Greek Music in movies has been more popular abroad than most Greeks believe; in fact, many foreign movies have enhanced their story with Greek music and songs that have gained international recognition.
Movies have been the perfect vehicle to make Greek Music known worldwide. Up to a point, most foreigners believed that Greek music was a blend of Eastern sounds with heavy Byzantine notes and rhythms. This is not far from the truth, since the traditional Greek music has a long history and consists of many genres, however, it would be unfair to limit Greek music that much.
Instrumental Greek Music in Movies
Greek music has been heard in many movies abroad recently. Foreign directors have chosen popular instrumental themes and new compositions for their films. Numerous Greek Composers were catapulted into fame, composing music for movies, which made Greece and the Greek spirit known worldwide.
Vangelis, the famous Greek Composer in the movies
You will probably remember the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and its score that became a huge success. The music was composed by Vangelis, one of the most famous Greek Composers abroad. Imposing and mighty, the main musical theme of 1492, known as Conquest of Paradise, remained as a classic theme, even though the movie itself was a box office failure.
Vangelis has composed the main theme for another foreign movie, the Chariots of Fire. The main theme of the British Film won the Oscar for Best Original Music Score and became one of the biggest hits in International Charts, staying on the top for five months in 1982. The chariots of fire made Vangelis and the Greek Music known, since many critics attributed the romantic piano and synthesizer washes of the theme to the Greek spirit of the composer.
Blade Runner and Missing were two films made in 1982, with the Music by Vangelis: the Greek composer managed to enhance the film with the proper themes, dressing the melancholy and isolation of the movie’s subject. Missing was also a film with instrumental Greek Music, with the homonym theme being the most famous one.
Mikis Theodorakis in the movies – Zorba The Greek
Mikis Theodorakis, one of the most renowned and respected Greek Composers, has dressed numerous foreign movies with his music. The most evident and characteristic Greek Music theme composed by Mikis Theodorakis is of course the theme in Zorba the Greek. Obviously the syrtaki dance by Antony Quinn along with the vibrant music by Theodorakis became the quintessential Greek Music symbols.
The theme from Zorba is still the most popular Greek music theme played in Greece and abroad, and is always welcomed when played and danced live. Many people still think that Greeks dance syrtaki every day, but there is no reason to deny that Greeks love dancing anyway!
Mikis Theodorakis composed many more music themes for movies; one of the best known themes is heard in the movie Honeymoon. Known in Greece as “An thimitheis t’ oneiro mou”, the song “Honeymoon” was recorded by the Beatles and became a hit in Europe. For the lovers of Greek tragedies, Theodorakis composed an amazingly powerful music theme in Phaedra, the movie with Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins.
Theodorakis has associated his name with many more movies; Serpico, with Al Pacino, features a lovely Greek music theme, as well as the movie “Z” by Costas Gavras. In Shirley Valentine, you can hear a lovely typical Greek music theme with bouzouki, called Arrival at Myconos.
Manos Hadjidakis – Another Oscar for the Greek Music
Manos Hadjdakis is by default one of the most beloved Greek Composers in Greece and abroad; he became internationally known when in 1960 he won the Oscar for Best Song with the song “Ta paidia tou Pirea” by Melina Mercouri. Featured in the movie Never On Sunday, the song Ta paidia tou Pirea became the ticket of Greek Music to travel worldwide, giving a boost to the perception of Greece and the Greek soul.
Both Manos Hadjidakis and Melina Mercouri became known abroad almost instantly and they presented an edited version of the motion picture on stage in the US and Europe, with the name Ilya Darling. Hadjidakis’ music and Greek music in general became popular and foreigners started buying Greek albums when visiting Greece, seeking for the elements that make Greek music so unique.
Other Greek Songs in Films
One of the most recognizable Greek songs included in a big Hollywood hit was “Misirlou“, heard in the film Pulp Fiction. Even Greeks were surprised to hear the new version of this song Misirlou, which was completely transformed, with a more electronic and new age sound.
Later on, in Mightly Aphrodite, Woody Allen used a very known song composed by Giorgos Zambetas, the song “Horos Tou Sakena”, and a song by Vassilis Tsitsanis, the song “Neo Minore”.
Hadjidakis’s song “Piraeus’ Children”was used in Jonathan Nossiter’s film “Sunday” in 1997.
Recently, Martin Scorcese took over the production of the Film Nyfes (Brides) along with Pantelis Voulgaris. Except for a lovely story and filmaking, the movie has an excellent OST, composed by Stamatis Spanoudakis. Truly representative of the Greek music of the 20s, “Nyfes” score is an absolute must – hear if you are a true Greek music lover.