Mikis Theodorakis: A Legend for Greece 
Nicolas Mottas
July 28, 2009

On the occasion of Mikis Theodorakis' 84th birthday on July 29th.

It's always difficult to find the proper words when you refer to legendary personalities like Mikis Theodorakis. That happens because their greatness, their lifetime achievements and your admiration for them, cannot be expressed through phrases and clichés. And in our case, Mikis is not just a great composer and a generous fighter of Democracy and Liberty - he is a symbol. A symbol of modern Greece.

Born in the island of Chios on July 1925, Mikis created his own myth through the years. In this pathway, his moving wheels were two: the unique music talent as well as his lifelong desire for freedom. Theodorakis' biography consists an extremely interesting story by itself: from the childhood years in Pelopponese and his first contact with music to the resistance against Nazism's oppression and from the creation of Lambrakis Youth movement to the struggle against the seven-years long military Junta.

A political lifetime of exiles, imprisonments, tortures and sacrifices which, however, led to the creation of a legend embodied with the ideals of Democracy, Liberty and Patriotism. That figure of Mikis was uniquely enriched by his tremendous music talent, making him Greece's most prominent composer of the 20th century. His biography written by Guy Wagner and Gail Holst provide interesting information about Mikis career in composing; from the Symphonic music to his co-operations with leading poets (like Odysseus Elytis, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, George Seferis and Yannis Ritsos) and from the world-known soundtracks of Zorba the Greek, "Z" and Serpico to the revolutionary, anti-Junta, songs of 1970s with Maria Farantouri and Antonis Kalogiannis. Theodorakis' music became the landmark sound of Greece, but also expressed millions of people around the world being symbols of freedom.

From Palestine (the national anthem of which he composed) to Cuba and from England to the eastern shores of Russia, Mikis became a figure of resistance and true patriotism, proving that music has no borders. The tall young boy who gave his first concert at the age of 17 led to fascinate other outstanding personalities of politics, literature and arts, like Fidel Castro, François Mitterrand, Arthur Miller, Dmitri Shostakovich and Anthony Quinn. But, obviously, a strong and charismatic personality without ideals does not create a great legend by it's own.

Mikis Theodorakis had true ideals which had in it's very heart of interest the human being. It's really interesting what journalist Georgios P. Malouchos writes in the preface of "Axios Esti" book: "an immovable fundamental of Theodorakis' aims and action was just one thing: the blind commitment to the ideals of a better Greece and a better world, without collateral tendentiousnesses and thoughts. Moreover, G.Malouchos continues stating that "Mikis Theodorakis continued, throughout his life, to fight with intense belief during the darkest and most difficult times for his country and for Liberty. He never gave up, never got tired and - most importantly - he never compromised. I wholeheartedly agree.

According to Guy Wagner "the life of Mikis mirrors Greece of the 20th Century" while Pavlos Petridis had concluded that "for Theodorakis the essence of Politics had (and has) a unique, symbolic significance. For him, 'politics for the people' means audacity, disinterestedness, radicalism, supererogation and unity". That last one, "unity", seems to have played an important role in Mikis' socio-political action. Through his unparalleled music he tried - and succeed - to unite Greeks, after decades of domestic political dissension. Mikis Theodorakis consists an example of how someone can be both an Internationalist and a true Patriot; perhaps the landmark of Greece's once-dominant Patriotic Left.

Like every leading personality, Theodorakis had - and still has - the courage to express his opinion when needed. It is known that he has been a consistent advocate, along with his personal friend and songwriter Zülfü Livaneli, of the Greek-Turkish friendship. A political genious like Theodorakis knows how to intervene, through his opinion, during difficult times too. He knows when to condemn Israel's policy in Palestine, he knows how to strongly denounce terrorist attacks of any kind, how to support the Greekness of Macedonia and the Greek national issues; he knows the way to advocate in favour of peace, reacting to imperialistic bloodsheds (Serbia, Iraq etc).

Mikis Theodorakis put his ineffaceable signature in Greece's modern history like a few people did. I think Giorgos P. Malouchos puts the issue in it's right place when he writes that "from 'Epitafios', 'Romiossini', 'Struggle's songs', 'March of the Spirit', 'Canto General' and 'Axion Esti' to the foundation of the Democratic Lambrakis Youth and the 1974 Karamanlis solution, Mikis Theodorakis determined the essence of modern Greece so deeply, thus making impossible for someone to think about Greece without thinking him". Indeed, many decades now, Theodorakis and Greece have been two inseparable words.

Therefore, I couldn't find anything more suitable for a conclusion than the undersigned's own words about Mikis, written in an opinion article during 2007 ('Makedonia' Newspaper, 3/6/07) : " times of a widespread derogation of moral values and with the emergence of a measly culture, Mikis Theodorakis consists a 'lighthouse' of civilization, worthiness and creativeness". Axios Esti.