George Dalaras

George DalarasGeorge Dalaras grew up in the slums of Piraeus. His father was a singer of greek blues, and he himself is more than a megastar, who gives concerts in overcrowded greek soccer-stadiums.Though looking good and with his tremendous voice, George Dalaras was never just satisfied with success and popularity.

Many years ago, it was Dalaras, who revived the historical songform, the Rembetiko to new life and since then he is looking for new paths to expand his ways of expressions.Restless, he crosses borders, without loosing the ground, on that he has grown up.

Born in the early fifties in Kokkinia, a populous slum suburb of Piraeus, Athen's big port, George Dalaras shares the rock tradition of having roots in the folk and blues music of the masses. His father was a traditional musician and a "bouzouki" instrumentalist. George Dalaras' first musical memories are closely linked to the main forms of Greek music: the "laiko", the "rembetiko" and the "dimotiko" (see explanatory notes below).

At the age of 16 his first public appearances were those of a guitarist and a singer. Two years later, he recorded his first album. At once, the marriage he proposed between the traditional urban sound of Greek music (based essentially on the bouzouki) and some of its more modern aspects was acclaimed by the audience who awarded him with his first multi-hundred thousand seller.

Since then, George Dalaras has sold more than 7 million albums through his own works and his collaborations. He has worked and recorded with the most important and prominent Greek composers, poets, and lyricists, and introduced to his faithful audience many a young Greek musician or singer; in having released thus about 40 personal albums and having collaborated on nearly 20 others as an interpreter, a musician or a producer, he has expressed his multi-talented creativity, while continuing to expand his musical horizons.

George DalarasThanks to his exceptional voice and to his instrumental skill, George Dalaras is, at the forefront of the innovative processes in Greek music. In something more than two decades, he created the essential reference criteria of what this music is or should be about, renewing the genre by leading his mainly young public to forgotten Greek musical paths, like the "smirneiko" (see explanatory notes below) or the "rembetiko". An example is the "Rembetiko" double album, released in 1975, a form of blues so passionate and so "revolutionary" that it was politically censored in the troubled Greece of the 30's and 50's. This double album was the first "official" platinum record (100.000 units) granted by the Greek record industry. It has sold since then, another 450.000 units. Other examples of that "revival" are the albums "Mikra Asia" ("Asia Minor" - released in 1973, with songs written by Apostolos Kaldaras, which was reminiscent of the music of the Greek city of Smyrne - today, the Turkish Izmir), "Vyzantinos Esperios" ("Byzantine Vespers") or "T'aidonia this Anatolis" ("Eastern Nightingales - based on "dimotiko" and the songs of Constantinople - today , the Turkish stanbul).

But George Dalaras has also helped this audience to discover, understand and accept music from other cultures. Being of that rare breed of performer who can strike a balance between commitment to his artistry and the demands of worldwide acclaim, his collaborative efforts with other international superstars reveal Dalaras' ability to cross over into other styles of music. He has thus recorded and appeared on stage with Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, Ray Lema, Jan Garbarek and others, with albums like "Latin" (500.000 units), "Live Recordings", "Live at the Herodium Theatre" or "Missa Criola", - the creole liturgy written by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez and recorded live in the Catholic Church of Athens.

In the 70s, with the fall of the dictatorship in Greece, George Dalaras began his rise to international stardom. At that time he recorded and toured with Mikis Theodorakis, performing, in front of amazed audiences, some of the most beautiful humanist songs ever written in Europe. In his native country, George Dalaras is well-known for the care he shows in choosing his songs. Supported from the beginning of his career by important composers or lyricists like Stavros Kouyoumtzis, Manos Loizos, Lefteris Papadopoulos or Apostolos Kaldaras, he immediately reached multi-platinum status with his first albums, continuing by working with composer Mikis Theodorakis, poet Yannis Ritsos (a Nobel nominee and a Lenin Prize winner), composer Yannis Markopoulos, traditional music composers Christos Nikolopoulos and Akis Panou, the Nobel Prize winning poet Odisseas Elytis, composers Stavros Xarchakos (who wrote songs for Melina Mercouri) and Oscar winner Manos Hajidakis.

Trying to get Greek music out of the conventional entertainment clubs it was generally played in, George Dalaras was the first Greek artist to perform concerts in the Western manner. The climax was reached when, in 1983, Billboard magazine credited him with "superstar status" after performing twice in a row in the 80.000 capacity spold-out Olympic stadium in Athens...He did it again in 1988. His live performances offer a unique fusion of traditional Greek instrumental sounds with Western rhythms, while contrasting high-energy rock songs with melodic ballads , which express the hope, sorrow and indignation of the human soul. Such compositions have set him apart from other popular musicians, and have led both to worldwide acclaim and to numerous multi-platinum live albums: "Ta tragoudia mou" - "My songs", for instance, sold 600.000 units in 1983.

Since 1981 George Dalaras has performed over 200 concerts outside of Greece, sometimes in the biggest venues. All over the world, in Latin America, the United States and Canada, Australia, Western Europe, Cyprus and Israel, he attracts audiences who are moved by these sensitive and spirited performances that combine artistic excellence with the highest cultural standards. As far as his concerts are concerned, Dalaras' primary concern is that they are not only successful and memorable events, but also that they form an experience which promoted the rich Greek heritage and culture. He has thus played numerous political or cultural festivals: as in Cuba (1981) with Mikis Theodorakis, the Europalia Festival in Brussels (1982), the Peace Festival in Vienna (1983) and the Youth Festival in Moscow (1985); like at Olympia in Paris (1987), where he appeared in 14 consecutive shows, or the Amnesty international Concert in Athens (1988), where he shared the stage with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour, or the Festivals of Mallorca (1989), Madrid and Toledo (1990).

George DalarasA living legend in his country and a musical phenomenon to the rest of the world, George Dalaras believes that music is the key to one's existence and that the personal and the political are strongly intertwined. Compared by a lot of foreign critics to Bruce Springsteen, he crosses the barrier of language and age, he is singing the plight of the oppressed classes of the world on a human level, thus appealing to the senses of every man.His albums with Mikis Theodorakis ("Ta Deca-octo Lianotragouda tis Pikris Patridas" - "The 18 songs of the Bitter Country", "Radar", the oratorio "Axion Esti")), his interpretations of Thanos Mikroutsikos' songs (a former Greek Minister of Culture who was appointed following the death of Melina Mercouri) in the album "Signomi ya tin Amina" - "Sorry for the Defence", prove his deep social concern. On the album "Grammes ton Orizondon" - "Lines of the Horizon" by the same composer and with poems by Nikos Kavvadias, he retraces the lives of 19th century Greek sailors. Similarly, with his latest album "Vammena Kokkina Mallia" - "Red Tainted Hair", containing the soundtrack of a popular 1993 Greek TV series, he depicts day-to-day life in the troubled Greece of the 50's.

George Dalaras is not afraid of committing himself ever more deeply to the causes in which he believes. Thus, for some years now, he has been at the forefront of the process of making both the Greek and the international public aware of the Cypriot problem. (The island was invaded in 1974 by the Turkish army, which divided it into two parts. Since then, 200.000 refugees, out of a total poulation of half a million, have had to leave their homeland due to the occupation by the invading army.) George Dalaras has played all over Greece and Cyprus for this cause, as well as at the Palais des Congres in Paris, London's Wembley Arena (backed by Melina Mercouri and Vanessa Redgrave), Toronto and Montreal, and Meadowlands in New Jersey in April 1994, in front of 22.000 people. On that occasion, he received from senator Ted Kennedy the "John F. Kennedy Prize" ("Don't ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country"). The Meadowlands concerts was number 1 in the Billboard "Top 10 Concert Grosses" for that week. In July he played two days in a row at the Ancient Herodium Theatre of the Acropolis , to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the invasion. His royalties from the "Cypriot" albums ("O Ilios o Iliatoras", "Is Egnalian Kypron", "Ton Athanaton") and fees from the various concerts have been donated to charities for the refugees.

A complete artist and musician, he is also concerned for the cultural and musical heritage of his country. In June 1994, George Dalaras played 5 shows in a row at the newly-built Opera House of Athens, retracing the history of Greek music from Ancient Times to the "European" Greece of today, passing from Byzantine Choirs to the "bouzouki" sounds of the "rembetiko" and from the dirges of the Middle Ages to the electrical sounds of the modern Greek music which he has helped to create. The shows featured 225 people on stage and were directed by Costas Gavras, who also scored the events. This was an occasion of paramount musical significance for Greece.

In 1995 George Dalaras gave a concert in the Old Opera Hall (Alte Oper) of Frankfurt and in Berlin with a special selection of greek songs and acoustic sound. The famous jazz singer, Joan Faulkner, participated. He gave a series of concerts in cities around the Black Sea - an attempt to spread the Greek Song to the other Balkan countries and to support the Greeks of the Black Sea. Concerts in Romania(Bukarest), Yugoslavia(Belgrade), Georgia(Tyflis), Ukraine(Odessa).

In the beginning of 1996 he gave a concert at the Berlin Opera Hall with "Missa Criolla" by Ariel Ramirez. The famous Opera choir (Deutsche Oper Berlin) participated. George Dalaras performed 26 concerts during his 6th big tour in America, among them, one in New York, produced by Radio City. Concerts in Latin America. At the deserted village of Imvros, Shinoudi, Dalaras gave a concert as an attempt to inform politicians, press representatives and plain citizens about the problem of Imvros. In Athens he created a model music place called "IERA ODOS" (Holy Road), aiming to offer a shelter to all forms of greek music. He himself performed many times in this hall.

At the end of 1997 the recording collaboration of George Dalaras with Goran Bregovic is completed, with lyrics by Michalis Ganas, Antonis Andrikakis, Haris and Panos Katsimichas. In 1998 he plays a series of concerts at the "Iera Odos" and in the end of april he starts his next European Tour with shows in Germany, France, Great Britain and Finland.

Since 1998 George Dalaras has released several records with live-recordings including the CD "Tribute to Vamvakaris" which is released in 2004 on Tropical Music.

Explanatory note on some Greek musical forms:

Greek music of today can be divided grosso modo into three main parts: " the "laiko", the "dimotiko" and the "nissiotiko". This division follows the geographical and sociological divisions of Greece: the cities, the mountainous country of the villages, and the islands. All of them have their roots in modern Greek history.


In the 15th century, Greece was completely occupied by the Turkish empire after the fall of Byzantinum - Constantinople. The ensuing four centuries' occupation of mainland Greece did not leave Greek music untouched. Gradually traditional Byzantine choir music which based largely on certain forms of the Gregorian chants was affected by the dominant oriental sound, just as, for instance, the Arabic musical tradition is influenced by the religious muezzin-call. The traditional instruments evolved into more elaborate forms, like the santouri (a kind of metalophone), the luth, or the pipes.

The "dimotiko" (which means "coming from the people" - note the prefix "dimo" as in "Democracy") was born out of the marriage of these various musical traditions. It is a form of music which retraces the sociological and economical events of the "village" nucleus: sowing and harvesting, marriage, death etc. Some of its laments are reminiscent of certain flamenco forms. The musical inheritance of the Greek Middle-Ages embodied in the Greek-Orthodox religion, remained strong, as religious life represented, at that time, the only way of opposing the Turkish occupation. Its instruments are the violin, the guitar, the santouri, the tablas, and above all the clarinet.In some parts of Northern Greece, the traditional Greek pipe, with its balkan influences, is still important.


The "Nissiotiko" is the music of the islands. Less influenced by the Turkish occupation, as the major part of these islands stayed under Venecian protection, this music is mainly based on Western rhythmical patterns with an important role played by the violin and the Greek luth, which is derived from the analogous instrument of the European Middle-Ages.


The dominant Greek musical form "Laiko", means popular, and this music was born in the cities of modern Greece. It is the marriage between the "dimotiko". the "rembetiko" and the "smirneiko" that gave rise to this music, which has since been enhanced by George Dalaras.

In 1922, the "Turkish Republican Revolution" under Mustapha Kemal Ataturk led to the eviction of the large Greek communities that lived along the West coast of what is now Turkey. Almost 1,5 million refugees were forced to settle in Greece, a country of just 7 million inhabitants at that time. It was a political and economic shock, but also a cultural one. The refugees that spread throughout the whole country brought with them their peculiar music, a blend of "dimotiko" and an oriental-arabic way of singing, with a predominant form: the "SMIRNEIKO", the urban music of Smyrne, the largest Greek city of Asia Minor (today, the Turkish Ismir), based on violins, saz, santouri, and guitars.

The refugees who came to Athens and especially to Piraeus, its port, gave birth to the "REMBETIKO", a passionate form of "blues". This music, that expressed through love songs their social and political opposition to the dominant class that they thought was responsable for the "catastrophe", was censored many times.

"Rembetiko" had a major influence on the "Laiko". The Turkish saz evolved into the Bouzouki, the central instrument of this type of music which is also played sometimes with the Outi, the Greek form of the oriental oud.

George Dalaras on Tropical Music:

CD Axion Esti / Romiosini (Live-Recording of two outstanding works of Mikis Theodorakis with Dalaras as soloist)
CD Deserted Villages (Erima Choria)
CD Shining Nights
CD Tribute to Markos Vamvakaris
CD Live & Unplugged
CD The Greek Spirit
CD The Greek Voice