We have loved her through songs such as I Sotiria tis psychis, Venzinadiko, Dithesio, Ta Laika, To Hirokrotima, and many more.
While preparing for two live-streaming concerts on February 14 and 21 from the Gazarte cultural hub in Athens, one of the most famous and loved Greek artists, Alkistis Protopsalti, spoke to Neos Kosmos about her new song Nikites Hameni, memories from past collaborations, the effect of the pandemic on daily life, along with the importance of education and music.
NK: From what I have seen, you have started rehearsals for the two live streaming concerts at Gazarte on 14 and 21 February. We see that many artists are moving in this direction. Do you think that we have entered a new era or that this is something temporary?
“I would like to hope it is temporary. Surely, an artist has to adapt in a nice way to whatever is happening at a particular point in time, even if this is done online, because, it is certain that the best live streaming concert cannot possibly be compared to one with a live audience.
We have created a very nice stage set at Gazarte. We came down from the stage, we brought out sofas, carpets, musical instruments, our souls, our hearts, we put out candlesticks, as if we were in our living room. We hadn’t seen each other (the musicians) over nine months.
It is very moving to see the longing in the eyes of the musicians and the people behind the scenes. Everyone went ahead full sail, with their madness, with their love, with their love for music and, I am getting goosebumps while telling you this, these feelings really are unprecedented. It is difficult to overcome the fact that there will be no applause, which is a singer’s reward from the audience, but I think we will succeed.”
Recently, your new song Nikites Hameni was released. Can you tell me a few things about your collaboration with Michalis Hatzigiannis?
The song, Nikites Hameni, is a “child” of this era. It was sent to me by Michalis Hatzigiannis. It moved me, it went right through me. It was a “checkmate”. We used chess terms in the beginning , for instance, Alkistis’ “gambit”, like The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix (laughs).
Stavros Stavrou is a young lyricist who I have been in contact with for several years, but I could not find anything that “clicked” in my soul. Now, we have come to this successful partnership. I met Michalis Hatzigiannis and I loved him, because he is an artist with sensibilities and a huge talent.
About two years ago, I interviewed Goran Bregović when he was on tour in Australia. When I gave him the album Paradehtika for him to sign, he spontaneously told me that he particularly liked the collaboration between the two of you. Which other collaborations have been unforgettable for you?
I think that all the collaborations have put a “stone” in the “edifice” called Alkistis Protopsalti. I would not like to exclude any. It is certain that, some have a few peculiarities, like the one with Bregović.
When the idea came to me to bring these songs to Greece with Greek lyrics and I told Lina Nikolakopoulou, a small odyssey began. We drove to and from Yugoslavia almost every week. We met Goran, we went into the studio, we went to the gypsy camp, we brought with us some amazing gypsies who could play music shockingly well … of course, we had the issue of time, that is, they were not consistent with; turning up on time.
I remember they were two days late to come to the studio, I was losing my mind, we waited and waited … at some point after two days, they showed up. We found out that they were at a wedding. They celebrate all forms of life. Anyway, the short version of this situation is that this record (Paradehtika) was born, a new era was born for Greece.
I’d like to focus on a particular part of your new song Nikites Hameni and that is where it says that “the world is not made for us to live separately”. If this is indeed true, how can we still be together now that we are forced (by the virus) to be apart?
I wish I could use a magic wand and give you the answer we would all like to hear, that is, to unite, to embrace each other, to make our lives normal again. It is not easy and I do not think we will come out of this easily.
But the human soul always finds the path to the light at the end of the tunnel. To me, all of this is so unprecedented. All my life, 24 hours were not enough for me. Now, I have been “unplugged”, it’s as if I’m going through a “short circuit”. I realised that I had nothing to do. Then I figured that this might be good for me. I believe that, at some point, we will catch up with our life from where we left it. We will find joy again.
Music is something that can bring us closer, isn’t it?
Music is an incredible medium with which man has been communicating for centuries. Sound is always close to people. The planet would be very poor if music did not exist… it would be odourless and tasteless. Music is the natural psychiatrist of man.
How was the experience of traveling around Athens on the back of a truck, singing, giving joy and entertaining people, something which they need so much, especially in this situation we all live in?
After 44 days of being locked up at home, I was trying to find a way to say “thank you” to people who risk their lives (doctors, nurses, etc). How I could give, even for three hours, some joy to my fellow Athenians.
I shared my idea with the mayor of Athens, who embraced it. During the concert, the reaction I received from the people, was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced. We stopped several times, because I was crying and the musicians were too. To simply describe it would be nothing compared to the emotions we felt.
In a past statement of yours, you had said that lack of education scares you. Is it the lack of education that does not let a society move forward?
Of course. Culture starts at home, the moment a child starts being aware of things. There must be an education, a sense of justice, of offering, of “doing good without expecting anything in return”.
Education is the greatest weapon a human being can have. On the other hand, a very well-educated person may not have the same strength as a person who has grown up with life experiences.
These, sometimes, go against each other, but I believe that education is the “alpha” and “omega” in a child that grows up. To know that women are equal, that women play a huge role in life and in society. No matter how many universities one attends, it would be pointless if such important things are not taught while one is still growing up as part of a family.
Since you mentioned the contribution of women to society, the latest news we hear coming from all kinds of industries in Greece, including the entertainment industry, have caused sadness and anger. Do you think that we have reached a point where some things need to finally come to an end?
Evil must be eradicated from its “roots”. I offer thousands of gold medals to Ms (Sofia) Bekatorou, who stood her ground and found the strength to open this shocking “door”.
If Ms Bekatorou had not spoken, we would not have done any of this. The law must change immediately and not give immunity after a few years.
It is certainly sad because, with some people, you are shocked to hear such things about them especially if the way they play has a place in your heart, in your soul. …The thing I did not like at all and I made my stance public on my Instagram, was the comment by Mr Kimoulis, that the “Bekatorou-type”complaints are “fashionable” nowadays.
When such “fashion designers” are out there, these problems will be repeated, so it is good for the new generation to stop being afraid. Of course, this requires great mental strength.
Everyone should put themselves in the shoes of these girls. How do you mentally overcome everything, exposing yourself to society but also exposing the perpetrator?
I am on their side. Justice, of course, will have the last word regarding all those incidents. This is a golden opportunity to end this issue once and for all.
Let us now turn to something else. I have read numerous things about your childhood, especially how difficult it was for your family when you left Alexandria. When you hear the word “Alexandria”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a smell, a colour, a situation, or people?
The first thing that comes to mind is my parents holding my hand on the beach of Alexandria, along with an ice cream that I did not have time to eat due to the heat. My mother’s laughter, loud as a bell.
The sunsets that my father always liked to go and see, the horse-drawn carriage we rode. It was a very beautiful, tender moment for a six year old.
Then, of course, came difficult times. We packed everything in two suitcases and left Egypt. My father decided for us to come to Greece, while some family members went to America and some to Australia. I have many relatives in Australia, both in Sydney and Melbourne.
I hope, at some point, you will visit Australia again…
Of course I will!!
Any new plans regarding music?
It is the only time in my life that I cannot tell you what plans I have. That is because everything depends on the coronavirus. The most recent plans are those regarding the live-streaming concerts on Sunday 14 and 21 February at Gazarte.
Finally, do you have a message for the Greeks of Australia?”
“We are still alive”* and not only on stage, because, this is, nevertheless, a “rock”* situation that the whole planet is going through. But “the rope will hold us”*.
Better days will soon come and we will once again pick up the thread of life from where we left it. Light and future are what we have ahead of us.
(*referring to the song To Hirokrotima)
THE GLOBAL LIVESTREAMING EVENT
Alkistis Protopsalti will perform in her all-time favourite venue, Gazarte for two exceptional LiveStreaming shows. The first will take place on Sunday, 14 February, at 9pm, local time (15/2 at 6am-Eastern Australia Time) and the second show will be on Sunday 21 February at 2pm local time (21/2 at 11pm-E.A.T.) Tickets: Standard $19, Premium (including pre-show) $24,via www.gazarte.gr