Having left Greece at the age of 18 to study in Israel, I had packed a suitcase of clothes, a few cds, a couple of books. After a few good years in Israel, and even though I am happy to be here, when I listen to Greek music I love on the radio on Fridays, I feel a yearning, a longing, a connection, that at times is so intense that I can't help but cry. I had the chance to interview one of my Greek music heroines this week, Dimitra Galani, towards her upcoming concert in Tel Aviv next week, whose music all of us Greeks born in the seventies grew up with
Yvette: Dear Dimitra, please share with your Israeli audience how you started with singing and when did you move to singing as your career. Did you have other careers before singing?
Dimitra Galani: I got engaged with music and singing from a very young age. I studied guitar at the conservatory and it was soon after, that my voice was noticed by renowned Greek composers and poets who wrote songs for me. My debut with singing was at a very young age. I was sixteen when I recorded my first songs, and appeared in concerts. Since I was a young girl, I knew that music would be my life path.
Yvette: You were very lucky! What is it that you like about singing? Do you write the words and music of the songs you sing?
D. G. I believe that the art of music is the most immediate art form. That which happens on the stage among musicians gets across to the people in the audience and the evening is completed with the people's participation. It's a completely interactive process, almost mystical. I am a musician and I write the music to many of my songs, as well as music for the theatre, cinema and television.
Yvette: What made you come over to sing in Israel the first time you came and when was that?
D. G. It has been already a few years now that I notice Israelis among the audience of my performances in Greece. When the chance came up, about a year and a half ago, following Bracha's suggestion and Yaron's encouragement, it all felt positive, and I took the decision to come. And am happy this happened and I discovered the Israeli audience who is open and eager to listen to quality Greek music.
Yvette: How is the situation in Athens now, when it comes to singers and musicians like you? Is there enough work?
D. G. The situation in Greece and generally in Europe, I would not say is a good one. The crisis has influenced people a great deal. Beyond the economic sphere, the crisis has impacted people psychologically too. Before the crisis there was a kind of exaggeration in nightlife entertainment. There were lots of people who spent a great deal of money in it. I was never in synch with that mindset, which explains why my performances took place in select locations and for a limited time period and with programming that had a beginning, a middle part and an end. My way was a completely different way which had limits, respect and substance. That is what I always did, and that is what I continue to do to this day.
Yvette: Indeed and you are a master at it! I wonder how is the situation of women professionals in Athens? Do you consider yourself a feminist?
D. G. I believe that people should have equal rights. I come from a family where women were working, were mothers and wives. I know that this was their choice but also the choice of their husbands who were proud that they had by their side women who were so active and with strong characters. Hence, I never felt the urge to enroll in some kind of movement. At the same time I understand that my case is not the rule but rather the exception and I see that here in the Mediterranean and east of us there is social inequality. I believe there will come a time that this will end and that it will become clear to all that only through love and equality can we face the grave issues that challenge our planet and believe me for this to happen both men and women are needed. Man is needed, and called forth to act as a being who is not divided by his differences with other men. Man and woman came to earth to face life together, as one.
I thank Dimitra for her precious time and what comes to mind is the good time we had yesterday at the Greek community center of Jerusalem, in celebration of Greek Orthodox Christmas. Towards the end of the event, Kostas, Asher, Elias and Ahmdad sang together in Greek, and for as long as we sang along in unison, we all felt like brothers and sisters, rejoicing in song, in celebration of the holiday marking the birth of the God of our local Christian brothers.