Greece: Folk Musician and Researcher, Domna Samiou, Dies at 84

Grief and sorrow has been expressed by people in Greece and all over the world over the news of the death [el] of musician Domna Samiou, one of the most important and distinguished representatives of traditional Greek folk music. She died from leukemia on Sunday morning, March 11, 2012.

From her website we can read a personal narration of her childhood:

I was born in Kaisariani [neighborhood founded by Asia Minor refugees in Athens] in 1928. My parents were from Asia Minor. My mother came to Greece in 1922 with the refugees, alone. She left her village of Bayindir, and went to Smyrna. […] My father remained in Asia Minor as a prisoner, and arrived in Greece a year later, with the exchange of populations. In the beginning my mother, just as all the other refugees, lived in storehouses and schools. Later on they were given tents in Kaisariani. […] My memories from a very young age are of living in a shack. Each family got a shack, irrespective of how many members it had. One single room. […] You can imagine how much poverty there was. I remember that many times at home there was nothing to eat for dinner. Clothes? I remember that we would get shoes once a year, when we could afford it.

Domna Samiou. Image from her Facebook profile.

Domna Samiou. Image from her Facebook profile.

At age of 13, Domna had her first contact with Byzantine and folk music with musicologist and singer Simon Karas. During the 1970s, she started appearing in public along with Dionysis Savvopoulos, singing traditional Greek folk songs in their original form, as opposed to the more common commercialised style.

She became widely known to the Greek diaspora, as her songs were released in many European countries, in the USA and in Australia.

In 1981, she founded the Domna Samiou Greek Folk Music Association, a non-profit organization, whose main aim is the preservation and dissemination of Greek traditional music. Its archive consists of various recordings of folk songs from every part of Greece made systematically by Domna Samiou for 40 years (1963-2000).

Ιn 2005, the then President of Greece Konstantinos Stefanopoulos awarded her a medal of honour.

Οn her Facebook page, hundreds of people have expressed their sadness and love for her music presence and contribution to traditional Greek folk music.

Αρτεμης Καξηρης (Artemis Kaxiris) [el]:

 H ελλαδα ακομα φτωχοτερη.καλο ταξιδι

Greece is even poorer. Farewell

Vasw Karasmanoglou [el]:


Just read the news…Really painful, the last great singer of our traditional music has passed away…Farewell

Numerous feelings and thoughts were also shared via Twitter:

RIP Domna Samiou. Thank you for helping to preserve an important part of our Greek musical heritage – at least for one more generation.

@nikosofficiel RIP Domna Samiou, grande figure de la musique démotique. Je la découvre cette nuit à l'occasion de cette triste nouvelle…

@eilerua75: @nikosofficiel RIP Domna Samiou, great figure of folk music. I discovered her this night with the occasion of those sad news…

“Εφυγε” η προστατιδα της Ελληνικης παραδοσης, η μεγαλη Δομνα Σαμιου…αξιοσεβαστη και καλοψυχη,γεματη μουσικες απο ολη την Ελλαδα…

@alexiakovou: Great Domna Samiou, defender of Greek tradition, has passed away…respectable and soulful, full of music from all over Greece…

Some Twitter users stressed the fact that such an important figure of Greek culture had not become a pompous “celebrity” and younger generations may not have been aware of her music:

: Αυτοί που πραγματικά αγαπούν τον τόπο μας, μεγαλουργούν χωρίς φανφάρες, χωρίς προβολείς, χωρίς χωρίς χωρίς Καληνύχτα ΔΟΜΝΑ ΣΑΜΙΟΥ

@PGS_ATH: Those that really love our homeland thrive without pompous presence, without big stage lights, without without without… Good night DOMNA SAMIOU

: Πέθανε η Δομνα Σαμιου.Γι αυτο δεν λέτε τίποτα – λες κ όλοι γεννηθήκαμε με Etta James.Κρίμα..

@Zoe_fion: Domna Samiou died. That's why you say nothing. As if we were all supposed to be born and grow up with Etta James. What a pity.

Here is a video from her YouTube channel, showing her singing at Sydney in 1984. This traditional Greek song comes from East Thrace and Istanbul refugees and is entitled “Eche Geia, Panagia” (Farewell, Virgin Mary):

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