Greek songs that became international hits

Greek Songs

Music definitely plays a very important role in the life of Greeks. In joy and sorrow, Greeks sing. And the truth is that they have the opportunity to choose among several categories of songs, in order to express every time their feelings: there are plenty of folk songs, rebetika, laika, entexna (the Greek word ‘τέχνη’ means ‘art’, so ‘entexna’ is a category of songs with more sophisticated music and lyrics) as well as rock and pop listenings.

Among these songs, the ones from the 50’s and the 60’s stand out from the rest, even nowadays. Two golden decades of the modern Greek songs with composers of distinction and unique performers. In fact, some of these songs managed to attract attention beyond the Greek borders; they were performed by well-known artists abroad, several times even in the Greek language! So, let’s listen to some of these songs which went on to enjoy international success:

1. Without a doubt, one of the most popular Greek melodies all over the world is that of the song ‘Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά’ (The children of Piraeus). The unforgettable Melina Merkouri performed it in her own unique way in Jules Dassin’s film ‘Never on Sunday’ and mesmerized the audience worldwide. For this song, in 1960, Manos Hadjidakis won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. In the late 90’s, the well-known band Pink Martini presented to music lovers their own version of the song –in Greek– and ‘Τα παιδιά του Πειραιά’ enjoyed international success for one more time!

And of course we should not omit to mention the performance of the song by the ultimate diva Miss Piggy from The Muppet Show!

2. In 1960, Manos Hadjidakis composed the song ‘Μες σ’ αυτή τη βάρκα’ [On this (fishing) boat], for the film ‘Madalena’. The performer of the song was one of the most famous and beloved actresses in the history of Greek cinema, Aliki Vouyouklaki. But the very same song was also performed –in fact in Greek– by the well-known artist Harry Belafonte!

3. In 1959, another great Greek actress, Tzeni Karezi, recorded for the soundtrack of the film ‘Το Νησί των Γενναίων’ (The Island of the Brave) a sweet melancholic song titled ‘Μην τον ρωτάς τον ουρανό’ (Don’t ask the sky), composed by Manos Hadjidakis. Three years later, in 1962, the popular American singer Brenda Lee performed the song in English, this time titled ‘All Alone Am I’; the song instantly became an international hit.

 

Brenda Lee

4. In 1959, Nana Mouskouri participated in the first Greek Song Festival and won the first prize performing the song ‘Κάπου υπάρχει η αγάπη μου’ (My love must be somewhere out there), composed by Manos Hadjidakis. The song was also performed by a male artist, well-known Georges Moustaki.

5. In the 60’s the natural beauty of mainland Greece and Greek islands served as a backdrop to various films shot in the country; as a result Greece became internationally known. A typical example of these films is the American production ‘Boy on a dolphin’, directed by Jean Negulesco (1957), most of which was shot on the picturesque island of Hydra. Sophia Loren and Tony Maroudas performed in Greek a sweet and very romantic song titled ‘Τι είν’ αυτό που το λένε αγάπη;’ (What is this they call love?) (music by Takis Morakis, lyrics by Giannis Fermanoglou).

6. ‘Misirlou’ (meaning ‘Egyptian woman’) is the title of an old rebetiko song. The number of artists who have performed it as well as its instrumental versions is impressively large. Among these versions, instantly recognizable is that of guitarist Dick Dale in the 60’s, especially after it was used in the film Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino (1994). Ten years later, ‘Misirlou’ was performed at the Closing ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens by renowned singer Anna Vissi.

Of course, the Greek song could not be missing from Omilo! In fact many of our students actually started learning Greek, out of love for Greek music and because they were curious to know what the lyrics of their favorite Greek songs were about! That’s why we always make sure that our students are given a presentation related to Greek Song during our intensive courses (as an extracurricular evening activity). Having before them the lyrics of the songs they listen to, the students can join in; eventually we all end up singing along! In other words, fun and learning go hand in hand, as it’s always the case with Omilo!