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

Ο Μαύρος Γάτος
(O Mavros Gatos)

(The Black Cat)

 

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the Greek song "O Mavros Gatos" (Ο Μαύρος Γάτος), which was sung by Vasilis Papakonstadinou. Also included is a pronunciation guide for the Greek lyrics so you can sing along if you like.

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

The lyrics of this song are obviously not about an actual black cat. An Internet blogger, the owner of the web site www.antiwarsongs.org, says black cats are one of the main symbols of anarchism. He has suggested that the lyrics contain veiled references to the Greek military dictatorship which ruled 1967-1974, ending exactly 10 years before this song was written. The artist who performed this song, Papakonstantinou, grew up under that dictatorship as a young man and sympathized with the opposing side.

This blogger suggests that the "black cat" is a revolutionary, and his "bastard cats" (kittens) are the next generation of revolutionaries who follow his lead.

About Vasilis Papakonstantinou

Vasilis Papakonstantinou was born in Greece in the 1950's, and grew up with fifteen siblings. As an adolescent, he was influenced by the social trends of the 1960's, both in Greece and abroad. In 1973, after fulfilling his obligation to serve in the Greek military, he moved to Germany, settling in Munich. In 1974 he returned to Greece, and began a musical career, singing in live music clubs. He began releasing recordings and collaborating with prominent composers of his time. His 1984 album Dieresi set him on a new musical direction which influenced his future work.

Song: O Mavros Gatos (The Black Cat), 1984

Lyrics: Thanasis Papakonstantinou

Music: Vasilis Papakonstantinou

Original Artist: Vasilis Papakonstantinou

Dance Style: Not for dancing, just for listening

Album: Dieresi (Division), 1984

Τραγούδι: Ο Μαύρος Γάτος, 1984

Στίχοι: Θανάσης Παπακωνσταντίνου

Μουσική: Βασίλης Παπακωνσταντίνου

Πρώτη Εκτέλεση: Βασίλης Παπακωνσταντίνου

Άλμπουμ: Διαίρεση, 1984

 

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Lyrics

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

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Ήταν ένας γάτος itan enas gatos There was a cat,
μαύρος, πονηρός mavros, poniros black and sneaky.
κάθε που εβράδυαζε kathe pou evradiaze Every day at nightfall,
ντύνονταν γαμπρός dinotan gabros he dressed like a groom.
τα μαλλιά του έκανε λίγο κατσαρά ta malia tou ekane ligo katsara He curled his hair a little,
κι ένα κόκκινο παππιόν φορούσε στην ουρά keh ena kokino papion forouse stin oura and he wore a red bow on his tail.
     
Σε κάθε σπίτι πήγαινε se kathe spiti piyene He went to every house —
όπου έβλεπε καπνό opou evlepe kapno wherever he saw smoke.
ζητούσε τα κορίτσια zitouse ta koritsia He asked for the girls,
δήθεν για σκοπό dithen ya skopo supposedly for a reason [marriage].
κι αυτές άλλον δε' θέλανε keh aftes alon de' thelane And they [the girls] didn't want anyone else.
φορούσαν νυφικά forousan nifika They wore their wedding dresses —
κάλλιο μ' ένα γάτο, παρά με κοιλαρά kalio m' ena gato, para me kilara better with a cat instead of a pot bellied man!
     
Μα όπως είπα στην αρχή ma opos ipa stin arhi Well, as I said from the beginning,
ο γάτος πονηρός o gatos poniros the sneaky cat
βόλευε τα κορίτσια voleve ta koritsia suited the girls (1)
και γίνοταν καπνός ke ginotan kapnos and he [disappeared] like smoke.
με τόση καρπερότητα me tosi karperotita Such fertility!
αχ να 'χα μια σταλιά ah na 'ha mia stalia Oh may I just have just a little!
γεμίσαν τα ιδρύματα yemisan ta idrimata The orphanages (2) became full
με μπάσταρδα γατιά me bastarda gatia with half-blood (3) cats.
     
Οι άρχοντες φοβήθηκαν ee arhondes fovithikan The men in power (4) became worried
μην πάθουνε ζημιά min pathoune zimia that they would have damage
και την κουτάλα χάσουνε ke tin koutala hasoune and they would lose the ladle
μαζί με τα ζουμιά mazi me ta zoumia along with the broth.
βρε θες να κάνουν κίνημα vres thes na kanoun kinima [The men in power feared they] (5) would make an alliance —
του γάτου οι καρποί tou gatou ee karpoi the cat's gang —
κι ότι γλυκά ροκάνιζαν keh oti glika rokanizan and what ever sweets they gnawed on
σα φούσκα να χαθεί sa fouska na hathi would disappear like a bubble.
     
Έτσι αφού σκεφτήκανε etsi afou skeftikane Like this, they thought,
βρήκαν το πιο σωστό vrikan to pio sosto they found the most appropriate [method]
το γάτο να τσακώσουνε to gato na tsakosoune to catch the cat
σαν μούτρο αναρχικό san moutro anarhiko as an anarchist.
βγήκε λοιπόν σεργιάνι vgike lipon seryiani So they went out for a stroll,
το χαφιεδότσουρμο to hafiedotsourmo the mob of informants,
αυτοί που αποτελούνε afti pou apoteloune those who comprise the membership of
τον εθνικό κορμό ton ethniko kormo the national body.
     
Αχ καημένε γάτο μου ah kaimene gato mou Oh, my poor cat,
την έχεις πια βαμμένη tin ehis pia vameni you are at this point painted. (6)
τους έθνους τα λαγωνικά tous ethnous ta lagonika The nation's hounds
στην έχουνε στημμένη stin ehoune stimeni have set you up.
κι όπως το λέω έγινε keh opos to leo eyine And here's how it happened: (7)
το πιάσανε το αλάνι to piasane to alani They caught the bad boy.
τους είδε μαύρους νόμισε tous ide mavrous nomise He thought they looked black like him, (8)
με φίλους πως θα κάνει me filous pos tha kani and therefore he thought they appeared to be friends. (9)
     
Τώρα κλαίει κι οδύρεται tora klei keh odirete Now he is crying and wailing.
μαζεύεται κουβάρι mazevete kouvari He curls up into a ball.
μήπως τους κρύους δικαστές mipos tous krious dikastes Maybe the cold judges
μπορέσει να τουμπάρει boresi na toubari he will be able to trick.
αχ μη' καλοί μου άνθρωποι ah mi' kali mou anthropi "Oh, please don't, my good people!"
εγώ δεν είμαι γάτος ego den ime gatos "I am not a cat!"
εγώ είμαι ένας άνθρωπος ego ime enas anthropos "I am a person
μ' αισθήματα γεμάτος m' esthimata yematos full of emotions!"
     
Κοιτάζω το συμφέρον μου kitazo to simferon mou [He said], "I mind my own business,
διαβάζω εφημερίδα diavazo efimerida I read a newspaper,
και στο στρατό υπηρέτησα keh sto strato iperetisa and I served in the army
για τη' μαμά πατρίδα ya ti' mama patrida for the motherland."
μα 'κείνοι που ν' ακούσουνε ma 'kini pou n' akousoune But, they didn't listen.
το στήσανε στον τοίχο to stisane ston tiho They set him up on the wall. (10)
τα μάτια κάπως παίξανε ta matia kapos pexane His eyes twitched a little
στης τουφεκιάς τον ήχο stis toufekias ton iho at the sound of the rifle.
     
Άλλη μια κόρη έρχεται ali mia kori erhete Another daughter (11) is coming.
κρατήστε την αθώα kratiste tin athoa Keep her innocent.
μπορεί ο γάτος να μη 'ρθει bori o gatos na mi 'rthi Although the cat may not come,
μα θα 'ρθουν άλλα ζώα ma tha 'rthoun ala zoa other animals will come.
κι αν είστε κάποιος άρχοντας keh an iste kapios arhondas And if you are some man in power,
και παρεξηγηθείτε keh parexiyithite and if you become offended, (12)
στα όργανά μου μια χαρά χωράει να γραφτείτε sta organa mou mia hara horai na graftite I will gladly write you off on my penis and scrotum! (13)
  1. This is a euphemism for saying he had sex with them. The literal translation says "put the girls in place or "took care of them in the moment". The word "voleve" also refers to making someone comfortable.
  2. Literally, "institutions", but here it refers specifically to orphanages.
  3. Literally, "bastard".
  4. Lilterally, "lords".
  5. Literally, "you'd think they", but it's a reference to what the people in power were fearing.
  6. This is an idiom which means something similar to the English expression "you are totally screwed".
  7. Literally, "and how I'm saying it happened."
  8. Literally, "he saw them black he thought."
  9. Literally, "with friends how he will be ".
  10. This means they gave him the death penalty. They stood him up against a wall in front of a firing squad.
  11. "Kori" is daughter, but sometimes can mean girl or woman.
  12. This can also mean "have a misunderstanding", but in the context of this song, "get offended" makes more sense.
  13. Literally, "on my organs with joy there is enough room for you to sign up" or "write you off on my balls". This is a very common Greek expression which means something similar to the English, "I will gladly tell you to fuck off!" or "I will gladly tell you to go fuck yourself!" It is not a compliment, nor is it an aroused gesture. We use a hand gesture to go with it. The hand points down toward the groin. We don't point a finger, we gesture with an open palm, fingers mostly closed, and we flick the wrist in a downward motion!

 

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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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