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My very own Marika

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Marika Ninou, Sotiria Bellou, Vicky Mosholiou, Yiota Lydia and many many more, are singers I studied a lot. Music education in Greece has missed chances to organise in many leves, let alone the craft of singing. It is however, a fascinating journey to listen to all these recordings again and again, trying to comprehend all these singers' craft. When Pavlos Carvalho, one of the most wonderful musicians and human beings I know, proposed to do a tribute to Marika Ninou, I dived into a soul that seemed very familiar and to an artistic core which encapsulated and vocalised modern Greece and the diversity of greek music, while reinventing the craft of singing. A short life and an even shorter career. Very few videos of her performing, none interview that I was able to find, she is a bit of an enigma beyond the songs she recorded; you'll have to trust your intution to connect the fragments. In the wonderful "Rebetiko" by K. Ferris, a film worth watching (full movie with english subtitles below), the main character is only loosely based on Ninou's life.

The fragments of my very own Marika: With this incredibly unique voice and music instinct and despite the fact that she had already been singing within her community, she first appeared on stage as an acrobat. The magnitute of her voice and performance as it's reflected on the live recording from Fat Jimmy's Tavern. Single channel recording in '50-'51, from a portable recorder.

In this recording the band plays the Barista (you may laugh at my choice to translate boufetzis) which is for rebetes what Mack the Knife is for jazz musicians. They invent lyrics to tease each other. She's accused of eating too much spaggethi; "Lies!" she responds with theatrical grace and then she laughs. This very rare video. Her voice and her body are pouring out this song about poverty and at the same time she just steps back for a second to happily wave a customer.

She is very sick, in pain and she sings this chorus almost with one breath.

This tribute narrates her story, her songs, the era and rebetiko, a whole world that nowadays welcomes more an more music travellers for its musical diversity and its capacity to speak about the joy of life and every form of oppression and loss at the same time. My enthusiasm for this sharing feels like falling in love. Here, live recording with a portable recorder, from our last gig, three years ago.


Isidora Bouziouri and Plastikes Karekles bow " to Marika Ninou who engraved deep inside us the names of the gods of abjection and byzantine decadence with the dagger of her voice ” (Manos Hadjidakis)

Μarika Ninou reflects mid-20th century Greece and the historic transformations that marked her short life while she reinvents what singing is; unknowingly. She is born amidst Smyrna's Catastrophy, she grows up in a refugee slum where rebetiko is born, she lives through wars, the reconstruction of post-war Greece and the transformation of Greek Society. She sings her life, her heart and her pain out; her sincere, almost pervasive singing makes her recordings sound like she's then and there when you listen to them. She deconstructs and blends all the different styles and influences that enrich Greek music at the time and she changes how a woman sings for the generations to come. “With her singing, she illustrates the woman of urban, grass-root society of her time” (Yorgos Papadakis)

Isidora Bouziouri , a passionate and magnetic singer who lives every word that she sings, joins Plastikes Karekles, an eclectic fusion of international and Greek musicians with roots from traditional Greek folk to classical and jazz, to tell Marika's story and sing her songs; the songs of a life that seem past but is defined by love and loss, joie de vivre and poverty, the underworld of outcasts and refugees and the new world of hope and prosperity.

Isidora Bouziouri, voice

Pavlos Carvalho, bouzouki, voice Michailis Spyridakis, bouzouki, baglama, voice Maria Tsirodimitri, guitar, voice


Saturday, 4th Saturday 2021, 7:30 pm

East Oxford Community Centre, 44 Princes St, OX4 1HU


Sunday 12th December 2021, 7:30pm

The Water Rats, 328 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8BZ

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