Greek Music against the Greek Junta

By Greek Music against the Greek Junta of 1967-1974 we mean the music produced in Greece during the 7-year period that Greece was ruled by the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos and his collaborators.

We pay tribute to the Resistance against the Junta on November 17 every year, that day of 1973 when the students of the Greek Polytechnic School of Athens locked themselves in their school  protesting against the political regime of the time that had been oppressing the country and its citizens since April 21st, 1967. The dictators ordered the tanks to enter the School killing numerous young students and marking the beginning of the end of their regime.

The events of November the 17th did not overthrow the dictators, but that was a moment of significant importance, a turning point for the Greeks, who peaked their reaction and resistance against the junta and managed to restore democracy almost a year later, after a few more tragic events, such as the invasion of the Turkish Army in Cyprus. The colonels finally left after having arrested almost 90,000 people  and assassinated many political persons who were acting against the Greek Junta.

Greek Music during the Junta

greek-junta-phoenix-soldierAs with any dictatorship, Greek music during the junta of 1967-1974 was a subject of censorship. Right after the coup d’état in April 21st 1967 the Colonels prohibited songs and particular music albums, and forced the radio stations to play only some prefabricated songs speaking for the “Revolution” and the Spring coming to Greece. Some notable lyric writers and composers, as well as singers served the regime.

It is not known under what circumstances these people decided to serve the Colonels and write music or sing for them, however reading these lists of artists that participated in the concerts and music album productions is interesting, as among the artists we find names such as Vicky Moscholiou, Giorgos Katsaros and Grigoris Bithikotsis, who later became the voice of the resistance songs composed by Mikis Theodorakis.

However, at that time what was most important was the movement of resistance organized and “fueled” through music, songs and poems. The dictators did everything they could to prevent artists from showing their work; one of the first persons whose work was strictly forbidden was Mikis Theodorakis.

Mikis Theodorakis and his music during the Junta

Mikis Theodorakis and his children in exile
Mikis Theodorakis and his children in exile

Mikis Theodorakis was the black sheep for the Colonels due to his rebellious and oppositional stance against the regime; Theodorakis organised a resistance group called PAM, and he became an enemy of the dictators. He was forced to hide in different places and houses until he was arrested in August 21st 1967; he was tortured and imprisoned and he finally went on a hunger strike in order to claim his rights.

The colonels were obliged to let Theodorakis out from the prison and set him in home detention. This time was a very productive time for Theodorakis who continued composing music against the colonels from home; he composed music for some poems written by the Nobelist Giorgos Seferis, the renowned “Katastasi Poliorkias” (Siege State).

The Colonels understood that Theodorakis was a menace even from his house, and they had him transferred to a remote area in the Peloponnese Peninsula in South Greece and deprive him of his civil rights. Theodorakis was not able to see and meet anyone except for the other people in exile, as he was. These people became the first audience for some of his new works, with the most notable one being Arkadies.

In 1969 although still in exile, Theodorakis composes the music for a movie made by Kostas Gavras, named Z, referring to the political assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis.

After a long period of negotiations and political pressure from abroad, Theodorakis went to Paris in 1970 where he joined forces with Melina Mercouri who had already launched an anti-junta campaign in France, organizing concerts and acting in theatrical plays against the colonels, who deprived her of her civil rights and her Greek citizenship. Her songs are forbidden in Greece and the colonals organise two assassination attempts in Paris and Genoa that both failed.

Melina and Mikis along with several other artists fought against the regime, and became some sort of nightmare for the colonels, as their made a huge impression worldwide with their strength and determination to resist to the Greek Junta. They gave numerous concerts singing songs composed by Mikis Theodorakis who had already started writing music for liberal poems and verses written by Odysseas Elytis and other major Greek lyric writers and poets.

The Greek Music of the Exile

At the same time in Greece, several Greeks were sent in exile in deserted islands such as Makronissos and Giaros, or remote islands such as Leros, with the excuse of being communists or enemies of the state. There, they composed songs for the exile and the overall state in Greece; some of these songs were recorded “illegally” and exist till today. “The mother of the lawless”, the “Castle” and “Nikolos” are some of the known songs written by Nikos Damigos and Christos Louretzis. Numerous unknown artists and everyday people make music and record their own LPs at the time, adding to the resistance against the Colonels.

In Greece Manos Loizos, Stavros Ksarchakos, Iakovos Kampanellis and other composers and lyric writers also compose and write songs and verses in order to reinforce and encourage the movement of resistance, and their songs are played by underground and amateur radio stations, since they were forbidden.

Later, after the fall of the Greek Junta, most of the songs of Manos Loizos are officially recorded and played in concerts organised to celebrate the re-establishment of democracy in Greece. To gelasto paidi, o Stratiotis, o Dromos, to Accordeon, and many songs by Mikis Theodorakis, have become the songs-symbols of those times, a symbol of freedom and democracy for the tormented Greeks.

Nikos Xylouris and Yiannis Markopoulos

Nikos Xilouris
Nikos Xilouris

No article for the Greek music against the Greek Junta can be complete without mentioning the Cretan singer Nikos Xylouris and the composer Giannis Markopoulos.

Xylouris worked with Markopoulos and started working together at Ledra, a music stage in Plaka, Athens in May 1971. Amidst the dictatorship, Xilouris’ voice, whether singing Markopoulos’ songs or traditional Cretan songs, became a flag of resistance: ” Pote tha kanei ksasteria” and “Agrimia kai agrimakia”  are two of his most-known songs from the period.

At the “smoked pot” by Christos Leontis, who composed music based on verses written by poet Giannis Ritsos, Nikos Xilouris is absolutely compelling and overwhelming when he sings ” These marks on the walls, could be of blood. All red today is blood”. Same with the “Enemies entered the city”, based on lyrics written by Giorgos Skourtis, or the “How many leap years”.

The Greek people was resting on Xilouris ‘ voice their secret hopes. He was at the Polytechnic School uprising together with the students, something he was punished for by the junta with persecutions and forbidding of his songs that became symbols of resistance.

Greek Music after the end of the Junta

The fall of the junta regime signaled the resurrection of Greek Music; the large concerts in open spaces, except for great music events, became events of political expression and challenge. The stadiums beat on the rhythm of songs written by Theodorakis, Mikroutsikos, Loizos, Leontis, Markopoulos etc, performed by the best singers of the time, such as Farantouri, Ksylouris, Kalogiannis, Pandis, Papakonstantinou, Alexiou, Dalaras, Chalkias, Thomopoulos, Manou and more.

* Read more about the Greek Junta

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