On this day we remember perhaps the greatest composer of Greek music ever whose legacy continues to the present day more than any of his contemporaries
Vasilis Tsitsanis was born on January 18, 1915 in Trikala, northern Greece and lived through the dark years of the German occupation. From an early age he was drawn to music after picking up his father’s mandolin.
Tsitsanis composed and recorded more than 500 songs during his lifetime. But what set him apart from other composers was his talent of creating songs that would last long after his death.
He was particularly attracted to Rebetika, a musical genre that came to the mainland from Asia Minor in the 1920s and developed and evolved in the slums and drug dens in Greece’s misery-ridden port towns.
The fact that Rebetika songs were banned in the 1940s because of their dark nature and lyrics associated with drugs, prostitution and other elements of the underworld also attracted Tsitsanis to the genre.
He once famously said in an interview that the “forbidden fruit always tasted the best,” when asked why he had such an affinity for the banned Rebetika music.
In a way, Tsitsanis can be credited as the composer who helped lay the groundwork for the contemporary “laika,” or popular Greek music movement which is prevalent in Greece today.
There isn’t a Greek singer today who hasn’t performed a Tsitsanis song in a live repertoire. And dozens, perhaps even thousands of times, the composer’s songs have appeared on CDs of singers like George Dalaras, Glykeria and Haris Alexiou
Tsitsani’s songs have even been transformed into unique remixes by new generations of artists, including a dance version of “Zaira” by Glykeria and a funk version of “Akrogialies Dilina” performed by the group Imam Baildi.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no Greek on the planet with even a slight connection to music hasn’t heard or sung Tsitsanis’ biggest hits such as “Synefiasmeni Kyriaki” (Cloudy Sunday), “Ta Kavourakia” (The Little Crabs), “Omorfi Thessaloniki” (Beautiful Thessaloniki) and many more.
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