Maria A. Nikolaidis. Photo: Courtesy of Marilou Press
NEW YORK – Maria A. Nikolaidis recently published a comprehensive, 508-page, bilingual Greek and English book about her father’s life and career, titled Apostolos Nikolaidis: Énas Gnísios Laïkós Tragoudistís Pou Den Logokríthike Poté/ Apostolos Nikolaidis: The Authentic Laïká Singer who Was Never Censored. She spoke with The National Herald about the book and sharing her father’s unique story.
The National Herald: What made you decide to write this book about your father’s life and career?
Maria Nikolaidis: There were two reasons I decided to embark on this project. First, because I believe that being an artist and providing moments of joy to others, especially through music, is one of the highest forms of human achievement. The act of giving pieces of your soul, whether in recorded form or live on stage night after night to delight and entertain an audience – that is no small feat, and I believe these kinds of artists are special human beings. And because I happened to have a person like that as a parent who created art, gave pieces of himself, and made people happy, I felt that this needed to be captured and celebrated.
The second reason was the desire to record and archive history. Since my father’s passing in 1999, I have felt it is my solemn duty to preserve and promote what he accomplished, to ensure the recognition of his talent and that his life’s work is not forgotten. To me this work is not even a question, it is an expectation – an obligation to preserve and promote his artistic legacy so that it can be appreciated by future generations.
I had been approached in the past by Greek music journalists interested in writing his biography, but I avoided that path for several reasons. In the end, I knew that to do my father’s story justice and encapsulate important historical aspects of his story that existed outside Greece’s borders, it was I who was going to do this book.
TNH: How long did the process take from idea to publication?
MN: It took about 10 years from the time I conceptualized the idea of the book to see it completed. I started thinking about it during the process of digitizing the large amounts of photographs, posters, advertisements, and other ephemera from our family archive. I could see that the items were extremely interesting and worth showcasing as historical artifacts, and that they could probably tell the story even better than mere words.
This idea of having the book’s narrative shaped by the visual artifacts really appealed to me, partly because it ensured I would remain largely in the background. I could let the photos and other visuals tell the story, and I could discreetly weave a common thread through them by speaking through the captions. In this way I could create a different kind of book, more of a visual monograph than a conventional written biography. This is how the concept came together.
It took a long time to curate the artifacts into a chronological story, partly because I also conducted new research in libraries in Greece, the United States, and Canada. I did this to complement what I already had in the family archive and to get a clearer picture of my father’s career path, especially during the early- to mid-1960s when he was still a recording artist in Greece.
I had also decided early on that I wanted the entire book to be bilingual (Greek and English), which meant I needed to take extra care and engage in a good deal of planning when it came to organizing the material as well as the writing and the design of it.
TNH: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process?
MN: Once I assumed the role of proper researcher, there were many interesting things I discovered about my father’s career that even I was not aware of. For example, I learned that he took part in the first Annual Laïká Music Festival at the Palais de Sports in Thessaloniki in January 1967 (which proved to be the only one ever held) and that he performed the song ‘I koinonía’ by Akis Panou a full 10 years before it was recorded by Manolis Mitsias.
I also discovered that he had had offers to perform abroad as early as 1963 that he had rejected because he wanted to stay in Greece and continue to build his career there. This was especially fascinating to me given my father’s eventual career path, which saw him gain most of his popularity after he had left Greece and arrived in North America.
The second thing (which I would say was more remarkable than surprising) was the very consistent way in which everyone whom I interviewed for the book who had known or worked with my father described him. I had previously only met one or two out of the more than ten individuals who provided memories and stories for the book, and many of them did not know each other, yet they all painted very similar portraits of my father’s memorable personality and distinctive character. It was this kind of input as well as correspondence from fans and admirers that gave me additional encouragement to keep going with the book, even during difficult and challenging times.
So far I’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans, musicians, and music critics alike for which I’m very grateful, because one of my goals was to create a book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in Greek laïká and rebétika music. This is a rich visual history not only of a unique artist, but of an entire era in which he flourished. I hope those old enough to remember this special time can relive it through the book’s pages, while those younger can learn about and be inspired by it.
Apostolos Nikolaidis: Énas Gnísios Laïkós Tragoudistís Pou Den Logokríthike Poté/ Apostolos Nikolaidis: The Authentic Laïká Singer who Was Never Censored, published by Marilou Press is available online: https://bit.ly/3rk4kx7
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