Zivania and Tsamarella / Zivania ensemble

2 Cd album packaged in a hardcover digibook with bonus content. Total number of tracks 19. Booklet texts are written in: Greek & English. Released in 2014.

Style: Rebetika and Greek traditional songs orchestrated by Yannis Saoulis.

Artist: Zivania ensemble



Male singers: Mike Georgiou, Kokos Andreou, Nestoras Georgiou,
Christos Kehagias, Yannis Saoulis, Michalis Hadjimichael
Female singers: Veni Koutsou, Georgia Koutsou, Sophia Tarseni, Görkem Saoulis,
Asimoula Azize Saoulis
Bouzouki’s, baglama, guitar, laouto, mandolin, mandola, yukalele: Yannis Saoulis
Percussion, kanun: Görkem Saoulis
Accoustic guitar: (CD1 tr. 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 & CD2 tr. 4) Dimitris Sfingos
Violin (CD1 track 5,6 – CD2 track 1,2,9): Sotiris Margonis
Violin (CD2, tracks3,4): Makis Baklatzis
Clarinet (CD2 track9): Manos Achalinotopoulos
Clarinet (CD2 track3,4): Nikos Aggousis
Yayli Tanbur: Baris Bal
Classical guitar: Antonis Krystalides
Orchestration, mix, grapics: Yannis Saoulis
Mastering: Athens Mastering Studio, Anestis Psaradakos

Sound engineers and studios: Yannis Saoulis – EasternGate, Thessaloniki, Greece/
Manos Grysbolakis – Studio Zefxis, Athens, Greece / Antonis Trilides – Suite 16,
Nicosia, Cyprus / Achileas Tsangarides – Art Music Studio, Nicocia, Cyprus
Photographs: Yannis Saoulis – Antonis Trilides
Sketch: Alexandros Azat Saoulis
Proof reading and editing: Maria Alexiou, Stavros Girgenis, Eleni Trimmi, Loizos Loizou


The songs

Disc A

01. The stoker (4:30) / George Batis, artist: The Zivania ensemble

02. You looked like a princess (5:53) / Vasilis Tsiatsanis, artist: The Zivania ensemble

03. Divorce (4:36) / Markos Vamvakaris, artist: The Zivania ensemble – Asimoula A. Saoulis

04. Goodmorning Mr. Markos (1:50) / Yannis Saoulis, Instrumental

05. Heroin and hashish (3:23) / Sotiris Gavalas, The Zivania ensemble

06. The great fire of Smyrna (6:13) / Traditional, The Zivania ensemble

07. Prepare it Stavros, prepare it (4:15) / Markos Vamvakaris, The Zivania ensemble

08. Reverberate the prisons cells (5:11) / Markos Vamvakaris, The Zivania ensemble

09. This evening in the tavern (3:24) / Vasilis Tsiatsanis, The Zivania ensemble

10. The gloaming (0:59) / Yannis Saoulis, Instrumental

Disc B

01. From a foreign and distant place (4:53) / Traditional, The Zivania ensemble – Görkem Saoulis.

02. I told her to come but she didn’t (4:00) / Traditional (Cyprus), The Zivania ensemble – Kyriakou Pelagia

03. Amarantos (4:20) / Traditional, The Zivania ensemble

04. All the brunettes (4:16) / Georgios Papasideris, The Zivania ensemble

05. Almighty God (4:59) / Traditional, Veni Koutsou, Georgia Koutsou,
Sophia Tarseni, Görkem Saoulis

06. Angels’s invocation to teke owner (0:56) / Yannis Saoulis, Instrumental

07. I’ll come to wake you up (5:38) / Markos Vamvakaris, The Zivania ensemble

08. Minor song of the dawn (4:19) / Spiros Peristeris – Minos Matsas, The Zivania ensemble

09. The obstinacy of Aggela (3:23) / Yannis Saoulis, Instrumental


The old and heavily loaded car, was bouncing and dancing on the roads of the Sithonian peninsula spreading at all directions, according to the bumps of the road; the sound of cheerful rembetika and Greek traditional songs, were sung by its occupants. It was a five member male choir. Namely: Mike, Nestor, Kokos, – all Cypriots from Nicosia, Christos and I representing the land of Macedonia and Thessaloniki.

The purpose of the five singing men’s road trip was to spend a few days of enjoyment at the picturesque bays and hamlets at the fragrant land of Sithonia. Our first destination was Pyrgadikia – a village on the north coast of Sigitikos bay, refounded by the refuges who came from the village Afthoni of the Marmara sea – then Vourvourou, Sikia and finally Toroni at the homonymous bay.

During our road tour, there were times we weren’t singing, our merriment was intensified by joking, humorous calling out, making fun of each other and also by the numerous road bumps that were botched up. The car with its occupants were swaying up and down, left and right as if Sithonia was a huge amusement Park and we were young boys laughing out loud according to the fluctuations of our carefree lives.

Oh! How joyful life was the summer of 1999!

The sound of the songs we were singing was grandiose. To say the least, it sounded coarse at times but also simon-pure. It was truly amazing. Its volume fluctuated according to the grade of euphoria of the loudly singing group and the landscape alternation. It was a sound of many variations in which one could hear either outbursts of enthusiasm and psychosomatic excitement or a combination of mild passion and yearning, sensibility, expectation, longing and sorrow captured in the melodies and lyrics by their genuine makers. In any case the spiritual intensity was indescribable and we felt the need to record it.

-“Why don’t we go back and record the songs again?” I asked my fellow co-singers.
-“Why not…” Christos responded as the rest of us warmly consented.

The decision to change our plans was taken as we were going through the village of Toroni heading north. Our excitement grew bigger, generating a desire for a faster return to Thessaloniki. Toronaios bay, on our left, was shining brilliantly under the golden light of the afternoon sun. We closed the windows. The wind rustle and the shrill sound of the cicadas was diminished. We could see through the mirrors that the image of the pinewoods was getting smaller and smaller. On our way back, while continuously singing all together, we were transformed from spontaneous singers to “great” musicians and orchestrators exchanging musical ideas as how the songs should be sung. There was a conscious and mental risk that our project might become quite… serious… 

By sunset, we entered the recording studio which was in the semi basement of my residence where I was living and hosting my Cypriot friends. I hastily prepared the austere recording room in order to record not only the songs but the ambient mood as well. 

The melodic and rhythmic guide for the recording of the first song was almost ready when suddenly we realized that Mike had dissapeared. After a few minutes of anxiously looking for him, Mike came back and carrying rakopotira*, a bottle of cold zivania** and a plate with tsamarella***. All gifts of Bacchus to our crazy company. As soon as the gifts of the Cypriot land were placed on the table, we started drinking and eating all night long, except for when we were all together singing, excitedly, the songs that we were recording. 

The night was going to be Dionysian one or better yet, a storm of libations, and ever since then it was named “kathissia”by Mike. Between singing and humorously shouting and mocking each other all of us the excited singers, Cypriots and Greeks, we were drinking cold zivania and trying to crush the hard and very salty tsamarella, that resisted strongly to our every attempt our teeth made to do so. 

Sometime after midnight, we emptied the bottle, completed defeated tsamarella and recorded six songs. It was a start… Semi drunk we left the studio for the fresh air of the summer night thinking that in the next few minutes we had to leave. The night was exceptional and full of joy!

The dawn found us sleepless and on our way to Piraeus and as a final destination the island of Naxos. The old car, heavily loaded, was bouncing and dancing again on the pits and curvatures of the Thessaloniki – Athens “highway” ironically named P.A.TH.E, and which abbreviation is interpreted (in Greek) as: ”suffer”. The bumpy road and the shimmy journey produced no more excitement. The influence of Morpheus was more than obvious on our faces…

During the fifteen years that have passed, our individual worlds continued to change and diverge from the rest. Our “gang” dispersed. I moved to Istanbul where I lived for seven full years and after that I returned to Thessaloniki being married with children. Christos remained in Thessaloniki and the Cypriots, Nestor, Mike and Kokos went back to the island of Aphrodite. Later on, the group of singers was enlarged by new members. Namely, Michalis, who contributed largely during our later recordings in Cyprus, Kyriakou, Veni, Sofia, Georgia, Görkem and my little Asimoula. The night of the summer of 1999 was followed by other similar nights in Nicosia. New songs were added to the old list. Later on, many dearest musicians were asked to “dress” with the sound of their instruments the Doric primordial material. The project progressed and developed slowly but is was not adversely affected. Often listening to unfinished songs incited in the minds of all the contributors – no exceptions – the feeling of a nonfulfillment.

Finally guided by the spirit of the 1999 summer, we were floating, looking for the very
longed port of our salvation, as sailors in an archipelago full of zivania and music notes of an indefinable bewitchment having as our shallop tsamarella.

Yannis Saoulis

* Shot glasses
** Cypriot alcoholic beverage
*** Dehydrated goat meat preserved in salt