Akritas, the '70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

The Cover of the Akritas Rock Band Album
The Cover of the Akritas Rock Band Album

The Akritas, one of the greatest rock bands of the 1970s, formed by Stavros Logarides and Aris Tasoulis, has an enviable record: being a Greek band and releasing only one Greek-language album, they managed to get through the history of this popular ecumenical music genre, writing exceptionally pioneering rock music.

International references to their name and work even today are no shortage, while the original vinyl record itself is a enviable and rare collector piece.

In addition, their music has lost nothing of its freshness and power over the years, and this fact largely explains the ever-renewed interest in their work, for otherwise Akritas was never particularly popular – on the contrary – not even their record could be described as bestselling, since when it was released it was a more or less commercial failure.

Stavros Logarides & Costas Ferris

Towards the end of 1972, Stavros Logarides is in famous for his pleasant climate London city. It was preceded the definitive breakup of Poll, the far more successful band that crossed the Greek Pop – Rock scene, of whom he was one of the founding member.

The reason for the breakup of the Poll band was the decision of the two other founding members of the group, Kostas Tournas and Robert Williams, to participate the Thessaloniki Song Contest Festival in September of that year.

Stavros Logarides disagreed, arguing that it was impossible for them to participate in an institution that the Greek military junta (1967–1974), which they wanted to overthrow, used as a propaganda mechanism – mainly against the youth.

So in London Logarides comes into contact with the exuberant personality of Costas Ferris. Costas Ferris, who wrote the lyrics for the emblematic ‘666’ of Vangelis Papathanasiou and Aphrodite’s Child, ignites Logarides’ imagination by suggesting a number of thems, including the uploading of a Rock opera on life and teachings of Buddha.

Eventually they end up with Nikos Kazantzakis‘ essay, ‘The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises‘, and Akritas, who is sketched there.

Logarides, soon after, leaves London with its pleasant climate and returns to Greece, looking for musicians to form a new Rock band that will work on Akritas.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

The Akritas Band Formation

At the end of 1972 the new band was formed. Its name is, of course, Akritas, and the members are, besides Stavros Logarides, who plays bass and is the main (great) voice of the band, Aris Tasoulis, Giorgos Tsoupakis and Dimos Papachristou.

Aris Tasoulis, former member of the legendary Bourboulia band, plays keyboard instruments, the Dimos Papachristou, who is a childhood friend of Logarides from Istanbul (Constantinople), the birthplace of both, plays the electric guitar, and Giorgos Tsoupakis plays the drums.

Tsoupakis’ involvement is particularly interesting, because he is being selected during an unusually brief audition: being the first to test drummer, while he sat on the drums, obliging Logarides to thank the other participants and send them home.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

Greece After the Civil War, Military Junta & Rock

For a rock band like the Akritas which formed during the military junta, the political and social atmosphere of those days is certainly not irrelevant. However, for a minimal, at least, understanding of this period, no less than a brief retrospective is needed in situation of Greece after the civil war – if not for the sake of the reader at least for the pleasure of this post writer.

Greece After The Civil War (1949-1967)

Historical developments in Greece after the Civil War have led to interesting transformations in Greek society.

On the one hand, it reinforced its position a mainly of merchant activity bourgeoisie that ideologically lacked the slightest constitution, because purified the exercise of its power not on the basis of the conflict of ideas but on the basis of practiced, covertly to openly, raw violence.

On the other hand, the working classes more or less were either ideologically identical with the non-ideology of the dominant bourgeoisie, or adopted the left and / or Marxist ideological and political discourse and measured the consequences of such a stance.

It is surprising, however, that both the bourgeoisie and the working classes were worthy of agreeing on at least one point: the Western world and the values it espoused, when they did not make money or develop productive forces, constituted an all-out threat to the foundations of Greek society.

Such a threat would represent – initially – Rock & Roll, along with that part of the youth that had joined it.

Interpolation: The Rolling Stones & Flower Power

A small but characteristic example of the unrelenting madness of the post civil war regime in Greece is the famous interrupted concert of the Rolling Stones in Athens on April 17, 1967, just four days before the military junta coup.

The Rolling Stones are on stage, and one of their audiences offers two beautiful bouquets of carnations, one white and the other red.

Mick Jagger, who sings Satisfaction at the time, takes the red carnation bouquet and because great distance separates him from the spectators, he gives it – most probably – to Road Manager of band Tom Keylock to share it to the audience.

The police officers, famous for their linguistic learning, understood Satisfaction as ‘I’ll slaughter you‘ (because in Greeks the word Satisfaction sounds like this) and the red carnation bouquet as a ‘communist propaganda‘. And immediately solving the equation, since they were also enlightened in mathematics, Satisfaction + Red Carnations = Urge to Rebellion, beat the crap out both audience and artists.

… Since then, it has been about 30 years to give the Rolling Stones a concert again in Greece.

The Junta (1967-1974)

In 1967 the military junta of the Colonels unloaded the ideological deficit of the ruling bourgeoisie: the exercise of its power from now on would only be based on the raw violence of the ‘Greece for Christian Greeks’.

Of this noble ‘Christian Greeks’ practice would not exclude any real or imaginary enemy, let alone Rock youth with long hair, beards, mini-skirts and bra-burning – who in any case were beating and reviling and before the regime of the Colonels.

However, the junta’s relationship with Rock music, audiences, youth, artists and bands at first glance seemed to have something paradox.

The Junta & the Paradox

The junta’s relationship with Rock was this: the dictatorship not only never ‘outlawed’ Rock music, but also gave bands and artists a go – of course only to those who censorship allow – both on radio and television, that is, in the media which were under its complete control.

How is this contradiction explained?

Very easy, gleaning a few between one thousand and one reasons:

  • The junta could never silence its patron’s voice, the famous radio frequency ‘Voice of America‘, which was broadcasting nonstop and in the Greek space this ‘foreign’ species for its own propaganda reasons
  • Rock music was no longer just a ‘foreign’ genre, but having gained significant audiences and domestic Pop-Rock artists and bands, it had also developed a significant market for profits (of course, few Greek pop and rock artists benefited from it)
  • Rock fans have never succeeded or wanted to be transformed from audience or youth into a widespread civil disobedience movement with a cohesive anticulture next to, parallel to and / or opposed to purely political resistance movements
  • It was always at the discretion of the regime security forces and police to brink back to the ‘Christian Greeks’ order all kinds of Rock ‘n’ Roll wild fans and rockers, otherwise was ruthlessly getting hit – and not only

In this extraordinary and graceful ‘Christian Greeks’ environment, artists and rock bands were called upon to create.

It was in this environment that Akritas bet everything.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

Aris Tasoulis, Composition, Piano & Synthesizer
Aris Tasoulis, Composition, Piano & Synthesizer

The Album Release

After strenuous work by the Akritas band, sometime around the end of 1973, the album was released, with the orchestration credited to the whole group and the compositions being signed by both Logarides and Tasoulis.

It was preceded in early 1973 a single which included the song The Pan (composition by A. Tasoulis) and the song The First Drop of My Life (composition by S. Logarides). Far from the later Akritas musical style and without C. Ferris’s involvement, the reception of the single was quite encouraging.

However, that was not the case with the album, at least in Greece, where it was a flop. Abroad it was a little better, mainly in Germany and Japan.

In fact, it was released in Japan with a different cover, and today this version of the album is a rare collectible piece.

But why did it fail in Greece?

Probably because the situation did not favor it: in the days it was released, it had been the Uprising at the Polytechnic University of Athens to follow its bloody suppression by the junta’s organs.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

Dimos Papachristou Playing Guitar
Dimos Papachristou Playing Guitar

What Does (Not) the Poet Want to Say in the Akritas Album

Akritai (singular Akritas or Akritēs) was guards at the eastern border of Byzantine Empire in the 9th to 11th centuries CE. Their feat inspired the Byzantine epic of Digenes Akritas.

Poetry or lyric – we admit that we never fully grasped the according to legend chaotic differences between the two genres. We think the same thing happened with Costas Ferris, this multi-dimensional creator, director, musician, actor, writer and sometimes poet or lyricist, who undertook to write the libretto of ‘Akritas’.

Fortunately for both us and Costas Ferris, the Greek rendering of the term libretto lends itself to bridging the legendary chaos between poetry and lyric, since the term poetic text does indeed fit like a glove.

As really fits like a glove the reference, that to Costas Ferris’s libretto’s tail should also be added the last poetic text of the album, which does not belong to him but to Stavros Logarides, and bears the somewhat fractal title ‘Zeta Zorzeta‘.

The According To Legend Subject Matter

As noted above, the basis of Akritas work is Nikos Kazantzakis ‘The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises’. The overrated Kazantzakis in this essay, written in horrible Greek, reflects the ideas of Nietzsche, Hegel and Bergson, presenting them as his own Manifesto against God and the Devil, putting Man himself in front of assuming the responsibility for his own being – not of course in its Sartre or Castoriadis version.

Good luck and inspiration, wants the poetic text of Costas Ferris not to follow the abuse of the Greek language and the bombastic way of expression that Kazantzakis generously bestows.

Also inspired and relaxed enough, out of all of the problematic ‘Saviors of God’ problems, the only essential link between the essay and the libretto is the simple use of her general ideas and reference to Akritas.

An Akritas who is born, lives, and probably dies in battle, to be succeeded by somebody called ‘Zeta Zorzeta’.

The Libretto

The poetic text of Costas Ferris has poetry, little prose and lyrics. It is with and without rhyme. Making use of even the iambic decapentasyllabic verse of Greek traditional folk songs, it blends perfectly with the music of the album, proving that this great creative funnel called rock does not universally know linguistic boundaries when dropped into masters of language.

What doesn’t the libretto have?

First of all serious meme and lack of humor. The work’s slightly self-deprecating designation as a Dance Suite for Quartet and Play Back, shows it.

Then it has not meaning(s). However, this does not prevent the work to be meaningful – for everyone who want to look for.

Lastly it does not have ‘Greekness‘, because it contains a bounteous dose of Authenticity, which has transformed ‘Greek’ into ‘Ecumenical’ and vice versa.

In this sense it could well be said that this poetic persona, Akritas, on which the loose narrative axis of the libretto is formed, is far from the epic Digenes Akritas of folklore and ideological constructions. His own epic is elsewhere:

This Akritas is the carrier of the ethos of all people of the frontier.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

The Music of Akritas

If there is one thing that is truly special about this Akritas landmark album, it is their creative persistence in traditional folk Greek motifs and their inspired performance with electric rock sound.

In this way, they manage to pass on ‘World Music‘ and ‘Ethnic‘ sounds, a time when the first term (coined in the early 1960s by the American Robert Edward ‘Bob’ Brown, musician, ethnomusicologist and professor at the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut) is for musicians only, and the latter has not even been ‘invented’.

Relations & Influences

It is not only Greek folk tradition but also Western baroque and classical music, in which the songs of Akritas are also synthetic based. However, this is happening without even a single moment of rhythmic and melodic chatter or pompous showcase.

As for the clear influences (Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Yes, etc.), the result becomes more than obvious, that it is not an imitation of them, but an organic assimilation and artistic transformation of their most essentials sides.

Other Features

A notable feature of the work is the accompaniment of different musical idioms within the same piece and the immediate transition from one to the other, as in ‘Return‘ for example: the folk-sounding jazz succeeds, reminiscent the cut-up writing technique of William S. Burroughs.

On the other hand, the reference to the use of the synthesizer is also essential. Although it was the then ultra-modern Synthesizer VCS 3, (the same model as that used in Pink Floyd’s monumental ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘) the electronic sounds produced are breathing and in full harmony with the musical style of the entire project, making its an integral part and not a technological gadgets of the era for cheap sound effects.

Finally, along with the reference to the psychedelic tone of the work, the length of the tracks needs to be highlighted. A time when Pharaonic conception of Progressive’s most boring music works lasted as long as one side of the vinyl record, here is a measure, and as for this a Garage Rock aspect: the longest track, ‘The Miracle’ lasts 4 minutes and 56 seconds.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

Members of the Akritas Rock Band: Tasoulis, Logaridis & Tsoupakis
Members of the Akritas Rock Band: Tasoulis, Logaridis & Tsoupakis on the Right

The Breakup of the Group

Through tours, concerts and performances, the band tried to promote its music and its members to survive. However, in the early years after Greece’s regime change, political songs dominated, the vast majority of which were banned by the junta.

This situation ostracizes the rock bands and dehydrates the Greek rock scene. And as the one thing leads to another, disagreements and quarrels between the member of Akritas had the result to leave the band A. Tasoulis and G. Tsoupakis.

After that, Akis Simitriotis, Ioannis Papadopoulos, Ariadni MacKinnon Andrew, Elias Marinakis, George Maglaras and Nikos Pipilas took part in the band scheme.

The change of members did not save the situation and in 1977, even after the death of keyboardist G. Papadopoulos, Logarides was forced to breakup the band.

Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band

Project Details & Contributors

Below are given some details about the project and its contributors. As for the members of the band, the original composition that made the recording is listed.

Project Details & Contributors of Akritas Album

  • Label: Polydor – Rollgram
  • Format: Vinyl, LP, reissued on CD in 1994
  • Released: 1973
  • Genre: Progressive Rock [… Is there any Nonprogressive or Conservative Rock music genre out there?]
  • Title: Akritas – Dance Suite for Quartet and Play Back
  • Music: Aris Tasoulis, Stavros Logarides
  • Lyrics – Libretto: Costas Ferris (‘Zeta Zorzeta’: Stavros Logaridis)
  • Orchestration: Akritas
  • Producer: Costas Fasolas
  • Sound Engineer: George Constantopoulos (‘Zeta Zorzeta’: Giannis Smyrnaios)
  • Cover: Costas Ferris (Aura’s photo is a work by George Panousopoulos; other photos are by Costas Papakonstantinou)

The Akritas Band Members

Giorgos Tsoupakis: Drums

Stavros Logarides: Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar

Aris Tasoulis: Piano, Organ, Synthesizer (VCS 3)

Dimos Papachristou (participation): Electric Guitar

Tracklist

Side A

01. Invaders [01:03] 02. Birth [00:59] 03. The Children [02:14] 04. Memory [03:38] 05. Return [01:30] 06. Love [02:49] 07. Ego [04:25] 08. Song [00:58]

Side B

09. The Festivity [03:50] 10. The Miracle [04:56] 11. The Dream [02:35] 12. Before me Was a Pale Horse [01:01] 13. Conquest & Zeta Zorzeta [03:05]

Duration: 33:13

With Pomp and Circumstance

MUSIC

A selection of tracks from a great rock band.

References

The admittedly few References, of this extra large progressive rock article entitled Akritas, the ’70s Pioneering Greek Rock Band, are presented by Akritas with a selection of songs from their same title album.

  1. Asbjørnsen, D. E. (2000).Scented Gardens of the Mind: A Guide to the Golden Era of Progressive Rock (1968-1980) in More Than 20 European Countries. Gardners Books.
  2. Καζαντζάκης, Ν. (2015). Ασκητική: The Saviors Of God: Spiritual Exercises [The Saviors Of God: Spiritual Exercises]. Εκδόσεις Καζαντζάκη.
  3. Νταλούκας, Μ. (2006). Ελληνικό Ροκ: Ιστορία της Νεανικής Κουλτούρας από την Γενιά του Χάους μέχρι τον Θάνατο του Παύλου Σιδηρόπουλου [Greek Rock History]. Αθήνα: Άγκυρα.

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