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

Ζεχρά
(Zehra)

(Zehra)

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the popular Greek song "Zehra" (Ζεχρά), which was sung by Sofia Vembo. Also included is a pronunciation guide for the Greek lyrics so you can sing along if you like. Zehra is an Arab women's name.

Personal note from Panayiota: This song is about a beautiful girl named Zehra, from Baghdad. This was one of my uncle's favorite songs. Back then, it was very common for Greeks to travel to Arab countries for work contracts. Many of my family members from my mother's side traveled to Iraq and other Arab countries for work during the years of the ‘katoxi’, the Greek Depression era.

The musical score for "Zehra" was also used for another song called “Pedia tis Ellados Pedia”. This other song's title translates to "Kids of Greece Kids" in English.

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 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 Romany girl and debuted the song "Tsigana Mavromata" ("Black-Eyed Roma) in 1933.

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.

Sofia Vembo

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 one of the most famous talent agents and businessmen who 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.

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. “The 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…
Sofia Vembo

Song: Zehra – (Zehra), 1938

Lyrics: Emilios Savvidis

Music: Mihalis Sougioul

Original Artist: Sofia Vembo

Has Also Been Performed By: Eleftheria Arvanitaki

Τραγουδι: Ζεχρά, 1938

Στίχοι: Αιμίλιος Σαββίδης

Μουσική: Μιχάλης Σουγιούλ

Πρώτη εκτέλεση: Σοφία Βέμπο

Άλλες εκτελέσεις Ελεύθερία Αρβανιτάκη

 

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Lyrics

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Μες στους δρόμους της Βαγδάτης Mes stous dromous tis Vagdatis In the streets of Baghdad (1)
είδαν την κορμοστασιά της idan tin kormostasia tis they saw her figure
και ζηλέψανε. ke zilepsane. and they were jealous.
Και μια νύχτα δίχως άστρα Ke mia nihta dihos astra And one starless night
μπήκαν στα ψηλά τα κάστρα bikan sta psila ta kastra they entered into the tall castles
και την κλέψανε. ke tin klepsane and they kidnapped her.
     
Έτσι το ΄φερε η τύχη etsi to ‘fere ee tihi That's how luck would have it
και η Ζεχρά σε έναν σεΐχη ke ee Zehra se enan Seihi and Zehra to a Sheikh (2)
παραδόθηκε paradothike surrendered herself.
και για αυτό μπρός στο φεγγάρι ke ya afto bros sto feggari And because of this, towards the moon,
κλαίει κάποιο παλικάρι klei kapio palikari a young man is crying
που προδόθηκε pou prodothike because he was betrayed.
     

Chorus

Chorus

Chorus

Ζεχρά, Zehra, Zehra,
πίστεψε με, Ζεχρά, pistepse me, Zehra, believe me, Zehra,
πως πονώ κι υποφέρω pos pono ke ipofero. I am in pain, suffering.
κλαίω και θρηνώ kleo ke thrino crying and grieving.
Ζεχρά, Zehra, Zehra,
με δυο χείλη ωχρά me dio hili ohra with two pale pigmented lips
τ΄όνομά σου προφέρω, t’ onoma sou profero I am speaking your name,
δεν σε λησμονώ. den se lismono. I wont forget you.
     

Chorus

Chorus

Chorus

Ζεχρά, Zehra, Zehra,
με δυο χείλη ωχρά me dio hili ohra with two pale pigmented lips
τ΄όνομά σου προφέρω, t’ onoma sou profero I am speaking your name,
δε σε λησμονώ. de se lismono I won't forget you.
Γύρω μου ειν'όλα νεκρά giro mou in’ola nekra Around me everything is dead
σου τ'ορκίζομαι Ζεχρά sou t’orkizome Zehra I swear to you Zehra.
  1. The city in Iraq.
  2. The Arabic word "sheikh" can refer to a religious leader, a prince, or the head of a tribe/village.

 

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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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