Musician (1905 – 1972)
Markos Vamvakaris was a famous bouzouki player and pioneer of the rebetiko style, regarded as one of the founding fathers of the rebetiko music. With a career spanning over 50 years and collection of over 200 songs, Vamvakaris became Greece’s most recognizable voice in the music industry of his time.
He was born in the island of Syros as the first of a family of six children. He did not graduate from school but instead, at the age of 12 he went to Piraeus where he worked various jobs to earn a living, namely as a butcher, coal-worker, paper boy, shoe-polisher and greengrocer before being captivated by music, being played in the taverns where he hanged out. He decided to become a musician, namely the greatest autodidact bouzouki player in the world.
He started writing his own songs as soon as he was discharged from the military and by 1933 he had written over 50 songs, which he recorded on disk under the company Odeon. These were the very first disks on rebetiko music ever published in Greece. As Vamvakaris’ name started becoming a household, he formed a music band together with 3 of his friends called The Famous Tetrad of Piraeus, which performed their songs.
1935 was the year Vamvakaris wrote his most famous song Frankosyriani, a classic love song that would solidify his dominant position in the world of music. During World War II, he composed songs to stimulate the soldiers’ esteem and inspire patriotism. He later held concerts all over Greece, touring in Thessaloniki, Trikala and Larisa multiple times. His discs were highly sought and garnered enormous success.
Vamvakaris continued to be a prolific songwriter and performer with a massive audience until 1954 when he stopped playing the bouzouki due to health problems. When he attempted to make a comeback a few years later, his music was considered outdated and he was disregarded by the music industry. This changed in the 60’s when fellow bouzouki player Vasilis Tsitsanis published a collection of Vamvakaris’ songs sung by him and numerous other acclaimed singers. This re-established Vamvakaris’ fame and allowed him to continue his career. From that point onward, he attended multiple concerts and worked with famous music talents such as Grigoris Bithikotsis.
Markos Vamvakaris, the Patriarch of Rebetiko as he came to be known passed to eternity in 1972, becoming a musical legend, leaving behind him a musical legacy unparalleled by any other rebetiko musician. He remained loyal to the music he served, choosing not to blend with politics of any sort and to leave his name unstained. Greece honours him today in several ways, namely with post stamps and with his own museum, while his songs continue to be published in disks.
- Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
- The Patriarch of the rebetiko song. Ellines.com. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.