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

Να ΄Τανε Το ΄21
(Na 'Tane To Ikosi Ena)

(I Wish it Were 1821)

 

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the patriotic Greek song "Na 'Tane To Ikosi Ena" (Να ΄Τανε Το ΄21), which was sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis. 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 the Song

This song is about 1821, the year the Greek War of Independence against the Turkish Ottoman Empire began. It's a very popular and beloved song among Greeks, and it is often played during national victory war holidays. All school children in Greece are taught this song.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The photo honors the Greek general Kolokotronis, who led Greek forces to victory in the successful Greek War of Independence.

This song was originally released with lyrics about holding a beautiful Turkish girl in one's arms under the stars. After a few months on the market, it was banned from the radio and store shelves because of controversy over this.

Some theories claim that the Turkish embassy and Turkish people were appalled and demanded its removal. They allegedly took offense because they thought it presented Turkish women as easy and loose.

I personally doubt that was the intention of the verse. I felt it was clearly a love story, as our Greek music features many love story songs like this.

This controversy about the song's original lyrics made the front page in newspapers! Aside from the Turkish objections, many Greek nationalists were enraged to hear this verse.

The lyricist, Sotia Tsotou, denies that she added the line about the Turkish girl and that it was the singer Grigoris Bithikotsis that added it. Singers are always known to insert their own few lyrics, but typically they do it in live performances and not during a paid studio recording. Who knows what the real story is? Of course, Sotia probably wouldn't want to draw the wrath of the Junta officials… or would she?

The original recording by Grigoris Bithikotsis featured a military march as its introduction. The composer, Stavros Kouyioumtis, did not compose that as part of his song. It was added by Bithikotsis. Many of the more modern artists recording this song don't include the introductory march on their versions.

Before being banned, the song was released by Grigoris Bithikotsis and later Yiorgos Dalaras. The song was re-released after changing the term "tourkopoula" ("Turkish girl") to "omorfoula", which means "cute girl".

The final surprising twist was that a Turkish singer, Semiramis Pekkan (Σεμιραμις Πεκκαν) also recorded this song; however, not with the original lyrics! She used different lyrics, in Turkish, and her version became a successful love song. Oh my, I don't think the Turks knew at that time the history of the song! Had they known, maybe they wouldn't have allowed it to be released. The song in Turkish is titled "Aşk Olsun Sevgilim Sana" . Though Turkish, Semiramis Pekkan was known to sing other popular Greek songs in this era. She was the older sister of Adja Pekkan (Αντσα Πεκκαν).

A Special Note for Belly Dancers

A belly dancer should not use this song in her performance. However, if dancing near a Greek national holiday such as Greek Independence Day (March 25) or Oxi Day (October 28), a dancer could include it in the playlist at the beginning, before the entrance song, to please the audience. Alternatively, a dancer could include it at the end of the playlist, to keep playing after finishing the finale and exiting the stage.

About Grigoris Bithikotsis

Grigoris Bithikotsis, the original artist who recorded this song, was a popular Greek singer-songwriter. He was born in Athens in 1922, to a low-income family.

As a teen-ager, Grigoris Bithikotsis would play guitar and sing at a local tavern. One evening in 1937, he heard three legendary rebetiko musicians playing bouzouki and singing Greek songs. This sparked his lifelong love for rebetiko and laiko music. He acquired a bouzouki, the stringed instrument that the refugees introduced into Greece, as soon as he was able. However, because his father disapproved of rebetiko music, he needed to hide his bouzouki at a friend's house and practice in secret.

As a political prisoner in 1947, he formed his own band and entertained the army officers in the evenings. After his release, he started a band and entered the recording industry.

Bithikotsis is a major legend in Greek music, both as a singer and as a composer.

About Stavros Kouyioumtzis

Stavros Kouyioumtzis composed the music for this song. Other spellings frequently used for his surname include Kougioumtzis, Kouyoumtzis, or Koujioumtzis. He was born in Thessaloniki in 1932, the son of refugees who had fled Asia Minor to escape the Greek genocide after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Kouyioumtzis composed his first song in 1960, and became one of the most significant Greek composers of the 20th century.

Stavros Kouyioumtzis

About Sotia Tsotou

The renowned lyricist for this song, Sotia Tsotou, came from a family that experienced terror and abuse at the hands of the German Nazi occupation. Her Baba Yiorgos Kranioti (Γιώργος Κρανιώτη) was executed, point blank in front of his home, leaving behind 5 children. Tragically, Sotia's mother disappeared after this due to her post-traumatic stress and fear. The children, including Sotia, were later adopted, and Sotia took her new family's name.

During Sotia's time as a working journalist, she was captured and jailed by those of the Junta (Χούντα) occupation. During her time behind bars, she ended up writing this now historic and powerful Greek revolutionary song!

Song: Na 'Tane To 21 (May It Have Been (now) '21), 1969

Lyrics: Sotia Tsotou

Music: Stavros Kouyioumtzis

Original Artist: Grigoris Bithikotsis

Has Also Been Recorded By:

  • Semiramis Pekkan
  • Yiorgos Dalaras
  • Yiorgas Zografos
  • Kostas Smokovitis
  • Dimitris Mitropanos
  • Spiros Vlahos

Dance Style: Hasapiko

Τραγούδι: Να ΄Τανε Το ΄21, 1969

Στίχοι: Σώτια Τσώτου

Μουσική: Στάυρος Κουγιουμτής

Πρώτη Εκτέλεση: Γρηγόρης Μπιθικώτσης

Άλλοι Ερμηνευτές:

  • Σεμιραμις Πεκκαν
  • Γιώργος Νταλάρας
  • Γιώργος Ζωγράφος
  • Κώστας Σμοκοβίτης
  • Δημήτρης Μητροπάνος
  • Σπύρος Βλάχος

 

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Lyrics

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

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Introductory Military March Music

Introductory Military March Music

Introductory Military March Music

Μου ξανάρχονται ένα ένα mou xanarhonde ena ena They are coming back to me one by one:
χρόνια δοξασμένα
hronia doxasmena glorious years!
να 'τανε το είκοσι ένα
na 'tane to ikosi ena I wish it were '21 again (1) (2)
να 'ρθει μια στιγμή na 'rthi mia stigmi for a moment
     
να περνάω καβαλάρης na pernao kavalaris Coming by like a horseman
στο πλατύ τ' αλώνι
sto plati t' aloni on the wide lane
και με τον Κολοκοτρώνη
ke me ton Kolokotroni and with Kolokotroni (3)
να 'πινα κρασί na 'pina krasi I would drink wine
     
Να πολεμάω na polemao I would fight
τις μέρες στα κάστρα
tis meres sta kastra during the day at the castles
και το σπαθί μου ke to spathi mou and my sword
να πιάνει φωτιά
na piani fotia would be catching on fire
και να κρατάω
ke na kratao and I would hold
τις νύχτες με τ' άστρα
tis nihtes me t' astra in the nights under the stars
μια Τουρκοπούλα [ομορφούλα] αγκαλιά mia Tourkopoula [omorfoula] agalia a Turkish girl [a beauty] in my embrace (4)
     
Μου ξανάρχονται ένα ένα mou xanarhonde ena ena They are coming back to me one by one:
χρόνια δοξασμένα
hronia doxasmena glorious years!
να 'τανε το είκοσι ένα
na 'tane to ikosi ena I wish it were '21 again (1) (2)
να 'ρθει μια βραδιά na 'rthi mia vradia for one night
     

Instrumental

Instrumental

Instrumental

     
Πρώτος το χορό να σέρνω Protos to horo na serno First in line, I am leading the dance (5)
στου Μοριά τις στράτες stou Moriá tis strátes in the streets of Moria [southern Greece]
και ξωπίσω μου Μανιάτες ke xopiso mou Maniates and behind me the Maniates [people of Mani in southern Greece]
και οι Ψαριανοί ke ee Psariani and the Psariani [people from the Greek island Psara].
κaι όταν λαβωμένος γέρνω ke otan lavomenos yerno And when I return injured
κάτω απ' τους μπαξέδες kato ap' tous baxedes under the gardens (someones garden)
να με ραίνουν μενεξέδες na me renoun menexedes they are showering me with flowers
χέρια κaι ουρανοί

heria ke ourani [clapping] hands and skies (6)
     
Να πολεμάω na polemao I would fight
τις μέρες στα κάστρα
tis meres sta kastra during the day at the castles
και το σπαθί μου ke to spathi mou and my sword
να πιάνει φωτιά
na piani fotia would be catching on fire
και να κρατάω
ke na kratao and I would hold
τις νύχτες με τ' άστρα
tis nihtes me t' astra in the nights under the stars
μια Τουρκοπούλα [ομορφούλα] αγκαλιά mia Tourkopoula [omorfoula] agalia a Turkish girl [a beauty] in my embrace (4)
     
Μου ξανάρχονται ένα ένα mou xanarhonde ena ena They are coming back to me one by one:
χρόνια δοξασμένα
hronia doxasmena glorious years!
να 'τανε το είκοσι ένα
na 'tane to ikosi ena I wish it were '21 again (1) (2)
να 'ρθει μια βραδιά na 'rthi mia vradia for one night
  1. This is a reference to 1821, the year the Greek mainland and islands began their successful Greek War of Independence, revolting against the Ottoman Empire.
  2. The literal words say, "May it have been '21 to come for a moment."
  3. Theodoros Kolokotronis (Θεόδορος Κολοκοτρώνς) was a revolutionary Greek general and war hero. He defeated Pasha Mahmud Dramali and many others, leading us to freedom.
  4. The original lyrics said "Tourkopoula", which caused the song to be banned. The lyrics were then revised to say "omorfoula". For more details about this, see the section "About the Song" at the top of this page.
  5. Literally, "dragging the dance". This is a reference to Greek line dancing. The narrator is saying he is at the front of the line, leading the dance.
  6. This is about an injured soldier who has returned, and is receiving a hero's welcome.

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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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