Hristos Thivaios (Χρήστος Θηβαίος) is one of the prominent artists of his generation, the ones that are now in their 50s. As our blog deals a lot with beginnings, we dedicate this post to his first years as a singer and songwriter, to 2002.
Hristos Thivaios was born in 1963 in Athens, in the neighborhood of Keramikos, to a family of actors and musicians; his mother, his grandparents, aunt and his uncle were actors. His father, who was born in 1905, was a tenor singer in the opera; he gave up this job as he had fallen in love with Hristos’ mother, married her and joined her in a travelling theatre.
On April 21, 1967, as Hristos was only 4 years old, he heard the sound of the Hunta’s tanks taking over the city. “My father pulled me to the balcony and told me: ‘My child, what you see happening, you cannot understand, but remember throughout your life that this is a very bad thing!”
As a teenager he asked his father for a guitar. “I was begging persistently for a guitar, stubbornly, and one day my father said: “You really want it?” I said, “Yes.” “Well, you go to work to get it.”
So he worked in various jobs to get the money, including in a bakery. “I remember that we drove a stroller carrying loaves of bread in the streets all along to the brothels…” He got the money and a guitar. “And this was the greatest gift that my father gave me!”
As his family was in a group of travelling actors, he became exposed to various places and people. “The most important thing was to be able to live together with many people of different choices…whatever it was that everyone had inside: people with different sexual preferences, with different thoughts and ideas … We lived together, 50 people in a commune and we had to respect communal laws. We spent our summers in Voula at the home of one actor. Nobody cooked a pasta pie for himself; they were always making it for everyone. And if we had no money for food? We took a yogurt and all shared it with one spoon and knew exactly how much to eat so that everyone gets their part”. “I was raised up there by a gay couple,” he confessed. “I realized only as a grown up that it is socially reprehensible to have a homosexual preference. To me it seemed very natural.”
In the 1980s he made his army duty and then joined the University of Bologna to study philosophy; one of his teachers was the famous Umberto Eco. During his studies he was making music, mostly traditional Italian and traditional Jewish. He studied Hebrew and, reading the Bible in its original language, “I found it to have a surprising wealth that is not reflected in the translation.”
Thivaios was writing his PhD thesis and had a guaranteed academic career in Bologna when he became fascinated by songwriting and singing. He decided to abandon the secure path and go into the unknown, following the Serbian Pavic’s words that “every man has in front of him thousands of roads, but the road that he really belongs to would be the one that as long as he decides to follow it, fear will grow.” And “so I would like that my children do what I did; to leave their security and continue to where they will be invulnerable… So I closed everything and returned to Athens.”
His parents, who had been happy with their son following the academic path and not the artistic one, were now upset because of this change, “but it was something very strong inside me now, I could not do otherwise!”
He was living in the neighborhood of Exarcheia, a place of students, bohemians and anarchists; a place of political tension and raucous demonstrations, a multicolored way of life, with passion to alcohol and free love. He was trying his luck in writing songs which was not an easy task. While singing in cellars of the quarter one of the first to hear him was the singer Arleta who defined his passion accurately by saying that one should take this path of music only if one can’t do something else.
In 1994 Thivaios formed with two other old friends (Alekos Vasilatos and Tasos Loli) a group which was called “The Usual Suspects” (Συνήθεις Ύποπτοι). Hristos Thivaios is the songwriter and the singer of the group. In 1996 they released their first album, “Stray days” (Μέρες αδέσποτες) .
The first song of the album is “Dairy”(Ημερολόγιο) which was written a few years before when he was around 28 years old.
“I wrote this song in a kitchen in Bologna with a huge window, which looked at a tree. And I liked to build from that tree a boat to travel with. That was my inspiration… I wanted to experience so many things … things I haven’t lived, but the biggest inspiration was to see sometime a better Hristos from the one I felt myself to be”… As if the imaginary boat that he builds will lead him to that place. The first version of the song had accordingly different opening lines. (He totally denies the rumor that this song is about a girl who died in a car crash while he was waiting for her).
Thivaios sings in a TV show “Stin ugeia mas” of the last month. Press on the YouTube logo for English caps in all videos.
Our second song of this album “My rain” (Βροχή μου), also written by Thivaios.
How much I loved you (Αγάπη, Πόσο πολύ σ’ αγάπησα -1998)
This is a poem by a somewhat forgotten poetess, Katina Paizi (1911-1996). She was born in Crete and served as a teacher in Heraklion. Her poems, which were mostly written between the Wars, have “innocence and authenticity” (N.Troullinou).
Her son said: “some day in the 1920’s in Alexandria, the little Katina had gone to a friend’s house with her family, as was customary, to hear chamber music. There she fell in love at first sight with the cellist of the group, as she confided that evening to her sister Aleka. This event inspired her to write this beautiful poem. The important certainty for her was that after a few years she would marry the man who was her inspiration.”
Music by Vasilis Dimitriou
“Hamlet of the moon” (Ο Άμλετ της Σελήνης-2002)
This is the title of Thivaios first personal album. The music is by Thanos Mikroutsikos.
We’ll have two songs from the album. The first, “I am no different” (Δεν Είμαι Άλλος) , Lyrics by Manos Elefteriou.
“On the day you leave I want” (Θέλω τη μέρα που θα φύγεις); the lyrics are by Odisseas Iwannou.
Some quotes from interviews
On Society and politics:
“I have said many times that the existing planetary capitalist system is none other than that capital privatizes profits and socializes losses.”
“Yes. I believe in utopia, inner utopia of heart and human dreams. I believe in ‘Dream Street’ people!”
On his popularity:
“I may not be part of the star system; so to speak…I’m in a smaller corner. I have got the publicity more from the acceptance and love of the people and by getting love and cooperation of people who have made history in Greek song; I was so close to them and became somewhat known…”
On writing songs and singing:
“(Q): You have been described as the greatest storyteller of the Greek music scene, because your songs recount true and imaginary events? Have you now accepted that title?
(Thivaios): I have always accepted it and I consider it an honor! The combination of truth and imagination in a song or a poem, is stronger, more powerful than the performing ability of the singer.”
“Sometime in making your chorale – your universe – after you paint it you see that was wrong. That was not really so. But you described it. The mistake of the poet is the poetic permission of his imagination.”
“I am not bohemian any more…I have been married three times and have three children… Thanoulis is small yet, but Nikos and Ariadni attend school here, in Exarcheia, and their best friends are friends of another culture, another religion and another color. They make a great company…”
We finish our post with two songs that Thivaios was not the first interpreter of. “The old soldier” (Ο παλιός στρατιώτης) or “Veteran at combat”, as Katerina prefers, was performed firstly by Giorgos Dalaras. The lyrics writer is Isaak Sousis, and the composer is Lavrentis Mahairitsas who is singing here with Thivaios.
“Little Homeland” (Μικρή πατρίδα – 1996), is a beautiful song that was performed first by Pandelis Theoharidis. The lyrics writer Paraskevas Karasoulis considers it as one of his most autobiographical songs, a song that defines his decision to live within the close, intimate things which have been creating his life, not the “big” homeland from which you travel far away. “The only mythology still having sovereignty and power in my life is my friends, my people with whom I shared values and visions, therefore, my inner homeland.” Hristos Thivaios mentioned that in contrast to the song, he did travel a lot! (Music by Giorgos Andreou).In this version Hristos Thivaios sings with Marios Frangoulis.
Many thanks to my friend Katerina Siapanda for your valuable help!