Saturday night at the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival. My cousins and I had to queue for 20 minutes at the Cypriot kitchen to get sheftalies (Cypriot sausages) with patates (chips) mixed in with feta and spices. Yum.
There were people everywhere. Lots of smoke from all the meat that was cooking – chicken, lamb, you name it – it was on the spit. I try not to miss the yearly festival because there’s nothing like the Greeks getting it on: food, dance, food, dance, food and food (did I mention food?).
This year I made my way down to not only get my food but to see Glykeria. She was flown in to sing to us migrants at the Lonsdale Street Festival. The main stage was set up on the corner of Lonsdale and Russel.
I really love how the festival just shuts down that part of the city. There’s something really symbolic about that for me, making not only our presence but our contribution to this great land we call Australia (our home) felt, known, and shared with all cultures who want a taste.
When Glykeria came out and started singing my cousins and I got crammed trying to get closer to the stage.
A guy yelled out to us to go around the corner on the other side of the Greek Centre and we all just sprinted in the other direction, through the laneway, through QV and around the corner. There were heaps less people on that side. I was pretty happy about that!
Once I got some breathing space though I noticed the demographic of the crowd: there was a grandmother up on a table outside Goodies dancing, holding out her cane in the air and rocking it. But there were also many people from my generation, and all ages in between. I was amazed when a grandmother with a walker was pushing through the crowd to get to the front.
For those of you who don’t know, Glykeria is a famous pop folk singer from Greece and is in her 60s. So while it makes sense that the oldies are there, it made me think about why I was there and singing along with all the oldies.
While I was thinking this an old man started singing with me and we started singing to each other. He told he came to Australia in 1974 after the war in Cyprus. In between songs he said “be young, live your life, do everything!”
I wasn’t born in Greece and have only been twice for holidays. I have spent all my life in Australia. So one might ask why I love music by Glykeria? Why is it that on my computer under the folder ‘Greek’, along with old techno Greek tunes from my days of dancing at Billboards (The Venue), are very old pop folk artists like Glykeria, Papazoglou and Dalaras?
I actually grew up with those artists. In fact, many children of migrants did. It was probably the first music we ever heard. My parents would play their music repeatedly in the car when I was young. So this became the music of my childhood. And they didn’t really move on from that music. Just like they clung to their norms and traditions, so too did they to their music.
This music holds memories but it holds a lot more than that. It holds nostalgia, our parents’ nostalgia, for their homeland and everything they left behind. So when I sing those songs, those are the emotions I connect with.
That’s why I felt that it was really special that I was rocking it with the oldies. That’s why when my friends in Cyprus think it’s funny that I like those artists, and that I am kind of embarrassed that I am not more up-to-date with the latest Greek music, that I can understand why that is.
I am forever encased in a bubble, the migrant experience. And that’s the way it is. So I’ll keep rocking it with the oldies, probably until I am an oldie myself. And that’s my story. Maybe that’s why Glykeria started crying when she started singing Cloudy Sunday.