- This post’s tale is about Kemal, a young prince from the East, who in his youthful impulsiveness believed he could change the world… but other is the will of Allah and of the shady souls of mankind…
There are some lyrics, no matter how many years will pass since it were written, you feel like they were written today. You could get the idea of modern hypocrisy from listening to all the crapola from extremists of the right and the left that people really care about something called “free speech”….so long as it’s the speech they agree with, of course.
We live in the time of decadence where truth has no value and politicians are there just to fill the chair. Democracy has lost its purpose. Sadly ,nowadays, there will always be violence and tragic scenes will shock us.
Kemal is a great song by Manos Hadjidakis with Nikos Gatsos lyrics, very sensational, but if I adopted these lyrics as my “raison d’être” every day, I would have no reason to exist, I would have no reason to try to improve life , my place, my world, my être.
And of course the world is changing. Even if i don’t have many decades of existence, I can surely say that sometimes we have improvements in our lives and some times we just don’t have any. On the other hand, crying for anything, the leveling and the nullification of everything does not suit me as a person, i believe that this world will change positively some day.
I also know that crying, leveling, and and point at zero begin somehow from own state of mind, from our inability to act, to think and to reflect.
The words of Manos Hadjidakis remain a reference, especially during these dark and overcast times. There are songs that make people rise up .But there are also those which stir up hearts. Never the type to seek popularity through his art, Hadjidakis was quoted for saying: “I don’t care about fame. It imprisons me inside its own limitations, not mine.” True to his words, he did not show up to pick the Oscar he won, generating a funny comic relief by Bob Hope, the award presenter.
Manos Hadjidakis is without a doubt, the most important composer and conductor in Greece’s modern history. I simply can’t compress this man’s life and works in a few lines and we will certainly refer to him repeatedly on the posts to come. Regarding his life and works you can take a look to the wiki article.
The album “Reflections” was released in 1969 in New York, composed by Manos Hadjidakis and perfomed by New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. In 1993, it was released again with Greek lyrics written by Nikos Gatsos in Athens. The most famous song of the album is Kemal, a splendid song, with haunting lyrics and tune, very evocative of the mysterious near east.
What Manos Hatzidakis said about his music:
I shun at fame. It restricts me within its confines and not mine.I believe in the song that reveals us and express us deeply, and not the one that humours our naive and forcibly acquired habits.
I feel contempt for those whose object is not to receive their ideas and intellectual pursuits; complacent contemporaries; dark and shady journalism; and every form of vulgarity.
Thus, I managed to put the finishing touches to my personality, one traumatized in childhood, ending up by selling “lottery tickets in the sky” and inviting the respect of younger people, since I have remained a genuine Greek and a Magnus Eroticus.
And the story behind the song:
“In New York City in the winter of 68, I met a young twenty-year-old boy called Kemal. I met him. What a big and memorable name for such a beautiful and young boy, I thought. He had left his country under the pretext of some of his political contradictions.I imagine, he wanted to be lost in America. I told him what i thought. He smiled.
-Will you allow me to show you around the city?He refused my offer courteously. He preferred to do it alone.
So when I came back home, I made him a song, music.
Nikos Gatsos, after some time, he wrote the greek lyrics of the song and presented him as a prince who protects the weak. Something like a film by Erol Flynn in ’35.
The only thing we left intact in Greek was the that “Goodnight Kemal”. Whether an arab prince or a young man from New York City, we owe him a “good night” anyway, so we can sleep quietly at night. Without remorse, without useless aspirations and desires. We must therefore say to him good night as is our due as Greeks, face to face to a young muslim as our poet friend Cavafy would say”
- Hear now the story of Kemal
A young prince from the East
A descendant of Sinbad the Sailor,
Who thought he could change the world.
But bitter is the will of Allah,
And dark the souls of men …
Once upon a time in the East,
The coffers are empty, the waters are stagnant.
In Mosul, in Basrah, under an old date-palm,
The children of the desert are bitterly crying.
A young man of ancient and royal race
Overhears their lament and goes to them.
The Bedouins look at him sadly
And he swears by Allah that things will change.
When they learn of the young man’s fearlessness,
The rulers set off with wolf-like teeth and a lion’s mane.
From the Tigris to the Euphrates, in heaven and on earth,
They pursue the renegade to catch him alive.
They pounce on him like uncontrollable hounds,
And take him to the caliph to put the noose around his neck.
Black honey, black milk he drank that morning
Before breathing his last on the gallows.
With two aged camels and a red steed,
At the gates of heaven the prophet awaits.
They walk together among the clouds
With the star of Damascus to keep them company.
After a month, after a year, they find Allah
Who, from his high throne, tells foolish Sinbad:
‘O my vanquished upstart, things never change;
Fire and knives are the only things men know.’
Goodnight, Kemal. The world will never change. Goodnight…
- Giorgos Kovos “The American Manos” (BHMagazino, June 11, 2017)
- Liner Notes for Manos Hadjidakis Gioconda’s Smile (Fontana, 1965)
- Richie Unterberger, Liner Notes for The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble Reflections (Collector’s Choice Music, 2006)