Saturday, 17 May 2008

Radio Akritas: Anestis Delias

Anestis (Anestos or Artemis) Delias was born in Smyrna in 1912 and with Markos Vamvagaris, Giorgos Batis and Stratos Payioumtzis made up The Legendary Quartet of Piraeus, which defined the Piraeus school of rembetika that lasted until 1937 when the Metaxas regime cracked down on the music and those who played it.

Delias was badly affected by the suppression of rembetika and in 1938 got mixed up with Katerina or Koula the Skoularikou (Koula the Earring), a prostitute and heroin addict, who, the rembetologist Ilias Petropoulos claims, was so fearful of losing Delias that while he slept she would insert a paper cone up his nose, blow heroin through it and in this way induced him to become dependent on the narcotic and on her.

Indeed, Delias, despite all the songs rembetes wrote about drugs, was the only rembete to become involved with heroin, and to succumb to it; for, having done everything he could to escape heroin and the clutches of Koula the Earring, including joining the army and fighting on the Albanian front in 1940-41, the Earring tracked him down in Athens and drew him back into her orbit, soon after which, in the winter of 1944, Delias was found dead in the street outside the teke Seraphim in Metaxourgio of a heroin overdose, clutching his bouzouki.

In Radio Akritas, I've made available four Delias songs:
1. Ο Πόνος του Πρεζάκια (The Junkie's Complaint);
2. Νίκος ο Τρελάκιας (Crazy Nick);
3. Το Κουτσαβάκι (The Show Off); and
4. Το Σακάκι (The Jacket).

The Junkie's Complaint, written in 1935, before he knew Koula – who outlived Delias, her victim, by 50 years – is horribly prophetic:

From the time I started to smoke the dose
The world has turned its back on me; I don't know what to do.

From sniffing it up, I went on to the needle

And my body slowly began to melt.

Nothing is left for me to do in this world

Because the drugs have left me to die in the streets.


fvasileiou said...

Great post! Delias' tragedy left a scar to the people of rebetiko.

john akritas said...

Hello Foti, I'm glad you liked the post.
'Ενας αγγελος πεταμενος στα σκουπιδια' (an angel cast in the rubbish) is how Markos described Delias.

For those who don't know, Fotis' blog – Σημειωματάριο – is one of the best Greek blogs out there; a goldmine of information and intelligent comment on Greek (and other) culture.

Odysseas King said...

idiocy. Anestis Delias was most certainly not the only rembete to do heroin.
Even a cursory knowledge of rembetica clearly shows that a fair amount of rembetes did heroin.
Try Andonis Kalivopoulos for instance. He most definitely did heroin. His words "ime prezakias, aderfo" --> I'm a junky, brother.
I mean seriously...
And Kalivopoulos was certainly not the only other one.
Stellakis Perpiniadis wasnt a junky but he definitely did heroin from time to time...

Many more just like that.

I dont know how this myth/rumor of Anestis being the only rembete to get involved with heroin got started, but it's just not true.