Melbourne, September 2021

You learn that you know very, very little about the world, let alone music.

1. You walk to the milk bar to buy, well, milk. You glance at the small, sad pile of newspapers inside the front door. You see a heading on the Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos. ‘Death of a poet’ perhaps it says. ‘The soul of our country.’ ‘Three days of mourning.’ You buy your milk and wonder, just in the time it takes to open and close the door of the shop, about the poet, about the soul. But you’re soon crossing the road, thinking about the weather. You don’t know anything about Greece.

2. A few days later an acquaintance your age – a neighbour from a few blocks away – is up for a chat. He knows you like music. You know he has Greek heritage. “I’ve been listening to homeland music for three days,” he says. “In honour of Mikis Theodorakis. Lived ‘til he was 96. You know Zorba The Greek? Theodorakis wrote that. And hundreds of other songs. Dozens of albums. He was the Bob Dylan of Greece. He had to live in exile when the dictatorship came in, back in the 1960s. A great man. The soul of our country.” He tells you he had been listening to The Rolling Stones for nearly a week after Charlie Watts died but now it was time to honour the Greek poet, the songwriter, the composer by listening to records, CDs, Spotify.

You learn that you know very, very little about Mikis Theodorakis, and Greece.

3.  Late that afternoon you are scrolling through the latest podcasts of the Radio National program that is simply called The Music Show. You are not looking for anybody or any music in particular. Just the calm and endless knowledge of host Andrew Ford. “Tonight, we pay tribute to Mikis Theodorakis. Please welcome to the show, from Neos Kosmos…”

The host and the journalist talk about politics as much as music, about exile and the junta, and the dictatorship, and Turkey, and Nazism, and fascism, and communism and the centre-left and the conservatives and the progressives and how, when he was a boy, the journalist’s family hid their Theodarakis albums under the floorboards of their home in Athens. They talk about Theodorakis as a composer of modern classical music (“the Stravinsky of Greece”) and then about his folk music, for the people of Greece, not for “the elites of London and Paris.”

4.That evening you are channel surfing the television. Never much on a Monday night. A light-hearted news/quiz show will do. The panellists’ quips are quick and funny, the cross-promotions tolerable. Then the host says “Mikis Theodorakis died last week, aged 96. What was he especially famous for?” The quips dry up. Generation gap. The oldest member of the panel starts humming Fiddler On The Roof before saying, “Zorba The Greek?”

I learn that I now know a little more, a tiny, tiny sliver of something, about the world, and music.

Stereo Story # 617

Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.