Saturday, August 1, 2009

Singing with the Greeks

Greek poet Seferis (1900-1971) wrote a poem that Theodorakis put to music, sung in the above video by Maria Farantouri (Version #1).

People all over the world are singing this song.

Version #2:
Wrazas, Kaminski and Koscielniak sing and dance it here
in Polish.

Version #3:
Jocyln P. Smith, a jazz singer from Queens, NY sings it here
in English.

Version #4:
Finnish singer and human rights activist Arja Saijonmaa sings it here
in Swedish.

Version #5:
It's sung here as background in Jules Dassin's film "The Rehearsal" ("I Dokimi", 1974).

Version #6:
Here's Mihalis Rizes's version, where he gives us a mini visual tour of Greece.

Version #7:
Here is Grigoris Bithikotsis singing it.

Version #8:
Here finally, a room full of people at a reception belt it out, while the text in the original Greek is displayed on the screen.

I love this song. I remember the first time I heard it, wanting so much to be able to sing it in the original Greek but I was still struggling to learn and pronounce the Greek alphabet.

For anybody who has happened on my blog today who would like to join in and sing along (oh come on, plunge in and give it a try, all three of you!), here's a crude phonetic helper that you might find useful. I emphasize the word crude, ha ha. Some syllables are drawn out when sung, which accounts for the ah-ah-ah's and o-o-o-ee's, etc. My apologies to Greeks (and linguists) everywhere.

Sto pair-ee-YAH-ah-ah-lee DOH-kree-fo
k’YAS-pro sahn PAIR-e stair-ee-air-ee.
Theep-SAH sa-meh toh-mess-ee mair-ah-air-ah-air-ee
Ma-DOH nair-o-o glee-ee-ee fo
Theep-SAH sa-meh toh-mess-ee mair-ah-air-ah-air-ee
Ma-DOH nair-o-o glee-ee-ee fo.

Pahn-oh stin ah-ah-ah mo TEEN ZAHN-THEE
GRAHP-SAH-meh Toh-no-ma-ah-ah-teece
o-RAY-a poo fiz-eek-seh o bah-ah-ah-ah-ah-teece
Kay zfis-tee-kee ee gra-ah-ah fee
o-RAY-a poo fiz-eek-seh o bah-ah-ah-ah-ah-teece
Kay zfis-tee-kee ee gra-ah-ah fee.

Meh tee kardia-ah-ah meh TEE pno-ee
TEE POTH-os keh-tee pa-ah-ah-thos
PEER-a-meh TEE zo-ee-maz LA-ah-ah-ah-ah-thos
K’yah-LAK sah-meh-eh zo-o-o-ee
PEER-a-meh TEE zo-ee-maz LA-ah-ah-ah-ah-thos
K’yah-LAK sah-meh-eh zo-o-o-ee.

I realize few readers will actually take the time to click on and listen to all eight versions listed above. But I'm keeping them anyway in case I ever want to hear any of them again. Blogs as personal music archives (for those without an IPod), accessible at the click of a mouse (provided you can locate a computer).

Music connects us all. Understanding the words takes us deeper into a people's culture where we don't just feel their joy or pain, we begin to comprehend it. Life without words or music--unimaginable. Whatever would we do without our poets and musicians!

In case anyone is curious, here are the words in the original Greek, followed by an English translation. It's a good way to learn a language, by the way. Listen to Versions #1, #5, #6, #7 and #8 sung in Greek, for example, while looking at the original Greek text below. Your brain will begin to associate the letters with the sung sounds, which recognition may later prompt you to want to say--go and learn Greek--("Your personal challenge for the year is to ... learn a new language!").

You can use this method, not only for Greek but to introduce yourself to ANY other language. Heck, why not. You never know, it might open up a door to surprising new insights re: language and culture and the written word. It did for me. Anyway here it is:

[a/k/a Στο περιγιάλι το κρυφό]

Στο περιγιάλι το κρυφό
κι άσπρο σαν περιστέρι
διψάσαμε το μεσημέρι•
μα το νερό γλυφό.

Πάνω στην άμμο την ξανθή
γράψαμε τ' όνομά της•
ωραία που φύσηξεν ο μπάτης
και σβύστηκε η γραφή.

Mε τι καρδιά, με τι πνοή,
τι πόθους και τι πάθος,
πήραμε τη ζωή μας; λάθος!
κι αλλάξαμε ζωή.

Here is an English translation:

DENIAL [a/k/a On the Secret Seashore]

On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.

On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.

With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life; a mistake!
So we changed our life... [1]

[English translation by Edmund Keeley and Phillip Sherrard]

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