When George Dalaras made his comeback on December 2 with a new album of songs penned by Nikos Antypas, his fans were there to welcome his return and express their support.
The concert-goers rose from their seats when the versatile singer walked onto the stage at Gazarte in central Athens, waving their illuminated cell phones and shouting out words of encouragement. It was a far cry from the hostile reception in the Athenian suburb of Ilion last spring, when the veteran Greek singer was booed off the stage, called a traitor and had bottles of water, cups of coffee and containers of yogurt thrown at him during a free concert organized to express solidarity with crisis-slammed Greeks by a group of protesters who accused him of pandering to the system.
The new album is titled “Ti tha pi etsi einai” and the audience at Gazarte was treated to a selection of songs from it, as well as older favorites. The songs on the new album are about everyday stories and strong emotions with a pervading sense of melancholy.
Dalaras, 63, has released 70 personal albums that have sold over 14 million copies worldwide, ranging from classic rebetiko to opera and pop. He spoke to Kathimerini following his Gazarte appearance.
Your new album exudes a sense that you are trying to make a new start. Was there ever a time when you doubted yourself or your career choices?
Life always has continuity. I am often in doubt, not about my ideas, but about their application. This is not a philosophical quandary, but a practical one. When I want to do something I do it, but then I often wonder whether I got it right.
You are a grandfather now. What kind of stories would you like to tell your grandson?
My feelings are so intense. [Singer-songwriter] Haris Katsimichas describes it well in the verse “You’d be scared if you knew how much I love you.” I would love to teach him all about colors. To swim with him in the waves. To listen to magical music, like that of [the late clarinet player] Tasos Halkias or a suite by Vivaldi. Those are stories as well, aren’t they? I wouldn’t like to tell him about queens and wolves.
In your spring concert series you returned to your old haunts in Brahami, Keratsini and Ilion, until the attack. What were you thinking at the time?
The first thing I told myself was to be patient. Next I felt concern for the people who were beside me on the stage and the hundreds of people in the audience who had nothing to do with the incident. Then there was anger – the kind of anger people feel when they are wronged. I can understand their delusions, but not their actions. And I wonder: If their objections were spontaneous, why didn’t anyone come to talk to me and demand an answer? I was right there.
After the attack, were you tempted to throw in the towel, to retire?
The opposite, I’d say. Singing is a state of being for me and no one gives up the right to live and work. I am not a car that can be taken out of circulation. I will go when I choose.
Many say that you were attacked because of your wife’s political decisions [Anna Dalara is a deputy with socialist PASOK].
I know. Other than a new brand of fascism, we also appear to have a new brand of phallocracy. Anna made her choices. Right or wrong, they are her business. If I disagreed, should I have locked her up in the house so that she wouldn’t impact on my career? Seriously?
Have you ever felt that you’ve provoked some of the criticism that has been leveled against you over the years regarding your politics and activism?
I have paid a heavy price for my obsessions and beliefs. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why. For some reason, there are people who believe that a leftist can sing for Chile but not for Cyprus.
The left-wing establishment to which you belong ideologically hasn’t given you much support when you have found yourself the subject of public criticism. Does that disappoint you?
The left has thousands of problems to deal with; it can’t solve my problems as well. The left was and is an unrealized fantasy, the ideology on which so many of us found a solid basis that allowed us to evolve, even if it often appears much more superior than the people who ostensibly advocate it.
If there is one thing I would like the readers of this interview to go away with, it is this enormous fear I have over the rifts in society and the absence of solidarity. And this solidarity is something that the left can achieve.
How would you compare the present state of the country to how things were in the 1950s and 60s?
The violence and aggression is the same and just as dangerous. I may have seen it through the eyes of a child in the aftermath of the civil war, but the crash landing we are experiencing today after a period of false prosperity is really very dramatic. It is most dramatic for people who were never tempted to lie, cheat or steal, who always had a clean view of the world, who were honest and who are now living in poverty. What they are experiencing is humiliation. Then there is the rising popularity of [ultranationalist] Golden Dawn, which is very serious. We need to keep our eyes and ears wide open.