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Lavrentis Machairitsas: The Songwriter Who Reinvented Greek Rock

Maxairistas

In September 2019, the Greek music scene mourned the loss of one of the greatest performers and songwriters, Lavrentis Machairitsas. Here we explore his life, his legacy and some of his most celebrated songs.

Early steps
Lavrentis Machairitsas was born in 1956 in Volos, a seaside town in Thessaly. Growing up, he was an unruly youth – he disliked school and managed to get expelled and excluded from all high schools in the area. He went through countless jobs, starting at a record store. One would think that his love for music would help him keep this one, but he managed to get fired for being late constantly.

At the age of 20 he formed a band with three fellow Greek musicians and moved to Paris hoping for an international career. They released their first album “Armageddon” as P.L.J., which went widely unnoticed. For their second album, they changed their name to Termites, started to sing in Greek and began gaining in popularity. They toured together with Giorgos Ntalaras, another very famous Greek musician and singer, which helped them get on more people’s radar.

Solo career
In 1991, Macharitsas decided to pursue solo career as a writer and performer. His first album “O Magapas Kai I Sagapo” did OK but nothing could have prepared him for the success of his second album, “Didymoteicho Blues”, that quickly went gold in terms of sales and is considered a classic even nowadays. It became synonymous with the army service that is still compulsory in Greece, as it pays homage to the personal stories and experiences of these soldiers while offering a more general commentary about life in the army.

This album was followed by the equally successful “Rixe Kokkino Sti Nichta” (“Throw Red at the Night”) which was released in 1993. Since then, Machairitsas had been working closely with Dionysis Tsaknis, another well-known Greek musician. Almost all of their live performance have been together and they used to tour around Greece every summer.

Besides Tsaknis, Machairitsas had worked with everyone who’s anyone in the Greek music scene: Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Haris Alexiou, Vassilis Papakonstantinou, Pyx Lax, Christos Thivaios, Maria Farantouri, Dimitra Galani, Kotsiras, Savvopoulos and many more.

His legacy
Machairitsas died suddenly in September 2019 after suffering a heart attack during his sleep, at the age of 62. His death shocked the Greek artist community, who spoke cumulatively of a terrible loss for the Greek music scene. For many, he is considered one of the most important and influential songwriters of his generation. His songs will always stay close to heart whilst transferring us to faraway places and states of mind.

As a person he stood out for his carefreeness, liveliness, humour, directness and kefi (the Greek word that stands for “the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, overpowering emotion, or frenzy”). Machairitsas started song writing in his early 30s and continued doing so restlessly, expressing common experiences and feelings in a simple but not trite manner. Every single of his songs tells a story – whether a romantic or a socio-political one. These stories might sometimes express despair, confusion, anger even, but always carry a grain of hope.

What many people might know is that he’s also written music for the poems of Greek poet Manos Eleftheriou, the majority of which were released in the album “Mia Tripa Ston Kairo” (“A Hole in the Weather”).

Some of his most well-known songs include “Poso Se Thelo” (“How Much I Want You”), “Petheno Gia Sena” (“I’d Die For You”) and “Enas Tourkos Sto Parisi” (“A Turk in Paris”). Below you can find the lyrics to the song “Ela Psihoula Mou” (“Come On, My Little Soul”) from the album “To Dialeimma Krataei Dyo Zoes” (“Recess Lasts for Two Lives”) which was released in 2001. You can click here to hear the song on YouTube while you read the lyrics.

Είσαι τόσο παιδί κατά βάθος,
είσαι τόσο καλό κατά λάθος
είσαι τόσο αφελής
που άμα θέλεις μπορείς
όσα χάνουν οι ξύπνιοι να βρεις.Είσαι τόσο αστείο μορτάκι
σου φιλάω και το δαχτυλάκι
που ΄χει πάθει ζημιά
τι τον θες τον καυγά,
τι τον θες αφού *πιάνεις λαβράκιΈλα ψυχούλα μου,
έλα καρδούλα μου
Ξέρω δεν είσαι ό,τι δείχνεις
άλλοι σε παίξανε
άλλοι σε μπλέξανε
κλάψε γιατί όταν κλαις μικροδείχνεις.Δάγκωσ’ τα χείλη σου
είμαι μαντήλι σου
σβήνω τον πάγο απ΄ το βλέμμα.
Έλα στραβάδι μου
πιάσου απ ΄το χάδι μου
κράτα εδώ μην σε πάρει το ρέμαΜην ποζάρεις σαν μούτρο σε μένα
δε σε παίζω με φύλλα κρυμμένα.
Βρίσκω αυτή τη ρωγμή
που η ζωή ηρεμεί
το χαμένο λατρεύει κορμί.

Δεν υπάρχουν νερά του Ιορδάνη
κι όταν πιάνεις μωρό μου λιμάνι
μην την ψάχνεις πολύ
όλοι οι αμαρτωλοί,
όλοι είναι απ΄ το ίδιο χαρμάνι.

You are such a child deep inside
You are so good by mistake
You are so gullible
That if you want you can
Find everything that the smart (ones) miss outYou are such an amusing little rascal
I kiss your little finger
Which has suffered an injury
Why do you need start a brawl
Why do you want it, you always strike goldCome on, my little soul
Come on, my little heart
I know, you are not what you show
Some have messed up with you
Others have gotten you into trouble
Cry, because when you are crying you look youngerBite your lips
I am your handkerchief
I wipe the ice from your sight
Come on, my rookie
Hold on my caress
Hold on, for the stream not to take youDon’t pretend to be wounded
I have no hidden cards to play against you
I find this crack
Where the life calms down
(And) adores the long lost body

The waters of Jordan river do not exist
And when you, my baby, reach a harbour
Don’t wonder too long
All sinners
All are of the same breed

*πιάνεις λαβράκι: to take a chance and strike gold, get very lucky

We hope you like the song and sing along.

During the Greek Language and Culture course in Athens, Omilo students got several times the chance to see a concert of Machairitsas, sometimes together with Savvopoulos, other times with Kotsiras or Dalaras. Click here to listen to one more famous song of Machairitsas, singing together with Savvopoulos. It also includes a small video, taken during one of his concerts .

If you are interested in learning more about Greek music, and different styles of music, then do not hesitate to click here and read more articles about Greek singers and composers.