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

Τσιγγάνα Μαυρομάτα
(Tsigana Mavromata)

(Black-Eyed Tsigana)

 

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the popular Greek song "Tsigana Mavromata" (Τσιγγάνα Μαυρομάτα), which was sung by Sofia Vembo. 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

Sofia Vembo's version of this song originally appeared in a theatrical play in 1933 at a Greek theater called Kentrikon (Κεντρικον) in a production called Papagalos (Παπαγάλος), which means "parrot". The word papagalos can also refer to being a gossiper, or repeating things the way a parrot does. In 1935, Vembo appeared in another theatrical production at the Greek theater Alabra (Αλαμπρα) in a production H Athina Yela (Athens Is Laughing). Rumor has it that the recording was made in 1935; however, the song was first performed by her in 1933.

In 1935, "Tsigana Mavromata" was recorded in the United States by Teto Dimitriadis (Τέτο Δημητριάδη) and Kosta Kazi (Κώστα Καζή) on vocals. The lyricist and composer are credited the same as for Vembo.

Some say the original song may have been a 1928 song called "Ramona" (Ραμόνα) by Gene Austin, but it's possible Austin may have taken it from the Latin community. Austin's song appeared in a U.S. film called Ramona in 1936.

About Sofia Vembo

Sofia Vembo (real name Sofia Bebou), was a legendary singer and actress who became known by the nicknames "Singer of Victory" and "Efi". Pol Nor, whose real name was Nikos Nikolaidis, gave her the stage name of Sofia Vembo.

Vembo was born in the Anatolian region (in modern-day Turkey) of Thraki on February 10, 1910. She was one of four children. They were raised in Constantinople, but quickly quickly became refugees when the Greeks fled Turkey. The family arrived in Greece and eventually settled in Volos.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo of Sofia Vembo with her beloved guitar was her very first promotional photo. It was advertising her appearance at the Kentrikon Theater, where she dressed as a Romani girl and debuted the song "Tsigana Mavromata" ("Black-Eyed Gypsy Woman) in 1933.

Sofia Vembo

Vembo went on to perform as a singer and actress throughout Greece. She was considered the voice of war music in the 1940s, and became highly respected for her monetary donations to the Hellenic Army, which is how she acquired the nickname "Singer of Victory". Her career continued through the “metapolemika” post-war music era of the 1950s.

After her academic studies, Vembo developed an interest in music and fell in love with the guitar. She was discovered by Konstantinos Tsibas (who was actually a German spy). He was one of the most famous talent agents and businessmen that promoted many famous and upcoming artists, and Vembo came to his attention when she was on a road trip en route to Thessaloniki to visit her brother.

Sofia also appeared in the famous 1955 movie Stella alongside Melina Merkouri. She opened her own theater in 1949 called ‘Theatro Vembo’ (Vembo Theater). This theater still stands to this day, and it remains very active with the arts community. Sofia Vembo was laid to rest on March 11, 1978.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Sofia Vembo, as a young woman.

Sofia Vembo

This is a translation of an excerpt from a September 1966 interview by journalist Taso Koutsothanasi for the magazine Proto:

  • INTERVIEWER: Miss Vembo, we all know you as “The Singer of Victory”. Who gave you this characteristic title?
  • VEMBO: The victory was not mine “at the broken off legs/feet the young lad”, as Giorgos Fteris says in his poem, which is dedicated to all the men of the Albanian war. I just happened to be singing songs which happened to be about the victories and glories of Albania. That is all. The late Ahileas Mamakis believed – as everyone believed – that I had to be the singer of victory. And he baptized me. I don’t know whether I deserve it, but I am proud and happy.... I found love in my husband Mimi Traiforo. He is wonderful, golden, but shorter than me.
  • INTERVIEWER: Your countless friends are eagerly waiting to hear your voice again…will you return to the stage again?
  • VEMBO: A person always gets tired when they are working, but what I get out of this is so big. Not as money, but as applause. That is why I want to sing again with this voice that I have, at this old age that I have…

About Sotiria Leonardou

Sotiria Leonardou, another artist who later recorded this song, was born in Athens, Greece. She learned to sing and dance at an arts school. Her rise to fame occurred as a result of her appearing in the 1983 motion picture Rembetiko, a role which earned her the award for Best Actress at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo shows actress/singer Sotiria Leonardou.

Sotiria Leonardou

Song: Tsigana Mavromata (Black-Eyed Tsigana), 1933

Lyrics: Nikos Loris

Music: Aggelos Martinos

Original Artist: Sofia Vembo

Has Also Been Recorded By:

  • Teto Dimitriadis, 1935
  • Sotiria Leonardou

Dance Style: Tango

Τραγούδι: Τσιγγάνα Μαυρομάτα, 1933

Στίχοι: Νίκος Λώρης

Μουσική: Άγγελος Μαρτίνος

Πρώτη Εκτέλεση: Σοφία Βέμπο

 

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Lyrics

Translations appear below for two different versions of this song:

  1. Sofia Vembo
  2. Sotiria Leonardou

 

Lyrics for Sofia Vembo's Version

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

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Τσιγγάνα μαυρομάτα Tsigana mavromata Black-eyed Tsigana, (1)
αντάμωσα στη' στράτα adamosa sti' strata we met at the walkway.
με λόγια μαγεμένα me loyia mayemena With enchanted words
γι' αγάπη μου μιλεί ya' agapi mou mili of love she speaks to me.
     
Γιατ' ήτανε στ' αλήθεια yiat' itane st' alithia Because it was for real,
δίχως φωτιά στα στήθια dihos fotia sta stithia without fire on the bosom,
και μόνο από συνήθεια ke mono apo sinithia and only from habit,
πουλούσε το φιλί poulouse to fili she sold the kiss.
     
Γιατί να τη' γνωρίσω yiati na ti' gnoriso Why should I meet her?
γιατί να αγαπήσω yiati na agapiso Why should I fall in love
χίλιες κ' ν' αντικρίσω hilies k' n' adikriso even if I encounter thousands
μέσα σε μια βραδιά mesa se mia vradia in one night?
     
Σε αυτη' θα τρέχει η σκέψη se afti tha trehi ee skepsi My thoughts will run to her
γιατί μου έχει κλέψει με μόνο μια ματιά της Yati mou ehi klepsi Me mono mia matia tis because with just one of her glances [at me] she stole
η δόλια μου καρδιά ee dolia mou kardia my tortured heart.
     
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
οι ματιές σου που καίνε ee maties sou pou kene your glances that burn —
την αλήθεια δε' λένε tin alithia de' lene they don't tell the truth,
μα με λόγια πλανάς ma me loyia planas but with words you entice.
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
ξέρεις πως να μαγεύεις xeris pos na mayevis you know how to enchant
τις καρδιές να παιδεύεις tis kardies na pedevis the hearts you disturb
δίχως 'συ να πονάς dihos 'si na ponas without you being troubled [by it].
     

Instrumental

Instrumental

Instrumental

     
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
ξέρεις πως να μαγεύεις xeris pos na mayevis you know how to enchant
τις καρδιές να παιδεύεις tis kardies na pedevis the hearts you disturb
δίχως 'συ να πονάς dihos 'si na ponas without you being troubled [by it].
  1. The Greek word "Tsigana" means "Romani woman", and this word frequently appears in Greek song lyrics. I gave a great deal of thought on how to translate it here. Articles and interviews with Greek Roma have offered different opinions on how to identify their community.
    • Many choose to self-identify as Tsigani, and are comfortable with the term. It is equivalent to the Spanish "Gitano".
    • Some Romani interviewees have explained that there is a difference between "Gyftos" (pronounced "Yifto", and the word that would be translated as "Gypsy") vs. "Tsigano", while others have stated there is no difference.
    • Some Greek Roma have said that "Tsigani" live in homes, whereas the "Yifti" live in tsadiria (tents).
    • I personally do not use the term "Gyftos" because it carries too much negativity.

      Many Greek songs have used the word "Tsigana" when speaking about love for the Roma. Some of these were written by Roma, and others by non-Roma for Greek Romani artists. There have even been collaborations of Greek singers, with Roma collaborating with non-Roma, using the term "Tsigana". One of the most memorable was with Anna Vissi on "Mangava Tou".

      Greeks believe that Romani women are some of the most beautiful in the world. Greeks praise and adore all the Greek Romani musicians, and support sold out shows and concerts featuring these artists.

      I'm sharing these thoughts with you in my effort to do better, to learn more, to be respectful, and bring some dialogue. There is always room for improvement, education, and respect!

 

Lyrics for Sotiria Leonardou's Version

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

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Τσιγγάνα μαυρομάτα Tsigana mavromata Black-eyed Tsigana, (1)
αντάμωσα στη' στράτα adamosa sti' strata we met at the walkway.
με λόγια μαγεμένα me loyia mayemena With enchanted words
γι' αγάπη μου μιλεί ya' agapi mou mili of love she speaks to me.
     
Γιατ' ήτανε στ' αλήθεια yiat' itane st' alithia Because it was for real,
δίχως φωτιά στα στήθια dihos fotia sta stithia without fire on the bosom,
και μόνο από συνήθεια ke mono apo sinithia and only from habit,
πουλούσε το φιλί poulouse to fili she sold the kiss.
     
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
οι ματιές σου που καίνε ee maties sou pou kene your glances that burn —
την αλήθεια δε' λένε tin alithia de' lene they don't tell the truth,
μα με λόγια πλανάς ma me loyia planas but with words you entice.
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
ξέρεις πως να μαγεύεις xeris pos na mayevis you know how to enchant
τις καρδιές να παιδεύεις tis kardies na pedevis the hearts you disturb
δίχως 'συ να πονάς dihos 'si na ponas without you being troubled [by it].
     

Instrumental

Instrumental

Instrumental

     
Σε αυτη' θα τρέχει η σκέψη se afti' tha trehi ee skepsi My thoughts will run to her
γιατί μου έχει κλέψει με μόνο μια ματιά της Yati mou ehi klepsi Me mono mia matia tis because with just one of her glances [at me] she stole
τη' δόλια μου καρδιά ti' dolia mou kardia my tortured heart.
     
Γιατ' ήτανε στ' αλήθεια yiat' itane st' alithia Because it was for real,
δίχως φωτιά στα στήθια dihos fotia sta stithia without fire on the bosom,
και μόνο από συνήθεια ke mono apo sinithia and only from habit,
πουλούσε το φιλί poulouse to fili she sold the kiss.
     
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
οι ματιές σου που καίνε ee maties sou pou kene your glances that burn —
την αλήθεια δε' λένε tin alithia de' lene they don't tell the truth,
μα με λόγια πλανάς ma me loyia planas but with words you entice.
Τσιγγάνα tsigana Tsigana, (1)
ξέρεις πως να μαγεύεις xeris pos na mayevis you know how to enchant
τις καρδιές να παιδεύεις tis kardies na pedevis the hearts you disturb
δίχως 'συ να πονάς dihos 'si na ponas without you being troubled [by it].
  1. The Greek word "Tsigana" means "Romani woman", and this word frequently appears in Greek song lyrics. I gave a great deal of thought on how to translate it here. Articles and interviews with Greek Roma have offered different opinions on how to identify their community.
    • Many choose to self-identify as Tsigani, and are comfortable with the term. It is equivalent to the Spanish word "Gitano".
    • Some Romani interviewees have explained that there is a difference between "Tsigano" and "Gyftos" (pronounced "Yifto", and the word that would be translated as "Gypsy"), while others have stated there is no difference.
    • Some Greek Roma have said that "Tsigani" live in homes, whereas the "Yifti" live in tsadiria (tents).
    • I personally do not use the term "Gyftos" because it carries too much negativity.

      Many Greek songs have used the word "Tsigana" when speaking about love for the Roma. Some of these were written by Roma, and others by non-Roma for Greek Romani artists. There have even been collaborations of Greek singers, with Roma collaborating with non-Roma, using the term "Tsigana". One of the most memorable was with Anna Vissi on "Mangava Tou".

      Greeks believe that Romani women are some of the most beautiful in the world. Greeks praise and adore all the Greek Romani musicians, and support sold out shows and concerts featuring these artists.

      I'm sharing these thoughts with you in my effort to do better, to learn more, to be respectful, and bring some dialogue. There is always room for improvement, education, and respect!

 

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Translations of
Sofia Vembo's Songs On This Site

Translations on this web site of songs performed by Sofia Vembo include:

 

 

---------------

Translations of
Sotiria Leonardou's Songs On This Site

Translations on this web site of songs performed by Sotiria Leonardou include:

 

 

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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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