Life is sweet, despite all its torments,
And only a madman seeks death.
Giannoula,1 Giannoula, there’s nothing you don’t know
Giannoula, Giannoula, what you did it wasn’t right.
Stars in the sky, why deny me your glimmer
And mountain springs, you might as well simmer.
Those widow's weeds in black and blue
Don’t wear them again, they're not for you.
Translated by Michael Eleftheriou
1 Giannoula: female name
Και με τα τόσα βάσανα -καλέ- πάλ’ η ζωή γλυκιά ‘ναι
κι όποιος τον θάνατον ζητεί -καλέ- πρέπει λωλός για να ‘ναι.
Γιαννούλα, Γιαννούλα, εσύ τα ξέρεις ούλα,
Γιαννούλα, Γιαννούλα, δεν το ‘πραξες καλά.
Γιατί αστεράκια τ’ ουρανού -καλέ- την λάμψη σας μ’ αρνείστε
κι εσείς, βρυσούλες του βουνού -καλέ- για ‘μέ φωτιά να είστε.
Τα μαύρα, τα μαύρα, τα μαύρα, τα γαλάζια,
τα μαύρα, τα μαύρα να μην τα βάλεις πια.
Για σένα, για σένα στάζ’ η καρδιά μου αίμα,
για σένα, για σένα θα φύγω μακριά.
A song with urban roots sung to the hopping rhythm of the hasapikos (butchers’) dance. It was most probably written in Constantinople, from where it spread, like every song of its type, to other sites around the Sea of Marmara, and chiefly to cities and towns with a resident bourgeoisie (Prussa, Kios, Moudani, Triglia, Artaki, Koutali, Nikomedeia, Raidestos, Epivates et al.)
Its music is strongly influenced by European music, and its lyrics consist of poetry of a scholarly ‘high’ nature. The maxim-like content of the first couplet, which is based on the powerful contrast between life and death, is of particular interest, since it sheds light on the ultimate value of life and its pleasures.
But the second couplet also reveals a lyrical, poetic sensibility with its allegorical ‘denial of love’ by even the elements of nature, which is also rooted in an unnatural contrast (stars that do not shine, wells that boil). The twelve-syllable gyrismata praise Giannoula, who rides roughshod over the besotted man’s heart with her doings.
Theodor Kondaras (2022)
Live recording from the concert Songs of Asia Minor with Domna Samiou at the Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall, on 8/3/2005.
Based on Simon Karas' recording which belongs to the Association for the Dissemination of Greek National Music.