Athens. Greek music, Greek resistance, Greek culture – all these symbolize Mikis Theodorakis. In his native land, it is said that “Mikis” was able to translate the Greek soul into the language of music so that it would be understood all over the world. Theodorakis rose to international fame as a composer, conductor, writer, resistance fighter and politician. For his compatriots, he remains the voice of the people and the “voice of Greece”. On July 29 he celebrated his 96th birthday, now Theodorakis died Thursday in Athens. “Today we have lost a piece of the Greek soul,” said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.
The nearly two-meter tall man had looked frail in recent years and had given up directing, but still took part in a concert in his honor in June 2019 at Athens’ former Olympic stadium. Theodorakis was always mentally alert and energetic. For example, when he was sitting in a wheelchair, speaking in a loud voice and with shining eyes on the political problems of his country. He also commented on the events of daily Greek politics on his website.
There were waves of excitement every time he performed live. Theodorakis raised his voice especially during the country’s severe financial crisis between 2008 and 2018 and called on the Greeks to look ahead and get the country back on track. At the same time, he founded, typically “Mikis”, a resistance movement against the severe austerity measures that international creditors had imposed on the country. Reason: He could not sit idly by in the face of how much of the population lived in poverty.
The images of Theodorakis, in which he led the orchestra, singers and often the audience into musical paradise with outstretched arms (the Greek press called him “eagle”), could only be seen on television or in old movie recordings over the last few years. .
With his popular music, he accompanied and inspired many Greeks musically and emotionally in their struggles for democracy and freedom at a historically dramatic time. Theodorakis, born in 1925 on the Aegean island of Chios, came to music through an old German film about Ludwig van Beethoven. “I saw the film with my father. I was fascinated,” he once said in an interview on Greek television. “I asked my father, who was traveling to Athens on business, to bring me whatever he could find on music in the capital. That’s how it started.”
Theodorakis then studied music at the Athens Conservatory and in Paris. He first composed classical music. His musical genius was not revealed until 15 years later: in the early 1960s, he found his way back to the roots of Greek music. He built on the Rembetiko style of music, the folk music of Greek workers and foreigners. Soon he produced his “Mikis-Sound”, which is unmistakable to this day – sometimes tragic and melancholy, then again surprisingly triumphant and revolutionary.
Many of his compatriots say that his music is characterized by a kind of magic. The composer also had countless fans internationally – including celebrities such as Arthur Miller, Francois Mitterrand, Wolf Biermann, Martin Walser and Roger Willemsen. The latter wrote after a meeting with the composer: “Europe did not have Che Guevara, it had Mikis Theodorakis. (…) We were with him. Anyone who has never dreamed of overthrowing dictatorships, as we know, never grows up. “
Theodorakis himself put it this way: “I belong to a generation dedicated to extreme idealism. My whole life has been an endless struggle between the idealist and the real, the everyday and the vision.
The film “Alexis Sorbas” with Anthony Quinn in the lead role, whose film score brought composer Theodorakis to the world in the early 1960s, was also a vision. The tape was also shown in cinemas in the GDR and later on television. To this day, the title song is considered the secret Greek national anthem – including the dance, in which people around the world throw their legs arm in arm at ever faster beats. In terms of popularity, the song’s lapidary “Tadam …” could even rival Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, musicologists say. After all: Beethoven had to get by with four notes, Theodorakis two were enough.
The film is easy to forget, however, that Theodorakis struggled with the resistance behind him. He was already a resistance fighter during World War II. In the civil war that followed (1946-1949) he fought with the left, was interned in a camp and severely tortured. He later fought against the Greek military dictatorship (1967-1974), was arrested and tortured again. Eventually, he was allowed to leave the country under international pressure and lived in exile in Paris until 1974.
After the establishment of democracy in 1974, he returned to his homeland and began political interaction. First of all, Theodorakis became a member of parliament for the Communists. When they disappointed him, he was elected to Parliament as an independent candidate with the backing of the Conservatives. For a while he was Minister of the Conservative Party, after which he became closer to the Socialists.
But he was never seen as an opportunist. Theodorakis has always fought against any form of presumptuous authority, regardless of political orientation. He hated injustice and harsh measures taken by the people, not by the rich. That’s why they loved him. (j pa)