CULTURE

An old-school singer of today

Possessing old-school authenticity in her vocal delivery that is capable of covering rebetika, Smyrneika, and Greek folk, as well as more contemporary ballads, Glykeria, who first emerged back in 1974, has continued to maintain the qualities that, by the early 1980s, had distinguished her as a potent force on the local music circuit. Back then, clubs offered genuine entertainment miles away from the image-obsessed exhibitionism that dominates the scene today. Whether delivering a modern-day ballad by Nikos Ziogalas for younger fans, or performing with renowned foreign acts such as Natasha Atlas or Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Glykeria remains equally devoted to her work, possibly because singing has always stood as a basic part of her life and her family’s in Serres, northern Greece, where the artist was raised. Singing comes naturally to Glykeria – anywhere, anytime. It could be backstage with colleagues at the Sfendona Club, where the artist is currently headlining with Costas Makedonas, or at home while preparing coffee ahead of an interview. Besides the club shows, Glykeria is currently also preoccupied with a forthcoming album with new songs by Antonis Vardis, Pantelis Thalassinos and Vassilis Kazoulis, a Socrates Malamas cover, and more. In an interview with Kathimerini, Glykeria described the upcoming album as «laika songs (popular Greek) that reflect our times.» What do you consider to be laika these days? Today, love songs represent the laiko style. The social aspect dimension is rare. You see, times have changed. Laiko cannot maintain its form of the ’60s or the intense political aspect of the post-junta years. Laiko song has loosened up since the 1980s. People began partying without guilt, dancing on tables, and enjoying themselves. In the 1990s, of course, we experienced the entechno (sophisticated Greek song) circuit quite intensely. Entechno sounds very formal, stuffy… I used the word «intense» because, initially, the form did both good and bad [to Greek music]. Many untalented acts emerged through the projection of entechno. We can see this today, now that things have cleared up. We experienced the superficial side of culture. The idea of «listen without dancing» was promoted. Listeners, after a certain point, began overturning the pretension and, to deride the pomposity, turned elsewhere for relief over domains that have now become the musical establishment. Can the growth of Greek song’s tasteless other side be attributed to entechno? Certainly. The division strengthened the other side. You can’t tell an audience to «sit silently and listen to me.» In the 1990s, you weren’t a serious singer unless you adopted this approach. And if you weren’t serious, some radio stations declined to give you airplay, and so on. But, fortunately, life is full of change. It continues to surprise us. People got fed up with the tags which forced entechno singers to change and recall their «laiko» selves and repertoires that had been swept aside. Don’t the [industry] aspects that lead to mainstream work today make you feel uneasy? I feel neither awkward nor anxious. All they prompt is sorrow. I’ve experienced similar situations, like the revival of rebetika. It was good in the beginning, but then became commercialized. Now, the only ones left are those who truly love the style. The same will happen with contemporary song. The disturbing thing today is that image, not the music itself, is foremost. We’re living in an era of replication. So you get lots of Madonnas, Britney Spears… Isn’t it a shame to see a 50-year-old woman, like Anna Vissi, act as a 20-year-old? Vissi is a wonderful singer, a good professional in her field, and a very pretty girl. But she should have attempted to sing other types of song much earlier on… There are lots of singers with good voices that are wasting themselves. Such as? Peggy Zina possesses a good voice for laiko, but the type of songs she sings do not do her justice. She’ll have problems later on when she decides to change. She’ll have to be a super singer to change style and sing a good laiko song. There’s plenty of talent among the women, but the same cannot be said about the men. [Antonis] Remos is a good singer. He doesn’t work a very tasteless style. He’s like [Yiannis] Parios, he has a good voice. One person I consider to be a good singer, and who has not received the recognition he deserves, is [Dimitris] Basis. Here’s an example of a singer that got carried away by the entechno movement. You’re particularly popular abroad and a major act in Israel. I tour wherever there are expatriates. It’s true that I’ve been very successful in Israel, but I’ve retreated from there in recent years because of the prevailing situation. Not out of fear but purely from ideological choice. We have many friends there and explicitly tell them why we’re not showing up [for concerts] these days. You know, most people there desire peace. As is the case with such situations, governments are to blame for everything. I’ve been told you’re a bookworm. That’s an exaggeration. I simply like reading… Reading is a self-need, not a pose. It ranks as one of the greatest pleasures – searching for a new book, or new writer, at the bookstore. What repels you as a reader? Supposed modern books. Those with sloganeering titles. You know, the situation that exists in the record industry and nightclubs is relevant to the book sector. People pay attention to best-seller lists and consider the entries as musts. How did you begin singing? Through a talent show on state television in 1974, «Na I Efkairia» (Here’s Your Chance). The show was new and featured a high-quality panel: Rallou Manou, Grigoris Grigoriou and Lefteris Papadopoulos. Everybody loves music in my family. But, at the time, there were no plans to go professional…