Arguably one of Greece’s most popular performers.
Born in Piraeus, the main port of Athens, Dalaras comes from a tradition of folk and blues music. His father was a traditional musician and “bouzouki” instrumentalist and his first musical memories are of the main forms of Greek music: the “laiko” (popular), the “rembetiko” (blues) and the “paradosiako” (traditional).
At the age of 16, Dalaras’ first public appearances were as a guitarist and singer. He was the first to take Greek music out of the conventional club environment and perform concerts in large venues. Two years later, he recorded his first album, the authentic sound of Greek urban music (based essentially on the bouzouki). Enriched by the young artist’s innovative contemporary approach, it won him instant critical and popular acclaim – his vast live audiences rewarding him with sales of several hundred thousand albums for his first best-seller. Since then George Dalaras has sold more than 7 million albums of his own work and his collaborations. In all, he has released some 55 personal albums and has collaborated in 45 others as musician or producer, always expanding his musical horizons with his multi-faceted creativity.
In his early twenties he had already achieved stardom and began working with the great names in Greek music. He recorded “18 Songs of a Bitter Homeland” by the greatest contemporary Greek composure Mikis Theodorakis, with lyrics by Yannis Ritsos. Beginning on 1974, he toured Greece and Europe several times with Theodorakis, interpreting some of the composer’s greatest songs. In 1988, at the Herod Atticus Theatre, he twice performed, and recorded a double album – the composer’s masterpiece “Axion Esti”- based on the poem by the Nobel poet Odysseas Elytis. During his career, George Dalaras has indeed worked with all the important Greek composers, including Stavros Kouyioumtzis, Manos Loizos, Apostolos Kaldaras, Christos Nikolopoulos, Yannis Markopoulos, Stavros Xarchacos, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Eleni Karaindrou and lyricists such as Nikos Gatsos, Lefteris Papadopoulos, Manos Eleftheriou and Kostas Tripolitis. In 1994 he gave five performances at Megaron, the new Athens Concert Hall, in a musical spectacular directed by Costas Gavras, tracing the history of Greek music from antiquity to the “European” Greece of today. He later recorded for EMI Classics a tribute concert to Mikis Theodorakis and his film music with the Metropole Orchestra at the Herod Atticus Theatre.
Since 1981, he has performed in over 500 concerts outside Greece, promoting Greek culture abroad. He has performed at the Palais des Congres in Paris, London’s Wembley Arena (backed by Melina Mercouri and Vanessa Redgrave), Toronto Montreal and in 1994 Meadowlands in New Jersey before an audience of 22,000.
In recognition of this and other humanitarian contributions, he received the Kennedy Award from Senator Edward Kennedy. He has also appeared at numerous cultural festivals including Cuba (1981, 1998), the Europlia Festival in Brussels (1982), the Peace Festival in Vienna (1983), the Youth Festival in Moscow (1985), the Olympia in Paris (1987), the Aid to Africa Concert in the Stadium of Peace and Friendship in Athens (1986) and the 1988 Amnesty International Concert in Athens with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Youssou ‘n’ Dour.
With his exceptional voice and instrumental skills he has always been at the forefront of innovation in contemporary Greek music. In the course of the last two decades he has become the benchmark of what his kind of music is, (or should be) about, renewing the genre by leading his mainly youthful public along neglected musical paths like the “smirneiko” and the “rembetiko.” In a country with so many flourishing traditions, George Dalaras has become a musical phenomenon. Yet this soft spoken and modest man shuns the “star system” and the banalities of commercial Greek bouzouki music. He has preferred to bring his audiences to the discovery of new music and cultures. His collaborations with other international artists have demonstrated his ability to cross over into other styles. He has for example, recorded and appeared on stage with Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola, Ian Anderson and produced albums such as “Latin” and the “Misa Criolla” of Ariel Ramírez. One of his latest releases is an album with the famous Yugoslav composer Goran Bregovic.
Over the years, George has won many hearts through his commitment to good causes- and his concern with social issues. His fight for justice and his support for the politically or socially oppressed have made him a focus for humanitarian activists. He is particularly energetic in his support of causes associated with labor movements, discrimination against women and children and those who have suffered emotional or physical abuse: thus his collaborations with other artists for the benefit of the victims of famine in Africa and of war in Yugoslavia.
Dalaras dedicated a whole live show to Markos Vamvakaris, one of the godfathers of the “Greek blues” Rembetiko. A double CD was released in 2004 with guests such as Stelios and Domenicos Vamvakaris, Theodore Papadopoulos, Chisoula Christopoulou. An album full of intense athmosphere recorded at the old Apollo-Theatre in Ermopoulis, a small scale version of La Scala in Milan.
His art and his popularity transcend the borders of Greece precisely because his compositions, poignant expressions of protest, social indignation and hope, set him apart from other musicians. His main concern is for his audiences, be they in Athens, Latin America, Russia, Canada, the USA, Paris, Stockholm or London, is always that his performances are not simply a great event, but also a great cultural experience and a musical voyage of discovery.