MARKOS AND STRATEGOS MAKRIYIANNIS - what do they have in common? ... All roads lead to Markos it seems. Reading what I thought was a totally unrelated book: 'Parisi-Athina' by Vassilis Alexakis I came across this account of how the author discovered rebetiko while doing military service in 1967. In the course of writing an article about the women who'd inspired famous songs like Archontissa and Frangosyriani, he went to visit Markos in his house. He found him snoozing on a couch in the kitchen. There was a huge pile of 78s by the fridge and he wore just a vest and pants, cooling himself with a fan made from a piece of cardboard. Markos was so much in the habit of jotting ideas on the nearest scrap of paper that he'd even written a song on his fan. So what has this to do with Strategos Makriyiannis? Here's what Alexakis says about Markos' songs: "His songs, like the writings of Makriyiannis, say directly what they have to say; they're dictated by an urgent need. He sings them with the same sort of dry voice they use in court for pronouncing sentence."
Makriyiannis was a hero of the Greek war of independence who later joined in the revolt against King Otto in 1843 and spent the next ten years in prison. Like Markos – who also spent some time in prison - he had minimal schooling and had to earn his bread from the age of 7. Alexakis was enthused by his 'Απομνημονεύματα' (Memoirs) because of their 'κέφι, το νεύρο, και η γκρίνια'– their ‘spirit, their nerve and plaintiveness’. They are, says, Alexakis, more than anything else, like a 'long drawn-out love letter ....'
POST SCRIPT: The writer Christos Chomenidhis also compared Markos with Makriyiannis in his selection of 5 books that show the ‘real Greece’. - See home page Greeklines.