Two new releases revisit Melina Mercouri and Manos Hadjidakis

Two eminent Greek personalities of the arts and politics, the late Manos Hadjidakis and Melina Mercouri, are back in the spotlight with the release of two new musical ventures. The first, on the Sirius label, is a previously unpublished soundtrack penned by Hadjidakis for an Italian film 40 years ago, and the second is an album of songs that Mercouri made famous set to electronic music by Minos-EMI.

“Playing with Melina,” which is available in Greece and abroad, features songs composed by Hadjidakis, as well as others by Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Xarchakos, Vangelis Papathanasiou, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Joe Dassin and Leo Ferre. The compilation consists of songs that earned widespread popularity thanks to Mercouri’s performances on stage and screen but have been reset by 14 Greek musicians and given an electronica makeover. Olga Kouklaki, for example, lets her voice wash discreetly over the signature sound of Ferre’s “Paname,” Cayetano graces Hadjidakis’s “Hartino to Feggaraki” (Paper Moon) with other-worldly tones, Konstantinos Vita remixes “Agapi pou gines dikopo macheri” (My Love, You Became a Double-Edged Knife), and the band Mikro blends its sound into “Na me Thymasai” (Remember Me), while Monsieur Minimal sets famous lines by Mercouri on an electronic loop, among others.

As many artists know too well, remixes and adaptations often fall short of expectations, either because they are too forced and give the impression that the artists were just trying to follow the newest trends or because the original material has become too dated to have any resonance any longer.

In “Playing with Melina,” however, the result is a fascinating mixture of ideas that forge a creative link between the old material and the new.

Around the time that Mercouri was about to begin recording Hadjidakis’s “Ta Paraloga” in 1975, the composer agreed to pen the score for “Faccia di Spia,” a strange film by Giuseppe Ferrara intended as an accusation against the CIA and the tactics it employed. Starring Adalberto Maria Merli and Mariangela Melato, the film was a thriller bordering on the splatter genre by an Italian director who was influenced by the wave of extreme realism that had emerged at the time and who blended his fictional images with real footage of figures such as Salvador Allende and Che Guevara, as well as material featuring ruthless torturers, including the Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos.

“Manos approached the film as an opportunity to write a score about the violence of authority and revolution,” the composer’s son, Giorgos, told Kathimerini in an interview in September about the newly released recording.

The soundtrack combines pieces that follow the conventional lines of music for film and others that resemble military marches, but there is no mistaking the Hadjidakis signature.