Ploutarhos: The guy next door
The Greek crisis, the music industry and family - that’s what makes Giannis Ploutarhos tick
The first moment I meet Giannis Ploutarhos he is in the middle of a fiery conversation about Greece's economic problems.
"Currently the Germans, Russians, Chinese and English are buying our islands. Huge areas with olives in the Peloponnese and in Crete have come under the hammer, and I shudder," he tells Neos Kosmos.
With his arms open wide and in a passionate voice he tells the newsroom: "Greece is not at fault".
But his arms and words belie his nature. A true gentle man; his kind and soft way was on display, humble and eager to meet everyone. Yet the situation in Greece, the lies the world has been told, the "propaganda" as he puts it, that has been reported by the world's media, had unleashed a fire in his belly that isn't going out any time soon. And he's taken it upon himself to tell Australia the truth about what's really going on in his country. The love for his country is evident, but his sadness over its predicament was etched all over his face.
The bars are empty, the clubs are suffering. Athens is in a state of panic and people have been forced to stay in to save money, or in some cases just don't have the money to go out.
"There's this false misconception during the crisis, Greeks are partying and the cafes are full," he says. "That is wrong," he says emphatically.
"Most of the shops and clubs are broke. Every summer the clubs and bars are filled, but during winter they're empty."
He has noticed days have been cut for singers who would average five shows a week and the wages are much poorer in comparison. Although, working hard is not something new for Ploutarhos.
The 15 time platinum singer certainly didn't fall into the music industry. Many might be surprised to know that Ploutarhos' beginnings were on the land, as a farmer.
Coming from a poor family in Livadia, a young 13 year-old Ploutarhos would carry 50kg sacks on his back to bring a couple more cents to the family.
At 22, he decided to leave the agricultural profession and pursue his love of singing in Athens.
"I actually became a hairdresser because I had to do something while I was working at the club; I had to start somewhere to earn a living," he says.
But again, things didn't fall into place that easily.
"I didn't have any family members or a friend in music, so I alone set out to find my luck", he says.
In the space of two years, he had quit the music business twice. But, something kept him coming back to the stage.
Finally after getting some more high profile gigs at Fantasia and Tonel, Ploutarhos got the attention of producer Giorgos Makrakis. From then on it was gig after gig, album after album that brought Ploutarhos into the hearts and homes of Greeks, all over the world. Surprisingly, 20 years in the industry definitely hasn't made him jaded. His friendliness was something that took the newsroom by surprise. Surrounded by a group of eager journalists, Ploutarhos settled into his chair, Greek coffee by his side and made everyone feel at ease.
Over two decades he has cultivated a career many would envy. He has released 11 albums, performed all around the world and had five kids with his beloved wife Maria.
In Australia on a promotional tour before his September concerts, Ploutarhos is lapping up his time meeting and greeting all his fans. But that's the kind of guy he is. Warm, loving and giving. Very giving. In 2009, he performed a benefit concert for the charity Agapi who help children with special needs. All the proceeds went to the charity and helped them build a new building and buy the land for another.
Ploutarhos refused offers to cover his expenses and brought a huge band from Athens for the event.
"I did it with all my heart and I mean that. I didn't take a cent."
The 7,500 strong crowed lapped up the concert and left Ploutarhos quite emotional.
When asked if the charity had approached him for another benefit concert, he said no. But was quick to mention his willingness for another.
"It is my pleasure to support anything that has to do with the people who have supported me so much.
"It is my way of saying thank you for all that they have given me in these years," he said.
Australia holds a very special place in his heart. Along with his charity work, Ploutarhos is quick to declare how much he enjoys the efforts Greek Australians go to uphold their culture so far away from home.
"You are more Greek than the mainland Greeks. More so you uphold the traditions, ethics and the character of Greeks," he says.
In all his love for Australia, he does have some points he would like to see improve in the Greek community.
"The only thing that worries me is that Australian Greeks don't uphold the Greek language. One culture remains only with language, not with traditional dance or ethics. Language is what keeps a culture united," he says.
For him, what keeps him grounded is his family, but is quick to point out with a smile
"It's rare in this industry, to have five children..." he begins, "with the same woman."
One thing is for certain, he takes the role of the father of the family very seriously. His career may challenge him, push and pull him and, at times, keep him away, but he always finds time for his own father, and to be a good father for his own children.
But as an ambassador for Greece, he plays a key role in making the best of Greece shine. The newsroom definitely had a chuckle when Ploutarhos said with a smile on his face, "God is Greek". What a passionate, modest and friendly man.
Ploutarhos' Australian tour starts in Adelaide on 14 September, 15 September in Sydney, 21 September in Brisbane and 22 September in Melbourne. For tickets and more information call 0438328016.
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