The Greek Roma: The Social Outcasts and the Stars



    Original story in Greek by Iriri Papafilippaki

    According to information from the Subdirectorate of the Kalamata Police Department and the Office for Criminal Cases of Kalamata, the recently recorded 34 robberies or attempted robberies in houses across the broader region of Messinia were conducted by Romani people.

    Greek news agencies newsbomb.gr and eleftheriaonline.gr have also reported robbery cases in different regions of Corfu and Kalamata since January 2012.

    The issue of the Romani people in Greece, also called Tsigkanoi, remains controversial to date and the Greek government must pay extra attention to these people during these harsh economic times the country is going through. What the Roma lack, are incentives. The last state-run initiative taken to improve their quality of life was in 2010 with the issuance of some bank capital that would help the Roma fight social alienation. However, the past two years have been a barrier to the overall effort.

    Some 250,000 Roma live today in Greece, with half them being active members of Greek society. In fact, some of them have permanent job positions, but the majority do not attend preliminary schools. The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country in some 70 settlements, mainly in the suburbs. Notable centres of Romani life in Greece are Agia Varvara, Athens, which has a very successful Romani community, and Ano Liosia, where conditions are bad.

    The Roma are most commonly known as “gypsies” in many countries of the world. This rather derogatory term was first given to them by the Greeks, who supposed them to be Egyptian in origin. The term “Roma” is a word widely used by the Romani people. In their dialect it means “man” or “husband”. The history of Roma in Greece goes back to the 15th century.

    Famous Greek Roma artists
    Even if many Roma are being accused of illegal activities, like gun smuggling and drug trafficking, there are several examples of Romani having excelled or currently excelling in Greek stardom. Here are some of the most prominent Roma artists:

    Manolis Angelopoulos – (1939-1989) a Greek singing legend that had gained the love and respect of his colleagues. Born in Kavala to Roma parents, Aggelopoulos recorded his first song in 1957. Always proud of his origin, he gained popularity during the 1960s singing about love but also topics like Greek refugees and exotic places.

     

    Kostas Hatzis, a famous guitar player and singer, who has been recognized as a major artist and innovative creator of “social” songs. He launched the “guitar-voice” pattern in Greece as well as ballads carrying social messages.

     

    Makis Christodoulopoulos, a famous singer of laika. Born in 1948 in Amaliada to a poor Roma family, Christodoulopoulos worked his way up to become a successful singer and performer.

     

    Vassilis Paiteris, a musician and singer from Drapetsona. Born in 1950, Paiteris began his professional singing career at the early age of 13.

     

    Helen (Lavida) Vitali, considered one of the most important female voices of the past 20 years. She was born in Athens, within a musically inclined family, and grew up wandering with her parents.

     

    Irene Merkouri, a pop singer, whose mother is of Roma origin. Born in Athens in 1981, Merkouri has been pursuing a professional signer career since 2002.


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