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Books & Music

 ¡Greece Goes Latin!

A Cultural Crossover in Music

Greece Goes Latin.jpg

All original images on this page were generated by me using

AI, Photoshop and Canva. 

Greece's Latin Music Craze 

Greece holds a surprising secret: its deep love for Latin music.

This love affair traces at least as far back as the mid-20th century, intertwining Greek lyrics with the infectious melodies and passionate rhythms of Latin America. The soulful and seductive feel resonated deeply with equally passionate Greek audiences, offering an avenue for expression as well as a welcome escape from the recent memories of two horrific wars. As Greek musicians experimented with these rhythms, a new wave of music emerged, blending the best of both worlds. Greece's connection with Latin music has only deepened over the decades, becoming an integral part of the country's musical identity, and I think we're all the better for it.

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Not real vintage album covers, although how cool would that be?

These were also made by me using AI,  Photoshop and Canva. 

1950s and 60s: The Golden Era of Greek-Latin Music

The infusion of Latin rhythms into Greek music really hit it's stride in the 1950s and 60s, fueled by the global spread of Latin American genres and the influence of Greek immigrants returning from countries like Argentina and Brazil. These immigrants brought back not only memories of their adopted homelands but also a deep appreciation for the passionate beats of Latin music, which soon found a welcoming home in Greece.

One of the earliest Greek artists to embrace Latin music was Mikis Theodorakis (of Zorba fame), renowned for his compositions that often incorporated elements of folk, classical, and Latin music, especially in the arrangements of tunes. "An Thimithis to Oneiro Mou" is one example.

In the 1950s and 60s, groups like the Trio Bel Canto and Trio Kitara brought a sophisticated blend of Greek lyrics and tight harmonies to Latin rhythms. Their smooth, easy-listening sounds attracted even English-speaking fans who had already whet their Latin appetite with non-Hispanic crooners like Perry Como and Eydie Gormé. If you take a look at random American album covers from those years, you'll find a plethora of rhumba ruffles and bongos.

The Rising Popularity of Latin Rhythms in Greek Music in the '70's and 80's

More fun with AI, etc. I had to go into Photoshop and paint in the tsarouchia (evzone shoes), because AI was just not getting it at all

As the years passed, Greek musicians continued to experiment with Latin sounds, expanding their repertoire and pushing artistic boundaries. In the 1970s and 80s, Greek singer Demis Roussos gained international acclaim with Latin-inspired tracks such as "Baliare Bailaras" and "Bambina." Roussos' voice captured the essence of Latin music, and it gained him a dedicated fan base both at home and abroad. 

From the 1970s onward, Greek musicians continued to explore Latin rhythms, creating a lush and diverse landscape of songs that resonated with audiences across generations. Notable artists such as George Dalaras - often hailed as "the Voice of Greece", multilingual chanteuse Nana Mouskouri, and the iconic Haris Alexiou incorporated Latin elements into their repertoire - sometimes singing in Greek, sometimes in Spanish - and infusing their music with a sensual and energetic flair that enraptured listeners. Dalaras even put out an entire album called, appropriately, "Latin", where he sings in both languages. Pretty swoon-y, all in all.

The 1980s saw a yet another surge in the popularity of Latin music in Greece, fueled by the global phenomenon of salsa and the rise of Latin pop stars like Gloria Estefan and Julio Iglesias (and in the following decade, his son Enrique). Greek artists embraced this trend, infusing their music with salsa beats and romantic ballads reminiscent of Latin love songs.

Modern Greek Maestros Loving the Latin Beat

In more recent times, superstars such as Alkistis Protopsalti, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Konstantinos Argiros and more, such as bands Apurimac and Locomondo, have taken Latin rhythms and made them their own. Who doesn't find themselves smiling when those mariachi horns kick in during Pantelis Pantelidis' "Ginete"? What's not to love about Nefeli Fasouli's adorably retro little cha-ha number "Volta"?

And Locomondo's "Kritiki Cumbia" is the mash-up you didn't think was possible. Cretan vibes AND a cumbia beat? What sorcery is this? Excuse me, but I have to go lie down from the sheer awesomeness. 

Exploring the Fusion: A Curated Spotify Playlist

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I've put together a Spotify playlist with all the songs and artists listed in this article, as well as several other fantastic tunes that span the decades. I've been listening to it myself almost non-stop since I put it together. Hopefully you'll find some things on there you like! Even if you're not sure you're into Latin music as a genre, I encourage you to take a listen, if only for the novelty and surprise factor of these ingenious Greek musicians. 

Don't have Spotify? No worries. You can sign up easily for free with a user name and password either on their website or on their app on your phone, which you can download for free in the App Store. The downside of the free service (which I also have, because enough with the paid subscriptions, already) is you can only listen to the songs on Shuffle, and you get occasional ads. Still, not a deal breaker. Of course, if you're already a Premium Spotify member you can listen to them in order without ads. 

If the embedded playlist above isn't working for you, you can try this link. 

Cross-Cultural Love: "Son Pa' Atenas" and the Cuban Connection 

 

And lest you think the affection flows only in one direction, I've added a song called "Son Pa' Atenas". It's an unabashed love song to the city of Athens, sung in Spanish by the Cuban band Santa Palabra. The song is in the playlist, but do yourself a favor and click this YouTube link for their great song - used with their kind permission - "Son Pa Atenas". It's filmed all over Athens, and frankly it looks like they were having a great time. The song, which has helpful English subtitles so non-Spanish speakers can understand the full expression of their love, contains references to everything from battling the Persians to routing the Ottomans to defying the Nazis. If you ever wondered if there might be a kick-ass salsa song out there that included both Pericles and Poseidon, it's your lucky day.

 

Warning - the song may give you intense warm fuzzies towards humanity as a whole and may cause uninhibited dancing around your kitchen.

And pay attention to the last few trumpet notes of the song. Do they sound familiar? They’re from “Zeibekiko tis Evdokias ”! 

The Enduring Love Affair Between Greek and Latin Music

The popularity of Latin music in Greece shows no signs of waning, as new generations of artists continue to explore and reinterpret its rhythms and melodies. From rebetiko to rhumba, syrto to samba, bouzouki to bossa nova - this blend is going nowhere. Whether traditional Greek songs get given un poquito Latin twist or original compositions blend the best of both worlds, the infatuation between Greece and Latin music remains as passionate as ever.

 

Greece's affinity for Latin music spans decades and has left an indelible mark on its musical landscape. From the mid-20th century to the present day, Greek artists have warmly embraced Latin rhythms, infusing them into their music and creating a fusion that's uniquely Greek yet universally appealing. From the Aegean to the Andes, Rhodes to Rio, Metsovo to Mexico, and Porto Rafti to Puerto Rico, as the legacy of this love affair continues to thrive, one thing is certain: the gorgeous melodies and infectious rhythms of Latin music will always have a special place in the hearts of Greeks everywhere.

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