Thursday, 13 December 2007

Radio Akritas: Yiannis Papaioannou

On Radio Akritas, there are now three songs from Yiannis ‘Ο Ψηλός‘ Papaioannou, the pioneering rembetis who was born in Kios in Asia Minor in 1913 and died when he smashed his car against a lamppost in Athens in 1972.

Papaioannou’s songs are often witty and playful but his more melancholy works can be as powerful as Tsitsanis’. Papaioannou also recorded some lively songs in Turkish, which I like – and feel guilty about liking – and I thought about putting these up for their exotic value, but went instead for two melancholy songs and one ironically melancholy song – Πεθανε ο Περικλης.

The songs are:
1. Άσε με (Leave me alone), sung by Sotiria Bellou
2. Πεθανε ο Περικλης (Pericles has died), sung by Stratos Payioumtzis; and
3. Τα νειατα δεν τα χορτασα (I haven’t had enough of my youth), sung by Papaioannou himself.

Τα νειατα δεν τα χορτασα, my favourite Papaioannou song, is also known as Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα (Among the pines and firs), and is a song about tuberculosis. Here are the lyrics to sing along to:

Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα
Τα νιάτα δεν τα χόρτασα,
Δεν θέλω να πέθανω.
Σαν τον ανθό μαράθηκα, μανούλα μου,
Και δεν μπορώ να γιάνω.

Βλεπω τα φύλλα απ'τα κλαδιά,
Να πέφτουν μαραμένα,
Και όταν τα βλέπω σκέφτομαι, μανούλα μου,
Πως μοιάζουν σαν κι εμένα.

Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα
Μου’πανε πως θα γιάνω.
Γι'αυτό πήγα στη Πάρνηθα, μανούλα μου
Και στην κορφή απάνω.
Γι'αυτό πήγα στη Πάρνηθα, μανούλα μου
Το πόνο μου να γιάνω.

Among the pines and firs
I haven’t had enough of my youth,
I don’t want to die.
I’ve faded like a flower, Mother,
And I can’t get well.

I see the leaves on the branches,
Falling, withered,
And when I see them I think, Mother,
How like me they are.

Among the pines and firs,
They told me I’d get well.
That’s why I went to Parnitha, Mother,
To the high peak.
That’s why I went to Parnitha, Mother,
To cure my pain.

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