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Greek voice sings to the world December 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek, Music Life Greek.
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Nana Mouskouri shares her life and experiences in new biography published by Livanis

nanamouskouri.jpg  From the book. Nana Mouskouri outside a Broadway theater during a tour.

Long before globalization became part of daily life, Nana Mouskouri was a truly international singer whose fan club included all continents, and that’s just half the story. The real success in her unparalleled career, as reflected in more than 300 million albums sold worldwide, is that it spans something like 50 years.

The life of Ioanna Mouskouri, born in Crete on October 13, 1934, is the subject of “To onoma mou einai Nana” (“My Name Is Nana”), a biography recently published by Livanis Publishers. In the book, the artist narrates her life to journalist Fotis Apergis.

The story is one of talent and determination, without discarding language skills, in postwar Athens, where the family moved when Nana was a child and where the humble Mouskouri household saw happy and less happy times, due to Nana’s father’s destructive passion for gambling.

Hiding behind her glasses and a few extra kilos, Mouskouri’s career took off through radio and nightclub appearances. One night at the Asteria Club, she was given the advice of a lifetime when Maria Callas shared with her the following thought: it is preferable to become a top popular music singer than an average opera soloist. Waiting round the corner were the golden years with composer Manos Hadjidakis and lyricist and poet Nikos Gatsos, Mouskouri’s great friends and mentors, though in the case of Hadjidakis, a fallout would result in a 20-year silence.

Going global > As Mouskouri’s career spilled beyond Greece, the singer shared a late-night bottle of whisky with Serge Gainsbourg and Rod Stewart, toured the United States with Harry Belafonte in the racially tense 1960s, recorded jazz with Quincy Jones, met Bob Dylan and became close friends with Leonard Cohen, while the power of television took her image around the globe through a BBC special, “Nana and Guests.”

Her artistic identity established, she resisted when producers tried to get her to change her name and hair color, while constant traveling resulted in her adopting local time zones as her own. Besides singing, Mouskouri was elected to the European Parliament and has long been a Unicef Ambassador.

For this citizen of the world, Greece is never out of the picture, though, says the artist, her native country has never officially recognized her contribution. And she does register one major complaint, that of not participating in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games ceremonies, though she did ask to be included.

“People think that a popular singer lives a glamorous life. It’s nothing like that. I never spend the day at the hairdresser or taking care of my nails. I was always grateful to God for giving me my voice, but I have also faced great difficulties, both in terms of my family as well as emotional ones,” she says.

Far apart from today’s short-lived, television stardom on reality shows, “My Name is Nana” is an easily read reflection on a unique career, a highly disciplined life and a passion for music, and the need to share it with the world.

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