(In the photo from left Kaldaras, Pythagoras, Haris Alexiou and Giorgos Dalaras)
Apostolos Kaldaras (1922-1990) is one of the most important composers and songwriters of the popular music. The first part of the post is dedicated to his early life which was very influential on his music, his first song in the mid 1940s, the story of “Night has fallen without moon” and his cooperation with Stelios Kazantzidis and Efitichia Papagiannopoulou. The second part tells about the 1960s and especially his “Home period” and songs he had written for Viky Moscholiou.
Asia Minor (Μικρά Ασία -1972)
Kaldaras’ “home period” reached its peak of creativity as he became economically independent. In 1972, fifty years after the Smyrna Catastrophe, he wrote, together with the lyricist Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας) a song cycle about the tragedy, the refugees, their suffering, longings and bitterness. This masterpiece deserves a separate post. It looks that all Kaladaras’ internal entity from his early life onwards experiences, his personality, his music and Greek tradition is gathered in this work and we shouldn’t forget Pythagoras ‘ part. This work is not limited to Greek people’s past. It has “universal messages of friendship and brotherhood of peoples who have nothing to divide, but become victims of their ruling powers”. On the outset, the first song’s lyrics are a statement: ” I am Turkish and you are Greek/we are both people….drink some of my glass/my brother and my friend”.
Kaladaras thought about Kazantzidis as the performer, but he didn’t want, something made Kaldaras very angry. So the singing was given to two young singers: Giorgos Dalaras who had already got that time reputation and to Haris Alexiou. It was the beginning of Alexiou’s great career to become one of Greece’s most important singers. The straightforward lyrics and music, the singing and of course the subject made the album most popular.
We have in this post just one tasting from this cycle. Giorgos Dalaras sings here together with Glikeria, the first song “In the Bosporous Straits” (Μες του Βοσπόρου τα στενά) in a tribute concert to Asia Minor taken in 2003. As usual the audience responses enthusiastically to the human message of this song. (cc for English caps)
Apostolos Kaldaras and Lefteris Papadopoulos
The 1970s brought another important collaboration, with the lyricist Leftheris Papadopoulos. Their first meeting, in the mid 1960s had found Papadopoulos disappointed: “I had a crush on Eftichia Papagiannopoulou and I asked to meet her. When I arrived at her house she was not alone. Kaldaras was there also. I admired him for his song “Night has fallen without moon” which I think is one of the best of the 20th century. After the introductions and having sat next to the great composer, to warm up the atmosphere among us, I expressed my admiration for this song. He looked at me coldly and said: “I’m sick of hearing about this song. I have written hundreds. Are we going to talk all the time about it? All songs are written to earn a living and nothing more!” I was speechless and disappointed. I looked at Eftichia’s side to get courage and she told me: “don’t listen to him. He is always like this. Imagine, I have given to him a wonderful song and he wants to make a pack of corrections.” She wanted to read it to me, but other than that my mood was spoiled; Kaldaras prevented her by saying that it was something concerning only them. I got up to go and every time I remember this meeting my mouth has the taste of “quinine”. This bitter Meeting did not foreshadow their future collaboration, which created in 1973, just a year after “Asia Minor” another important song cycle, the “Byzantine Vespers”( Βυζαντινός Εσπερινός).These are Love songs that their music and orchestration are connected strongly to the Byzantine tradition with no western elements.The singers were again Dalaras and Alexiou.
Ah the baglama (Αχ ο μπαγλαμάς, 1973)
Before the “Vespers”, the collaboration between the two writers begun in a single by Dalaras, in which one of the songs was “Ah, the baglama”. I think that Lefteris Papadopoulos has a special attraction to this instrument; its strings are always crying the lover’s ache. “Listen how the baglama is crying” he wrote in another famous song.
The scene of the song is ordinary. A disappointed man has lost the woman he loves and has gone to some tavern to “drown his sorrow” by listening to baglama and drinking. As Papadopoulos himself noted, the song is “circular”, it has no closure; the painful situation still exist after the song is sung.
Here is Giorgos Dalaras in a later years’ club performance (caps)
My son,my son (Γιε μου, γιε μου – 1977)
In 1977 Kaldaras and Papadopoulos were partners again in a complete album. The album was titled “The last night” (Τελευταία Νύχτα) and the singer was Stamatis Kokotas who had already had a great hit of Kaldaras 10 years before (Illusory dream- όνειρο απατηλό).
“My son, my son” was the hit of the album, the last Kaldaras’ hit of great commercial success, as well as Kokotas’. (Kaldaras continued releasing albums until his death in 1990). It looks that it is about a young man that has a substance abuse problem, and can’t shake it off despite the pain it causes to his father and his advice. Papadopoulos wrote this song with political overtones, but Kaldaras didn’t want to record it as it was and asked him to change some words so to become more popular. Papadopoulos didn’t like Kaldaras’ demand, but he knew that Kaldaras was uncompromising when he believed he was right and he changed.
“I like you because you are playful, because you have a flirty look, curly hairs and an exotic body” are lyrics from Kaldaras’ first erotic song which was written for Stavroula (Loula) Marava, who, as a young girl, gave Kaldaras his first erotic thrill… They got married in 1952 as he was 30 and they lived together all his life in a marriage of amazing relationship and everlasting love. This unique love inspired many of his erotic and love songs.
Their home was a meeting place for songwriters and and singers. Loula’s nephew Nikos wrote in his book*: “The image I keep alive is the large number of the artistic world that passed in this house, the delicious food of my aunt Loula, the fiestas and the overnight of those people there, the backgammon matches, a game Apostolos loved and used to call himself “rector” on it.”
In 8 April 1990 Kaldaras passed away in his home at 68, in the arms of his beloved wife Loula, as he wished.
Our last song is “You defined my course” (Συ μου χάραξες πορεία-1958). It is an erotic song. No doubt it was inspired by his feelings to Loula, even it is clearly about out of marriage affair…
Haris Alexiou is the singer. (caps)
*An important source for this post is the book
Aπόστολος Καλδάρας -Αναφορά στη ζωή και το έργο του μεγάλου δημιουργού
του Νίκου Χατζηνικολάου
Apostolos Kaldaras-Reference to the life and work of the great artist
By Nikos Chatzinikolao
“Asia Minor”songs at: https://youtu.be/QQ0lNCs5BQY?list=PLFA7F52FB9DBDE1A0
See other links at part A
Many thanks to Anastasia Thanela and Katerina Siapanda for precious help!