George Dalaras (Greek: Γιώργος Νταλάρας, born 29 September 1949), also possibly spelled as Yorgos or Giorgos Dalaras, is a Greek singer. He is of international fame and has recently been selected as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. He was born in Nea Kokinia, Piraeus. His father was Loukas Daralas, a singer of rebetiko.
Dalaras' first song, "Προσμονή" ("Expectation"), was recorded in 1967. The single never reached any popular status in fact, was barely released. Dalaras even had to struggle to get into the studio, as ironically the day he began his studio career was the day that the Greek military junta had taken over the streets of Athens, and the roads were littered with tanks. After several appearances on various recordings as a "bonus/token" singer, his debut album was released in early 1969, a self titled album released under the MINOS label. The recording included many compositions by Stavros Koujioumtzis, who in the early years proved a fountain of help toward helping Dalaras succeed musically. As Dalaras has said in various interviews, he owes the fact that he became a singer to Koujioumtzis, who composed Dalaras' first songs. His relation with Koujioumtzis remained friendly until the sudden death of the composer due to a heart attack in March 2005.
The biggest hit of the record, "Pou' nai ta hronia", is still sung today, and is regarded as a mainstay in Dalaras' large repertoire. In 1970, he released the album Natane to 21 ("If only it were '21", that is, 1821, a reference to the Greek War of Independence). The album was immediately more successful than his debut LP and included hits such as "Natane to 21", "Kapou nihtoni", and an instrumental version of "Poune ta hronia". The album was made up entirely of a compositions by Stavros Koujioumtzis. The songs were mainly secondary releases, as was common in the late 60's for new Greek singers; however, not all the songs on first release (most of them on the smaller yet more distinctive LYRA label) had proved successful, and in many instances, even now, many people in Greece believe that the Dalaras songs are original and not cover versions.
In 1972, Dalaras, along with singer Haris Alexiou, received his big break in the Greek music industry when their LP Mikra Asia ("Asia Minor") went platinum, his first album to do so. The songs were written by Apostolos Kaldaras, a heavyweight in the laïkó scene of the '50s and '60s, who at this time decided to enter the political fray of Greek music. Dalaras and Alexiou were immediately thrown into the limelight. The LP was also recently re-released in both CD and limited edition LP format by minos-emi. The Mikra Asia LP was later followed up, by Vizantinos Esperinos ("Byzantine Vesper") in 1973. The album consisted again of Dalaras and Haris Alexiou, and was composed by Apostolos Kaldaras, however the lyrics were by the emerging Lefteris Papadopoulos, who had written Dalaras first official recording. This was the last time that Dalaras had officially worked with Apostolos Kaldaras in the studio, however, they worked together in live performances. Unlike Mikra Asia, Vizantinos Esperinos did not meet any exceptional sales, and is somewhat 'forgotten' in the repertoire of Dalaras's songs.
After several LPs and further collaborations with Koujioumtzis, Kaldaras, Manos Loizos, Mikis Theodorakis and others, Dalaras decided to release his own renditions of rebetiko songs on the double LP 50 Hronia Rembetiko Songs released 1975. The recording proved an immediate success, despite the toning down of the musical lyrics. However, as a result, a new movement was set to take place in Greek music, and the once forgotten rembetes were finding themselves performing, in some cases for the first time in 30 to 40 years, live in front of a live audience. He later followed up his work with an LP in 1980, Rembetika tis Katochis, which was a more gritty and meaty release, more faithful to the tone of the original rembetika as heard in the 1930s however again, references to drugs were cut out, and only mentioned in fleeting. Unlike the previous double LP, this also contained some of the original musicians, Bayianteras and Genitsaris in particular making an appearance on the LP.
Since the 1970s, George Dalaras has recorded more than 120 records. He has sung numerous different Greek music styles (e.g. rebetiko, laïkó, Latin, pop), Israeli and Arabic music, and religious music. He has collaborated with many contemporary Greek composers, including Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Koujioumtzis, Manos Loizos, Apostolos Kaldaras, Stavros Xarhakos and Manos Hadjidakis to Christos Nikolopoulos. He also discovered and supported little Areti Ketime, whose first CD album he produced. Apart from his prominent singing career, Dalaras is considered to be one a talented musician as he plays most of the stringed instruments of a Greek folk band with great success, including the guitar, bouzouki, baglama, tzoura and outi. He has accompanied Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía, among others. Dalaras' most important projects include collaborations with several international singers, including British singer Sting, even releasing a duet with Sting ("Mad About You"). He has also collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, Jethro Tull, Emma Shapplin, Goran Bregovic, Apostolis Anthimos, Dulce Pontes and many others. Dalara moved from his homestay label of Minos EMI in favour of Universal Music Greece in 2006, thus ending an almost 40 year collaboration.
At 2000 George Dalaras discovered a new local orchestra that specialized at traditional "Smirneiko" and "Rebetiko" songs. The orchestra's name was "Estoudiantina Neas Ionias" and it came from Nea Ionia, a city near Volos. Dalaras pulled Estoudiantina in the light of publicity and make it known to the Greek public. Since then Estoudiantina has become one of the most important and famous orchestras in Greece. Estoudiantina's repertoire now also includes Modern Greek, Greek Laiko, and Mediteranean.
In his almost 40 year singing career, Dalaras has performed in thousands of concerts, and in 1983, entered the era of the live Greek club. Two historical concerts occurred in the Athens Olympic Stadium, attended by more than 160,000 people. This was the largest attendance at a Greek concert, to the point where Rolling Stone magazine commented that Dalaras was responsible for the birth of the Stadium era in Greece.
Dalaras personal albums total beyond 70. He has sold more than 12,000,000 records in his career and is regarded as one of the biggest names in contemporary Greek music. He has toured extensively throughout the world and was even invited to sing for Nelson Mandela on his birthday.
Currently his almbum sales are about 12.000.000. His live albums, including tributes to Vassilis Tsitsanis and Markos Vamvakaris, all reached multi platinum sales, and resulted in being among the top 10 releases of 2005. December 2005, he released a live recording called "Mediterranean 30th 40th parallel - Μεσόγειος 30ος 40ος Παράλληλος" with various renditions of Greek, Italian, Israeli and Arabic songs, and famous musicians from Hebrew and Arabic backgrounds, which gained multi platinum status, however, sales of his last three studio LPs have been not so successful.
Dalaras had been scheduled to perform a concert on the closing night of the second International Orthodox Youth Conference held in Istanbul from 11 to 15 July 2007. The event, organised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, had drawn the ire of the nationalist Turkish press, and the concert was abruptly cancelled by Turkish authorities on the grounds that the country's Archaeological Service did not permit the use of the planned venue, the 15th century Rumeli Hisar castle. The site had previously been used for international theatre festivals. The last-minute cancellation of the concert attracted strong media coverage and condemnation in neighbouring Greece.
Dalaras was born George Daralas, son of the rembetiko singer Loukas Daralas. He subsequently anagrammatized his name to Dalaras. Dalaras is currently married to Anna Dalara, his manager. Dalaras is a collector of musical instruments and in his spare time he goes fishing and travelling with his motorcycle.