Stavros Xarchakos

“You should reciprocate to divine gift”

In a rare personal narrative, the leading Greek composer recalls his life from the first memories dating back to the Nazi Occupation until his last work on the Greek folk music. He recounts his grandmother's serenades and his first attempt to write folk music, describes the process of inspiration and the panic of the blank pentagram and explains why success is not always the best. Shhh… Stavros Xarchakos has the floor…

Stavros Xarchakos

Nice as a Greek, intimate as well as unapproachable

By Christina Katsantoni

Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos

His name reflects pictures and melodies which carry Greece and its history within them. Many generations of Greeks grew up, were hurt and quarreled in his hands. His music gave life to unforgettable cinematic moments, made memories, marked different eras, moved and continues to move untouched by the passage of time. His work is known, as much as he is unknown. In the case of the special Stavros Xarchakos, answers to questions concerning him are given by his own music…

His relationship with interviews

Once upon a time there was a great composer, who wanted to share his unique musical world with the whole world; but he didn’t want to share himself. He has always kept himself out of the limelight. His personal presence in the media is inversely proportional to his songs. The interviews still have a "cod liver flavor” for him.

Stavros Xarchakos has been obsessed with his music for six decades. He expresses himself through music and communicates with the public. He’s intimate and mysterious, he’s "ours" but at the same time unapproachable...

>Parents' concerns

Music started for him since he can remember himself. He came to this world in March 1939, in Exarcheia, and his first memories were formed by the sounds of sirens and pictures of death on the sidewalks of Themistocleous street.

All this, however, was banished by his grandmother and her guitar. They sang serenades together and even opera arias. His grandmother was also the first to believe that this child, who wasn’t a good student in High School at all, but always played the guitar and sang on national holidays, would become something special when he grew up. His parents were extremely worried as they didn’t want him to become a musician...

To the great disappointment of his mother who wanted him to study, he never went to the University. To the great disappointment of his father, who dreamt of making him an admiral one day, he never joined the Navy. He overcame the obstacles imposed by his parents' wishes and went to the Conservatory.

When he accepted the offer of a friend to write music for the performance "The Party" by Alexis Damianos, he wanted to test himself and be tested in that. After that, another play came, in which Stavros Xarchakos had to write folk music for the first time. That play was "The Red Lanterns". He wrote timeless and unsurpassed songs, such as "To Kalderimi” (The cobbled street), “Aponi Zoi” (Painful life) and “Ftoxologia” (Poverty) in lyrics by Lefteris Papadopoulos.

Success and pursuit

Success was rapid in his life, but not temporary. His music dressed up top moments of Greek cinema, while his collaboration with Nikos Gatsos gave birth to many great timeless hits, such as “Matia Vourkomena” (Stained eyes) and “Aspri mera kai gia mas” (White day for us)…

In the 70's he wrote the music for the historical show "To Megalo Mas Tsirko” (Our big circus) and songs that were uniquely performed by Nikos Xilouris such as "Itane Mia Fora” (Once upon a time), while another great record in the history of Greek music came in 1983 for the film “Rembetiko”.

In all his creative journey that continued successfully in the following decades, Stavros Xarchakos never stopped looking for and trying new things. From the late ‘60s, he continued his study of classical music, while his work includes ballet suites, concerts and symphonic pieces. Success wasn’t his goal. As he says: "success is not always the best thing that can happen to you...".

Music is life

He doesn’t like the word talent, he prefers the word charisma, to which you shouldn’t be ungrateful, but reciprocate. He continues to do so generously with his new work which is inspired by folk music.

At 82 years old today, Stavros Xarchakos is in no mood to hide his age, nor to share how he spends his time. He remains prosperous and creative, enjoys moments with his twin children and still doesn’t want to talk about himself and his work. He lets music itself clarify everything...

As he said during his Honorary Doctorate ceremony at the Department of Music Studies of the University of Athens, "music settles the emotional and mysterious chaos in an incomprehensible way". Because music, as he goes on to say, is life for him: "Life without music is death, that’s it" Whatever you say maestro…