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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Κεμάλ
(Kemal)

(Kemal)

 

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the popular Greek song "Kemal" (Κεμάλ), which was sung by Aliki Kagialoglou. Also included is a pronunciation guide for the Greek lyrics so you can sing along if you like.

For more information about the laiko and rebetiko styles of music, see Introduction to Laiko / Rebetiko Music elsewhere on this web site.

Song lyrics are provided for educational purposes. If you like the song, please purchase either the album or a download from an authorized source.

About This Song

This song was created in New York City at a time when its Oscar-winning composer, Manos Hatzidakis, was living there for a few years. He attended a small-venue concert performed by a band of young musicians who called themselves the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble. Their style impressed him so much he invited them to collaborate with him on a project. As part of that effort, they created this song, "Kemal". Hatzidakis wrote the music, and Martin Fulterman wrote playful lyrics for it in English.

Vasilis Lekkas was the first to record this song with Greek lyrics by Nikos Gatsos. His version appeared in 1985 on an album made of a live concert in France, Maria Faradouri Sto Olympia (H Μαρία Φαραντούρη στο Olympia). The actual first studio recording was by Aliki.

Several years ago, a music teacher in a public Greek school was called out by the school's parents committee, the principal, and the community for Islamic propaganda. Reason: for teaching this song to Greek elementary school children. To be honest, personally, I don't know how to interpret this song. It can go either way, I think.

About Aliki Kagialoglou

Her name is sometimes spelled Aliki Kayialoglou. She is a Greek singer whose education included studying voice at the Athen Conservatory. She worked with two of the most important Greek composers, Manos Hatzidakis and Mikos Theodorakis. She has toured internationally, performing solo recitals to great acclaim.

About Alkinoos Ioannidis

At age 23, Alkinoos Ioannidis teamed up with composer / lyricist Nikos Zoudiaris to record a demo tape for an album titled Stin Agora Tou Kosmou (In the World's Market). It came to the attention of an established singer named Dimitra Galani, who helped them secure a contract with a record company. It was released in 1993.

The style of music Ioannidis is mostly known for is edehno. This is a genre of music that is newer than rebetiko. Vassilios "Billy" Chrissochos, UNESCO New York Director of Modern Music, describes it as "college light rock, usually played with acoustic guitars. They are usually romantic love songs."

Ioannidis has released 11 solo albums, most of which have gone gold or platinum. He has appeared as a guest singer on over 40 albums with other artists.

As a songwriter, Ioannidis has written songs for other artists, as well as writing music for dance and theater. His symphonic work has been performed both in Greece and abroad. His influences range from traditional Cypriot music, Greek composers of the last decades, Byzantine, classical, and rock.

Alkinoos Ioannidis

About Nikos Gatsos

Nikos Gatsos, the lyricist for this song, was born in southern Greece in 1911. He attended the University of Athens for two years, where he studied history, literature, and philosophy. He became a published poet, with his work featured in magazines.

After World War II, Gatsos began writing lyrics for songs. His body of work explores the human condition, with songs about sacrifice, injustice, evil, and the pains of love. He also wrote about Greek-specific issues such as the sorrows of exile.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo features lyricist Nikos Gatsos.

Nikos Gatsos

Song: Kemal, 1993

Greek Lyrics: Nikos Gatsos

Music: Manos Hatzidakis

First Artist to Release a Studio Recording in Greek: Aliki Kagialoglou

Album: Adikatoptrismi

Has Also Been Recorded By:

  • Manos Hatzidakis with New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, 1970, in English
  • Vasilis Lekkas, 1985
  • Kostas Grigoreas, 1986
  • Marios Fragoulis, 1999
  • Notis Mavroudis and Panagiotis Margaris, 1999, as a guitar duet
  • Alkinos Ioannidis, 2000
  • Manolis Mitsias, 2002
  • Savina Yianatou, 2002
  • Maria Faradouri, 2003

Dance Style: Just for listening, not for dancing

Τραγούδι: Κεμάλ, 1993

Στίχοι: Νίκος Γκάτσος

Μουσική: Μάνος Χατζιδάκις

Πρώτη Εκτέλεση: Αλίκη Καγιαλόγλου

Άλμπουμ: Αντικατοπτρισμοί

Άλλοι Ερμηνευτές:

Βασίλης Λέκκας, Μάριος Φραγκούλης, Μαρία Φαραντούρη, Αλκίνοος Ιωαννίδης, Μανώλης Μητσιάς, Σαββίνα Γιαννάτου

 

 

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Lyrics

  1. Translation for the Greek lyrics
  2. The original English lyrics

 

Translation for the Greek Lyrics

Nikos Gatsos created the Greek lyrics for this song. Vasilis Lekkas recorded his version on a 1985 album of a live concert, and Aliki Kagialoglou released the first studio recorded album with it.

Numbers in parentheses refer to footnotes that appear at the bottom of the translation.

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Ακούστε τώρα την ιστορία του Κεμάλ akouste tora tin istoria tou Kemal Now, listen to the story of Kemal,
ενός νεαρού πρίγκιπα, της Aνατολής enos nearou prigipa, tis Anatolis a young prince of Anatolia, (1)
απόγονου του Σεβάχ του θαλασσινού apogonou tou Sevah tou thalasinou descendant of Sinbad the Sailor, (2)
που νόμισε ότι μπορεί να αλλάξει τον κόσμο pou nomize oti bori na alaxi ton kosmo who thought he could change the world.
αλλά πικρές οι βουλές του Αλλάχ ala pikres ee voules tou Allah But bitter is Allah's (3) will,
και σκοτεινές οι ψυχές των ανθρώπων ke skotines ee psihes ton anthropon and dark are the souls of the people.
     
Στης Ανατολής τα μέρη stis Anatolis ta meri In the lands of Anatolia, (1)
μια φορά και έναν καιρό mia for a ke enan kero once upon a time,
ήταν άδειο το κεμέρι itan adio to kemeri the kemeri (4) was empty,
μουχλιασμένο το νερό mouhliazmeno to nero moldy water.
στη Μοσσούλη, τη Βασσόρα sti Mosouli, ti Vasora In Mosul, in Basra, (5)
στην παλιά τη χουρμαδιά sti palia ti hourmadia at the old date palm tree, (6)
πικραμένα κλαίνε τώρα της ερήμου τα παιδιά pikramena klene tora tis erimou ta pedia the desert's children are now crying bitterly in pain.
     
Κι ένας νέος από σόι ke enas neos apo soi And a young man of noble family
και γενιά βασιλική ke yenia vasiliki and of royal lineage
αγροικάει το μοιρολόι agrikai to miroloyi shrieks the mourning song of woe,
και τραβάει κατά εκεί ke travai kata eki and leads toward [the tree].
τον κοιτάν οι Βεδουίνοι ton kitan ee Vedouini The Bedouins look at him
με ματιά λυπητερή me matia lipiteri with a sorrowful glance,
κι όρκο στον Αλλάχ τους δίνει ke orko ston Allah tous dini and he swears an oath to Allah before them
πως θ' αλλάξουν οι καιροί pos th' alaxoun ee keri of how the times will change.
     
Σαν ακούσαν οι αρχόντοι san akousan ee arhondi As the Lords heard
του παιδιού την αφοβιά tou pediou tin afovia of the child's fearlessness
ξεκινάν με λύκου δόντι xekinan me leeko donti they set out with a wolf's tooth (7)
και με λιονταριού προβιά ke me liondariou provia and with a lion's skin.
απ' τον Τίγρη στον Ευφράτη ap' ton Tigri ston Efrati From the Tigris to the Euphrates, (8)
απ' τη γη στον ουρανό ap' ti yi sto ourano from the ground to the sky,
κυνηγάν τον αποστάτη kinigan ton apostati they pursue the renegade (9)
να τον πιάσουν ζωντανό na ton piasoun zondano to capture him alive.
     
Πέφτουν πάνω του τα στίφη peftoun pano tout a stifi The horde falls on him
σαν ακράτητα σκυλιά san akratita skilia like wild dogs
και τον πάνε στο Χαλίφη ke ton pane sto Halifi and they take him to the Caliphate
να του βάλει την θηλιά na tou vali tin thilia to place the noose around his neck.
μαύρο μέλι, μαύρο γάλα mavro meli, mavro gala Black honey, black milk
ήπιε εκείνο το πρωί ipie ekino to proi he drank that morning
πριν αφήσει στην κρεμάλα τη' στερνή του την πνοή prin afisi stin kremala ti' sterni tou tin pnoi before he took his dying breath on the gallows.
     
Με δύο γέρικες καμήλες me dio yerikes kamiles With two old camels,
μ' ένα κόκκινο φαρί m' ena kokino fari with a red warhorse (10)
στου παράδεισου τις πύλες stou paradisou tis piles at Heaven's gates
ο προφήτης καρτερεί o profitis karteri the Prophet awaits.
πάνε τώρα χέρι, χέρι pane tora heri, heri They [the Prophet and the boy] now go hand in hand
κι είναι γύρω συννεφιά ke ine yiro sinefia among the clouds all around,
μα της Δαμασκού τ' αστέρι ma tis Damaskou t' asteri but the Star of Damascus
star τους κρατούσε συντροφιά tous kratouse sidrofia kept them company.
     
Σ' ένα μήνα, σ' ένα χρόνο s' ena mina, s' ena hrono In a month, in a year,
βλέπουν μπρος τους τον Αλλάχ vlepoun bros tous ton Allah they see Allah (3) in front of them.
που από τον ψηλό του θρόνο pou apo ton psilo tou throno From his high throne,
λέει στον άμυαλο Σεβάχ lei ston amialo Sevah he says to the mindless Sindbad, (2)
νικημένο μου ξεφτέρι nikimeno mou xefteri "My defeated intelligent one, (11)
δεν αλλάζουν οι καιροί den alazoun ee keri the times are not changing.
με φωτιά και με μαχαίρι me fotia ke me maheri With fire and with a knife,
πάντα ο κόσμος προχωρεί panda o kosmos prohori the world is always moving forward."
     
Καληνύχτα Κεμάλ kalinihta Kemal Good night, Kemal.
αυτός ο κόσμος δε θα αλλάξει ποτέ aftos o kosmos de tha alaxi pote This world will never change.
Καληνύχτα kalinihta Good night.
  1. Literally, "Anatolia" means "the East". Greeks use it to refer to the eastern part of the areas populated by Hellenic people. It is particularly used in reference to the land mass of Asia Minor where modern-day Turkey resides, but it can also refer to farther east, such as Iraq. This song contains several references to Iraq (the cities Mosul and Basra, the Bedouins, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, etc.), so for this song it is reasonable to assume that "Anatolia" is referring to Iraq.
  2. Sindbad the Sailor was a hero in the 1001 Arabian Nights stories. There are several Greek songs about him.
  3. "Allah" is the Arabic name for God, and is used by both Christians and Muslims. The Greek name for God is Theos, so the use of the Arabic name "Allah" here emphasizes that Prince Kemal is a foreigner.
  4. "Kemeri" is a Turkish word for water reservoir or aqueduct, with water. The song lyric mentions water, meaning that it was empty. Whatever water remained was basically toxic, infected, moldy. The word "mouhliazmeno" on the next line means "mold".
  5. Mosul and Basra are cities in Iraq.
  6. The scientific name for the date palm tree is Phoenix dactylifera.
  7. The reference to a wolf suggests a possible political undercurrent to this song. The composer claims this song has nothing to do with Kemal Ataturk. However, his claim is somewhat controversial, in my opinion, because of certain references. The Grey Wolves are an extreme organization in Turkey who are against Greeks and Kurds. There is also a book titled Kemal, Grey Wolf. I think this was intended to be discreetly provocative. The Grey Wolves are neo-facists and Turkish nationalists. Their ideology is Kemalism, meaning they support the genocide of the early 20th century that killed thousands of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians and keep that ideology alive today.
  8. The Tigris and the Euphrates are both rivers in Iraq.
  9. The literal translation is "apostate". It refers to someone who has left his religion or someone who has deserted his obligations.
  10. The word for "horse" here is "fari", which is an Arabic word.
  11. This is sarcasm.

 

The Original English Lyrics

This version appeared on the 1970 album Reflections by the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble.

 

This is the story of foolish Prince Bass Fiddle and wise Jerry Kemal.
As you remember, last time,
the Prince was found without a dime
on the Ponce Valdez while Jerry
watched from a tree...

In the land of Ali Baba near the Sea of Babalee,
Lived a man who played the zither with a pronoun on his knee.
He would dance among the fuzzy trees and bring the birds to life,
And his name was Prince Bass Fiddle and he loved his ugly wife.

He would sing the songs of Lutvee in his very special way
And he puffed tea with his lumpy head and sleep all night and day.
With his turban and his leicester faced the thieves of Germany
But beware, great Prince Bass Fiddle, you'll be hanging from a tree.

Fifty days and nights they waited for a sign from old Ratan
To pretend to wear the colors of the Emperor Charlie Chan.
So they strolled into the forest with a song and energy
To find bay leaves in the cauldron of the mad witch Betty Lee.

Came the answer from a leaf top that was found upon the ground
"Only time and Prince Bass Fiddle will repair your bellies round.
Search the highlands search the lowlands, cruise the Sea of Babalee,
But remember that your children need the food from filigree."

Then one day in Abalone came a messenger to say
That onion-head Bass Fiddle broke in half no more to play.
Will we lose our land of Lutvee to the bearded men of Cleaves?
Only miracles can save us and some tricks inside our sleeves.

From the sky there was an answer to the question of the plebes
"You will meet a tall dark stranger wearing black and blue cannives.
Who is Lucy, who is Nestor? We should only be there now.
Why, it's Aphrodite Milton and his keeper Prince Kemal!

 

 

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About the Translator

This page was contributed by Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, who is happy to share her culture and music she grew up with! Here's how Panayiota describes her background:

I always love engaging with intelligent like-minded people, especially artists. I love sharing anything and everything about my Hellenic culture and upbringing, especially music and dance. A conversation with me will bring you back to America's favorite Greek-American movie by Nia Vardalos called My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I love investigating Greek culture, history, music, and dance. Speaking of investigating, I think I missed my calling, I probably should have been an investigator. Instead, I use those skills to dig and dig and dig tirelessly, often times falling asleep on my laptop... just to find the truth. But, most importantly, accurate truth. For me personally, and other respectable folklorists, my culture and accuracy are very important. Each generation of ethnic born artists has a duty to do the best it can to pass down our traditions as was taught to us. We have been given this artistic gift to be the gatekeepers of our heritage and culture.

Panayiota

 

 

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