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Collection of Greek Songs (1870-1970)

Introduction | Characteristics of the collection | Subject matter of Greek Songs | Commentary | Bibliography | Discography | Major composers | Major lyricists | Major performers | Recordings | Catalog


One could easily claim, without exaggeration, that during the period 1870–1960 the Greek Song experienced an extraordinary flourishing mainly due to the large production of songs, the preoccupation of serious composers and poets with the composition of songs and the great appeal the Greek song enjoyed with large audiences. Many singers who had been trained in the classical tradition, were able to transmit a special quality to what was essentially considered to be light or popular music ( for instance, singers Petros Epitropakis, Demetrios Rodios and Christos Stroumboulis).

Despite many constant characteristics, the aforementioned period also witnessed changes, mainly with regard to the influences experienced by the composers and the subject matter of the songs. According to K. Mylonas [i] the period is divided into two parts: a) 1870-930 and b)1930-1960.

The songs of the Ionian Islands and Italy were the forerunners of the Greek song, influencing its creation and development to a considerable degree. In view of the fact that after the Greek Revolution of 1821 the strongest endeavour in creating a Greek art music was developed on the Ionian Islands, it is natural to surmise that all later musical attempts in Greece had to borrow elements from the Eptanissos music. It is also understandable that Italian opera had a great influence on the musical aesthetics of the Modern Greeks.  The most successful songs during the period 1870-1930 were the so-called “Athenian” songs, the serenades and the songs performed on the Athenian stage in revues and operettas that dominated the Athenian theatres. The former, i.e., the serenade and the Athenian song were operating by definition in an autonomous way, whereas the latter, despite their original connection to a total dramatic work, they could be used as independent songs. After 1930, wavering among American and European musical influences as well as the Greek musical tradition, the Greek composers begin to write music to the tunes of the tango, the samba, and the waltz as well as the melodies that refer to Athenian serenades and the theatrical revue songs.

Recently, The Music Library of Greece “Lillian Voudouri” received the gift collection of Christos Kalabokas numbering more than 5,500 songs. The greatest part of the collection covers the period 1870-1960[ii] and certain songs dating between 1960 and 1978. Apart from some other collections (smaller in size) such as private collections and collections which were either presented to or purchased by the library, the Kalabokas collection is, by far, one of the most complete collections of Greek songs[iii]. It constitutes an important base for future research of this vital segment of Greek music which, essentially, remains unexplored.

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Characteristics of the collection

As stated, the collection numbers more than 5,500 titles of Greek songs and several foreign ones.The cataloging of the songs has been completed and the catalog provides information about the composer, the title of the song, the title of the play or revue in which it appeared, the lyricist as well as information about the publisher. There are also certain details about the engraver, and the illustrator of the musical score, the lithographic shop in which the printing took place and the copier of the song where such exists. 

An important factor is that the collection covers a wide range of Greek songs. It includes expressions of art music created by Greek art musicians but also the more popular musical expression, which was addressed to a wider audience and people who did not necessarily have formal musical training.  Thus songs by N. Kokkinos, D. Lavrangas and M.Kalomiris exist side by side with songs by G. Mouzakis, Kl. Triantfyllou (Attik) and H. Hairopoulos. An equally wide range is observed in the literary study of the songs as the collection compares the art poetry of Dionysios Solomos, M. Malakasis, L. Porfyras and others, with the type of poetry created on the basis of certain songs aimed at wider popular audiences.

Τhe Music Collection at the Megaron Library also includes certain music periodical titles, which published songs of the period. It should be noted here that, although these publications were following European standards, all such Greek publications were more concise and not as well edited. From the number of periodicals circulating it is easy to see that there was an increase in demand for such publications. Some of these periodicals were the musical album “Fandasio”, the periodicals Style and Art” and “Pantheon” (which featured musical scores as inserts), “the Musical Newspaper” the Musical Bouquet,” “Efterpi” and others of varied circulation. Our collection includes a number of these periodicals although it cannot be considered as complete. In conjunction with other musical periodicals of the period that are available in the Library such as “Musical Times” “Music” and “Musical Life” one can draw a good picture of the musical scene of that period.

Quite important also are the musical publications of Constantinople, Ermoupolis and Thessalonica, which date to the end of the previous century as well as publications of Greek songs by foreign publishers. 

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Subject matter of Greek Songs

The subject matter of the songs differs slightly depending on the period of time and the kind of song. The Athenian song as expressed in the serenades, carries clear influences from the songs of Eptanisos and deals mostly with themes of love and life in Athens. It has a strong romantic character and often uses verses by well-known poets such as Polemis, Porfyras, Drossinis and Malakassis.

The Athenian musical revue first appeared in 1894 and co-existed with the Athenian song for a while. Its subjects center around current affairs, political and social problems, certain personalities of the period and, of course, the perennial theme of love.  There are several musical revues that can be mentioned such as “War Panathinaia” (Polemika Panathinaia) and “War Panorama” (Polemikon Panorama) in 1913 and the show “The Halley Comet” in 1910  Other revue songs were “I glentzedes,” “Sta Bania” from “Papagalos” of 1920 and 1927, “the Unregistered, (undeclared), “The Mother-in-Law” from Panathinaia (1915) and the song titled “For You” from the revue “Tzitziki” or “Cricket”. Consequently, the musical Revue is an important source not only for musical/literary but also for historical research. It should be noted many foreign tunes were used to dress the songs of various revues. An example is the well known “song of the Evzone” from” Panathinaia” (1913) which was based on the tune of an American song of that period[iv]. An interesting viewpoint is referred to by Mylonas in his book, “The History of the Greek Song”,[v] namely that the music had a more important place in the revues than he texts. According to Mylonas this is depicted in the fact that the songs rather than the texts were always published.  

The subjects of the operettas dealt mostly with the theme of love rendered in a lighter and gayer manner. At the same time there are several works of a more serious, even dramatic character. The Greek production of operettas was in fact considerable and was represented basically by such composers as Th. Sakellaridis, H. Hairopoulos and N.Hatziapostolou. The Greek operettas were clearly influenced by the two musical genres mentioned earlier, the Athenian song and the revues as well as foreign operettas. At the same time they depict Greek reality and use elements from the Greek dialect.

After1930 the main subjects of the Greek songwriters are love and wine. The record player and the development of the record industry bring the Greeks in touch with foreign music and especially American music, which has a great influence. We now see the phenomenon of putting Greek verses to foreign tunes growing rapidly. Thus, along with serenades and songs from operettas, we have sambas, waltzes and tangos.

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In following the history of the Greek song along with the evolution of Greek society and some developments in the field of music, we can draw some conclusions as to the ways of creation and development of the Greek song. Also a certain part of the collection covers interesting ground such as, for example, the various tendencies of Greek composers  of rearranging old songs and harmonizing folk songs.

The rise of the urban population in Greece played an important role in the evolution of the Greek song since that part of society was its main audience. Education (both general and music education) of that particular social class is that which determined the character of the Greek song principally toward the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. There were many Athenian families, which at the time had a piano in their home, and it was the main source of entertainment for the entire family. A living proof of that is found in the number of handwritten scores of songs copied in such a way as to make its playing simple for other members of the family or group of friends. This very fact and the large audience contributed to the development and proliferation of the Greek song.

The extraordinary demand for certain songs is depicted in the number of multiple publications (there are songs which were printed in 14,000 or more copies). At the same time there was notable increase in the music publishing business, as there were many people who purchased the scores for study or performance at home. Beginning in 1900 there were more than 10 music publishing houses in Athens and many more in Constantinople, Smyrna, Ermoupolis and Thessalonica[vi]. In addition, there were a number of composers and lyricists who published their own works. Some of the publishing houses produced thousands of songs while others had a more modest production. Many of these publishers later changed names but all in all these publications constitute a rich source of information and history.

Along with the activities of the publishers of that period, it is equally important to study the history of the Greek engravers, lithographers and illustrators. Their role in the printing of song scores was important enough so as to have a “competition” between the aesthetics of the art and the aesthetics of music. There was a distinct difference in the type of illustration used in the sheet music of a revue song and another autonomous song by an art song writer.

There are a lot of references on musical periodicals and the way they promoted the popularity of Greek songs. Some songs are depicting the political events of that period in Greece. It is an interesting viewpoint which quite often reflects public opinion.

On the other hand, composers of art music have composed popular songs driven by financial reasons. This is another reason why the quality of the Greek songs was improved inasmuch as their creators were musically educated. A fine example is composer Yannis Constantinidis, a noted Greek composer who along with his art music composed a large number of “popular” songs that were most successful. In this part of his oeuvre the composer used the pseudonym “Kostas Yannidis.”[vii]

Finally, in addition to the notion of the Greeks as song lovers, it should be pointed out that the development of music education had its roots in the success and proliferation of the Greek song. The first Greek Conservatory of Music, the Athens conservatory, (created in 1871) was soon followed by the Greek Conservatory, the National Conservatory and many others.

The impact of the Greek song on the development of music in Greece cannot be overestimated. At a time when the relationship between Greek audiences and music were confined in the influence of Italian opera and a few operettas, the Greek song assumed the role of the connecting vehicle between the Greek composers and the public at large. Its most important characteristic was the fact that its origins are to be found in the Greek way of life and it was addressed exclusively to Greek audiences. However, I feel there are a number of reasons why the phenomenon of the Greek song should be researched further.

The library’s catalog of Greek songs available in the library is attached to this website. It is important to know that all of the songs with relevant lyrics and sheet music are available to the Public and can be photocopied.


Christina G. Vergadou

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Hellenic Encyclopedia of Education: World Biographical Dictionary, (Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon 1991)
Kairofyllas, G. I Athina stin dekaetia tou ’50 (Athens during the 1950s) (Athens: Filippotis, 1993)
Motsenigos, S. Neoelliniki Moussiki: Symvoli eis tin istoria tis (Neo-Hellenic Music: contribution to its history (Athens 1958)
Mylonas, K., Istoria tou Ellinikou Tragoudiou (History of the Greek Song), 4th ed. (Athens, Kedros, 1984)
Stratigopoulou, D. Attik (Athens: Estia, 1986)
Stratigopoulou, D., Tragoudondas (Singing) (Aetos, 1954)
Synadinos, Th., To Elliniko Tragoudi (The Greek Song) (Athens: Akropolis, 1922)
I Athinaki Epitheorisi, (The Athenian Review, edited by Th. Hatzipandazis – L. Maraka (Athens: Ermis 1977)
Hatziapostolou, A.,, Istoria tou Ellinikou Melodramatos (History of the Greek Melodrama, Athens: 1949)

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Radio Archive: Moussiko Theatro (Musical Theatre I ERA CD 301, (Athens: ERA, 1977), Vassiliadou, M. Nezer. Nikolaidis, Kyriakos, etc..
Attik (real name: Kleon Triantafyllou): Attik, xanazontas sti mandra tou 7243480035 2 2, Attik; reliving on his “yard” (Athens: Minos-EMI), Mareli, Zaha, Lambo, Koronis.
Attik (real name: Kleon Triantafyllou), Attik: O Diavatis tis Zoes, (The Wayfarer of Life) PAN 203 (Athens: Pandora, 1995) Moschonas, Mendri, Attik, Epitropakis, Stratigopoulou & others).
Yiannidis, K (real name: Yiannis Constantinidis), O Exairetos kyrios Yiannidis, (The Extraordinary Mr. Yiannidis) 3376 (Athens: Lyra 1984), Zorbala (donated by G. Savvidis).
Yiannidis, K (real name: Yiannis Constantinidis, Kostas Giannidis: dedication 724 2480060 2 8 Athens: Minos-EMI, Gounaris, Karagiorgi, Mendri, Danae, Zilia & others.
Elliniko Lyriko Theatro: 100 chronia 1888 – 1988 (Hellenic Opera: 100 years 2 LP set, YP 4/5, Athina, Ypourgeio Politismou, 1987 (Ministry of Culture, 1987) Angelopoulos, de Hidalgo, Mylonas, Moraitis & others.
Palia Epochi, Epitychies 1900 – 1945 (Old Times, Successes 1900-1945), PA 5709 (Athens: Panivar) Vembo, Naltsas, Danae, Fatseas & others.
Palia Taverna. Tragoudia tou krasiou (The Old Tavern, wine songs) PA 5409 (Athens Panivar) Χορωδία και Μαντολινάτα Διονύση Αποστολάτου. (Mandolin orchestra and chorus of Dionysis Apostolatos).
Σακελλαρίδης. Θ., Ο Βαφτιστικός και άλλες επιτυχίες, PAN 201 (O Vaftistikos kai alles epitychies) (The Godson and other successes) Athens, Pandora 1995), Epitropakis, Zographou, Pandazinakos. Zachariou, Iatridou, Vembo & others.
Σαμάρας, Σ.: Ρέα, ΥΠ 1/2 (Αθήνα: Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Επιστημών, 1985), Τρούσσα, Βουτσίνος, Ορχήστρα και Χορωδία της Βουλγαρικής Ραδιοφωνίας, διευθ. ορχήστρας : Β, Φιδετζής . (Samaras, S. Rea, Y.P. 1/2, Athens, Ministry of Culture and Sciences. 1985) Troussa, Voutsinos, Orchestra and Choir of the Bulgarian Radio, directed by Vyron Fidetzis.
Σοφία Βέμπο 30 χρόνια, GSX 8 (Αθήνα:Columbia) Βέμπο (δωρεά Γ, Σαββίδη) (Sophia Vembo, 30 years, 33GSX 8 (Athens: Columbia) Vembo (donation by G. Savvidis).
Σοφία Βέμπο: Γερακίνα, ΠΑ 5736, (Sophia Vembo: Gerakina) Athens:Panivar)
Στέλλα Γκρέκα, SREG 2157 Athens EMI-Regal, 1974,  (Greka) donation: G. Savvidis.
Songs of the City:Liga Louloudia an theleis steile mou” (Send me a few flowers if you wish) 1930-1950 30/301 Periodical Echos, April 1998.
Songs from the Mid-War Period, No. 1 MBI 10515-2 (Athens MBI, with Makris, Nikolesko, Attik, Iatridou, de Hidalgo, Gounaris & others.
Songs from the Mid-War Period, No. 2, MBI 10515- (Athens MBI. with Makris, Nikolesko, Attik, Iatridou, deHidalgo, Gounaris, Lappas & others.
Ta Tragoudia tou topou mas, (The songs of our land), 526 887-2, 2 CD set (Athens, Polygram, 1995, Trio Belcanto)  Hatziapostolou, N. Pente Megala Erga (Five Great Musical Works) – The woman on the street (The street woman??) /The apaches of Athens/Love Exercises/The Neighborhood Gal/First Love, PAN 205 (Athens, Pandora 1995) with Zaharatou. Zographou, Pandazinakos, Moutsiou etc.
Hatziapostolou, N. The leading singers of the National Opera sing songs from his operettas, CD 0066, (Athens: Lyra, 1991) with Skarlatou, Sermie, Gabrielidis, Beris, and others, Conductor: A. Hatziapostolou.
Nikos Gounaris’ Greece, T 10128 (Hollywood: Capitol)

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Major composers

Attik (real name: Kleon Triantafyllou) (circa 1882-1885 to 1944) Vellas, Yannis
Votti, Lola Vottis, Antonis
Yakovlef, Niki Yiannidis, Costas (real name: Yannis Konstantinidis) (1903–1984)
Gounaris, Nikos Theofanidis, Menelaos
Iakovidis, Jacques  Kessaris, Joseph (1845–1923)
Kessaris, Spyridon (1857– 946) Karrer or Karreris, Paul (1829–1896)
Katrivanos, Mimis  Kokkinos, Nikolaos
Korinthios, Joseph  Kofino, Ioulios
Kyparissis, Yannis Konstantinidis, Grigoris
Lavdas, Nikolaos  Labelet, Georgios[viii] (1875–1945)
Labelet, Napoleon (1864-1932) Lavrangas, Dionysios (probably 1860–1941)
Marinos, Takis Mouzakis, Georgios
Myroyannis, Giorgos Morakis, Takis
Xanthopoulos Timotheos (1866–1942) Repitis. Leo
Ritsiardis, Joseph (1898–1979) Rodios, Demetrios (1862–1958)
Sakellaridis, Theofrastos (1882–1952) Samaras, Spyridon (1861–1917)
Souyioul, Michalis (1906–1958) Spartakos, Yannis
Stroumboulis, Christos (1870–1903) Farouggias, Tonis
Hairopoulos, Christos Hatziapostolou, Andreas
Hatziapostolou, Nikolaos (1884–1941)

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Major lyricists 
Anninos, Babis Yannakopoulos, Christos (1909–1963)
Yiannoukakis, Demetrios (1899–1974) Demetrakopoulos, Polyvios (1864–1922)
Dragatsis, Aimilios Drossinis, Georgios (1859–1951)
Karavias, Orpheas Kofiniotis, Kostas 
Laskaris, Nikolaos, (1868–1945) Manesis Kostas
Menestrel, Paul Moraitinis, Timos
Nikolaidis, Costas Polemis, Ioannis (1862–1924)
Pretenderis, Costas Pythagoras
Savvidis, Emilios  Sakellarios, Alekos
Spyropoulos, Vassilis Traiforos, Mimis
Tsokopoulos, Georgios

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Major performers


Angelopoulos, Yannis (1881–1943) Attik (real name: Kleon Triantafyllou (circa 1882-1885 to1945)
Vembo, Sophia (1910–1978) Delendas, Antonios (1906–1966)
Demetriadis, Tetos Epitropakis, Petros (1897–1977)
Zaha, Nini  Zacharatou, Anthi
Iatridou, Sotiria Kalo, Kali
Kantiotou, Olympia Koronis, Spyros
Kyriakos, Petros (1891–1984) Konstantopoulou, Nadia 
Lambo, Elsa Laoutari, Aphrodite 
Lappas, Odysseas Makris, Orestis (1899–1975)
Marelli. Eliza Mendri, Kakia
Moschonas, Nikolaos (1907–1975) Brillandi, Zaza 
Nika, Rozalia Nikolaidou, Koula
Nikolesko, Paola Salingaros, Spyros
Stratigopoulou, Danae (1918- ) Frangia, Nounouka 
Foka, Nina de Hidalgo Elvira

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Recordings (See also Discography)

Schreier / Bottero: To Tango ton Rodon (The Tango of the Roses) with Orestis Makris, recording of 1929 (see The Songs of the Mid-war Period, No. 1 (part 1, part 2, part 3).
O Barba Yannis o Kanatas, (Barba Yannis the potter) with Elvira de Hidalgo and Yannis Angelopoulos (see the Songs of the Mid –war Period No. 1, part 1, Part 2 and part 3).
Gay / Furber: A New Folly, with Nikos Gounaris (see the Songs of the Mid-War Period No. 1 (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)
Hatziapostolou, N. Beba mou Beba mou, (My baby my baby) from the musical character play “O Vassilias tou Halva” (the King of the Halva) with Nounouka Frangia and Spyros Salingaros (see Ta Tragoudia tou Mesopolemou, (The Songs of the Mid-War Period, (No. 1, part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4).
Attik, (Kleon Triantafyllou): Paparouna ( the Poppy) with Nini Zaha (see Attik:  Xanazontas sti Mandra tou (re-living on his back yard) (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
Mastoras, Stathis: Pitsa Pipitsa from the operetta I Pipitsa mas (Our Pipitsa) with Nounouka Frangia and N. Kondopoulos (see Tragoudia tou Mesopolemou No. 2 (the Songs of the Mid-War Period, No. 2 (part 1, part 2).
Stis Plakas tis Anifories (On the slopes of Plaka) with chorus and mandolin orchestra of Dionysis Apostolatos (see Palia Taverna, tragoudia tou krasiou part 1 and part 2) the Old Tavern: (wine songs part 1, part 2)
Apopse thartho (I will come tonight) (see:”the old Epoch” part 1, part 2).
Yiannidis, Kostas (Konstantinidis, Yannis): Hthes to vradi oneireftika, (Last night I had a dream) with Danae singing (see “Kostas Yannidis: dedication”) (part 1, part 2, part 3).
Hatziapostolou, Nikolaos: my retsina. my retsina (from the operetta, Apaches of Athens, Themis Sermie and Makis Gavriilidis, singing (see The leading singers of the National Hellenic Opera sing songs from the operettas by Nikos Hatziapostolou (part 1, part 2)
Hatziapostolou, Nikolaos Like a magical dream from The Apaches of Athens, with Maria Skarlatou (see “The Leading Singers of the National Opera sing songs from the operettas of Nikos Hatziapostolou,” (part 1, part 2, part 3).

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[i] see K. Mylonas. The History of the Greek Song, v. 1
[ii] The Song Catalog of the Library gives the year of publication (of each song) only whenever it appears on the sheet music. Thus, in many cases (especially for songs published before 1900) no date is given. However, it is quite possible to determine the date of publication from other facts such as the period in which the composer lived or the «age» of the paper on which the music is printed.
The catalog of old Greek songs by Panos Mavraganis is available on the internet. It contains 3,500 titles and sheet music is available for some of them. The catalog provides information about the composers, the lyricists, the performers, etc. The internet address is
[iv] see «The Athenian Review» edited by Th. Hatzipandazis – L. Maraka
Athens, Hermes 1977. v. A 1, page 121
[v] o.p. Bibliography p. 63
[vi] Indicatively, we should mention: Veloudios, Mystakidis, Efstathiadis, Makris (sometimes mentioned as Mystakidis- Makris and later as Makris-Music), Fexis, Gaitanos, Konstantinidis, Starr (the last three often collaborated in certain publications), Kazazis, Harikiopoulos, Christidis, Vergiadis and others.
[vii] According to some, «in this way, he was trying to stay away from the notion that he was the creator of light popular songs». However, it seems that he did use a pseudonym in order to avoid confusion with another contemporary composer named Gregory Constantinidis.
[viii] In some cases, he appears under the pseudonym «Karousos.»

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