Born on 21st March 1921 (some sources claim 1920) in Thessaloniki, a port on the Thermaikos Gulf of the Aegean Sea and Greece’s second largest city, the speed at which he mastered the guitar and violin left his parents in no doubt that Manolis Hiotis was a musical prodigy. Wealthy restaurateurs, they encouraged their son’s exceptional talent, and paid for him to leave home at the age of 14, to study music in Athens. In 1936, Hiotis met the folk singer Stratos Pagioumtzis, one of the country’s biggest stars thanks to his fashionable Rembetiko style and remarkable voice. Pagioumtzis hired the teenager to play the bouzouki, an instrument that had been popularized by the influx of immigrants from Turkey during the late nineteenth century. It was the main instrument in Rembetiko, and Hiotis discovered that he was a true virtuoso.
A year later, Hiotis recorded his first song, το χρήμα δεν το λογαριάζω (The Money Does Not Count) and it proved to be a hit. Influenced by Rembetiko, which was often considered a somewhat lowbrow form of entertainment, Hiotis pioneered his own, more refined version of the original genre, which came to be known as Archontorebetiko.
Above: Manolis Hiotis – το χρήμα δεν το λογαριάζω (The Money Does Not Count) (1938)
A string of successes ensued for Hiotis, as a soloist and when working with fellow artists, such as the singer Apostolos Nikolaidis, and composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis. Continue reading