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Tonis Sfinos on stage. Photo: Courtesy of Tonis Sfinos
I first heard about Tonis Sfinos years ago from my friend, Despina, who insisted that he was an amazing performer, who fired up the crowds with the fun he created wherever he appeared. To tell the truth I didn’t believe her, maybe because I found Tonis’ look a bit strange with the hairdo and glasses, until this summer, when I saw him with his band at Kavala Castle, in my hometown. At the beginning of the concert, I was sure that such a show would not be successful at all in an amphitheater with stands. By the end of it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Young people, older adults, and even older, danced non-stop wherever there was space, in front of the stage, on the wooden bleachers, on the stairs, on the ground, everywhere. Tonis Sfinos had once again performed his miracle and the audience was having fun to the superlative degree. We, too, had the pleasure of meeting him and talking with him.
TNH: Who is “Tonis Sfinos” and how did he start his artistic career?
Tonis Sfinos: Tonis Sfinos is Antonis Sfinopoulos from Kalavryton Achaia, a Greek immigrant who sought his fortune in America in the 60s and stayed there making a career for 30 years. In the last decade, he returned to Greece and together with the Playmates orchestra, he performs in concerts as well as TV shows. His repertoire is from the 60s, the golden age of disco in the 70s, as well as hits from the 80s and 90s. That is why his unique style remains the same and is inspired by those years.
TNH: Where did you perform for the first time in Greece and what was the public reaction?
TS: Tonis was introduced to Greece first through YouTube in 2010 and at Christmas of the same year he made his first musical appearance in Aegina. People were looking at him like an alien, they couldn’t understand what they were seeing. It was as if someone had traveled with a time machine from the past to the present. But the fun that Tonis had amazed them and since then they got into his style and way of speaking with Greek-American [words and phrases] and everyone was talking about his performances and how much he entertains the people.
TNH: What makes people have the most fun at Tonis’ shows? What is the secret of his success?
TS: The secret is that I really like what I do, to dance when I sing, to make people laugh so that I can laugh with them, to become one and in general I do what I would like to see in an artist. And the more difficult the audience is, the more passionate and intrigued I am to make them dance and have fun. Then the result justifies me more and pleases me artistically. It’s a libido thing I think.
TNH: Could Tonis sing laika songs?
TS: He sings some laika here and there but in his own style. He teases them a bit by changing the rhythm but also vice versa. That is, by putting the bouzouki, the par excellence popular musical instrument, in disco pieces so that they acquire a Greek soundscape on a global level. This is how we play, for example, the well-known Gimme Gimme by Abba as a Hasaposerviko on a bouzouki and it’s very fun to see non-Greeks dancing to it!
TNH: Were there times when your audience was apathetic? How did you react?
TS: We have also had to perform for a very tough audience. We played and played, all our strong songs, we pulled all the aces out of the sleeve, but that audience didn’t move at all. So then I said let’s play with the saxophone that brings a bit to mind the clarinet, demotic songs! Then there was chaos and we finally got them on their feet. I asked them: “Is this what you guys wanted? Why didn’t you say from the beginning that we should start with Itia Louloudiasmeni (The Flowering Willow)!?”
TNH: There are rumors that Tonis will also present his show in New York…
TS: Yes, we would really like it, the contacts have been made and we will try to come this year. We are also a big team and we hope to succeed because concerts for Greeks abroad always have a different meaning.
TNH: Who is Tony behind the lights? What does he like a lot and what does he not like at all?
TS: I really enjoy backgammon and ouzo with good company under the plane tree in the village square, taking the sheep out on the hillside to graze in the village, and going on a Harley roadtrip to the village and listening to demotic songs along the way. So I love the village very much! On the contrary, I don’t like life in the city at all. I can’t stand its pace, its tension and stress. I’m too old for that. I want fresh air, peace and quiet fun. This is how I balance my life in front of and behind the lights, so I won’t go crazy.
TNH: What will be your next artistic steps?
TS: We continue our appearances in the fall until Christmas with Panos Kiamos at Posidonio [Music Hall] in Athens and Thessaloniki, and at the same time, two of our new songs with video clips will be released, and I am discussing a new TV project for the winter.
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