George Dalaras Biography
George Dalaras has done possibly more than anyone else to bring the music of Greece to a worldwide audience. Two decades ago, when he already had an international following, the French daily, Le Figaro, noted that even though he sang in Greek, "his music, springing from the heart, has a universal appeal."
Born in 1949 in the port city of Piraeus, Dalaras comes from a tradition of folk and blues music. His mother was a Greek refugee from Asia Minor, while his father was a traditional musician and bouzouki player. Dalaras's first musical memories are of the main forms of Greek music: the laika (popular), the rebetika (a kind of blues) and the paradosiaka (traditional).
Dalaras gave his first public appearance, as a singer and guitarist, at the age of 16. Two years later he cut his first album - a critically acclaimed and popular collection of Greek urban music based on the stringed bouzouki and enriched by the young musician's contemporary approach. Since then, Dalaras has sold more than 15 million albums of his own work and collaborations. In all, he has released more than 85 solo albums and appeared as a guest or producer on more than 50 other recordings.
In his early 20s, he began working with the great names in Greek music. Most notable over the years has been his collaboration with Mikis Theodorakis. Dalaras has toured Greece and Europe several times with Theodorakis, interpreting the composer's greatest songs. He has also recorded many works by Theodorakis, including a live album from Athen's Herodus Atticus Theatre of the masterpiece, "Axion Esti."
Since 1981, he has helped promote Greek culture overseas by performing more than 500 concerts in major world cities. He has appeared at numerous cultural and humanitarian festivals at home and abroad, including the 1983 Peace Festival in Vienna, the Youth Festival in Moscow in 1985 and the Aid to Africa Concert in Athens in 1986. Two years later, he took part in a star-studded Amnesty International concert in Athens, lining up alongside Peter Gabriel, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour.
His collaboration with UNHCR began in 2001, during the agency's 50th anniversary celebrations. Dalaras also took part in the first ever World Refugee Day on June 20 that same year, by performing with the Ossipov Russian Orchestra, conducted by Nikolai Kalinin, in Delphi. He also staged two fund-raising concerts for UNHCR in Athens, alongside French artist Emma Shapplin. Dalaras also appeared with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Philadelphia at the Saratoga Festival in the United States.
Dalaras has long been involved in humanitarian causes, learning from his refugee mother to care about the struggles of others. In 1994, during a concert in New Jersey, the late Senator Edward Kennedy presented him with the Kennedy Award in recognition of his humanitarian work.
That same year in Athens, he starred in a musical spectacular tracing the history of Greek music from antiquity to the present. The show was directed by noted film director, Costas Gavras.
In 2007, Dalaras visited 11 European cities on his "Inspired by Rembetiko" tour. In 2010, he followed this with the "Encore Tour," performing in 14 cities across Europe.
Thanks to his exceptional voice and instrumental skills, Dalaras has always been at the forefront of innovation in contemporary Greek music. In a country with so many flourishing traditions, Dalaras has become a musical phenomenon.
His collaborations with other international artists - including Sting, Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, Goran Bregovic, Ian Anderson, Joan Faulkner, Jocelyn B. Smith, Emma Shapplin, Eddy Napoli and Dulce Pontes - and orchestras have shown his ability to cross over into different styles.
Aside from his music, Dalaras has won plaudits for his support of worthy causes and his concern with social issues. His fight for justice and his support for the oppressed have made him a focus for humanitarian activists. He is particularly supportive of causes associated with labour movements, discrimination against women and children, sufferers of emotional or physical abuse and, of course, refugees.
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 most musicians.
On October 5, 2006, Dalaras was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador during a ceremony at the Old Parliament Building in Athens.