Apostolos Nikolaidis (singer)
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Apostolos Nikolaidis in 1995
|Born||30 June 1938|
|Died||22 April 1999(aged 60)|
Apostolos Nikolaidis (Greek: Απόστολος Νικολαΐδης) (30 June 1938 – 22 April 1999) was a Greek singer whose career spanned four decades. He was born in Drama, Greece and grew up in Thessaloniki. He is best known for being the first Greek artist to record or re-record the authentic, "prohibited" rebetika songs in the early 1970s with their original lyrics at a time when this type of music was censored in Greece due to the military junta of 1967–1974 in power.
Early career and influences
As a young child, Apostolos sang the popular songs he heard on the radio and whatever songs his mother, a seamstress, taught him. Although his affinity for singing was obvious from a very young age, upon completing grade school in 1951, he went to work with his father in construction, singing songs to himself or for anyone who would listen while picking up nails or carrying cement on construction sites.
It was when Apostolos heard songs on the radio sung by Stelios Kazantzidis, a performer he admired greatly, that he realized his calling. Much to his parents' chagrin, he bought a guitar, formed a trio and started to sing around the neighborhood. The youngsters sang the well-known songs of the time, mostly hits performed by popular artists like Kazantzidis and Grigoris Bithikotsis.
After finishing his compulsory military service in 1962, Apostolos took his musical ambitions and set off for Athens and Columbia Records. Columbia was the pre-eminent Greek record company at the time, and most of the country's big performing artists were signed with the label. After introducing himself to the label management, he was able to get an appointment for an audition later in the week at the historic studios in Rizoupoli, Athens. Upon his arrival, Apostolos discovered that Kazantzidis himself was in for a recording session. He nervously waited for his idol to finish recording; then, he sang one of Kazantzidis' hits, "Duo portes ehi i zoi," with Kazantzidis still in the studio. Both Kazantzidis and Columbia were impressed and Apostolos was invited to sign a three-year contract with the label.
While on the Columbia Records artist roster, Apostolos recorded songs by many of the music industry's top composers at the time, including Manolis Hiotis (a close friend who guided and taught him), Giorgos Lafkas, Vassilis Tsitsanis and Apostolos Kaldaras. The first song he recorded, 1962's "Esi me pligoses varia," was written by Lafkas. Concurrently, he performed at historic venues such as Anemona alongside Lafkas and Kaldaras, Kouinta, To Hriso Vareli, and at Koulourioti's alongside Kazantzidis and Marinella, where he first became widely known to the public.
Although Apostolos was given songs to record that were written by many of the top composers of the time, they were generally not hit material and this distressed him. Because of the lack of hit-worthy songs available to him as well as a number of creative differences between him and Columbia's management, Apostolos left the record company when his contract expired in 1965. In 1967 he signed on with Vendetta, a small record company formed by singing greats Panos Gavalas and Poly Panou (both also formerly signed on the Columbia label). His big hit on Vendetta was 1968's "Asimorfoti."
The move to North America
Eventually disillusioned with the Greek recording industry and in search of greener pastures, Apostolos set out for North America in 1968. He worked with esteemed bouzouki player Haris Lemonopoulos in Canada for a couple of years; working his way down to the U.S., Apostolos performed in clubs in Chicago and New York City. Apostolos recorded his first long-play album, "O Gialinos Kosmos," with Lemonopoulos on bouzouki in 1969 and continued to perform in supper clubs while contemplating a new album. The custom at the time was for Greek overseas acts to record albums containing covers of current Greek hits, but Apostolos had other plans.
Pioneering a rebetiko revival
Through his engagements and performances in Greece in the 1960s, Apostolos had come in contact and worked with many of the great composers of rebetika music such as Markos Vamvakaris, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Giorgos Lafkas and Giannis Papaioannou. These composers had risen to fame in the 40s and early 50s but had become sorely neglected and even prosecuted in the much-changed musical landscape of the 1960s. It was from them that Apostolos learned the authentic, traditional rebetika songs, songs borne of poverty, strife and suffering by the refugees of Asia Minor in large Greek urban centers in the 1920s. Apostolos' idea was to record an album full of these classic, traditional rebetika songs with their original lyrics as intended by their authors. Some of these songs had never been recorded with their original lyrics and were outlawed in Greece when a military coup took control of the government in 1967.
The result, 1973's "Otan Kapnizi O Loulas", became a worldwide best-seller as Greek music buyers lined up in stores as far away as Japan to purchase the album. The album was illegal in Greece in the first few years of its release, and 8-track copies of "Otan Kapnizi O Loulas" were regularly confiscated by authorities from taxi drivers' car radios in Athens during 1973 and 1974.
Apostolos Nikolaidis is considered the first to pay tribute to the great composers of Greek rebetika music and is thought to have opened up the door for other contemporary Greek singers and groups to begin recording these types of songs and performing them as an established part of their musical repertoire. Today, "Otan Kapnizi O Loulas" is considered a classic Greek music album and has sold over three million copies worldwide — not counting the tens of thousands of bootleg copies produced and sold since the album's release.
The 1980s and 1990s
In 1982, feeling he had become stereotyped as a singer capable of singing only "heavy-handed" rebetika songs, Apostolos recorded and released an album of love songs called "Den Hriazonte Logia". The album did not meet the commercial success Apostolos had hoped for, but it gave him the opportunity to return to the musical space he started out in 20 years earlier.
"Rebetikes Stigmes-Magika Tragoudia" followed in 1983 on the VASIPAP label. Many of the songs on this album became popular requests during Apostolos' subsequent live performances and concerts. Kostas Papadopoulos, one of Greece's most highly regarded bouzouki players, worked with Apostolos on this album.
In the early 1980s and along with the album releases, Apostolos worked in various well-known nightclubs in and around Athens. However, he felt stifled by a lack of integrity and opportunity in the music business at the time and returned to New York in the mid-1980s, resuming appearances there and performing newer material in addition to his older classics.
Apostolos continued to give performances in New York, Toronto, Houston, San Francisco, Vancouver and Germany into the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was followed and embraced by his many ardent fans, performing to sold-out houses every night. His fan base now included many younger fans, who had grown up with Apostolos and counted "Otan Kapnizi O Loulas" among their all-time favorite albums.
In 1991, Apostolos released "Mia Vradia Me Ton Apostoli" — a live album containing material recorded during his legendary appearances at Asteria, a well-known Greek supper club in Astoria, New York, in 1990 and 1991. The album was a success and yielded the hit "Otan horevis to tsifteteli (Horepse, horepse)." For this achievement, Apostolos was honored with his second gold record in New York in 1993. The album was released in Greece in 1995, and "Otan horevis to tsifteteli" became one of the most commonly played songs on the radio and in nightclubs that year.
Spurred on by the success, and as a further established and respected artist, Apostolos decided to return to Greece in the mid-1990s. Although the Greek musical landscape had changed considerably since the 1980s, Apostolos found the general environment much more conducive to recording, performing and promoting his work. He teamed up with Giorgos Manisalis — one of the great composers of laika songs from the golden age of Greek music — to release two albums in 1996 and 1997.
Along with the two new album releases, Apostolos performed in clubs and concerts in Thessaloniki to standing-room only audiences. In interviews on TV and on the radio, he promoted his work and answered questions about his past, present and future with characteristic candor and directness. Apostolos also gave special concerts throughout northern Greece, Cyprus and in New York during this time.
In 1998, Apostolos recorded and released "Magia mou pou 'me Paoktzis," a two-track ode to the Thessaloniki soccer team PAOK. In April 1999, Apostolos released "Allagi Frouras," a collection of laika tragoudia with a decidedly contemporary feel.
Apostolos Nikolaidis died unexpectedly on April 22, 1999, in Athens from complications from cancer. His plans for the new millennium included a new, permanent gig at a popular Athens nightclub, new material, and a live recording of the classic rebetika songs he became famous for. In accordance with his wishes, his remains were flown back to the United States and buried there.
Image, style and legacy
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1961–1967 (45RPM Singles)
1969–1983 (33RPM Albums)
- O Gialinos Kosmos (1969)
- Otan Kapnizi O Loulas (1973)
- O Arhagelos (1975)
- Ithela Namouna Pasas (1976)
- Ston Adi Antamosane (1977)
- Ta 12 Evagelia T'Apostoli (1979)
- Den Hriazonte Logia (1982)
- Rembetikes Stigmes-Magkika Tragoudia (1983)
1991–1999 (CD Albums)
- Mia Vradia Me Ton Apostoli Live (1991)
- Ti Mou Thimises Tora (1996)
- Na Haro Magkia (1997)
- Magkia Mou Poume PAOKtzis (Single) (1998)
- Allagi Frouras (1999)
Posthumous CD Releases
- Ta Rembetika T' Apostoli — 3CD Collectors' Set (2002)
- Gi Afto Ke Zo — 11 Unreleased Tracks (2005)
- O Gialinos Kosmos — Remastered Collector's Edition (2007)
Film and television
- "The Official Website of Apostolos Nikolaidis". www.apostolosnikolaidis.com. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
- Official website
- "Απόστολος Νικολαΐδης: Ο οικοδόμος που έγινε ρεμπέτης", Νέαρχος Γεωργιάδης, Klika Magazine, May 2007