Translation By Lisa Darilis
"Don't give up! Resist misery and side with life!" This was the message Greek Rock legend Vasilis Papakonstantinou had for Greeks during his interview with New Greek T.V. reporter Demetris Filippides.
Papakonstantinou has been in New York since Thursday evening, as he will be performing at Queens College's Colden Theater on Saturday at 8 p.m.
"In March, when I came to New York after so many years, people had a good time. It was due to public demand that I returned, so that's why I'm here today," Papakonstantinou chiefly mentioned, adding that is is just seven months since his last appearance. He said that he is being entertained by known associates of the Greek community. In addition, as he characteristically usually shares, he remembers how his fellow villagers were waiting for letters or parcels from expatriated Greeks to arrive at the local coffee house. This was the usual place where he would, as a child, display his talent in the arts. Even if the prize was a "loukoumi" (sweet delight).
Papakonstantinou recalls "I was born in a village within the region of Arcadia, 800 meters high in altitude, This village took its name during the Turkish occupation and it means "vasta gera," or "hold on tight." This village was hit hard with emigration. I felt the exodus of our region in my skin. I grew up alongside the concerns of living abroad. Whoever stayed behind used to gather at the village coffee house to wait for the mailman to come and bring letters or parcels from their children abroad. In the meantime, I would go there and recite my poetry to them. Then, they would give me a loukoumi (a sweet delight)." No matter how many years have come to pass, Papakonstantinou still performs "40 Hronia Efivos" (A Teenager for 40 Years).
"I don't want to grow up. I want the child we all have inside of us to come out. Besides, what is endeavored during this age of machines and computers, where we are all just a number, is the human being. The young generation has the spark of life inside of them and they want to change things. I feel remorse because my generation made a mess of things. We were a generation that was constantly in the streets (as in protest), but now we are found sitting in offices and at the state's ministries, and with very bad results."
"They wanted to change my repertoire"
In response to a question on his earlier statement of how he was pressured to change the format of his music, Papakonstantinou said he did not give in.
"I was lucky in the beginning of my career. When the military take over ended (when the junta or coup d'etat fell), I returned to Greece with Mikis Theodorakis. At that time I had the chance to work with some big names like Manos Loizos, with the result that I would immediately be recognized. I never succumbed to the temptation of compromise." he recounts.
"When my record "Fovamai" (I'm scared) came out, the record company had objections. They had called my manager and they convinced him to pressure me to not release it, because they felt they shouldn't be entrenched along with such a voice. I refused and I insisted that these songs needed to be released. The record company agreed, but under the condition that they won't advertise the record "for my own protection." When I performed "Koursaro" (The Corsair) in a televised program on machines, sales skyrocketed. Then the record company asked me if I had other artists..."autonomous anarchist types" to propose to them. So, I introduced amongst others Nikola Asimos, a life poet, who unfortunately didn't make it."
He estimates that he sang over 800 songs and was clear that they were songs of his own selection.
"I have composed everything. I did not sing anything to appease any companies nor any producers."
"When I stop to sing, I will write songs for new voices."
Despite the energy he brings to the stage, Vasilis Papakonstantinou recognizes that at some point he will have to "pay the bill of time" and withdraw to working behind the scenes. He made it very clear, as he spoke to reporters of New Greek T.V., that he will remain in the music industry, but this time writing songs for new voices (or new talent). "I will sing as long as my voice could take it. Certainly my voice will cease to exist in a few years. Be certain that I will be the first to know this; I know my voice very well. Then I will begin to write for newer voices," Papakonstantinou acceptingly notes, promising, however, that as long as he is on stage,, he will continue to perform dynamically, entrancing audiences with the beat of his own rhythms.
He believes "Dynamism (energy and spirit) is not made, it exists...and it will always exist, as long as you can withstand it."
"The Golden Dawn Party, the "thighs" and the lifestyle."
With Papakonstantinou being extremely political, reporters couldn't hold back in asking about his view on the controversial Golden Dawn Party. As he unfolded his thoughts, he expressed his view that the ascent of the Nazi-like party could have been avoided if the Greek voters were more politically versed and recognized to what order of fascism the Golden Dawn Party belonged.
"Take for example the present day 40 year olds. What were the spiritual contributions that their era offered them; "thighs, guts, lifestyle and reality. This is how this generation grew up and it didn't politicize itself. They didn't know what fascism and nazism was. That is probably why they voted for the Golden Dawn Party. The Golden Dawn Party was conceived within the confines of force. They saw them as "houligans" and they voted for them for retribution. In continuation, it has been proven that they had a Nazi influence, which served their own economic interests," stressed Papakonstantinou. In summation, he did affirm that he is a Leftist, but does not specifically belong to a particular political party.
"I will not take the side of a specific political party, for I would not place a stone in the dissolution of the Left. I believe that just as we see the chief heads partition, the contest should also unite and partition. Look at what occurring in Seattle, Genova, and Thessaloniki, with the G8 and the G20, which has reached the point where they have no place to meet. This is the Left that I want."
"Mikis Theodorakis will never back off."
Naturally the interview had to direct itself to the topic of Mikis Theodorakis, who himself expressed his bitterness on everything that is going on right now, stating that he will withdraw from public affairs. In the interview question on this topic, Vasilis Papakonstantinou gave a knowing smiled and supported that something like that will not likely happen. "Theodorakis is the last standing column of our civilization. And you should know, he has no intention of backing off. He will stay involved up until the end."
"We will be here until the switches are turned off."
In conclusion, Vasilis Papakonstantinou extended his own invitation to the Greek community here in the U.S. to attend his concert at Colden Auditorium at Queens College in Flushing, NY.
"Come so we can party up until we bring the power down." And remember, in life there are 3 A's: "Axioprepeia (Dignity), "Alleleggye" (Solidarity), and "Anypakoe" (Disobedience).
The full interview of Vasilis Papakonstantinou was aired on New Greek T.V. on Friday evening at 8 pm. The journalists of the station would like to warmly thank the management of the Marco Hotel at 137-07 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, NY for their making this interview possible, and for being patient, as it concluded after midnight hours on Thursday.