"Rembetiko" is a musical tradition in Greece which has revealed some of the greatest singers in the Greek music scene. Rough, almost raw sometimes, the vocal performance of Rembetiko, reflects a tradition born in turbulent times, at the big ports of Greece, Piraeus and Syros, around the infamous spots of the Greek underworld. An important possession that the Greek refugees brought along with them, when they were forced away from Smyrna and the coast line of Minor Asia, during the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-22, was that kind of music. Rembetiko described glenti (feast), pain, nostalgia, tenderness, death and love, all expressed together in one song. A collective life experience became expressed in voice and music, a musical identity of Greece to travel around the world within its countless music genres.
The strength of Eleftheria Arvanitaki's voice is unconstrained. It springs out from the living tradition of rembetiko, taking the colors of the emotions hiding in the rhythms of the Mediterranean and the Oriental world and the shape of the sublime rhythms existing in the dances of the traditional Greek glentia (feasts).
She gives more than 150 concerts all around the world every year and her commercial success is a phenomenon for a Greek artist.
Her artistic presence extends through three decades full of songs that remain timeless in the Greek music scene, in collaboration with very important artists from all over the world and in successful performances in great festivals and events in the five continents.
Her unique presence shines when on stage, taming the bacchic and melodic elements inside the songs, inspiring countless compliments from international media and receiving the admiration and devotion of her audience, which grows continuously.
Eleftheria's voice and her natural ability to combine traditional and contemporary Greek music was the reason that the most important Greek composers, lyricists and poets of the 90s sought the opportunities to create for her. One after the other, all her personal albums instantly became platinum.
Eleftheria began her career as a member of a group of amateur musicians who, in the beginning of the 80s in Athens, successfully revived old rembetika, always motivated by true love for this kind of music. She was the lead singer of the group Opisthidromiki Kompania and with them she made her first recordings. Her voice immediately stood out and in 1985 she embarked on a solo career as one of the most promising female vocalists in Greece. The future proved her right.
In the mid 9os, while different musical traditions were sweeping themselves around the world, Eleftheria started her international career. In 1998, she was the first Greek singer to be introduced to the international audience by the historical jazz label Verve with the album "Eleftheria Arvanitaki - The Very Best of 1989-1998". Since then, all of her albums are released worldwide by Verve. Eleftheria also stood out in the album "Gifted - Women of the World", where nine female singers from around the world, such as Estrella Morente and Susana Baca, explore and celebrate the female experience. In 1999, she was the only Greek singer invited by the Pope to sing for the Jubileum in Rome.
The moment for Eleftheria to meet her international audience and cultivate her relationship with it had arrived. During the next decade she collaborated with some of the greatest musicians and her name always appeared on the list of those who participated in important festivals and events.
In 2004, she took part in the Closing Ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games and during the summer of the same year Phillip Glass invited her to join his project "Orion", a work inspired by the musical traditions of the five continents. Eleftheria Arvanitaki was the only European singer who participated in this project among a group of excellent soloists from all over the world and the Philip Glass Ensemble. Her performance in the Greek traditional song of Asia Minor "Tzivaeri" was unforgettable.
"Orion" was presented in Thessaloniki (Greece), Ravena (Italy), London (UK), Lyon (France), New York, Austin, Chicago (U.S.A), Mexico DF and Cervantino Festival (Mexico) and Melbourne (Australia). The live recording of "Orion" was released in June 2005.
Touring and Collaborations
Eleftheria senses the stage as her natural environment the consecutive sell-outs, both in Greece and abroad, prove that she has gained the confidence of the audience.
Having already achieved a series of very successful albums that cover a variety of musical genres from rembetika and laika (folk) songs to interpretation of songs coming from important contemporary composers and poetry set to music Eleftheria focused, during the last decade, on selected live performances and eclectic collaborations and recordings.
In June 2006, she opened the renewed Greek Festival, giving two sold out concerts at Odeon of Herodus Atticus in Athens (the most important Roman theatre of Greece, just below the Parthenon), in which she performed the songs for films created by Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. Later on that year, she participated in the Espirelia Festival (Lorca, Spain) where along with Murcia Symphony Orchestra, she performed a programme containing new arrangements of songs from her personal discography, in an unforgettable concert.
Her collaborations with internationally acclaimed artists such as the Caboverdians Cesaria Evora and Teofilo Chantre, the Portuguese Dulce Pontes, the Spanish group Amaral and Carlos Nunez, the Armenians Ara Dinkjian and Arto Tuncboyacian, as well as with the world famous composer and academy award winning composer Philip Glass, indicate her wide musical horizons and artistic flexibility and virtuosity.
Some of the top artistic moments of these collaborations appear in her album "To The Edges of Your Eyes". In this album one can find the very best of Eleftheria's guest appearances plus two very interesting adaptations: "My love is somewhere" of the great Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis and "I hide in goodbye" of the popular Spanish group Amaral.
In October 2007, Eleftheria accepted the invitation to participate in the "Forum Universal de las Culturas", a global cultural event that occurs every three years and connects cultures from all over the world. Eleftheria gave two unforgettable concerts in the context of "Expressiones Culturales" (i.e. "Cultural Expressions") in Monterrey, Mexico.
In December 2007 she released one more compilation of her greatest hits, the double album entitled "Dinata 1986-2007". In this album a new song named "Min Orkizesai" was also included, which was no. 1 in the National Airplay Chart for more than twenty-five weeks.
One of the most important moments in her career has been the collaboration with the twice Grammy awarded Spanish composer and producer Javier Limon in two albums. Her personal album "Mirame" which combines a variety of sounds and rhythms from Greece, Spain, Cuba and even Northern Africa and also Javier Limon's concept album "Mujeres de Agua" along with Mariza, Estrella Morente, Buika, La Shica etc.
Eleftheria has been extensively touring around the world during all these years, but the concerts that became some of her most important were the two sold out performances in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House and that in the Arts Centre, in Melbourne. Eleftheria was the first Greek artist to be invited by the Sydney Opera House to participate in the Hemispheres Festival (May 2009).
In September 2010, Eleftheria travelled to The Ivory Coast as a Unicef Ambassador of the Campaign for eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus. Being a mother herself, she declared that "it was perhaps the most shocking, substantial and sentimental trip I had ever done".
During the autumn of the same year, she also travelled to Hungary, performing in the Palace of Arts in Budapest and then to The Netherlands, performing at Melkweg. She also travelled to Mexico again to take part in Philip Glass' "Orion". In December 2010 she gave two sold out concerts at the Athens Concert Hall for the purposes of the Breast Cancer Action Foundation.
In 2011, Eleftheria performed a series of sold out concerts in Pallas Theatre in Athens where "Everything Begin Otherwise", a performance that amazed the audience and the critics. She continued to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam where she participated in the "Mujeres de Agua" concert of Javier Limon. She also toured Greece, Cyprus and Central Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Austria) where she once met the love of her audience.
In contrast to many artists that augment the quantity of their artistic activities as a method of coping with the current very difficult recession and the continuous decline in discography, Eleftheria Arvanitaki chooses to be very selective concerning her collaborations, live performances and recordings aiming to touch the hearts of every single person in her audience, thereby trying to circumvent all language barriers.
...Her last release named "Mirame" is a collaboration with the very famous and Grammy awared Spanish composer and producer Javier Limon. The album, which combines a variety of sounds a rhythm from Greece, Spain and even Northern Africa, will be released internationally by Universal Music in November 2008
"There is no doubt about it, the hot name internationally on the Greek music scene is Eleftheria Arvanitaki. Her voice has a clarity and emotional depth that registers whether or not you understand the words, and the music she sings has a lyricism and instrumental sophistication that sets it apart."
(The Rough Guide to World Music)
"Eleftheria Arvanitaki is refreshing the popular music of the Mediterranean..."
"Eleftheria Arvanitaki embodies in the most essential way a country whose past is steeped in the Orient, but at the same time tends to look towards the West. Either as a solo artist, or with her earlier group Opisthodromiki Kompania in the '80s, her work is the amalgamation of the best of the two worlds. Her exciting, expressive voice made her a favourite with many talented songwriters that helped her fulfill her artistic vision."
"A key figure in the rediscovery of Greek traditional styles such as rembetika, the country's distinctively lyrical, blues-like music, her last concert proved that she has a voice of extraordinary clarity and emotional depth. Add her powerful stage presence and a band unlike anything you have heard at the local taverna, and this should be a night to remember."