Nikos Xilouris

Nikos Xilouris

Nikos Xilouris was born on July 7, 1936 in Anogia village. He was 5 years old when his village was burnt by the Nazi forces and the locals were transferred as refugees in Mylopotamos. They returned in Anogia after Greece was liberated. Nikos Xilouris proved to have talent in singing and playing the lyra since he was young. He acquired his first lyra at the age of twelve and he soon became a very popular musician for weddings and other social events. At the age of 17 he started working in "Kastro", a music hall in Heraklion. As he later mentioned, it was difficult for him. "...In the cities things were different than in the mountainous villages. People danced tango, waltz, rumba, samba and we had to learn this kind of songs and play them in festivals and weddings so that we could earn money to live. Slowly we were trying to make them love Cretan music. "

In 1958 he recorded his first song "Kritikopoula mou" ("Mia mavrofora otan perna") for his first album. He had recently got married with Ourania Melabianaki, who came from a prosperous family from Heraklion. During the first years of their marriage, they lived in Heraklion and faced financial problems. Their first child, Giorgos, was born in 1960 and after 6 years, their second child, named Rinio. After the first success, Xilouris recorded many more songs. In 1966 he traveled abroad for the first time to take part in a folklore festival in Saint Remo, where he won the first price. In 1967 he starts the first Cretan center in Heraklion named "Erotokritos". Things had started to get better for him.

The recording of "Anyfantou" in February 1969 became a big success. In April 1969 Xilouris started working in music hall "Konaki" in Athens and in September he moved in Athens. A film director met him in "Konaki" and spoke to composer Giannis Makropoulos about him. Takis Lambropoulos, manager of Columbia Record Company had been interested in Xilouris’ talent and personage since 1965 and after his success with the song "Anyfantou" in 1970 he traveled to Crete with Xilouris. In Anogia Lambropoulos became godfather of a nephew of Xilouris and a new era in Xilouris career started.

Apart from traditional songs, Xilouris has also sung songs of many famous Greek composers. Xilouris career make traditional Cretan music known allover Greece for the first time, something that previous significant Cretan musicians had not achieved.

Xilouris and Makropoulos first cooperation was named "Hroniko". "Hroniko" set the traditional music on a new basis, connected with modern time. Six month later, Xilouris released a very important record called "Rizitika", dedicated to this specific type of Cretan songs. In May 1961 he started giving live performances with Markopoulos in "Ledra", a well-known music hall of the period in Plaka, Athens. During the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, Xilouris sang traditional Cretan songs and songs written by Markopoulos demonstrating resistance to the regime. Famous songs of the period are "Pote tha kani ksasteria" and "Agrimia ki agrimakia mou". Two more song collections by Markopoulos followed, "Ithagenia" and "Startis o thalassinos". Xilouris also worked with Stavros Xarhakos ("Dionise kalokeri mas", "Sillogi"), Christodoulos Halaris ("Tropikos tis parthenou", "Akolouthia") and Christos Leontis ("Kapnismeno Tsoukali"). In May 1973 he took part in a performance of Tzeni Karezi and Kostas Kazakos in Athenaion Theatre as the main singer. The play was about the recent Greek history and was entitled "To megalo mas tsirko".

Xilouris’ songs expressed the turbulent political atmosphere of the period, which lead to the Athens Polytechnic uprising in 1973. Xilouris was among the few artists of the period who appeared in newspapers. A newspaper heading reports: "Nikos Xilouris was in the Polytechnic yesterday" and Xilouris, who had already a bad record because of his political views, became a suspect for the regime that followed. Until 1979 he gave performances in "Ledra", "Archontissa", "Aposperida", then again in "Ledra", in "Kitaro" and "Themelio".

In the period of Metapolitefsi, which was after the fall of the junta, Xilouris sang more work of composers Christos Leontis, Stavros Xarhakos and Giannis Markopoulos. He also recorded the "Antipolemika" songs by Linos Kokkotos and Dimitris Christodoulos and Giorgos Seferis’ poems set to music by Ilias Andriopoulos. At the same time, he sang traditional Cretan music and folk songs written by Stelios Vamvakaris. Famous songs of the period are "Argalios", "Filndem", "Pramateftis" and "Mesopelaga armenizo". However, these immortal songs were the last he sang. He died in February 8, 1980 from a brain tumor.