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Three Songs by Kostas Skarvelis

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Author Profile: Labrini Gioti

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A musician’s practical notes on 3 songs by Kostas Skarvelis
By Labrini Gioti

Born in 1880 in Constantinople (Instanbul) and died in Athens during World War II in 1942 from hunger.
He was a prolific composer having composed hundreds of songs(some 200 have survived). He was an excellent guitarist and a fine singer on stage(though in the recordings we might have heard him only as a “secondo”)
Skarvelis became the first artistic director of Columbia recording industry in 1930-1941. He also helped with the instrumentation of other composers’ songs, while also served as a guitarist in the recordings of other colleagues.
He accompanied often in the guitar ,the famous Tetras (Markos Vamvakaris, Giorgos Batis, Stratos Pagioumtzis, Anestos Delias) in many of their performances.

The voices he collaborated with for the recording of his songs include Giorgos Kavouras, Rita Abatzi, Kostas Roukounas, Stellakis Perpiniadis, Marika Frantzeskopoulou, Kostas Tsanakos, Markos Vamvakaris, Apostolos Chatzichristos, Roza Eskenazy, Apostolos Hrisoulis, among some. Giorgos Kavouras was one of his most important singers. He had recorded more than 50 songs of Skarvelis between 1935-1941.

Kostas Skarvelis

Kostas  Skarvelis

Rita Ampatzi

Rita Abadji

Giorgos Kavouras

Giorgos Kavouras

His first songs began with the recording company Pathe(1928-1929). The singing style of the songs require high flexibility in singing eastern intervals and also needs a high pitch voice, in order to feature ornamentation and maintain the eastern style of the song that Skarvelis wanted to portray.

As a lyricist, Skarvelis mostly wrote songs about love although he never married or as far as we know he didn’t have some spouse. We know that he was narrating the songs in Greek to others to write them down, since he didn’t know how to write Greek.

1) στα ξενα μ’αφησες(sta ksena m’afises)


You left me in the foreign lands

Singer: Rita Abatzi (1936)
Rita Abatzi began the recordings with Skarvelis in 1932- 1937 (16 songs)

It is a song that speaks about immigration. 

A woman has left Greece for the foreign lands to follow her loved one. But he abandons her and goes out with other women. She calls him a “murderer” and that he doesn’t feel sorry for her. She tells him to take her back to her mother to die in Greece – she doesn’t want to die alone in the foreign lands.

2) μα τι να κανω σ’αγαπω (ma ti na kano s’agapo )

What can I do I love you
Singer: George Kavouras (1940)
George Kavouras recorded songs of Skarvelis in 1935- 1940(45 songs)

3) πονω δε με λυπασαι (pono de me lipasai)

I am in pain and you are not sorry for this (love song)
Singer: George Kavouras(1937)

Kostas Skarvelis played the guitar. These 3 songs are almost the same in introduction and singing. Also there are some similarities in the lyrics.

4) *there is a 4th song called Τι θελεις μανα τον γιατρο (ti thelis mana ton giatro)

“what do you want the doctor, mother?”. That follows some of the patterns and motives of the above songs, especially at the highest part of the singing. Sung from George Kavouras. The song speaks about a son who tells to his mother that he is going to die no matter if she brings the doctor or not. 


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