Michael “Mikis” Theodorakis (born 29 July 1925) is a Greek songwriter and composer who has written over 1000 songs. He scored for the films Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1973). He composed the “Mauthausen Trilogy” also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen”, which has been described as the “most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust” and possibly his best work. He is viewed as Greece’s best-known living composer. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.
Politically, he is associated with the left because of his long-standing ties to the Communist Party of Greece. He was an MP for the KKE from 1981 to 1990. Nevertheless, in 1989 he ran as an independent candidate within the centre-right New Democracy party, in order for the country to emerge from the political crisis that had been created due to the numerous scandals of the government of Andreas Papandreou, and helped establish a large coalition between conservatives, socialists and leftists. In 1990 he was elected to the parliament (as in 1964 and 1981), became a government minister under Constantine Mitsotakis, and fought against drugs and terrorism and for culture, education and better relations between Greece and Turkey. He continues to speak out in favor of left-liberal causes, Greek–Turkish–Cypriot relations, and against the War in Iraq. He has consistently opposed oppressive regimes and was a key voice against the 1967–1974 Greek junta, which imprisoned him.
In 1960, Theodorakis returned to Greece and his roots in genuine Greek music: With his song cycle Epitaphios he started the third period of his composing and contributed to a cultural revolution in his country. His most significant and influential works are based on Greek and world poetry – Epiphania (Giorgos Seferis), Little Kyklades (Odysseas Elytis), Axion Esti (Odysseas Elytis), Mauthausen (Iakovos Kambanellis), Romiossini (Yannis Ritsos), and Romancero Gitano (Federico García Lorca) – he attempted to give back to Greek music a dignity which in his perception it had lost. He developed his concept of “metasymphonic music” (symphonic compositions that go beyond the “classical” status and mix symphonic elements with popular songs, Western symphonic orchestra and Greek popular instruments).
He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus, gave many, many concerts all around Greece and abroad… and he naturally became involved in the politics of his home country. After the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis in May 1963 he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth (“Lambrakidès”) and was elected its president. Under Theodorakis’s impetus, it started a vast cultural renaissance movement and became the greatest political organisation in Greece with more than 50.000 members. Following the 1964 elections, Theodorakis became a member of the Greek Parliament, associated with the left-wing party EDA. Because of his political ideas, the composer was black-listed by the cultural establishment; at the time of his biggest artistic glory, a large number of his songs were censored-before-studio or were not allowed on the radio stations.
During 1964, he wrote the music for the Michael Cacoyiannis film Zorba the Greek, whose main theme, since then, exists as a trademark for Greece. It is also known as ‘Syrtaki dance’; inspired from old Cretan traditional dances.
On 21 April 1967 a right wing junta (the Regime of the Colonels) took power in a putsch. Theodorakis went underground and founded the “Patriotic Front” (PAM). On 1 June, the Colonels published “Army decree No 13”, which banned playing, and even listening to his music. Theodorakis himself was arrested on 21 August, and jailed for five months. Following his release end of January 1968, he was banished in August to Zatouna with his wife Myrto and their two children, Margarita and Yorgos. Later he was interned in the concentration camp of Oropos. An international solidarity movement, headed by such personalities as Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, and Harry Belafonte demanded to get Theodorakis freed. On request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, Theodorakis was allowed to go into exile to Paris on 13 April 1970. Theodorakis’s flight left very secretly from an Onassis owned private airport outside Athens. Theodorakis arrived at Le Bourget Airport where he met Costa Gavras, Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin. Theodorakis was immediately hospitalized because he suffered from lung tuberculosis. Myrto Theodorakis, Mikis’s wife and two children joined him a week later in France. They arrived from Greece to France via Italy on a boat.(by wikipedia)
Mikis Theodorakis with Fidel Castro
Here´s an album from his beautiful music during the Sixties … This album was released in Germany, so the liner notes are in German …
Mikis Theodorakis in his own words:
“The basis of music is the songs. The basis of music is the dance, the rhythm, the harmony. This is the base. The composition must be based in this base. Me, I prefer all the composers of this century, the biggest ones, because they make songs. I prefer our own Greeks composers, popular composers. They write songs for the people. This is the music. If it is possible to construct in this music with orchestra, with symphony, etcetera, good. But the basis must be the inspiration, must be the songs, popular songs. The songs are the basis. I think that Vivaldi, Verdi, Beethoven, all start for the popular, the German popular songs, Italian popular songs, the Spanish popular songs, French, and step by step construct this symphony. For me, a new composer must start from the songs, or start by dialogue from the others, supposing to compose a piece only for five persons, for one hundred persons, for a concert. The critics write articles, etcetera, philology, etcetera, and for me all this is death. It’s not the life. The life is the phenomenon. Music is called the phenomenon of life. We have the genesis. The genesis for music is the melody. If you say today, à la Bach, à la Mozart, à la Beethoven, à la Verdi, à la Stravinsky, we think a kind of melody. This is the genesis; this is the life. The other is construction. This is my poor philosophy. “
Alternate frontcovers from Italy, Germany, Norway and Spain
Yannis Didikis (piano)
Maria Fandouri (vocals)
Georg Kapernaros (vocals)
Lakis Karnezis (bouzouki)
Eyandros Papadopoulos (drums)
Kostas Papadopoulos (bouzouki)
Orchestra conducted by Mikis Theodorakis
01. To Perigiali (The Beach) (Seferis/Theodorakis) 3.59
02. Doxa To Theo (Glory To God) (Theodorakis/Kampanelis) 2.35
03. Mana Mou Ke Panayia (The Most Holy One) (Theodorakis/Livaditis) 4.56
04. Aprilis (Fragment From The Series “The Dead Brother”) (Theodorakis) 2.29
05. Rodostamo (Rose-Water) (Theodorakis/Gatsos) 4.21
06. Marina (Theodorakis/Elitis) 3.20
07. Tou Mikrou Voria (The Northern Breeze) (Theodorakis/Elitis) 2.23
08. Soritis Petroulias (Theodorakis) 4.41
09. Margarita, Margaro (Theodorakis) 3.13
10. Vracho Vracho (Rock-Rock) (Theodorakis/Christodoulou) 2.65
11. Varka Sto Yalo (Boat On The Beach) (Theodorakis) 2.35
12. Vradiazi (Evening Approaches) (Theodorakis/Christodoulou) 3.54