NEW YORK – The historic Apollo Theater in Harlem was crowded with Greek music fans on January 31 for the opening concert in George Dalaras’ North American tour, The Songs of Our Life, featuring Michalis Tzouganakis, his son Alexandros Tzouganakis, and Aspasia Stratigou. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the charitable organization the Ark of the World.
Produced by Globe Entertainment and V.I.P. International, the concert tour is under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in New York and continues with stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, and Atlantic City. More cities will be announced for part two of the concert tour.
The concert opened with an instrumental medley of some of Dalaras’ best known songs which he later performed for the appreciative fans who crowded the theater. He encouraged the audience to sing along in his welcoming remarks following the first song which was performed by all four of the gifted artists. Dalaras noted that it was a moving experience to be performing in the historic Apollo theater, not only because of its extraordinary musical legacy, but also because of its historical importance in the Civil Rights movement and for democracy.
As Dalaras performed, more and more audience members joined in, prompting him to comment lightheartedly that, “some of you do sing, the others haven’t warmed up yet.”
When he sang some newer, perhaps less well-known songs, there were still many fans who also sang along. Accompanied by the enchanting vocals of Stratigou on some of the songs, Dalaras charmed the audience and affirmed his commitment to reaching out to younger performers and helping to introduce them to a wider audience.
The gifted Cretan artist Michalis Tzouganakis dazzled the audience with his virtuosity on the Cretan lute, while his son Alexandros captured the hearts of the audience with his mellifluous vocals. The wonderful rhythms of the Cretan songs were beautifully performed by all the talented musicians and even led the elder Tzouganakis to dance a bit, and if there had been more space, many would have gotten up to dance.
Dalaras also referred to the great artists who passed away in the last year and a half including Manos Eleftheriou, Yiannis Spanos, Yiannis Spathas, Giorgos Zikas, and Lavrentis Machairitsas. “They may have gone away from us, but they live on through our memory,” said Dalaras and sang Na me thimase (Remember Me) written by Machairitsas.
Among those present at the concert were His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, the Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Ambassador Maria Theofili, and the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN Ambassador Andreas Mavrogiannis, as well as the tour producer and founder of Globe Entertainment Kosta Kantzoglou.
Dalaras spoke to The National Herald immediately following the concert, “Another night in New York, our city as I always say, with emotion and joy and with the aura of this historic theater. However practical we are and realists, when you go into a place where all these legends have performed before, you are affected. I’m glad that I can take so many songs from different genres, take these songs and put them in some tones that have these associations. Because our songs whether they are popular, traditional, or contemporary songs by great composers deserve this good treatment. And we felt the people singing tonight and I’m very tired but happy.”
Michalis Tzouganakis with his lute conveyed the aura of Cretan tradition with his remarkable performance on stage. “Despite all the powerful emotions I’ve felt in New York, this one was unique because it had all the tradition of our country, all the emotion of first and second generations and the present and especially when you collaborate and appear on stage with a giant like George Dalaras. Our modern Greek song has a brand, has a legacy, has a passion, wisdom, kindness, and as it grows it really has a place in art and it is very important to be able to share your moment, your passion, your love, your place, your Crete, and never forget the places you came from, the tree has no value if it has no root. So I have to advocate for and support my father, my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother, my kids, their continuation. After two tours in Europe, it was very moving. Now we get another dimension because some years have passed and all this has matured. So we are ready to give people from the root to the mountain, from rebetiko to contemporary song, from Sfakia to the Parthenon.”
Referring to his son Alexandros who played and sang alongside him, Tzouganakis said, ”Not continuing is like it’s all over, so what do we do? We sow and water reverence to reap. We make and prepare the history. We are all, and I say it not with humility, we are the servants of history and we owe it to the human race, every generation, to unite in love together with courtesy and respect for each other’s wishes and particularities. I’m glad Alexandros doesn’t forget who he is, who his grandfather is, his father, and who his son will be.”
More information and tickets are available online: www.globeent.com.