Arvanitaki: “Australia is calling”

Eleftheria Arvanitaki, one Greece's most successful contemporary singers, is returning to Australia to perform three live concerts in March and April

Eleftheria Arvanitaki will be in Australia in March and April for three much anticipated concerts. Her soft but powerful vocals, combined with a captivating stage presence have established her as one of the biggest selling artists over the past decades in Greece. Audiences will have the opportunity to sing along to hits such as “Dynata Dynata”, “Ta Kormia Kai Ta Machairia” with the popular singer on 25 March (Melbourne), 31 March (Sydney) and 1 April (Adelaide).

Ahead of her Australian tour, Eleftheria Arvanitaki had an intimate Q&A with Neos Kosmos‘ Katerina Hatzi.

What are your feelings regarding your upcoming concerts in Australia? What is it like for an artist to be able to share their music with their fans around the world again after almost three pandemic years?

For us artists in the field of music, singers and musicians, the stage and communicating with audiences through live concerts is where we feel most comfortable. There, we express ourselves; there, we exchange energy and emotions, there, we experience the relationship with the public who believes in us and follows us. It is, therefore, vital that we can perform on stage and experience this exchange, so you can imagine how difficult the pandemic period was for us… Add the financial reasons, not only for us, but also for an entire industry related to the production of artistic events. Since last summer, and after we started working again and return to normality, there is a feeling that everything is in place and at the same time there is an appetite for creation. I am glad to be visiting Australia once again. Actually, I’m looking forward to it.

Did you feel creative during lockdown?

I would not say so. At the beginning, when we were all confused because we were facing an invisible and threatening enemy, I was more calm about it, and I will not hide from you that I also saw it as an opportunity to rest and decompress. But then, the prolonged difficulty and enforced break from our work, the aftermath of the deaths of so many people, the anxiety of the next day and the continuous disconnect from our friends and family – I am referring to those of us who have children and close relatives living far from us – all those things, killed my mood. That’s why I said “no” to streaming concerts during the quarantine: because the magic of such a “meeting”, the magic of what we will experience in the upcoming concerts in Australia, would be missing.

During your career, you had the opportunity to work with some of the best composers and artists. What do you think contributed to this?

The circumstances, the people who came my way, luck, to a large extent. And then it’s also a matter of instinct and choices. A path is determined by the “yes” and “no” you say. I feel happy for the path I’ve taken, for the gifts I’ve received, and I hope the footprint I’ll leave will accompany and inspire many generations to come. That would be a blessing.

What makes an artist stand the test of time?

The repertoire, the consistency, the commitment, the persistence, the meaningful and honest relationship with their audience and the result of their art. I have said many times that “what I have done is all me” and I mean it. I have gone through many genres, I started singing rebetika and old folk with Opisthodromiki Kompania, I have sung set poetry, pop, folk and western ballads. I have collaborated with wonderful musicians, with wonderful orchestrators, with excellent colleagues, both regional and international. And I still expect and dream of creating many nice songs and experiencing new collaborations. This is how an artist endures time.

You have sung songs with deep meaning, written by great lyricists. Do you think that today’s songs by new artists are lacking in terms of their lyrical content? What do you think the great appeal of songs that objectify women and talk about violence, drugs, guns and money?

You’re talking about “trap”, because what you’re describing is about a certain group of artists and a genre that really resonates with audiences, but luckily, it’s not the only genre that’s thriving. There is a younger generation that leaves its mark with more thought-provoking lyrics, with more beautiful paths in music. There is a youth that passionately listens to artists such as Thanasis Papakonstantinou and Sokratis Malamas and younger artists have emerged such as my friend Matoula Zamani and the even younger beautiful singer Ioulia Karapataki who continue on their paths. There is Eleonora Zouganeli with whom I worked last winter and with whom we will also tour in the summer, an excellent vocalist who already has in her repertoire great songs with great appeal. Besides “trappers”, there is Lex, there is Social Waste and many others whose lyrics hide a deep reflection of society. What I mean to say is, there are young people who set up a very remarkable course with respect for values and great ideas. And that is hopeful.

Eleftheria Arvanitaki. Photo: Supplied

Being so successful and respected for your work, how do you see the position of women in today’s society, and Greek society in particular? What difficulties is an aspiring female music artist most likely to experience?

It is considered “brave” today to want to be active in the field of music in general, whether we talk about men or women and I say this because at a time when the funding of new producers has been difficult for companies because the distribution of music is intangible and people generally want to listen to music for free, you understand that young performers and musicians more often support their own productions. In addition, the frequency of appearances is now much lower. We used to play each day with one day off, then we did four performances a week and now we get to play once or twice a week for a specific period. So, in this sense, it is brave to deal with singing and music. Women have accomplished a lot during the years, they have, rightfully, acquired more important positions. In recent years due to the #MeToo movement, both internationally and in our own microcosm in Greece, people’s inappropriate behaviours have come to the surface. That, I want to believe, will prevent such behaviours in the future. Women now have a voice and more and more are breaking their silence on issues such as sexual abuse and professional exploitation. There are still issues, for example, discrimination in professional development, but many steps have certainly been taken.

Have you ever felt, maybe at the beginning of your career, that what you have was not enough?

Never. As I told you in a previous answer, I feel grateful for my journey and the blessings I have received through it.

Although you have a career spanning four decades, you are not someone to put their personal life on display, yet, you have maintained transparent and candid communication with your audience. How have you accomplished this?

I want to be present only through my work. I always wanted that and it has always been this way. And to be honest, no one ever wanted to “peep” into my private life. It is a life attitude for me to protect my personal life and my loved ones and to place my work on a public platform. That has never changed and will not change now.

What can we expect from you next?

I am preparing a tribute to Marika Ninou, a great singer who I consider in some way “my teacher” in singing and during the summer we will continue our collaboration with Eleonora Zouganeli with concerts in Greece and Cyprus.

Do you have a message for Greek-Australians coming to your concerts?

They can expect to hear songs from my very first record until my most recent one, as well as popular songs that I love and we all love, that is, songs written by some of our best songwriters. They can expect an excellent group of musicians on stage with me. I know we will have a wonderful time together.