Κυριακή, 9 Φεβρουαρίου 2020

Nikos Xylouris, a great Greek singer, the "Archangel of Crete" (40 years from his death, 8 February 1980)

Nikos Xylouris (Greek: Νίκος Ξυλούρης; 7 July 1936 – 8 February 1980), nicknamed Psaronikos (Greek: Ψαρονίκος), was a Greek composer and singer. He was born in the village of Anogeia in Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. He was the older brother of two other great musicians of Cretan music, Antonis Xylouris[1] or Psarantonis (Greek: Ψαραντώνης) and Yiannis Xylouris or Psaroyiannis (Greek: Ψαρογιάννης). His songs and music captured the Greek psyche and demeanor, earning Xylouris the title, Archangel of Crete.[2]


Xylouris' nickname "Psaronikos" can be understood from the island's history, as it is customary for people from Anogeia to bear such a name. The origin, as is typical for Cretans as well as Greeks in general, arose from an interesting story. Since Crete's independence from the Ottoman Empire came later than the birth of modern Greece in the 19th century, the Ottoman control on Crete was still in place when Xilouris' grandfather, Antonis, was still alive. He was widely known as "Psaronikos." Antonis kept company with a group of men who stole from the Turks. If they met up with the dreaded Turk during their escapades, the group would quickly disperse, but Antonis would "catch up to the rest of them as if they were fish"[3] since he was the fastest runner. Thereafter, he was the first of his family to be given the name 'Fishturk' (Greek: 'Ψαρότουρκος'), which then was changed to "Psaronikos" by placing the prefix "Psaro," or "fish," to his name. These nicknames were readily accepted by everyone who knew him, and he was forever known as "Psaronikos." Subsequently, males of his family and his descendants were given the prefix "Psaro": Psaronikos, Psarogiorgis, Psarantonis, etc.[3] 

Early years and World War II

Xylouris' early years were filled with a patriotic zeal for his ancestral village of Anogeia, well-known throughout Crete for their bravery. This would be tested in the adolescence of his youth, brought upon by the turmoil of war with the Axis powers. In 1941, Nikos Xylouris was four-years-old when he witnessed German paratroopers, the Fallschirmjäger, descending upon his island during the Battle of Crete. In 1944, Xylouris was eight-years-old when his hometown of Anogeia was razed to the ground by the German army. This was due to the complicity of its mayor and citizens for harboring Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents and Cretan resistance fighters in their village and for ambushing a detachment of German soldiers under the direction of Captain W. Stanley Moss.[4] The legendary SOE operative Captain Patrick Leigh Fermor had also been ensconced there during the kidnap of Heinrich Kreipe in May 1944 but escaped with his band of Cretan partisans at the Germans' approach.[5] Xylouris and his family fled to another village in Crete and returned to Anogeia only until after the Germans had surrendered. After the war, Patrick Leigh Fermor loved singing Xylouris' song Filadem so much that his inner circle of friends began calling him by the newly-acquired sobriquet, Filedem (Greek: Φιλεντέμ); countless others would follow and hold Xylouris' song in equally high regard).[6]

Music career
He acquired his first lyre, or lyra (the three-stringed Cretan fiddle which is supported on the knee while playing), at the age of twelve and displayed great potential in performing local Cretan folk music. He had a gift for singing and playing the mandolin with his friend Giorgos Kalomiris.[7] Equally enthralled by the music of Leonidas Klados, a well-known and skilled player of the lyra, he was convinced to become an apprentice under Klados' tutelage for two years.[7] He began to ply his craft at village weddings, baptisms and other celebrations throughout Crete.[7] Xylouris was 17-years-old when he started performances at the "Kastro," a restaurant in Heraklion, which was a venue for folk and local Cretan music.
However, the turning point in Nikos Xylouris' career occurred with a recording in 1958. Audiences marveled at his voice and wanted to hear more of this rising star. He first performed abroad in 1966 and won First Prize at the Sanremo Music Festival. The following year, he established the first Cretan music hall — Erotokritos — in Heraklion, Crete. The recording of Anyfantou followed in 1969, which became a huge success. Shortly thereafter, Xylouris began performances in Athens at the Konaki Folk Music Hall. Eventually, Athens became his new permanent residence.[7] 

Political turmoil

During the early 1970s, Xylouris' voice became identified not only with Cretan music but with the youth of Greece rebelling against the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, which came to power after a coup d'état. He embodied a new kind of popular, folk-music style which adapted verses of famous Greek poets, incorporating well-known poems into the music genre of the particular artist in the mantinada style. The emergence of this music, based on renowned Greek poets such as Nikos Gatsos, Yannis Ritsos, Giorgos Seferis, Kostas Varnalis, and Dionysios Solomos, was lifting and inspiring to the Greeks, much like Sofia Vembo had galvanized the Greek populace during the Second World War. Other Greek singers had also embraced this style, such as Yannis Markopoulos, Stavros Xarhakos, Christodoulos Halaris, and Christos Leontis. Xylouris' music was as much a thorn in the side of the Greek military junta and its colonels, as it was a beacon of hope to the Greek people. 


Perhaps the most famous of all the poets adapted by Xylouris was Vitsentzos Kornaros, the 16th-century Cretan of Venetian roots, best known for his epic poem Erotokritos. In 1971, Xylouris was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles-Cros in France for his performance of the Cretan Rizitika album with Yannis Markopoulos. Although widely regarded for his many songs that motivated and encouraged his and other generations alike, Xylouris' signature accomplishment became his rendition of the traditional Cretan song, Filedem. This song is accompanied by captivating scenes of his beloved island and epitomized Cretan hospitality.[6] Xylouris' unique voice embodied the struggle of the Cretan people and burned his name in their hearts and minds forever.

Personal life
Xylouris married a local Cretan named Ourania Melampianakis, the daughter of a prosperous family from Heraklion.[8] They had a son and a daughter. 


Nikos Xylourins succumbed to lung cancer and metastasis to the brain after a long battle on 8 February 1980, in Piraeus, Greece. He was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens

The funeral of Nikos Xylouris (from here)

  • Mia mavrofora pou perna — Μια μαυροφόρα που περνά (1958)
  • Anyfantou — Ανυφαντού (1969)
  • O Psaronikos — Ο Ψαρονίκος (1970)
  • Mantinades kai Chori — Μαντινάδες και χοροί (1970)
  • Chroniko — Χρονικό (1970)
  • Rizitika — Ριζίτικα (1971)
  • Dialeima — Διάλειμμα (1972)
  • Ithagenia — Ιθαγένεια (1972)
  • Dionise kalokairi mas — Διόνυσε καλοκαίρι μας (1972)
  • O tropikos tis parthenou — Ο τροπικός της Παρθένου (1973)
  • O Xylouris tragouda yia tin Kriti — Ο Ξυλούρης τραγουδά για την Κρήτη (1973)
  • O Stratis Thalassinos anamesa stous Agapanthous — Ο Στρατής Θαλασσινός ανάμεσα στους Αγάπανθους (1973)
  • Perifani ratsa — Περήφανη ράτσα (1973)
  • Akoluthia — Ακολουθία (1974)
  • To megalo mas tsirko — Το μεγάλο μας τσίρκο (1974)
  • Parastaseis — Παραστάσεις (1975)
  • Anexartita — Ανεξάρτητα (1975)
  • Komentia, i pali chorikon kai vasiliadon — Κομέντια, η πάλη χωρικών και βασιλιάδων (1975)
  • Kapnismeno tsoukali — Καπνισμένο τσουκάλι (1975)
  • Ta pou theemoumai tragoudia — Τα που θυμούμαι τραγουδώ (1975)
  • Kiklos Seferis — Κύκλος Σεφέρη (1976)
  • Erotokritos — Ερωτόκριτος (1976)
  • I simfonia tis Gialtas kai tis pikris agapis — Η συμφωνία της Γιάλτας και της πικρής αγάπης (1976)
  • I eleftheri poliorkimeni — Οι ελεύθεροι πολιορκημένοι (1977)
  • Ta erotika — Τα ερωτικά (1977)
  • Ta Xylourika — Τα Ξυλουρέικα (1978)
  • Ta antipolemika — Τα αντιπολεμικά (1978)
  • Salpisma — Σάλπισμα (1978)
  • 14 Krises epitichies – 14 χρυσές επιτυχίες (1978)


Released after Xylouris' death

  • Teleftaia ora Kriti — Τελευταία ώρα Κρήτη (1981)
  • Nikos Xylouris — Νίκος Ξυλούρης (1982)
  • Pantermi Kriti — Πάντερμη Κρήτη (1983)
  • O Deipnos o mistikos — Ο Δείπνος ο μυστικός (1984)
  • Stavros Xarchakos: Theatrika — Σταύρος Ξαρχάκος:Θεατρικά (1985)
  • O Yiannis Markopoulos ston ellinikon kinematografo — Ο Γιάννης Μαρκόπουλος στον ελληνικό κινηματογράφο (1988)
  • I synavlia sto Irodeo 1976 (1990) — Η συναυλία στο Ηρώδειο 1976 (1990)
  • To chroniko tou Nikou Xylouri — Το χρονικό του Νίκου Ξυλούρη (1996)
  • Nikos Xylouris — Νίκος Ξυλούρης (2000)
  • I psichi tis Kritis — Η ψυχή της Κρήτης(2002)
  • Itane mia fora... — Ήτανε μια φορά...(2005)
  • Tou Chronou Ta Girismata — Του Χρόνου Τα Γυρίσματα (2005)
  • Itane Mia Fora... Ke Emine Gia Panta! — Ήτανε Μια Φορά... Και Έμεινε Για Πάντα! (2017)

See also


  • "Antonis Xylouris (Psarantonis) – Artists from Anogia – History – MUNICIPALITY OF ANOGEIA". Anogeia.gr. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  • "Documentary traces the musical legacy of the great Nikos Xylouris – Kathimerini". Ekathimerini.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  • "Nikos Xylouris – Artists from Anogia – History – MUNICIPALITY OF ANOGEIA". Anogeia.gr. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  • Beevor, Antony. Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, John Murray Ltd, 2005.
  • Leigh Fermor, Patrick. Abducting a General, John Murray, 2014
  • "Happy Birthday Filedem! Born 100 Years Ago Today". Patrickleighfermor.org. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  • "My Greek Odyssey: NIKOS XYLOURIS: The Archangel of Crete". Greekodyssey.typepad.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
  • http://greekodyssey.typepad.com/my_greek_odyssey/2007/09/nikos-xylouris.html
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