Rebetiko > Biographies > Η to Μ

Giorgos Kavouras

Giorgos Kavouras, was a singer who was born on the island of Kastelorizo in 1909. He recorded many sides as a vocalist in the late 1930's, and also played violin, santouri and guitar. He died on March 17, 1943, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Axis occupation of Greece.

Apostolos Kaldaras

Apostolos Kaldaras was a bouzouki and guitar player, and a singer. He was born in Trikala, in 1922, and died in Athens in 1991. One of the most successful and prolific of post-war Greek popular composers.

Manolis Karapiperis

Manolis Karapiperis, the mysterious man from Patmos who recorded in New York in 1929, three years before Halikias, and then vanished into oblivion.


Sofia Karivali

Sofia Karivali was born in Smyrna in 1918. She and her family came to Greece along with over a million refugees who lost their homeland in the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe. They settled in Kokkinia, the refugee community that sprang up at the edge of Pireaus.

In 1936 Sofia, married by now, began her singing career. Both she and her husband made a trip to Crete, and the pair ended up working together, Sofia singing, her husband waiting on tables in a taverna. Her sister Rita Abatzi had already begun to make a name for herself with her accomplished renditions of dimotika and Smyrnaika-style rebetika.

Although she made few recordings, Sofia spent a number of years singing with bouzouki in Pireaus and performing dimotika all over the Greek provinces. She was the very first woman to appear in public singing with bouzouki, a bold step considering the low esteem in which the instrument, its players, and the whole social context to which it belonged was held by "respectable" people at the time. Her voice can be heard on several recordings by Markos Vamvakaris, including "Me planepses boemissa", though Markos went under a pseudonym for this particular song, most likely so as to not steal the limelight from Sofia.

Sofia Karivali died in 1995.

Kostas Karipis

Kostas Karipis - guitarist and singer. Kostas was born circa 1880 in Constantinople. Little is known of his life there. He came to Greece after the catastrophe in Smyrna in 1922. He started working in tavernas along with other Greek refugees, and swiftly developed a reputation as an accomplished composer and guitarist.

From 1923 to the early 1930s Kostas played in a company which included Kostas Tsavenou, Mitso Arapaki, Spiro Peristeri and Dalgas at the best taverns of that era. He recorded songs from 1925, mainly amanedhes and rembetic songs. From 1930 Kostas concentrated on composing, writing lyrics and playing guitar on recordings. He had massive hits throughout the decade with the greatest singers of the day and played guitar on hundreds of sides.

Kostas spent most of the war years in the company of the Piraeus rembetes - Markos Vamvakaris, Stratos Payioumtzis etc. After the war, he continued performing and played guitar in recordings for Tsitsanis, Mitsaki and Papaioannou.

Little is known about Kostas's last years or how or when he died. It is known that he had no family and he disappeared from the music scene in 1951. It is believed that he died in 1952.

Zacharias Kasimatis

Zacharias Kasimatis, was born in Smyrna in 1896. He learned music as a child, and by about 1916 he was playing mandolin in the famous orchestra of Smyrna, "The Politakis". Later he changed to playing the guitar. In the Asia Minor catastrophe, he was captured, but managed to reach Greece in 1923. From that year until his death he played in Smyrnaika, folk bands and Rebetiko bands sometimes as a singer and sometimes as a guitarist.

He recorded several sides under his own name in the early 30’s. Thereafter he worked steadily as a side man until shortly before his death. He wrote several songs that have become part of the Rebetiko canon. He died in Athens in 1966.

Stelios Keromitis

Stelios Keromitis - bouzouki, vocals (1908-1979).

Keromitis first performed in Piraeus in 1934. He was a classic mangas, well dressed, hashish smoker, bouzouki player. Later, he worked with Markos Vamvakaris and with Vasilis Tsitsanis from 1947-50. He wrote about 25 songs and was known for his low growly voice which Tsitsanis compared to the "growl of a lion".

In his own words: "I first heard bouzouki in 1916, when I was eight years old, because my father played as an amateur. When I was 12 I made my first clumsy attempts to play it. At that time my father happened to be the owner of a taverna, and this taverna was the venue for a whole host of bouzouki players; the first I met was called Zymaritis, the second Manetas, then Reginas, Mimikos the house painter, Harilaos and Scrivanos. Those were the bouzouki players of the time who played fairly regularly. There were some other people who played but had no talent. We came after them, there was a fifteen years' difference in our ages; we had started to play more systematically somehow and the bouzouki brought us by degrees together, it made us become friends and meet often and learn from each other and help one another and day by day we progressed; there were Markos Vamvakaris, Keromitis, Anestos, Stratos, Karydakias, Bagianteras, Stefanakos: we were the first to present the bouzouki, the popular song, on record, with songs, lyrics and music of our own inspiration. In 1933 we started our campaign, by means of our songs, to make people love the bouzouki. At first we added a guitar and a little baglama to the bouzouki, in the first joint where we sang and played as professionals, and from the very first people loved us and followed us in droves. But let's not forget that there were many people with misconceptions about the bouzouki, but with time, the songs were made so harmonious, with a treble and a second voice and then with the terzo added, like a "cantada" of the Ionian islands, that we taught the ones who didn't love this music to love it too. Our first appearance was at the "Keratzakis", the first joint in Anapafseos street, in Piraeus. Right after that there were many other offers; first from Antonis Vlachos, at the "Dasos" in Votanikos, Athens. From then on we had a following among all kinds of people, of all classes, from the highest to the lowest. Every night the place was packed. We worked there steadily for two years. At that time many artists appeared there: Tsitsanis, Papaioannou, Chiotis, Kaplanis, Tzouanakos, Hatzichristos, Stefanakos - all of them were younger than us."

Nikos Mathesis

Nikos Mathesis was born in Salamina in 1907. He was a child of Giorgos Mathesis (or Dritsa) and Giannoulas Aftra (or Dounta). He had four brothers. His father's family was large and had lived in the Salamina area since the war of 1821. Around 1916-1917 they moved to Piraeus. His father was one of the biggest fish tradesmen in the Market of Piraeus. In 1922, at the age of 15 years he worked in the fish market. In 1930 he began to write songs for records and in particular his first song which he wrote with Giorgos Papasideris, called "Mes' stou Nikita tou teke".

He collaborated with the most famous music composers of the period. In 1934-35 he met and was married to his wife. Athina Mathesis (1915-1974) of the Markohioti (or Hioti) family was then 19-20 years old. They had two children, Giorgos (1936) and Yannis (1939). Nikos died on 27 April 1975.

But Nikos Mathesis is much more important than that makes him sound, because he was the one who brought Markos Vamvakaris into the studio. He told his father, who was making recordings of Rebetiko songs with violin backing that the manges (plural of mangas) in the tekes used the baglama and bouzouki for these songs, and he thought recordings of those would sell better. Mathesis senior asked him if he knew anyone who played bouzouki. "Well", said Nikos, "There's this guy called Markos that works in the slaughter-house..."

Giorgia Mitaki

Giorgia Mitaki was a singer. She was born in 1911 in Avlona in Attica, she enjoyed a singing career that lasted for thirty years. She came to Athens at age 18, and married in 1930. She is remembered mostly as a singer of popular folk songs, but she was just as accomplished with Smyrnaika, singing compositions and arrangements of Panagiotis Toundas, Spiros Peristeris and others . Her voice can be heard on "S'ena teke boukarane", the first recording of Vassilis Tsitsanis in 1937.

She made two highly successful North American tours, one in the late 1950s, and one in the early 1960s. Due to ill health, she made her last visits to the recording studo in 1965. Giorgia Mitaki died back in her home village, Avlona, on 28 February, 1977.

Giorgos Mitsakis

Giorgos Mitsakis: Composer, author, singer and bouzouki player. Born in Istanbul in 1924, settled in Volos in 1935, in Thessaloniki in 1937 and in Piraeus in 1939. He died in Athens on November 17th 1993.

Giorgos Batis

Giorgos Batis was a singer, bouzouki and baglama player. Born in 1890 in Methana, Greece. He moved to Piraeus at an early age and died there in 1967. The archetypical mangas, Batis ran a cafe and dancing school and encouraged young musicians. His music is completely uncompromising and it is surprising that 16 sides were issued between 1932-1936, although most of them appear to have sold few copies. It is worthy of note that Batis was recorded even before Markos Vamvakaris, although his record was released after Markos' one. Among other ways of earning a living, Batis used to go around the countryside selling "medicines" and extracting teeth. It seems that on at least one occasion "suckers" realized they had been conned. Batis was one of the four members of the "Tetras". Frankiskos Zouridhakis claims to have written "Sou chi Lachi" and that Batis stole it from him.

Konstantinos (Kostas) Bezos

Bezos, Konstandinos was a composer and guitarist who for several years was leader of the highly successful Aspra Poulia (White Birds) Hawaiian Orchestra.

Kostas Bezos (1905-1943) was born in a village near Corinth in Greece and was a guitarist who not only played rebetiko songs, the typical Greek style of the era, but also steel guitar in Hawaiian style. He recorded songs between the 1930s and the 1940s for Columbia and His Master’s Voice. The rebetika songs were released under the pseudonym of A. Kostis or K. Kostis. Apparently he recorded more Hawaiian songs but it is easier to find his Greek songs on CD.

Sotiria Bellou

One of the most famous rebetissas of all, mentioned in many music guides, and contributor to the 1984 British documentary entitled" Music of the Outsiders", Sotiria Bellou was born in Halkida in 1921. She learned to play the guitar at an early age. After a brief and abusive marriage at age nineteen, which ended when she took revenge by throwing vitriol, a corrosive acid, in her husband's face, she wound up in Athens in October of 1940, as Greece was becoming involved in World War II. In the years of Italian and German occupation, Sotiria earned her living by using her skills as a guitarist and singer to survive while others perished of starvation. In 1947, she came to the attention of Vassilis Tsitsanis (another legend, who began his own recording career ten years earlier), and with him recorded the first of her many 78 rpm discs. As the times changed, and rebetika was no longer sought after, Sotiria, like many other artists of her generation, found very little work in night clubs. The mid 1960s brought with them a sense of cultural awakening, and a new-found interest in rebetika among young people which peaked in the 1980s, having taken off fully after the fall of the Junta in 1974.

Suddenly, people couldn't get enough of the surviving rebetes, and Sotiria, with her deep voice, full of emotion and pride, was heard on many recordings, and helped usher in a new era for rebetika. That, combined with her honesty, her love for gambling, her participation in the struggle for civil rights (for which she was beaten several times), and the fact that she was openly a lesbian in a time when this was practically unheard of, ensures her a place not only on the rebetic charts, but in the hearts and minds of those whom she touched during her lifetime, and in those whom she continues to inspire. Like her or not, she was an outspoken woman of her generation. Sotiria Bellou died in Athens in 1997. She was buried as she had wished, in First Cemetery next to Vassilis Tsitsanis.

Marika Ninou

Born in the Caucasus in 1918, Marika "Ninou" Nikolaidou came to Athens around the end of 1947, where she appeared as part of a nightspot act, doing acrobatic turns with her husband and small son.

In October 1948 Stellakis Perpiniadis engaged her to sing with him at the 'Florida' on Leoforos Alexandras.She next appeared with Vassilis Tsitsanis at 'Fat Jimmy's. Her singing career continued as she made 78 r.p.m. recordings with composers including Vassilis Tsitsanis, Manolis Hiotis, Yiannis Papaioannou, Giorgos Mitsakis, Apostolos Kaldaras and others.

Her partnership with Tsitsanis was the most enduring and produced some of her most memorable songs. In 1955 she went to the USA to appear with Kostas Kaplanis. She returned to Athens, already suffering from cancer, and died at the tragically young age of 38 in 1956.