Farewell to unflagging conservationist of Greek folk

Domna Samiou, Greece?s foremost folk singer who died last Saturday of leukemia, dedicated most of her 84 years to recording, researching, salvaging and disseminating the sounds of the country?s folk music tradition. She did so until the very end.

Samiou made it her duty to remind the rest of us, in her deep distinct voice, of how people used to sing in the old days, as well as how they danced, came together and had a good time.

?She was the voice of the kind of Greece we deserve,? noted singer-songwriter Dionysis Savvopoulos, who is credited with bringing Samiou into the limelight by inviting her to sing alongside him back in 1971.

Samiou turned into a woman whose dedication, self-denial, obstinacy and, above all, love urged her to keep traveling around Greece, acquainting local audiences with the sounds and tunes of the country?s traditional music.

She was born in the Athenian neighborhood of Kaisariani in 1928, after her parents had fled their native village on the outskirts of Smyrna in Asia Minor.

At the age of 13, Samiou began taking music lessons under the guidance of prominent musicologist Simon Karras. At Karras?s association for the dissemination of Greek music, Samiou immersed herself in folk and Byzantine music traditions as well as research methodology, while at the same time attending night school.

As a member of the Simon Karras Choir, she came into contact with the National Radio Foundation (EIR) and was eventually hired by the corporation?s National Music Department.

Ten years later, in the 1960s, Samiou embarked on her own travels around the Greek countryside, recording music material for her own archive. Meanwhile, her voice was already known outside of Greece, as her travels frequently took her to places where members of the diaspora resided.

Samiou also performed extensively around Greece, appearing at folk festivals as well as at established cultural venues such as the Herod Atticus Theater, the Little Theater of Epidaurus and the Athens Concert Hall, among others.

In 1981, the artist founded the nonprofit Domna Samiou Greek Folk Music Association. Meanwhile, a large portion of her archive has been digitalized by the Lilian Voudouri Music Library. In 2005, Samiou was the recipient of a national award from President Costis Stephanopoulos.

?We owe her a great deal and what is certain is that saying thank you, as heartfelt as it might be, is not enough to include the gratitude of an entire nation,? noted Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos in a statement following Samiou?s death. He was speaking on behalf of many of us -- in fact all of us.