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

Ζαΐρα
(Zaira)

(Zaira)

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the popular Greek rebetiko song "Zaira" (Ζαΐρα), which was sung by Marika Ninou, Athanasios Giannopoulos, and Yiannis Salasidis as a trio. Also included is a pronunciation guide for the Greek lyrics so you can sing along if you like.

"Zaira" is a woman's name in India, Arabic-speaking regions, and Greece.

The song made its debut in 1955 in the Greek movie Piasame tin Kali (Πιάσαμε την Καλή), which means in English We Caught the Good.

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 Marika Ninou

Marika Ninou was an Armenian-Greek rebetiko singer. She began her musical training as a child in school, learning to play the mandolin and becoming a chanter at the Armenian church. After she married Nikos Nikolaides in 1944, the couple became known as the Duo Nino. As others in the music industry heard her sing, she was offered additional opportunities to advance her career. By 1949, Ninou was working with Vasilis Tsitsanis at Fat Jimmy's, a club that provided continued opportunities for both. Tragically, Ninou became ill with cancer. By the time she recorded this song with Athanasios Giannopoulis and Yiannis Salasidis in 1955, her health was already declining, and she died in 1957 at the young age of 39.

Marika Ninou

About Vasilis Tsitsanis

Vasilis Tsitsanis was the composer and lyricist for this song, and also one of the quartet of original artists that introduced the song to the world.

Tsitsanis was a versatile musician who learned to play violin, mandola, mandolin, and bouzouki. He collaborated with a number of singers to record the songs he had composed, with him accompanying them on bouzouki. His music helped launch several of his collaborators to fame and successful careers.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Vasilis Tsitsanis as a young man.

Vasilis Tsitsanis

Song: Zaira (Zaira), 1955

Lyrics: Kostas Virvos

Music: Vasilis Tsitsanis

Original Artists: Marika Ninou, Athanasios Giannopoulos, and Yiannis Salasidis (Trio)

Τραγουδι: Ζαΐρα, 1955

Στίχοι: Κώστας Βίρβος

Μουσική: Βασίλης Τσιτσάνης

Πρώτη εκτέλεση: Μαρίκα Νίνου, Αθανάσιος Γιαννόπουλος, & Γιάννης Σαλασίδης (Τερτσέτο)

 

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Lyrics

Numbers in parentheses refer to footnotes which appear below the translation.

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Γιαλα ούμπι γιαλα ούμπι, γκελ για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi yalla oubi, gel ya habibi ya Let's go (1), get up (2), let's go, get up, come(3) oh my darling (4), oh!
Γιαλα ούμπι για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi ya habibi ya Let's go, get up, oh my darling, oh.
     
Ζαΐρα, θα 'ρθω να σε κλέψω κάποια βραδιά Zaira, tha ‘rtho na se klepso kapia vradia Zaira, I will come and kidnap you some night
απ' την αγκαλιά του μαχαραγιά ap’tin agalia tou maharia from the arms of the Maharaja (5)
σβήνω απ' τον πόθο svino ap’ton potho I am dying of the lust
σβήνω απ' τον πόθο svino ap’ton potho I am dying of the lust
μ' άλλον σαν σε νιώθω m’ allon san se niotho that I'm feeling for you
μ' άλλον σαν σε νιώθω m’ allon san se niotho that I'm feeling for you
αχ Ζαΐρα μου γλυκιά ah Zaira mou glikia Ah, my sweet Zaira
αχ Ζαΐρα μου γλυκιά ah Zaira mou glikia Ah, my sweet Zaira
     
Για λελέλι ya le le li ya le le li (7)
Για λελέλι ya le le li ya le le li
για λελελελι ya le le le li ya le le le li
για λελελελι ya le le le li ya le le le li
για λελέλι ωωω ya le le li ooo ya le le li ooo
σβήνω απ' τον πόθο svino ap’ton potho I am dying of the lust
μ' άλλον σαν σε νιώθω m’ allon san se niotho that I'm feeling for you
αχ Ζαΐρα μου γλυκιά ah Zaira mou glikia Ah, my sweet Zaira
     
Γιαλα ούμπι γιαλα ούμπι, γκελ για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi yalla oubi, gel ya habibi ya Let's go, let's go, come oh my darling, oh!
Γιαλα ούμπι γιαλα ούμπι, γκελ για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi yalla oubi, gel ya habibi ya Let's go, let's go, come oh my darling, oh!
     
Ζαΐρα λάμπεις σαν αστέρι στην αραπιά Zaira labis san asteri stin Arapia Zaira you shine like a star in Arabia (6)
μ' άναψες φωτιά δεν αντέχω πια m’ anapses fotia den anteho pia you lit my fire, I can’t handle it anymore
κάστρα θα γκρεμίσω kastra tha gremiso castles I will demolish
κάστρα θα γκρεμίσω kastra tha gremiso castles I will demolish
μα δε θα σ' αφήσω ma de tha s’ afiso well, I will not leave you
μα δε θα σ' αφήσω ma de tha s’ afiso well, I will not leave you
σκλάβα του μαχαραγιά sklava tou maharia slave of the Maharaja
σκλάβα του μαχαραγιά sklava tou maharia slave of the Maharaja
     
Για λελέλι ya le le li ya le le li
Για λελέλι ya le le li ya le le li
για λελελελι ya le le le li ya le le le li
για λελελελι ya le le le li ya le le le li
για λελέλι ωωω ya le le li ooo ya le le li ooo
κάστρα θα γκρεμίσω kastra tha gremiso castles I will demolish
μα δε θα σ' αφήσω ma de tha s’ afiso well, I will not leave you
σκλάβα του μαχαραγιά sklava tou maharia slave of the Maharaja
     
Γιαλα ούμπι γιαλα ούμπι, γκελ για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi yalla oubi, gel ya habibi ya Let's go, let's go, come oh my darling, oh!
Γιαλα ούμπι για χαμπίμπι για Yalla oubi ya habibi ya Let's go, oh my darling, oh.
  1. "Yalla" is an Arabic word which means, "Let's go!"
  2. "Oubi" is probably a reference to the Arabic word "oumi" which is the way a person would tell a woman to "get up". It is not a Greek word.
  3. "Gel" is a Turkish word which means "come".
  4. "Ya Habibi" is an Arabic expression which means "Oh my darling".
  5. "Maharaja" refers to a prince or king in India.
  6. Many of the old songs use the word "Arapia" and its variants liberally. The lyrics generally use it to refer to Arabic-speaking or Indian women. Unfortunately, in the modern Greek language, the term "Arapis" has become an offensive racial slur for people with dark skin. Although this newer definition now exists, it did not mean this when the lyrics were written. When newer generations listen to these older songs today, they realize the lyrics are referring to an innocent use of the word, and can enjoy the music in the way it was intended.
  7. "Le li li" is often used in Arabic as musical syllables, similar to how "tra la la" is sometimes used in English.

 

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Translations of Songs Composed by
Vasilis Tsitsanis On This Site

Other translations of songs composed by Vasilis Tsitsanis on this web site 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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