Manos Hadjidakis


Manos (Emmanuel) Hadjidakis (Xanthi, 23 October 1925 – Athens, 15 June 1994) was a leading Greek composer, poet, songwriter, conductor and pianist. He is considered the first to link post-war music with the folk music tradition through his theoretical and compositional work. Many of his hundreds of works are today recognized as classics. He is an Academy Award winner.

Birth and youth

He was born in Xanthi and was the son of the lawyer George Hadjidakis from Myrthios, Agios Vasileios, Rethymnon and Alice Arvanitidou from Adrianople. The family lived in Xanthi because the father Hatzidakis worked as a legal advisor in flourishing, in the early 20th century, tobacco companies in the region.

The house where Manos Hadjidakis spent his early childhood, built at the end of the 19th century with neoclassical elements and some baroque, is now classified as a historical monument.

His musical education began at the age of four and included piano lessons from the Armenian-born pianist Anna Altunyan. At the same time he practiced violin and accordion.[citation pending]

Hadjidakis settled permanently in Athens with his mother and his sister Miranda in 1932 after the separation of his parents, who never divorced. In 1938 his father was killed in a plane crash, which, combined with the outbreak of World War II, caused great financial difficulties for the family. The young Hatzidakis worked for a living as a stevedore at the port, an iceman at the Fix factory, a clerk at the Megalokonomou photo studio and a nurse”s assistant at the 401 military hospital.

At the same time he expanded his musical knowledge by taking private theoretical lessons with Menelaos Palladio during the period 1940-1943, while he attended as an auditor courses at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Athens. He never completed any studies.

During the same period, he was associated with other artists and intellectuals older than himself, including the poets Nikos Gatsos, George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Angelos Sikelianos and the painter Yannis Tsarouchis. During the last period of the Occupation, he actively participated in the National Resistance through the ranks of the EPON, where he met the also leading music composer Mikis Theodorakis, with whom he soon developed a strong friendship.

The first projects

Hadjidakis” first appearance as a composer took place in the summer of 1944, at the age of 19, with his participation in Alexis Salmon”s comedy “The Last White Raven” at the newly established Karolos Koun Art Theatre. The show premiered on 10 July 1944 and was performed for six Mondays at the open-air theatre “Park” on Heyden Street.

At the drama school of the Art Theatre, Hatzidakis also attended acting classes, although Kun himself urged him to devote himself exclusively to music. His collaboration with the Art Theatre proved to be very productive and lasted for about fifteen years.

In 1946 his first work for the cinema was recorded in the film Slave Slaves, directed by Vion Papamichalis and starring, in her first film appearance, Elli Lambeti.

During the Occupation, Hatzidakis discovered the rebetiko song and became one of the first to study it and understand its value. On 31 January 1949, at the age of 23, he gave his famous lecture on rebetiko singing at the Art Theatre (then housed in the Alice Theatre, now the Musouri Theatre in Karitsis Square), through which he linked it to the modern Greek cultural heritage and gave it values of European origin. The lecture was followed by a concert with Marko Vamvakaris and Sotiria Bellou.

In 1950 he became a founding member and artistic director of Rallous Manou”s Greek Choreodrama, with which he presented four of his ballets: “Marcyas” (1950), “Six Folk Paintings” (1951), “The Cursed Snake” (1951) and “Desolation” (1958).

At the same time, the actress Marika Kotopouli commissioned Hatzidakis to compose the music for “The Hephoroi” (1950) from Aeschylus” “Oresteia”. This collaboration was the beginning of Hatzidakis” involvement with ancient drama. Some of the tragedies and comedies for which he wrote music are “Medea” (1956), “Cyclops” (1959), “Bacchae” (1962), “Ecclesiastes” (1956), “Lysistrata” (1957) and “The Vultures” (1959). In 1950, Hatzidakis collaborated with Angelos Sikelianos to compose the music for the poet”s last tragedy “The Death of Digenes”.

At the same time he wrote important musical works, such as the piano works “For a little white clam” (1947, the first of 51 works that he distinguished with a special numbering among his entire oeuvre as opus 1) and “Ionian Suite” (1952), as well as the song cycle “The Circle of C.N.S.” (1954, dedicated to Carlos Novi Sanchez on the occasion of the death of their mutual friend Etienne Rery).

The great publicity

In 1955 a period of intense creative activity began. Hatzidakis composed non-stop for the theatre and cinema, where he enjoyed great popularity with films such as “Stella” (1955) by Michalis Cacoyannis, “Laterna, poverty and philotimo” (1955) by Alekos Sakelarios and “The Dragon” (1956) by Nikos Koundouros.

In 1959 he won the first prize at the 1st Festival of Light Singing of the Greek National Radio for the song “Somewhere there is my love” performed by Nana Mouskouri.

1960 was a year of continuous official distinctions. He was awarded the first prize and at the 2nd Festival of Light Song of the EIR for two songs (“Kyparissaki” and “Timor”, again with Nana Mouskouri), he won the prize for his music for Nikos Koundouros” “Potami” at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, He wrote “The Children of Piraeus” for the film “Never on Sunday” by Jules Dassin and composed music for the plays “Eurydice” by Jean Anouille, “The Sweet Bird of Youth” by Tennessee Williams, “The Death of Digenes” by Angelos Sikelianos, “The Fate of Maroula” by Dimitrios Koromilas and for many films. Among them are: “Maddalena”, “Alice in the Navy”, “The Mockingbird of the Miss”, “The Lady Mayor”, “The Kickbox”, “Rendezvous in Corfu”, etc.

In 1961 he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “The Children of Piraeus” but did not attend the California ceremony and his statuette was later mailed to Greece. This award gave him worldwide publicity, which Hatzidakis initially tried to manage but eventually decided to avoid, believing that it deprived him of the opportunity to shape his own relationship with his audience. “For me, the Oscar is not the crowning of a career but my true beginning,” was one of his first statements. “Maybe a simple song brought me the Oscar. But my ambitions and my obligations don”t stop there…” he was saying. “The Children of Piraeus” brought Greece its second Oscar, fifteen years after Katina Paxinou won her own Oscar for her performance in the film For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1961, Hatzidakis won the second prize at the 3rd Hellenic Song Festival of the EIR for his song “Kourosteias pallikari”. The first prize was given to Mikis Theodorakis for “Abduction” performed by Mary Linda.

In 1962 Hatzidakis sponsored the “Manos Hatzidakis Composition Competition” at the Athens Technological Institute of Konstantinos A. Doxiadis in Athens, with the first prize being awarded jointly to Yannis Xenakis and Anestis Logothetis.

In 1964 he founded and directed the Athens Experimental Orchestra (1964-66), which gave 20 concerts with premieres of 15 works by Greek composers.

During the same period, he also began his collaboration with Maurice Besar. “The Vultures” was staged by the Ballets of the 20th Century in Brussels.

Some of the works of this period are the music for Brecht”s “The Chalk Circle” (1956), Euripides” “Medea” (1958), I. Campanelli (1959), the modular performance “Dream Street” (1962), but also “The Smile of Jacqueline Danot” – ten songs for orchestra originally written for voice, especially for Jacqueline Danot (Paris, 1962).


In 1966 Manos Hadjidakis visited New York in order to take part, with Jules Dassin and Melina Mercouri, in the Broadway production of “Illya Darling”, a musical adaptation of “Never on Sunday”. Due to a tax debt he decided not to return to Greece but to live in New York with his mother in a small apartment in Manhattan.

During his six-year stay in America he came into contact with the American pop and rock music scene, which resulted in the recording of the song cycle Reflections (1970) in collaboration with the “New York Rock and Roll Ensemble”.

Previously, in April 1965, he had recorded “The Smile of Joconda” in its – now unknown – symphonic version, produced by Quincy Jones. At the same time, he continued his collaboration with the 20th Century Ballets in Brussels, where he conducted works by himself and other composers.

Other important works of the period include the music for the film “Blue” (1968) by Silvio Narizzano, “Rhythmology” (a piano work) and “Amorgos” (1970), a setting of Nikos Gatsos” poem of the same name (Amorgos), which the composer left unfinished.

Back to Greece – post-independence

In July 1972 he returned to Athens. The period that followed, until the end of his life, is considered the most mature in his musical career and its beginning is marked by the recording of the iconic song cycle “The Great Erotic” in the autumn of 1972, at Columbia studios in Perissos, with Fleri Dantonaki and Dimitris Psarianos as performers.

In 1973 he founded and financed the musical café theatre “Polytropon” with which he sought “a ritualistic presentation of the song, with all the means provided by the modern theatrical experience”. The project ended in financial failure.

The period 1975-1982 coincides with what Hatzidakis mockingly called the “clerical period” of his life. The government of Constantine Karamanlis appointed him director of the Athens State Orchestra, director of the state radio station Third Programme and deputy general director of the National Opera. His brilliant tenure at the Third Programme (1975-1982) remains a benchmark in Greek radio broadcasting to this day for the high quality and variety of the programmes and cultural events organised in Athens and other cities.

For four summers (1978-1981) Manos Hadjidakis established the “Music Festivals” in Anogia, a collaboration between the third party and the Municipality of Anogia and the Music Academy of Crete. The Music Festivals included lyre, song and dance competitions, film screenings and concerts. In August 1979, the conference ”Meeting and dialogue on the importance of a folk tradition in our time” was held in Anogia, with the participation of intellectuals, artists, academics and journalists.

In 1980 and 1981 the Third Programme organised the “Musical August” in Heraklion, a multi-day artistic festival for the promotion of old and new trends in music, dance, cinema, painting and theatre.

In the autumn of 1981 and 1982 he also organized the “Greek Song Games” in Corfu, a music competition for young Greek composers, lyricists and songwriters.

In 1985, Hatzidakis published the cultural magazine To Tetarto (1985-1986), which recorded artistic and social events through their political dimensions. In 1985 he also created the independent record company “Sirios” in order to promote artists and musical creations on the basis of non-commercial criteria. At the same time, he presented selected musical works and artists at the Sirius (Zoom) bouquet in Plaka.

In 1989, he founded the Orchestra of Colours in order to present works by classical and contemporary composers in an original way. On 3 June 1990, in collaboration with the leading Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, Hatzidakis gave a concert with the Orchestra of Colours, recorded live at the Herodesion. The concert is considered extremely important as it was the last concert of Piatsola, who a month later, after a stroke, fell into a coma that lasted two years and passed away in 1992. Hatzidakis conducted the Orchestra of Colours until 1993, giving a total of 20 concerts and 12 recitals of Greek and international repertoire.

In 1991, in cooperation with the Municipality of Kalamata, Manos Hadjidakis organized the “First Greek Song Festival of Kalamata”, which did not continue for a second year.

Hatzidakis” intense involvement with the public during this period is reflected in a significant part of his work. Characteristic works of this period are “The Era of Melissanthi” (1980), an autobiographical but also deeply political work about the end of the Occupation, the Liberation and the prelude to the Civil War, and the song cycles “The Paralogs” (1978), the unfortunate musical performance “Pornography” (1982), directed by him, “The Ballads of Athena Street” (1983), “Dark Mother” (1986) and “Songs of Sin” (1996), which were released on disc two years after his death.

Manos Hadjidakis died on 15 June 1994 from acute pulmonary edema and was buried in Peania. As he specified, his funeral was not attended by television crews and photo reporters.

During the period of Occupation Manos Hadjidakis was a member of the EPON of Pagrati. He wrote articles and poems for children in the EPON magazine Nea Generia during the first years of its publication, from 1943 onwards under the pseudonym Petros Granitis. After the Decembrance, on the orders of the KKE, the troupe “United Artists” was founded, with two groups, one consisting of professionals and one of first-time artists. Hatzidakis participated in the second stage, with the great director, translator and writer George Sevastikoglou as coordinator.

In 1946 he distanced himself from the party perception and action and since then he developed a personal political thought, the central axes of which were the questioning, the revision and the constant search for the modern Greek identity in the modern world.

About his political convictions he writes: “I am a bourgeois democrat, humanist and right-wing revisionist […]. I have never been an anti-communist […]. I have never never been a leftist. But the leftist does not contain me.”

The political thought of Manos Hadjidakis extends to the essence of social issues, beyond and outside the space defined by ideologies and is omnipresent in his work – which, however, can in no way be described as militant.

From his lecture on rebetiko in 1949 until the end of his life, Manos Hadjidakis intervened systematically and intensively in public life. Mainly in the post-independence period with the Third Programme, where he generously gave a platform to dozens of talented young collaborators, and later, in the 1980s with the magazine To Tetarto, he attempted to react in an organized way to established perceptions. But also with numerous interviews, articles and statements, he fought against what he considered to be methodism, populism, conservatism and negligence of power. Hadjidakis” interventions in the public affairs of the country were not without cost to himself and culminate in the harsh criticism of him by the newspaper Avriani (1985-1987).

Hatzidakis often expressed his views in a provocative manner. Many contemporary scholars and journalists have questioned his true political identity. Most consider him to be a “right-winger”, a view that is considered to be the prevailing one due to his personal friendship with Konstantinos Karamanlis dating back to 1959. Some see him as a sui generis anarchist, due to some of his statements from time to time, as well as his occasional support for some anarchist activists. His stepson, George Hatzidakis, stated that:

Hadjidakis was not a right-winger, so the others declared. All these years later, we all know the reason. He could not have avoided all this post-war bipolarity, which had its roots in the civil war. He claimed free thought and action and to a large extent he succeeded. He wanted to be a free citizen and he knew that was not easy. His views and ideas were subversive, but not in the sense of anarchy as we understand it today, a “loose” state that burns and breaks everything down. He believed in the overthrow of any conservative, dogmatic and hypocritical element.

Hadjidakis criticized the youth of the ONNED, at a festival (“Celebration”) of which he agreed to give a concert in the autumn of 1983 at the Nea Smyrni Park. He found the audience”s behaviour offensive (some people shouted “Bring us Salabasis!”) and, annoyed, interrupted the concert after twenty minutes, describing the ONNEDites as “recreationist youth”. On the contrary, when he attended the festival of the youth organisation Rigas Feraeus, the youth organisation of the KKE inland, in the same year, he finished the concert and described the Rigades as “civilised youth”. Specifically in 1985 he stated that:

Two years ago I was asked by the children of Riga Feraios to play at their festival. The youth of the KKE Interior is the most sympathetic youth so far in our country, because it is very far from power and is not worn out at all, it has no prospects of power. Therefore, the integration of these children into the KKE Esoteric is genuine, since it has no aspirations for power or benefits. So I did a concert at the JPC of the Interior and it was a famous contact with this audience, I really had excellent impressions. But in order not to be considered unilateral that I favoured the children of Riga Feraio, I accepted the invitation of the ONNED, because I vote for New Democracy. So I went to their festival as well. I left in twenty minutes, badly. I had the feeling that I played in a refreshment room, not a concert, I had never felt such shame in my life.

Manos Hadjidakis”s attitude to issues of public life is determined by his aesthetic and characterizes a significant part of his work of this period. Some works in which the composer”s political thought is reflected are The Irrational (1976), The Age of Melissanthi (1980), Pornography (1982), The Ballads of Athena Street (1983).


Manos Hadjidakis” oeuvre has been recorded first of all by the composer himself and was reconstructed by V. Angelikopoulos and R. Dalianoudis. The latter”s version includes 61 works for the theatre, 10 works for ancient drama, 77 works for cinema, 11 organ works, 36 song cycles and works for voice, 16 ballets and 3 operas. Some of these works are unpublished or unfinished. Manos Hadjidakis himself had selected and numbered 51 of his works that he considered the most important.

The composer”s complete oeuvre and discography, with his own introductory notes and additional archival material is accessible on his official website.

The titles and date of composition of the work (not the date of publication) are given. For projects worked on in different phases, the date of the final phase is given. Where the number of the work (err.) is noted, this refers to the numbering of Manos Hadjidakis himself (see above).

Author”s work

Manos Hadjidakis published two collections of poems entitled Mythology and Mythology II. He also published a selection of his comments on the Third Programme entitled The Comments of the Third, as well as a collection of interviews and articles entitled The Mirror and the Knife. Manos Hadjidakis did not write purely theoretical works. His theoretical stance, both on music and on broader issues of art and public life, is reflected in a number of interviews, articles, radio broadcasts, lectures, statements and commentaries, as well as in his compositional work.

The connection between the popular and the scholarly

The turn of Greek composers to tradition had already begun from the generation between the wars. Composers such as Nikos Skalkotas and Manolis Kalomiris, who belong chronologically to the so-called ”30s generation, were influenced by the spirit of the time and confronted the issue of Greekness in the field of music. However, these composers remained attached to an ethnographic approach to traditional – mainly folk – musical material.

Hadjidakis is the first to deal with tradition outside the ethnographic framework and in its entire extent, taking on the most rejected – for the society of his time – folk elements and integrating them into a new musical mixture. From this point of view, Hadjidakis could be considered a continuator of the 1930s generation in the field of music. After all, Hatzidakis was nurtured by the ideas of the ”30s generation and maintained strong friendships with its most important representatives.

Other composers, such as Argyris Kounadis and Mikis Theodorakis, joined this process very early on – as early as the late 1940s -, turning the idea of linking scholarly music with popular tradition into a movement. The result was the creation of the artisanal folk song, a term coined by Miki Theodorakis to describe this new musical mixture. The Hatzidakis-Theodorakis duo, with their enormous compositional and theoretical work, as well as their certainty of quality, has since been the main pillar that has determined developments in Greek music.

His attitude towards the people

In the new space created by the connection between the popular and the scholarly, Hatzidakis maintained a theoretical and aesthetic distance that clearly differentiated him from Theodorakis: he always maintained the feeling that he himself was a non-people, a bourgeois observer. At the same time, he approached the term “layman” with rigour, attributing to it a clear and abstract meaning, beyond the usual platitudes:

… And to explain, when I say something popular, I don”t mean for the People. Coincidentally, the People are anything but popular. The bouzouki, the bagpipes and the bagpipes are his habit. I am interested in those few, his only moments when he lives, without really understanding his truth. They are the moments when he is merely human, without the violence of Time, without the agony of Space, without the decay of his Order…

This positioning of Hatzidakis led him to seek an essential content for his music and a genuine relationship with the world. He was indifferent to light singing, that which did not express a deeper human need, and he disavowed much of his “folkloric” work – written largely for the Greek cinema – for the same reason. He cited the great success of Never on Sunday:

It deprived me of the possibility to have the right contact with the people… And the people for a long time were receiving something that was outside the song and not inside.

The song

Hadjidakis sought a living music that expressed people and their times and was not just an expression of art. For this reason he rejected the edifice of classical music, and chose from the beginning to deal with singing as “an erotic act and not as an expression of art”. “I believe,” Hatzidakis wrote, “in the song that reveals and expresses us deeply, not in that which flatters our frivolous and forcibly acquired habits.”

According to Manos Hadjidakis, a song must be based on a high poetic reason but also contain a strong myth. He considered that he achieved this goal for the first time with the song cycle “Mythology” (1965) with lyrics by Nikos Gatsos.

Because of this focus on song, the work of Manos Hadjidakis is intertwined with his general attitude to issues of art and public life.

Digital archive ERT


  1. Μάνος Χατζιδάκις
  2. Manos Hatzidakis
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