there is neither outburst, nor fitfulness, nor tension. There’s no passion; there is life in the broadest sense. Everything is given sparingly, unobtrusively, often with astonishing inner power. Isn’t this the principal, the grandest element that characterizes the Greek race?”, and “I am interested in the common man music, in the unique moments, that he is living without understand his truth. These are the moments that he is just a man without the rush of time, without the agony of space, without the depravation of his class”


In those times, the 40s, when Hatzidakis was at his upgrowth, he met the poet Nikos Gatsos. His life-friendship with the 14 years older poet was the most influential on his life and art (“After my mother”). In 1943 at the age of 32 Gatsos had published his one and only book, the poetic composition “Amorgos” which would become one of the most important and influential texts of Modern Greek surrealism. From then he would publish only three poems, dedicating his work to translation of theater plays and writing poems on music. He had never appeared in public media or given interviews, so the explanation for his decision remains a secret…

Agathi Dimitrouka, Gatsos’ companion for many years tells: “They were connected with the same perception and interest about art in general. We use to say that Hadjidakis was the student and Gatsos the teacher or his mentor. But Gatsos was rather the big brother, the most wise and prudent and Manos the younger one with his new ideas, the more aggressive and contentious”. Gatsos didn’t avoid criticizing Hatzidakis, even in front people, mostly on his first dancing works: “I hope that you will stop doing this nonsense” He greeted us and left.”, Hatzidakis wrote, “I remained dumb founded…  I was angry as he didn’t embrace my “genius”… I didn’t speak to him for a week but eventually I realized that he was right.  I was drunk with my success and doing nonsense… (Gatsos) is with built-in spiritually. We usually learned our language and traditions with great effort. All these Gatsos had through the milk of his mother along with the songs of his ancestors”

Gatsos provided their mutual work the magic of words and imagination. He used mostly to write his poems on an already given melody and in this way he “managed to create his autonomous poetic universe” (Dimitrouka), all with simple and economical words, sometimes a tale, sometimes a “surrealistic game” in which the descriptions emerge randomly one from the other.”Gatsos chased the accidental”, She says. The lyricist Lefeteris Papadopoulos wrote: “He taught Greece singing lyrics that never could have been imagined; it had an unprecedented boldness in imagery, in rhyme and development of issues in every song …I recount a story from beginning to end.  Gatsos often starts a story and driven to another. This requires courage and poetic wisdom”

Χατζιδάκις - Γκάτσος 2

I think that the following words that Hatzidakis said about his songs, (also on those with lyrics of others and himself) couldn’t be said if this collaboration hadn’t happened: “Song is a moment of magic, and I’m a magician representing you. I’ll shed light on the hidden corners of your minds, I’ll surprise you, I’ll flood you with questions and with melodies that maybe will become yours and get transported to your home, so that your sleep is cut short and your peace of mind possibly lost forever… It is a mystic source… It is a game, which is inventive, with rules that are surprising – an unexpected melody that becomes bound up with you, with everlasting words of poetry reborn.”





Moon of Paper (Χάρτινο το φεγγαράκι)



It is Hatzidakis/Gatsos’ famous song from the beginning of their cooperation.  It was written in 1948 for the play “Street car named desire” by T. Williams and was performed on stage by Melina Mercury. “It never crossed my mind that all people would actually bring themselves to sing ” The Moon is of paper /The Seashore is fake.” In those days everybody was singing “Marry the girl/don’t fool with her”… the petit bourgeoisie in all its glory. Only our friends sang our songs”

Melina Mecury in this old video (click on youtube bottom for English Subtitles)



Athanasia  (Αθανασία-immortality)


This is title song of a 1976 album. Here Hatzidakis/Gatsos give immortality the shape of an unreachable woman that all man want but don’t get. This evasive, not real woman is common in their work.” And every time we wonder of the existence of Gatsos’ heroes, he will smile slyly as a teaser” (Dimitrouka).As immortality is unreal, “Athanasia , like any genuine song was and remains a game”, said Hatzidakis. Gatsos leads the listener to the understanding that he has to make a peace with the idea that his existence has an “expiration date”, and the effort of   every generation to immortalize only itself is doomed to a failure.

Dimitra Galani, who was the first performer of the song, in a public concert with Manos Hatzidakis.(English caps)



Little Rallou (Η μικρή Ραλλού)

This song is from the album “The Gold of the Earth”(Της Γης Το Χρυσάφι- 1971). It is a tale about a bet that 40 young men make on a young girl. It is a strict betting game with competitors and all the people of the world as spectators, that finally ends as death takes the girl and a loss to all participants. As Many of Gatsos songs it is opened to many interpretations. Our friend Katerina Siapanda has a strong feeling that Gatsos refers here to Greece and its destiny. (Rallou is a female name from Asia Minor.).

Manolis Mitsias, the original performer, here in a concert (English caps)



White Dove (Άσπρο περιστέρι)


Another song from the same album, again on some cloudy, unattainable, slippery figure. The song sung originally by Dimitra Galani. Is the “White dove in the clouds…white dove, my black feather” a lost love or a lost of a strong belief or ideal? Maybe a belief in freedom or in peace?

Marios Frangoulis and Eleni Peta performing on tv show (caps)



Gone is the time (Πάει ο καιρός -1965)

The lyrics can be interpreted  as a lost-love song, but lines like “Nights and rains came/ and winter into the souls” had been written in a prophetic manner two years before the junta had taken power in Greece, by Gatsos, who never believed that he should be identified with any ideology. But the Junta dictatorship took these lines seriously and banned the song. In 1971 ” innocent ” lyrics and different orchestration were attached to the music, and the song’s title was now “Protominia” (Πρωτομηνιάfirst day of the month).After the fall of the junta the poet would responded: “It’s time it’s time/ over people‘s wounds/it is time it is time/ to rebuild the world”.

Sung first by Grigoris Bitikotsis (see link below); Here, Giorgos Dalaras and Panos Katsimihas brings a wonderful version. First Panos plays the harmonica, then Giorgos sings (with English caps), and after that-the second set of lyrics (without caps).


Lullaby (Νανούρισμα) 

This song, our friend Katerina’s favourit, is from their first collaboration of 1948, Lorca’s “Blood Wedding” which was also Gatsos’ first play translation and Hatzidakis had added the music.  The “Lullaby” is from the first act as the wife of main character Leonardo and his mother in law sing a lullaby to his son. The Greek lyrics, which trace closely the original, hint the tragic events that will follow, as Leonardo and the Bride escape on a horse but their dark, forbidden love is destined to perish in blood…

The singer is Lakis Pappas (caps)


Talk to me (Μίλησέ μου)


This lovely song is from the album “Return” (Επιστροφή-1970 ); the first  version was by Grigoris Bitikotsis, but  I think that the vivacious performance of Nana Mouschouri  has caught hearts all over the world, to become one of the landmarks in her international career.

First here is Nana mouschouri in her historic 1984 concert at the Odeon Irodio Attiko in Attens:(No subtitles)


Now sung by Foteini  Darra with English subtitles:



Χατζιδάκις 8



I would like to give my many thanks to Nata Ostria and Katerina Siapanda who helped so much to cross through the uneasy material of this post.





Few other Hatzidakis/Gatsos song

Milise mou by Bitikotsis:


Two posts in this blog that tells about Hatzidakis songs:

Don’t ask the sky(Μη τον ρωτάς τον ουρανό) and “All alone am I”

For Eleni ( Για την Ελένη )


Other links:

Official site
































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