Nikos Xilouris (1936-1980)

Nikos Xilouris
Nikos Xilouris

Nikos Xilouris Xilouris’ music and songs have touched and inspired all Cretan singers. Nikos Xilouris was a great Cretan artist, honored and adored by the Cretan people no matter the time passed since his death.

Xilouris was born on 7 July 1936 in Anogia, a village in the prefecture of Rethymno, Crete. He was 5 years old when his village was burnt by the Nazi forces and the locals were transferred as refugees in Mylopotamos.
Upon their return in Anogia, young Xilouris proved to have talent in music and asked his father to buy him a lyra. His father refused because he wanted his son to become a literate person but young Nikos persuaded him. Soon, Nikos started playing the lyra in weddings and other social events.

Popular musicians of that time noticed that Nikos was a talented boy and didn't like it much. However, he managed to become famous, supported by his family and friends.
Success was not easy, as modern music of that time didn’t include traditional Cretan music but tango and waltz.

At the age of 17, Xilouris moved to Heraklion to pursue his career and started working in “Kastro” music hall but could barely afford to pay his rent.

On 21 May 1858 Xilouris got married with Ourania Melabianaki. Ourania’s father didn’t give his consent to this marriage but in the end he compromised as Xilouris used to serenade her every night even though he didn’t even know her.
In 1958 he recorded his first song “Kritikopoula mou/Mia mavrofora otan perna” (Κρητικοπούλα μου/Μια μαυροφόρα όταν περνά) for his first album, which gained huge success. After having become father of two children, he won the first prize in a folklore festival in Saint Remo, where he played “syrtaki” on lyra. In 1969 he recorded “Anyfantou” (Ανυφαντού) and started working in a music hall in Athens.

During the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, Xilouris' voice became a symbol of rebellion and resistance to the regime. In May 1973 he took part in a performance of Kostas Kazakos and Tzeni Karezi as the main singer. The play was about the recent Greek history and was entitled “To megalo mas tsirko” (Το μεγάλο μας τσίρκο) .

At the peak of his career, he was diagnosed with cancer. For the first time in his life, his courage and his original, brave, kind soul couldn’t help him win the battle. Nikos Xilouris died on 8 February 1980.

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