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AN AST ASIA VO UL GARI

MIKIS THEODO RAKI S


“I H AVE A WOR D O F L IFE F OR YOU”

1
My foundations are the mountains
and mountains are shouldered by the people
and upon them memory burns
as an unquenchable burning bush!*

Mikis Theodorakis: “I have a word of life for you”

by Anastasia Voulgari

This is what every one of Theodorakis' songs says to us. This word springs from the depths of
Man's centuries-old struggle for Life and Freedom. “Man is attracted by the light of freedom and on
this age-old process the history of mankind is written in light and blood. However, inside the light
of freedom itself, the flame of man's moral and spiritual completion coexists.”1
Theodorakis loved Man and fought for him. “Wherever a man or woman suffers, loves, dies,
wherever they rise up to fight for freedom, the music and songs of Theodorakis are there, along
with every nation's and every era's highest music, to shout out this pain or this love, to praise this
man, this uprising, this struggle, to invite us to share and experience this pain, this love, this fear
and this uprising, this invincible hope.”2

The vision of peaceful coexistence

Theodorakis envisioned a contented humanity, where each person would be “a centre of


responsibility, initiative, life, a creator, a poet.”3 This was the centre of Theodorakis' thought. A
necessary condition for the creation of such a humanity is the peaceful coexistence of all nations.

Peace to Theodorakis is not just a fluid “non-war” situation such as we have today. It is, first and
foremost, mankind's final release “from the fears and threats of military expenses and war
obsession.”4 It is societies with Freedom and Cultural Growth. In other words, Theodorakis speaks
of another type of society, “a harmonious social whole”, a society “conscious of itself”, which will
function with the common good as its focus. According to Theodorakis, a person is set free,
“becomes finally and completely free”5, when I becomes We.
Freedom, to Theodorakis, means responsibility. Every man should first and foremost know
himself – his physical, mental and spiritual strength - and participate with others in what he himself
called “the Front of Life.” The guiding light on this rough path towards awareness and then on
towards the great decision to participate and take action, is Culture and Art, man's mental and
spiritual sustenance, as he often says. “With the aid of Culture, aesthetic enjoyment is
transformed into moral power and this in its turn into ideology.”6

The Resistance

Theodorakis took part in the National Resistance in 1941 (World War II) when he was only 16
years old. He was arrested and tortured. After liberation (1944), he was found in the middle of the
tragic events that indelibly scarred Greece. Civil war, outlawed, arrested, exiled, tortured. A
betrayed struggle for freedom, social justice and national pride. Mikis did not miss a day of the
struggle. He was there. To the end. With no dilemmas.

The Cultural Revolution

Theodorakis took poetry out of the libraries and turned it into song. He took symphony music
out of its great halls and incorporated it into popular song. And so, in 1958, by setting Giannis
2
Ritsos' Epitafios to music, the term “artistic popular song” was born, followed by the cultural
revolution. Theodorakis wrote in his autobiography: “there was, at the time, a co-ordinated
participation [...]. A mass escape from everyday routine towards an area of dreamlike reality” 7,
which combined with a specific social and political action aimed at “liberating the individual within
the context of society. With these two elements – personal liberation and social liberation – I
believed that we would move more rapidly and more fundamentally towards achieving
reconciliation between the members of society and therefore achieve social Harmony.”8

Theodorakis as a bearer of social wealth

There is, however, another dimension to Theodorakis’ social contribution. “Theodorakis'


music contributed to the financial growth of Greece by creating employment positions, by helping a
number of professions to grow, by attracting tourists and exporting Greek culture. The worldwide
appeal of his music helped Greece to gain millions of friends all over the world and opened up
international markets to everything Greek, from Greek literature to Greek wine. The country's
music industry especially benefited from the processes initiated by Theodorakis. Landmarks in
Greek music, such as the recording of Axion Esti in 1964, signified the need for larger studios with
more advanced technology, while the sale of millions of records led to the building of larger
factories in order to produce them. Whole business sectors […] during the 1960s saw an increase in
employment and higher salaries. Dozens of new singers and musicians became famous by working
with Mikis, and started successful careers. Also, there are dozens of Theodorakis' musical
descendants who established themselves and forged their careers as composers, accompanied by
generations of lyricists, singers and musicians.”9

Cyprus

The Cyprus issue has always been a thorn in the heart of every Greek and Cypriot, wherever
they may live. The same applies to Theodorakis. In 1963 he met Archbishop Makarios ( President
of the Republic of Cyprus 1960-1977) for the first time. He took part in, often leading, all the
demonstrations for the independence of Cyprus. In 1964 he was at the head of the peace march in
Cyprus. During the same year he made five more trips. He visited the bombed areas. He collected
shrapnel from the bombs and on his return to Greece proved, during a speech before Parliament,
that Cyprus had been bombed by napalm bombs! However, his contribution to the Cypriot nation
did not end there. Since 1975 when he organised a concert in Paris on behalf of the refugees
(following the invasion by the Turkish forces and the island's bisection) until today he has been at
the side of the Cypriot people. He became their voice. He organised dozens of concerts, appeals to
the international community, interviews and meetings with the country's political leadership to help
realise the people's dream for a united Cyprus.

The dictatorship

On April 21 1967, tanks took over the centre of Athens. Democracy was abolished and an
entire nation was condemned to 7 years of dictatorship darkness. Foremost amongst the Greeks,
Theodorakis raised his voice to defend Democracy. As a Member of Parliamenti he appealed to
global opinion to condemn the military coup. A new round of persecution, imprisonment and exile
followed. Once again his life was in danger. His life was spared due to the international uproar
against the imprisonment and torture suffered by himself and his family.ii

The World's Mikis Theodorakis

As soon as he arrived in Paris as a free man (April 1970), he was at the forefront of the
struggle against the dictatorship. In Paris, 500.000 people took part in the anti-dictatorship concert
3
and raised their voices against the dictators. He gave concerts all over Europe, both East and West,
in Latin America, Canada and Australia. In the United States he gave over 100 concerts. He
estimates that during the period 1970 – 1974 he gave over 1000 concerts. Each concert of his is a
platform of expression for the representatives of national liberation movements from all over the
world. During his concerts in Mexico, in a stadium packed with thousands of spectators, he raised
his voice against Pinochet's coup in Chile.
Theodorakis mediated to find a solution to the Palestinian issue. Allon, the Israeli Deputy
Prime Minister, entrusted him with secret meetings with Arafat. Indeed, Theodorakis met Arafat and
succeeded in getting the leaders of the two opposing sides to sit and negotiate for the first time
(Tunis, 1972).
Theodorakis had become a global figure, a fighter for Freedom and Peace, a steadfast
supporter of every struggling nation. However, Mikis could not be happy as long as fascism ruled in
his country. That is when he took the great step. He publicly proposed that Konstantinos Karamanlis
(his great political adversary during the period 1960 – 1967) return to Greece and take over the
government in order to restore democracy. Karamanlis accepted the proposal and after a few
months (July 1974) Democracy was restored in Greece.

A Free Man

Theodorakis, above all is a free man. Throughout his approximately 70 years of action and
creation he has confronted authority thousands of times. He clashed with every establishment be it
social, political, party politics or artistic… His thinking has always been innovative, radical and
subversive. He raised a storm of reaction and opposition from the various authority mechanisms, in
the end to no avail. Mikis is like Music. He cannot be silenced.

Friendship between nations

Theodorakis believes that in order for there to be peace and financial development for all
countries in the world, military coalitions should not exist. During the 1980s he proposed the
dissolving of NATO and of the Warsaw Pact. A few days ago (30/3/09), he again proposed the
dissolving of NATO.
In 1986, he formed the Greek-Turkish Friendship Committee with the Turkish composer
Zulfu Livaneli and the writer Aziz Nesin. Personalities from all political parties of both countries
participated. “The members of the committee envisioned a movement of peace and friendship
between the Greek and Turkish people, which would begin with the ordinary citizens, away from
the two countries' governments and any kind of political purposes.”10 A new line of communication
opened between the two countries, but mainly between the two peoples.

A Thinker

During his teenage years, Theodorakis sought to discover the core of human existence and of
God himself. He introduced the theory of “Universal Harmony”, which is based on the teachings
of the Pythagoreans, to neo-Hellenic philosophical thought. It is a theory that the European
scientific community has been studying since 2006iii.
In 1987 he presented the Anti-manifest.11 A philosophical, ideological and political proposal
concerning modern developments. He proposed a revision of the citizen – work relationship and put
forward the need for a “new model of culture.’’
For Theodorakis, the greatest issue today is the tragic fact that while man can gain wealth
from the “industry of peace”, he chooses the “industry of war”. He invites man to consider the
essence of his existence, of his very nature. What is the element of human existence, or of human
nature that the more power man achieves, causes him to thirst for even more power and for war?
Besides his five volume autobiography, Theodorakis has published over 30 books. These
4
include studies on music and culture, analyses of post-war Greek history and also his political and
philosophical ideas. In reality, however, his manuscripts number many thousands of pages. His
whole archive is 200,000 pages.iv

“Every person should, at this time, be praying and struggling for peace.”

This sentence is at the end of a statement in support of Palestine. But this prayer and struggle
does not only concern Palestine. When Serbia was being bombed (1999) Theodorakis and his
orchestra took part in the large demonstration in Syntagma (Constitution Square, Athens). He then
went to Belgrade and gave a large concert in support of the Serbian people. He appealed to the
International Court of Justice at the Hague and filed charges against the political and military
leadership of NATO. The same year the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested. Theodorakis
collected signatures on his website from all over the world requesting a fair trial for Ocalan and to
ensure the Kurdish peoples' human rights.
Theodorakis is completely against terrorism.
Since 1989 he has harshly condemned terrorism in Greece. The November 17 terrorist group
answered him with insulting letters sent to newspapers.
September 11, 2001. Theodorakis, shocked by the death of thousands of innocent people in the
Twin Towers makes the following prophetic statement before television cameras: “[...] imperialism
and terrorism are two dinosaurs which in the immediate future will clash with tragic
consequences for mankind.”
When the war broke out in Afghanistan (2002) and Iraq (2003), Theodorakis joined his voice with
the millions of people who demanded an end to the war.

Living ideology

The word freedom to Theodorakis is not just an intellectual concept to be discussed at times
of leisure. It is an ideology. He himself is a living ideology. An eternal lover of Democracy, for over
60 years he has been engaged in a continuous discussion with people, proposing to them, even now
at the time of this writing, a specific lifestyle. “It is the path of struggle, of education, of spiritual,
moral and mental growth, of respect and responsibility.”12 The strength behind this Promethean
struggle is Love. As he wrote in the 1960s: “Let us teach our Youth that Democracy means love,
Peace means love, Freedom means love. Our great invincible weapon must, at every moment, be
Love. For the whole nation, without exception. For the poor and for the rich, for those who are
politically to the right or to the left, for the prisonerv and for the guard. Our hatred should be kept
only for the handful of our nation's enemies which so contemptuously hate us and oppress us.”13
In a television interview a few years ago, the journalist described Theodorakis as a hero. With
his usual sweet humility, he answered, “I'm not a hero. Heroes die young. I am just a citizen doing
his duty”.-

5
Sources

6
1 Mikis Theodorakis Where can I find my soul, Volume Ideas, p.182, Livanis Publishing House, Athens 2002

2 Roger Garaudy The education revolution in Europe in Mikis Theodorakis The Debt, Volume I, p.250, Pleias, Athens
1974 – out of print.

3 The same.

4 Mikis Theodorakis Where are we going? p.30, Gnosis, Athens 1988

5 Pavlos Petridis Theodorakis the Politician, p.287 Aggelos Sideratos Publ., Proskinio, Athens 1997.

6 Giorgos Logothetis Mikis Theodorakis-Greece is my religion, p.84, Angira, Athens 2004

7 Mikis Theodorakis Paths of the Archangel (Autobiography), Volume I, p.142,143, Kedros, Athens 1986

8 The same

9 Dimitris Koutoulas Mikis Theodorakis as the creator of social wealth in Crete and in Greece, Minutes of an
International Convention titled Mikis Theodorkis The man, the creator, the musician and the global figure p.96,97,
Chania Prefectural Administration, Chania December 2006
i
i
10 Mikis Theodorakis Where can I find my soul, Volume Ideas, p.351, Livanis Publishing House, Athens 2002
i
11 Mikis Theodorakis Antimanifest p.11-54, Gnosis, Athens 1998
i
12 Pavlos Petridis Theodorakis the Politician, p. 85, Aggelos Sideratos Publ., Proskinio, Athens 1997
13 The same p.78

Notes

*From Axion Esti. Poetry Odysseus Elytis. Music Mikis Theodorakis

i. Theodorakis was elected to Parliament 4 times (1964, 1981, 1985, 1989)

ii. Theodorakis was imprisoned in the Athens Police Headquarters, The Averof prison and at the army camp of Oropos. He
was forcibly relocated with his family to Zatouna, a mountain village in Arcadia for a year. During that period, a Global
Committee was formed by intellectuals, artists and ordinary citizens to demand Theodorakis’ release. Members of the
committee, amongst others, were: Arthur Miller, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Louis Aragon, Sir Laurence
Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Pinter, Pierre Boulez, etc.

iii. May 2006. Inter-scientific convention in Crete titled Universal Harmony, music and science See Convention Minutes,
Crete University Press, Heraklion 2007

iv. The composer donated his archives to the Lilian Voudouri Music Library of Greece at the Athens Music Megaron. See
www.mmb.org.gr

v. At the time (1960s) there were approximately 6000 political prisoners in Greece. Many of them had been sentenced to
death but the sentences were not executed.

vi All the underlining in the text is my own.

vii. The title is taken from the Roger Garaudy text (see sources no.2)

viii. Official website: www.mikis-theodorakis.net


Translated by Georges Seferiades