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George Dalaras

George Dalaras (Greek: Γιþργος ΝταλÜρας), also possibly spelled as Yorgos or Giorgos Ntalaras is a Greek singer. He was born in Nea Kokinia, Piraeus on 29 September 1949. His father was Loukas Daralas, a famous singer of rebetiko.

Early career

Dalaras' first song, "ΠροσμονÞ" ("Expectation"), was recorded in 1967. The single never reached any popular status in fact, was barely released. Dalaras even had to struggle to get into the studio, as ironically the day he began his studio career was the day that the Greek military junta had taken over the streets of Athens, and the roads were littered with tanks.

After several appearances on various recordings as a "bonus/token" singer, his debut album was released in early 1969, a self titled album released under the MINOS label. The recording included many compositions by Stavros Koujioumtzis, who in the early years proved a fountain of help toward helping Dalaras succeed musically. As Dalaras has said in various interviews, he owes the fact that he became a singer to Koujioumtzis, who composed Dalaras' first songs. His relation with Koujioumtzis was very friendly and exceptional until the sudden death of the composer due to a heart attack in March 2005.

The biggest hit of the record, "Pounai ta Hronia", is still sung today, and is regarded as a mainstay in Dalaras' large repertoire. In 1970, he released the album Natane to 21 ("If only it were '21" -- i.e. 1821, a reference to the Greek War of Independence). The album was immediately more successful than his debut LP and included hits such as "Natane to 21", "Kapou Nihtoni", and an instrumental version of "Pounai ta Hronia". The album was made up entirely of a compositions by Stavros Koujioumtzis. The songs were mainly secondary releases, as was common in the late 60's for new Greek singers; however, not all the songs on first release (most of them on the smaller yet more unique LYRA label) had proved successful, and in many instances, even now, many people in Greece believe that the Dalaras songs are original and not cover versions.

First platinum album

In 1972 Dalaras, along with singer Haris Alexiou, got his big break in the Greek music industry when their LP Mikra Asia ("Asia Minor") went platinum, his first album to do so. The songs were written by Apostolos Kaldaras, a heavyweight in the laïkó scene of the 50's and 60's, who at this time decided to enter the political fray of Greek music. Dalaras and Alexiou were immediately thrown into the limelight. The LP was also recently re-released in both CD and limited edition LP format by minos-emi

The Mikra Asia LP was later followed up, by Vizantinos Esperinos ("Byzantine Vesper") in 1973. The album consisted again of Dalaras and Haris Alexiou, and was composed by Apostolos Kaldaras, however the lyrics were by the emerging Lefteris Papadopoulo, who ironically had written Dalaras first official recording (O stathmos msm 101 - Pistage to Topi). This was the last time that Dalaras had officially worked with Apostolo Kaldara in the studio, however, they worked together in live performances.

Unlike Mikra Asia, Vyzantinos Esperinos did not meet any exceptional sales, and is somewhat 'forgotten' in the repertoire of Dalara songs.

Rebetiko revival

After several LPs and further collaborations with Koujioumtzis, Kaldaras, and others, and due to the success of Apostolos Nikolaidis (Otan Kapnizei o Loulas) in the USA, Dalaras decided to release his own renditions of rebetiko songs on the double LP 50 Hronia Rembetiko Songs released 1975. The recording proved an immediate success, despite the toning down of the musical lyrics. However, as a result, a new movement was set to take place in Greek music, and the once forgotten rembetes were finding themselves performing, in some cases for the first time in 30 to 40 years, live in front of a live audience.

He later followed up his work with an LP in 1980, Rembetika tis Katochis, which was a more gritty and meaty release, more faithful to the tone of the original rembetika as heard in the 1930's however again, references to drugs were cut out, and only mentoned in fleeting. Unlike the previous double LP, this also contained some of the original musicians, Bayianteras and Genitsaris in particular making an appearance on the LP.

Collaborations and styles

Since the 1970's George Dalaras has recorded more than 120 records. He has sung numerous different Greek music styles (e.g. rebetiko, laïkó, Latin, pop), Israeli and Arabic music, and religious music. He has collaborated with many contemporary Greek composers, including Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Koujioumtzis, Manos Loizos, Apostolos Kaldaras, Stavros Xarhakos and Manos Hadjidakis to Hristos Nikolopoulos. He also discovered and supported little Areti Ketime, whose first CD album he produced.

Apart from his prominent singing career, Dalaras is considered to be one of the greatest Greek musicians as he plays most of the stringed instruments of a Greek folk band with great success, including the guitar, bouzouki, baglama, tzoura and outi. In fact he is a highly accomplished guitarist, often playing with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía, among others. In recent years however, Dalara only plays rhythmic guitar, taking second place to the other musicians on stage with him.

Dalaras' most important projects include collaborations with world renowned singers, such as British singer Sting, even releasing a duet with Sting ("Mad About You"). He has also collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, Jethro Tull and many others.

Concerts and sales

In his almost 40-year singing career, Dalaras has performed in thousands of concerts, and in 1996, re-entered the era of the live Grek club. Two historical concerts occurred in the Athens Olympic Stadium, attended by more than 160,000 people. This was the largest attendance at a Greek concert, to the point where Rolling Stone magazine commented that Dalaras was responsible for the birth of the Stadium era in Greece. Many of his concerts were dedicated to the Cyprus political problem, not only in 1974, but most notably in the late 80's and early 90's where he produced many concerts for the cause of the Cypriot people against the Turkish invasion of 1974. This also resulted in the release of two LPs which included both music and lyrics written by Cypriots.

Dalaras personal albums go beyond 50. He has sold more than 12,000,000 records in his career and is regarded as one of the biggest names in contemporary Greek music. He has toured extensively throughout the world and was even invited to sing for Nelson Mandela on his birthday.

Currently he has outsold every single other Greek artist; his live albums, including tributes to Vassilis Tsitsanis (3 disc box set + DVD) and his live Vamvakari double CD, all reached multi platinum sales, and resulted in being among the top 10 releases of 2005. December 2005, he released a live recording called "Mediterranean 30th 40th parallel- Μεσüγειος 30ος 40ος ΠαρÜλληλος" with various renditions of Greek, Israeli and Arabic songs, and famous musicians from Hebrew and Arabic backgrounds, which gained multi platinum status, however, sales of his last three studio LPs have been not so successful.

The Tzimis Panousis controversy

Celebrated satirist, composer, singer and author Tzimis Panousis has often poked fun at George Dalaras. In one of his live performances, Panousis questioned the motives of Dalaras's Cyprus concerts. Dalaras sued for slander. A Greek court issued a restraining order that would charge Panousis with a one million Drachmae fine (approximately $3,000) every time he were to mention Dalaras by name. Panousis retorted with his famous on-stage quip, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to become three million Drachmae poorer: Dalaras, Dalaras, Dalaras.” The relations between of the two artists subsequently normalized.

Personal life

Dalaras was born George Daralas, son of the rembetiko singer Loukas Daralas. He subsequently anagrammatized his name to Dalaras.

Apart from the Panousis affair, Dalaras has been involved in several legal fights with other Greek artists, these include disputes with songwriter Manolis Rassoulis and actor, scriptwriter Lakis Lazopoulos.

Dalaras is currently married to Anna Dalara, who also manages his career.

Dalaras recently moved from his homestay label of Minos (now Minos-EMI) in favour of Universal, thus ending an almost 40 year collaboration.