Saturday, September 17, 2016

Manos Loizos (1937-1982) - A Working Class Hero of Greek Music

It was on 17 September 1982 when one of the most talented Greek composers of his generation passed away. After suffering several strokes Manos Loizos died in a Moscow hospital. He was 45 years old. Loizos wasn't just an extraordinary songwriter and composer; he was a member of the Communist Party of Greece and an outspoken critic of the Greek military Junta. 

A self-taught musician with an inherent talent, Manos Loizos was born on 22 October 1937 to Cypriot parents in Alexandria, Egypt. He moved to Athens at the age of 17 in order to study pharmacology but soon he gave up his studies- his passion was music. His first recordings were made in 1963 and by the mid-70s he was one of Greece's most popular composers. His songs touched the hearts of the working class people and many of them became symbols of the anti-dictatorship struggle in the 1970s. 

Loizos collaborated with the most talented lyricists of his era, including his close lifelong friend Lefteris Papadopoulos, Fondas Ladis, Yannis Negrepontis, Manolis Rasoulis. Loizos' last disc was the "Letters to my wife" containing lyrics by the legendary Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, translated in Greek language by the giant of Greek poetry, Yannis Ritsos. 

Being a versatile musician, Manos Loizos wrote some of the most memorable Greek political songs, as well as some extaordinary melodies of the so-called "Laiko" (Greek popular songs) music genre. Some of the most significant Greek singers, being in their first steps as young performers, became broadly known through their collaboration with Manos Loizos, including Haris Alexiou, George Dalaras, Vasilis Papakonstantinou, Dimitra Galani, etc.

Below we choosed and present five of Manos Loizos' most memorable songs:

1. "Pagose i tsiminiera" (The chimney got cold). Lyrics: Fondas Ladis. Performed by George Dalaras, 1976. The song refers to workers' strike. 
The chimney is cold
and outside the gate
the factory workers are debating
The day has grown bright,
with frostbitten lips
they take up the banners and set out
Five trucks they sent out,
at the waning of the moon,
and they came back full of strike breakers.
[Still] filled they went away again:
"Nobody will get through
we had better all go away as emigrants!"
A month has passed,
the machines are rusting
and the children suffer cold and hunger;
in the streets of Athens
workers are handing out fliers
asking for support.

2. "Che". Lyrics: Manos Loizos. Performed live by Manos Loizos. Song dedicated to the legendary Ernesto Che Guevara.

A photo of yours came also to me
A photo of yours, from abroad
One of those that students use to hold
One of those that the informer rips
One of those that students sling
In their heart
Che Guevara
Close the window
Lock the doors
I'm trembling of fear for the man
with the boots
What does he want and walking by the shadows
What does he want and asking for you
What does he want and looking towards our house
Every Night
Che Guevara
So many roses
burned by the snow
Ah, that Spring
bleeds me.

3. "The accordion". Lyrics: Yannis Negrepontis. Performed by Manos Loizos. An antifascist song.


In my old neighbourhood I had a friend
who knew and was playing the accordion
when he sang, he was like the sun
fires in his hands were ignited by the accordion
But one dark night, like every other night
he kept look-outs, playing the accordion
fascist vans stood next to the pen
and a gunfire stopped the accordion
The already started slogan always comes back to me
whenever I hear again an accordion
and it has, like a stamp, marked my life
'fascism will not pass!'

4. "Tritos Pagkosmios" (Third World War). Lyrics: Yannis Negrepontis. Performed by Vasilis Papakonstantinou. A masterpiece song describing in simple lyrics how monopoly capitalism works, showing the exploitation of the working class from the Capital.

Peter, Johan and Franz
they worked in a factory, making tanks
Peter, Johan and Franz
they became inseparable by making tanks
Peter, Johan and Franz
they worked for Brown, for Fisser for Kraft
Brown, Fisser and Kraft
they became inseparable by making trusts
Peter, Johan and Franz
they were unconcerned, always working in tanks 
they never read Marx
they had no idea about trusts and crashes
Brown, Fisser and Kraft
seperated into Brown, Fisser and Kraft
Brown, Fisser and Kraft
they supposedly became enemies, they destroyed the trust
And before learning what Marx said
they were taken as soldiers, they went to fight
Peter, Johan and Franz
they fell like heroes, under the tanks
Brown, Fisser and Kraft
they thought and found that it's the fault of Marx
Brown, Fisser and Kraft
they joined again, they made a trust.

5. "Zeibekiko tis Evdokias" (Evdokia's zeibekiko). Famous instrumental written for the 1971 Greek film "Evdokias".