Márkos Vamvakáris (May 10, 1905 – February 8, 1972), was a rebetiko musician. He is universally referred to by rebetiko writers and fans simply by his first name, Márkos. The great significance of Vamvakaris for the rebetiko is also reflected by his nickname: the “patriarch” of the rebetiko”.
Markos’ composing style was utterly simple: minimal orchestration, melodic lines stripped of any embellishment, and lyrics as devoid of ornamentation as possible. His strophic masterpiece “Your eyelashes shine” is a typical example of his art. It consists of just three short couplets, each sung twice to the same melodic phrase, with clauses reversed for the second time, and with a single instrumental phrase interspersed between them:
- Your eyelashes shine
like the flowers of the meadow.
Your eyes, sister,
make my little heart crack.
Search till you’re blind:
you won’t find another like me.
As the years pass, his towering contribution to Greek music emerges. All other Greek composers, of his time and afterwards, revere him as their master teacher, and Mikis Theodorakis remarked: “We all, we are but branches of a tree. Markos is that tree“.