Have You Learned Your Hadjidakis?

Have You Learned Your Hadjidakis?


A few years ago I watched a YouTube video of Danny Kay singing with Nana Mouskouri and Harry Belafonte.  They sang Opa Nina Nina Nai, or a slight rendition of it, and it touched a place in my soul I had ignored for years.   I called my mom to see if she could explain it because I couldn’t figure out why such a delightful song would pierce me so deeply.  She said my dad used to sing it all the time.   My dad died 10 years ago.

It pleased him when we Greek danced at weddings and social events.  My father, a Greek immigrant, struggled at times to bond with his 4 American daughters.  He loved to dance and Greek dancing was one of the ways we all connected.   But what was it about this song, from all the other hundreds of songs we grew up listening to?  As I sang it over and over in my head, tapping my foot and remembering my youth, I noticed one of the lyrics:

We only live once in this fake world, it is proper to enjoy ourselves a little.

These lyrics explain a lot about my dad.  He had a rough start to his life.  The war separated him from his parents, leaving him to be raised by his grandparents on a small island, cut off from the world.  He never finished high school because he had to start working when he was 16.  He had only one wish for us, that we follow what made us happy.  He knew life was too short and full of enough hardships.

As for the video flashback; in the clip, they ask Danny if he learned his “Hadjidakis.”  Manos Hadjidakis was a famous Greek composer.  He wrote music scores for films around the world.  There was a time when everyone knew his name.  If you’ve ever swayed to the song Never on a Sunday, then you know him too.

I recently read a press release about a concert honoring Hadjidakis.  On October 21, at 6.00pm, Mary-Victoria Voutsas and the Greek Chamber Music Project will perform many of his award-winning pieces at the Kennedy Center. The performance is presented in collaboration with the Embassy of Greece. Admission is free on a first-come-first-served basis.  Click here for more information.

Do you have a favorite song by Hadjidakis?  Leave us a link in the comments so we can all enjoy.


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About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.