Eleftheria Arvanitaki is well regarded as a contemporary Greek pop folk singer with a career that spans well over two decades. Of Icarian descent she was born and raised in Piraeus.
She is also beautiful, with her cascading hair and dark sultry looks and lean frame.
When Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson, a good friend, first saw her in the 1980s, he was quoted as saying, “Eleftheria sings like an angel, her band excel and she’s doing this three hours a night, four nights a week, 70 shows. This woman is amazing!”
Arvanitaki was dubbed by the British Roots Magazine in 2008 “a fearless musical adventurer.”
In the early 1980s days she began with rebetiko (Greek blues) ensemble Opisthodromiki Compania and then pursued a solo career.
Her capacity to stay true to her roots was demonstrated on the 1998’s Ektos Programmatos but she also produced modern music with deep roots and that is nowhere more evident than her masterwork Ta Kormia Ke Ta Maheria (The Bodies And The Knives).
Yet she is adept at serious art projects like Grigora I Ora Perase (The Time Passed Quickly) with composer Nikos Xydakis and lyrics by Sappho, collaborate with international artists like Ara Dinkjian, Cesaria Evora, Philip Glass, Dulce Pontes, Ismael Lo and many Greek names, or just do great singalong Europop like her big hit Dynata Dynata.
Ten years ago when she first appeared for London’s WOMAD she had a band featuring some of Greece’s best musicians such as clarinet colossus Manos Achalinotopoulos and bouzouki player Manolis Pappos, who thrilled the ‘world music’ crowd but left the Greek expats wondering where Arvanitaki’s pop hits were.
In 2004 she had the distinct honour of performing at the closing of the Athens Olympics on Orion by renowed composer Phillip Glass.
In a 2008 discussion with Ian Anderson for Roots Magazine she was asked about the many musical roads she has navigated over the years.
“If I have to sit back and say what I do, it’s always to combine different things and different experiences.
So at any shows you will see all the changes that I make.
I do the same show, the same mixture in London where there are many Greeks, or in Spain or Mexico where there are few Greeks in the audience.”
She is angry over the poor promotional opportunities for Greek artists outside Greece.
“It’s a problem in Greece; we don’t really know how to communicate outside Greece.
We’ve never had artists in Greece create a career outside.
We had Theodorakis when he was in Paris, we had Mouskouri in Germany, but no one starts from Greece to go out.
The main problems are the record companies and the Ministry of Culture. They don’t really care. So they both do nothing.”
She adds, “They only think of selling abroad to Greeks. Small Greek labels are starting to do this and communicate with small labels all over Europe, Australia and the US and trying to make a new market, but not big labels like Universal who have the opportunity but don’t know how to do it.”
Arvanitaki records for Universal. Arvanitaki’s last album was a collaboration with award winning Spanish producer/musician/ composer Javier Limon.
“It’s a Spanish/ Greek record – Greek songs that I collected together, but the way he hears the sound. He wrote one song for me in Spanish, but the rest is in Greek, even one song from Persia.”
Arvanitaki is clearly someone who has no qualms in marrying the traditional and the new.
Eleftheria Arvanitaki is presented by the Arts Centre, Multicultural Arts Victoria and the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne Victoria, as part of Mix It Up.
The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall.
Ticket prices $40 – $69
Book through: www.theartscentre.com.au or 1300 136 166