On Friday, November 2, 2018, the New York-based non-profit cultural organizations AKTINA Productions and CYPRECO of America, hosted once again the renownedGreek singer Babis Tsertos at the Kaye Playhouse theater in Manhattan in a magnificent performance which revived the timeless songs of Vasilis Tsitsanis and Mikis Theodorakis, two of the most legendary Greek composers. Produced by Elena Maroulleti from AKTINA’s acclaimed concert series, the concert titled “GREEK MUSIC JOURNEY 2018” was given to benefit the public service media, AKTINA FM and AKTINA TV.
Referring to the concert Ms. Maroulleti stated that “true to our commitment of bringing to our fan base and to all New Yorkers exceptional musical performances, we were thrilled once again to see so many Greek music lovers from the general audience and from all walks of life join us. Everyone had an amazing time, while Babis Tsertos and his band members truly captivated all and this was evident throughout the performance. What is most important is that with this successful performance we officially concluded AKTINA’s 25th anniversary festivities, it was truly a wonderful feeling for all of us to share this last celebration with our friends and supporters!”
The exceptional repertoire beautifully combined the rembetika (Greek blues) of Vasilis Tsitsanis with the laika (popular folk) songs of Mikis Theodorakis, as well as exceptional bouzouki solos and instrumentals including Theodorakis’ world renowned “Zorba.” Throughout the performance Babis Tsertos, who engaged the audience from beginning to end, also referred to the history of the songs and their impact over time as “exceptional examples of the representative folk music of Greece.”
The program opened with the audience singing and clapping along to the classics “Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki” (Cloudy Sunday) by Vasilis Tsitsanis and “To Feggari Kani Volta” (The Moon is Taking a Stroll), an ode to Vasilis Tsitsanis which is commonly known as “Pexe Tsitsani mou” (My Tsitsani play) by Mikis Theodorakis. The riveting 2 ½ hour performance featured 40 of the most well-known songs and instrumentals of Tsitsanis and Theodorakis, including songs about love, immigration, hardship, poverty and justice, written by leading and award winning Greek lyricists and poets such as Odysseas Elytis, George Seferis, and Manos Eleftheriou, among others.
The Babis Tsertos band was comprised of distinguished soloists Kostas Zaridakis, a bouzouki maestro who has worked as lead bouzouki player in recordings and in live performances for the legends, and Manos Hadjidakis (Never on Sunday) as well as Mikis Theodorakis. One of the highly-regarded folk musicians of Greece with immense contributions to Greek discography, Kyriakos Gkouventas played violin and baglama. Yiannis Tsertos, a well-known young pianist and musician also took part, along with Kostas Tsekouras, a prominent guitarist, while the highlight of the evening was the upcoming singer and kanoon player Sophia Mermigka, who captivated the audience with her distinctive voice and exceptional interpretation.
In his welcoming remarks, Babis Tsertos also congratulated AKTINA on its 25th anniversary and spoke very highly of the organization’s successful achievements in preserving and promoting the rich musical inheritance of Greece in America.
He also praised and thanked the concert’s Executive Producer, Elena Maroulleti, for her strong commitment and leadership over the years in the presentation of “very well organized and very well produced worthy concerts as well as for the production of AKTINA FM and AKTINA TV, two very commendable radio and television programs which also contribute in highlighting outside of Greece the true characteristics of the quality music of our country!” Later in the program, Mr. Tsertos also dedicated to Ms. Maroulleti one of her most favorite songs, “Echeis Matia to Feggari” (You have the moon for eyes) composed by Mikis Theodorakis and based on lyrics by the renowned late poet Manos Eleftheriou.
Ms. Maroulleti also addressed the audience, thanking all in attendance, including the artists and AKTINA’s and CYPRECO’s volunteer staff as well as the sponsoring organizations and companies whose partial financial assistance supported this production.
The concert constituted “the grand finale of AKTINA’s 25th anniversary celebrations” according to Ms. Maroulleti, who then noted the October 26, 2018 honor bestowed upon AKTINA FM by the NYC Council and the City of New York by co-naming the street that was founded in Astoria, “AKTINA FM Way.” She expressed her heartfelt thanks and appreciation to NYC Council Member Costa Constantinides for initiating the legislation and to the entire City of New York for “this great honor” stressing that “AKTINA FM is the first Greek-American Radio in the U.S. to have a street named after it.”
Ms. Maroulleti also invited all to GREEK MUSIC JOURNEY 2019, which will take place at the Kaye Playhouse on Friday, May 17, 2019. This new concert will feature the Bouzouki legend from Greece Thanasis Polykandriotis whose presence in Greek music spans over 50 years both as a bouzouki soloist and composer with incredible contributions and collaborations with great Greek stars and international orchestras. He was the featured artist who performed at the Opening Ceremony of the XXVII Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
He will be accompanied by his band and the charismatic singer Aris Kampanos, who captivated the audience during AKTINA’s “Greek Music Journey 2018–The Magic of Bouzouki” given this past April, and Aphrodite Chatzimina.
The concert ended with the much celebrated song, “Tis Dikeosinis Ilie” (Sun of Justice) from the world-renowned work “Axion Esti” composed by Mikis Theodorakis and based on the poetry of Odysseas Elytis, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Greek Music Journey 2018” with Babis Tsertos was made possible in part by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Investors Bank, AMMOS Estiatorio in Manhattan and Bayside Diner in Queens, while the media sponsor was the Greek Satellite Channel in the U.S., Antenna (ANT1).