Stelios Kazantzidis / Efuge-Efuge

Stylianos “Stelios” Kazantzidis (1931 – 2001) was a prominent Greek singer. A leading singer of Greek popular music, or Laïkó, he collaborated with many of Greece’s foremost composers.

Kazantzidis was born in Nea Ionia, in Athens, Greece. He was the first of two brothers born to Haralambos Kazantzidis (of Pontian roots from Ordu) and Gesthimani Kazantzidis, who came from the town of Alanya (known as Alaiya) in Southern Turkey and migrated to Greece as a result of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). He was orphaned at the age of 13 when his father, a member of the Greek Resistance, was tortured to death by the rightists. This forced Kazantzidis into employment, working as a baggage-carrier at Omonia Square and then for an interstate bus company, as a seller of roasted chestnuts at open markets, and as a labourer at the Nea Ionia textile mills.

His life changed when the owner of a factory, which was located in the Perissos working district, gave him a guitar. He spent long hours playing music. He made his first public appearance at a Kifissia night club in the early 1950s and soon after, in July 1952, made his first studio recording at Columbia studios with a song entitled “I’m going for a swim” (Για μπάνιο πάω), written by Apostolos Kaldaras. It did not do well but he tried again, recording Giannis Papaioannou’s “The suitcases” (Οι βαλίτσες) soon after. The song became the first of many hits and with his newfound popularity he began to make appearances in some of the biggest clubs of the time, like “Theios”, “Mpertzeletos” and “Rosignol”. With his career in full swing, Kazantzidis began to collaborate with some of the biggest names in Greek music, among them Manolis Chiotis, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, and Stavros Xarhakos.

A hallmark in his career — and an event of great importance for the musical scene of post-war Greece — was his cooperation with composer Vassilis Tsitsanis. Starting in 1956 it resulted in several new songs as well as reinterpretions of Tsitsanis older songs. Kazantzidis, thus, sung and popularized such rebetiko classics as “Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki”, “Bakse tsifliki” and “Ta Kavourakia”. These songs, and many others, previously unknown to the wide public suddenly became cherished and sought-after.

“Mantoubala”, a Kazantzidis original, was inspired by an Indian film he saw. This was the first record in Greece to sell over 100,000 copies, an amazing fact since the total population of the country (at the time) was about 6.5 million.

Stelios Kazantzidis married Marinella on 7 May 1964 and they toured together in Germany and the United States. The two of them became a legendary duo. In 1965, Kazantzidis, whilst at the peak of his career, decided to stop appearing in nightclubs. He didn’t sing in public again for the rest of his life. For the next ten years, he only released studio albums. In September 1966 he divorced Marinella, and they recorded their last duets (“Mh Mou Lete Gia Authn”, “Apopse Se Eho Stin Agalia Mou” and “I Kardia Tis Manas”) for Philips the following year.

Litsa Diamandi became his primary female harmony vocalist in 1968, following Marinella’s departure. The album simply titled Stelios Kazantzidis (often referred to as the “balloon album”, due to its cover artwork), was a transitional album. Marinella sang on some songs (including “Pame Tsarka”-an updated version of Tsitsanis’ “Bakse Tsifliki”) and Diamandi on others (e.g. the big hit “Efiye Efiye”).

In 1968, Kazantzidis recorded “Nyhterides Ki Arahnes”, written by newcomer Hristos Nikolopoulos; the song became an immediate success. The follow-up to this album, Ena Gramma had a number of hits, which included “Sto Trapezi Pou Tha Pino”, “Pare T’ Ahnaria”, “Tha Kopso to Telefono” and “Kai Oi Andres Klene” (men cry too). Marinella had an “answer back” to that latter song, by releasing “Oi Andres Den Klene” (men don’t cry).

In 1973 he collaborated with songwriter Akis Panou and released an album with six songs, including one of his biggest hits, “I zoi mou oli”, and in 1974 he recorded “Stin Anatoli”, composed by Theodorakis. The next year he recorded another one of his biggest hits, “Iparho”, penned by Pythagoras. Suddenly Kazantzidis rocked the Greek music industry again, when he announced his decision to stop recording. He accused his label of “colonial-like” contracts and took a leave from recording. In 1987 he recorded again for the first time after 12 years. “Ο Dromos Tis Epistrofis” (Ο Δρόμος της Επιστροφής) sold 200,000 copies and became a commercial success. He continued to release records occasionally for the rest of his life. Kazantidis, besides his work on folk music, also recorded four records with Pontic alongside Chrysanthos Theodoridis, the greatest Pontic singer, songwriter, and lyricist.

In Israel, he was a musical icon. Many of his songs were translated into Hebrew and performed by the country’s leading singers. Yaron Enosh, an Israel Radio broadcaster who often plays Greek music on his programs, described the singer’s ability to combine joy with sorrow: “This is the task of music: to touch the entire range of feelings…Kazantzidis could do this; he played on all the strings.” To the Greek Jews who immigrated to Israel, Kazantzidis was “the voice of the world they left behind, for good or for bad.” According to the operator of Radio Agapi, a station that plays Greek music 24 hours a day, “Kazantzidis was the voice of the people, of the weary, the exploited, the betrayed. And the voice of the refugee and the emigre, too.”

Kazantzidis also sang in Turkish.

In the 1970s/80s, many Greek recording artists, including Kazantzidis, had recordings issued by the New York-based P.I.(Peters International)label, for the Greek diaspora in the USA.

Minos also had Kazantzidis recordings issued in Israel, for the local market there.

Kazantzidis died of a brain tumor on September 14, 2001. His death was an emotional event for Greece, as attested to by the many obituaries in appreciation of his life and work. Kazantzidis was given a national funeral through the streets of Elefsina (26 km from Athens) which was broadcast live on Greek television. His music was also beloved by the Greek diaspora all over the world, capturing their feelings in the difficult post-war period.

He was commemorated on a Greek postage stamp in 2010.

Efuge Efuge (or Efige Efige, Greek: Έφυγε, έφυγε) is written by Vasíli̱s Vasileiádi̱s (Βασίλης Βασιλειάδης) and Pythagoras Papastamatiou (Πυθαγόρας Παπασταματίου). It appeared on numerous compilations, but I couldn’t find info about first release.

Efuge Efuge is featured in Season 2 of the hit HBO TV series The Wire and is released on it’s compilation album. Cover version by Macedonian singer Pepi Baftirovski is released in 1970. It has been sampled, and used in the songs by J Dilla (“Track 19”) and Action Bronson (“Eastern Promises”).

English translation of the song:

She left (Efuge-Efuge)

I have a hot (piece of) iron in my heart
It’s your love that tortures me
In my entire life I will have
A burden on my conscience
For (because of) the so many mistakes of mine
That turned you away from me

She left, she left, she left, I lost her
And I turn around, and I ask
And I have caught (taken) the streets

I wake up from my sleep and I ask for you
Now I understood how much I love you
In my entire life I will have
A burden on my conscience
For (because of) the so many mistakes of mine
That turned you away from me

Artist / Stelios Kazantzidis (Στέλιος Καζαντζίδης)
Track / Efuge-Efuge (Έφυγε, έφυγε)
Genre / Laïkó

Stelios Kazantzidis (Στέλιος Καζαντζίδης)
Also known as / Stylianos "Stelios" Kazantzidis
Origin / Greece
Genre / Laïkó
Links / Wikipedia, Discogs