My Piraeus – Περαία Μου

Posted: February 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Just back from a weekend trip to Greece and a gig in Piraeus, late on Sunday night.

Feeling a bit under-the-weather and exhausted, as I left Shisha club in the early hours of Monday for Athens airport, then went straight to the University of Westminster from Heathrow.  I delivered a lecture on Analogue Synthesis there, running purely on adrenaline.  I think it went well.

I’m coming back with warm memories, as it feels both beautiful and surreal performing songs like “My Piraeus” in front of old friends in the hometown itself.  Especially after living in the UK for over 13 years.  Now, I’m back in London and it all feels like a short dream.

The gig itself was really good fun, my energy levels were high, and Shaya and I always have such good chemistry on stage (she’s so talented!)  We closed it with some beat-boxing and a freestyle courtesy of myself, Lagnis (from N.T.P.) and Moixos24 to finish it off.  Just like old times.

The Piraeus song carries memories from growing up in my hometown and includes stories featuring my best mates.  Some people have described it as a ‘postcard’ of Piraeus; I like that description.  It feels particularly relevant after this short escapade.  In response to Michael Melinchok’s recent request and for all who’ve been asking, I’ll try to provide the inside story behind the lyrics here:


Μόλις επέστρεψα από Σαββατοκύριακο στην Ελλάδα και live στον Πειραιά, αργά την Κυριακή το βράδυ.

Κάπως αδιάθετος και κουρασμένος, μια και άφησα το Shisha club τα ξημερώματα της Δευτέρας για τον Ελευθέριο Βενιζέλο και πήγα κατευθείαν στο πανεπιστήμιο του Westminster από το Heathrow.  Παρέδωσα διάλεξη πάνω στην Αναλογική Σύνθεση, που νομίζω πως πήγε καλά καθαρά από αδρεναλίνη.

Επιστρέφω με γλυκές αναμνήσεις, μια κι είναι όμορφο μα και κάπως σουρρεαλιστικό να ερμηνεύω τραγούδια όπως το “Περαία Μου” μπροστά σε παλιούς φίλους και στην παλιά μου πόλη.  Ειδικά μετά από 13 χρόνια στην Αγγλία.  Τώρα, βρίσκομαι πίσω στο Λονδίνο και όλο μοιάζει σα σύντομο όνειρο.

Το live ήταν πολύ διασκεδαστικό, είχα πολλή ενέργεια και πάντα μας βγαίνει καλή χημεία επί σκηνής με τη Shaya (είναι τόσο ταλαντούχα!)  Το κλείσαμε με beat-boxing και freestyle με το Λάγνη (από τους Ν.Τ.Π.) και το Μοίχο24, όπως παλιά.

Το “Περαία Μου” κουβαλάει μνήμες από τα παιδικά μου χρόνια και περιέχει σκηνικά που έχουν να κάνουν με τους κολλητούς μου.  Κάποιοι το έχουν περιγράψει σαν καρτ-ποστάλ του Πειραιά και πολύ μ’ αρέσει αυτή η περιγραφή.  Το κομμάτι μοιάζει ακόμα πιο σχετικό μετά τη σύντομη εξόρμηση στα πάτρια.  Απαντώντας στην πρόσφατη έκκληση του Michael Melinchok αλλά και σ’ όσους το έχουν ζητήσει, θα προσπαθήσω να εξηγήσω εδώ τους πιο κωδικοποιημένους στίχους και να το μεταφράσω στα αγγλικά:

(Κομματάκι αφιερωμένο, στους παλιούς φίλους ρε!)

(A song dedicated to the old homies yo!)

Ρεφρέν:  Κι ολά τ’ αλάνια απ’ την παλιά μου γειτονιά φωνάζουνε: Περαία μου, Περαία.
Κι όλα τ’ αλάνια απ’την παλιά τη γη…τονιά φωνάζουνε: Περαία μου, Περαία.

Chorus:  And all the homies from my old ‘hood holla: Piraeus, My Piraeus.
And all the homies from the old ‘hood* holla: Piraeus, My Piraeus.

* The first syllable from the word ‘hood is rhythmically split and misspelled on the second repeat – it’s a wordplay referring to Neighbourhood as Earth (meaning home)

Ένα κομμάτι για καιρούς παλιούς και φίλους καλούς / απ’ την καρδιά αφιερωμένο για τους πιο κολλητούς. / Τα φιλαράκια που πιστέψαν σε σκοπούς μουσικούς / κι υποστηρίξαν μια ζωή παρόλους τους παλαβούς… / ρυθμούς, με Rock, Hip-Hop και ξενιτεμούς, / ταξίδια, όνειρα, αφηγήσεις, δάκρυα, Jazz και Blues. / Μα η αγάπη τους ζεσταίνει δρόμους μοναχικούς / κι οι αναμνήσεις ζωντανεύουν τις φωνές που ακούς:

A song about old times and good mates / dedicated from the heart to the best ones. / Friends who believed in music aims / and supported a life despite (its) mad… / rhythms, Rock, Hip-Hop, migrations, / travels, dreams, narrations, tears, Jazz and Blues. / But their love warms up (the) lonely paths / and the memories awaken the voices you hear:


Η βάση; Μακρυγιάννη και το λύκειο; Βρυώνη. / Αφεντούλη το δισκάδικο, ο Peavys να χρεώνει. / Καταλήψεις με Nirvana, G N’R, Παύλο, Βασίλη, / Βodycount και Beastie Boys: του θυμού η πρώτη ύλη. / Εξορμήσεις Φρεαττύδα, μεξικάνικα καπέλα, / για φραπέ Πασαλιμάνι, Παπασπύρου, πασαρέλα. / Η παρέα ήταν μοιραία και τα βράδια πάντα ακραία. / Rendez-vous μικρή πλατεία και καιγότανε η Ζέα. / All Sports κανά μπυρόνι πάντα μ’ Ολυμπιακό, / στην Πισίνα χαλαρό ποτό με θέα Σαρωνικό, / μπασκετάκι στο Διογένη όλοι μες τον πανικό, / άντε και κανένα τάβλι, Σκάκι στο δημοτικό. / Ρεμπετάδικα, Πηγάδα, Ανηφόρι, Τουμπακάρη, / στην πλατεία Αλεξάνδρας του Περαία το καμάρι. / Καραϊσκάκη – το στολίδι! – Φάληρο έξω απ’το σταθμό / κι οι φωνές μας με τα γκολ φτάνανε ως τον Ισθμό!

The base? (was) Makrigianni (street) and the high-school? (in the area of) Vrioni. / Afentouli (avenue is where) the record store (was), (Mr.) Peavey kept charging*. / (School) occupations* (listening to) Nirvana, G N’R, Pavlos*, Vassilis*, / Bodycount and Beastie Boys: (they fed our anger). / Escapades (to) Freattida (square), (wearing) Mexican sombreros*, / ice-coffee (in) Pasalimani, Papaspurou (café), (by the) catwalk*. / The gang was fatal and the nights far-out. / Rendezvous (by the) small square and Zea (bay) would be on fire. / Beers (at the) All Sports (café) always (watching) Olympiakos (F.C. playing), / chilled-out drinks by the Pool (bar) with the view of Saronikos (sea), / basketball at Diogenis (bay) all going mad, / sometimes (playing) backgammon, (at) Chess (square) by the public (theatre). / Rembetika* music clubs, (on) Pigada (square), Anifori, Toumbakari (clubs), / Piraeus’ pride at Alexandra square*. / Karaiskaki (stadium) – the jewel! – (in) Faliro, by the (train) station / and our shouts would reach the (Corinth) canal every time (Olympiakos) scored!

* Mr. Peavey refers to the guy who owned a PA company on Afentouli avenue, had a van with the Peavey logo all over it and always used to overcharge us for hiring audio equipment for our high-school gigs.  The school occupations refer to high-school students actually locking ourselves up in the asylum of our school building to complain against governmental policies on education that we disagreed with.  More often than not though they became excuses to take more time off, party inside the building and listen to a lot of rock.  We mostly listened to American bands, but also local legends such as Pavlos (Sidiropoulos) and Vassilis (Papakonstantinou).  The Mexican sombreros refer to this inspiration we – two of my best mates, Lefteris and Costas, and I – once had, which was to walk around Freattida square dressed as Mexicans.  We just wanted to challenge the locals’ beliefs of what was acceptable fashion – our humour was quite surreal.  The “catwalk” was a local, slang reference to the pedestrian street between the numerous cafés of the Pasalimani area.  As the lads sat in the open cafés they enjoyed watching pretty local girls stroll by.  “Rembetika” music is the equivalent of the Greek blues, an outlaw, acoustic form of folk music with colloquial, slang lyrical themes.  This was the only traditional form of music we enjoyed, listening to live bands in the “Anifori” – near Pigada square – and “Toumbakari” venues of Piraeus.  Piraeus’ pride refers to the Olympiakos F.C. headquarters situated on Alexandra square.


Να μεθάμε και καλά, μόνο μ’αναψυκτικά / με την Έφη και την Νίκη βράδια καλοκαιρινά. / Να ξυπνάμε “5-Κ” με των σκύλων την αγέλη / και να βλέπω σαν τον Batman στα μπαλκόνια τον Λευτέρη. / Πότε πρόβες, πότε νότες, πότε “ταβανάτες πόρτες” / στην Καστέλλα με βροχή, τα μπακούρια σαν ιππότες. / Με τους Δότες, πλήκτρα, TiVenno, 9ο, Οδός 8, / με το Δον και τον Αντώνη jamming δίπλα στον Σταυρό. / Απ’το Τζάνειο – Δολιανών, με τ’αρμόνιο τσουληθρών / κι η κολλητή από τον τρίτο να φωνάζει “μη τυχόν”. / Μα μας σώζαν οι ατάκες του σοφού μας John Depon. / Τι θα γίνει το μπαράκι σε νησάκι ‘ξωτικό(ν); / Καπαρτίνα, κατηφόρα, Μικρολίμανο, αντίο / με το τρίκυκλο ο Φωλιάς κατευθύνεται για Χίο. / Γύρο-Sanitas κι ο Σίφης μπιέλα στο κρανίο. / Καταφύγιο, κομμάτια, δυο μπουκάλια σκέτο “θείο”.

Pretending to get drunk on soft drinks / summer nights with Effie and Nikki. / Waking up with “5-K” among a pack of (stray) dogs / seeing Lefteris (jump over) balconies like Batman. / Sometimes rehearsals, sometimes notes, sometimes “ceiling-style” door policies / in Castella in the rain, (all) the single lads resembling Knights. / With Dotes, (playing) keys, (in) TiVenno (café), 9th (high-school), 8th Street (club), / with Don and Adonis jamming by the Cross. / From Tzaneio (hospital to) – Dolianon (street), sliding on the keyboard / and my best mate from the 3rd floor shouting “don’t even think about it”. / But we were always saved by John Depon’s one-liners. / What about our little bar on the exotic island? / Raincoat, downhill, Mikrolimano (port), farewell / on a tricycle Nest-man is heading for Chios (island) / Kebab(-in)-Sanitas (cling-film), Sifis going mad. / Katafugio (bar), in-pieces, 2 bottles of pure “sulfur”. *


* Ok, this verse needs the most explaining, as it densely refers to some of the funniest stories from our childhood, that only the mates mentioned here would be able to figure out.

Effie and Nikki are two of my best friends, sisters really, and we used to get hyper just sipping Coke on the balcony of their 3rd floor flat in Piraeus during warm summer nights.  I don’t really think it was the caffeine, we just used to enter this nervous laughter mode and blamed it on the Cola.  It was hilarious – we’d laugh for hours.  This was almost 20 years ago.

“5-K” is one of my mate Costas’ nicknames – another one is “Sifis” mentioned towards the end of the verse – and once we got so drunk we fell asleep on a little green hill overseeing Zea bay.  Stray dogs – there’s loads of them on the streets of Greece – take an instant liking to such human behaviour resembling their own, so a large number of them that night accepted us in their pack as we slept.  We woke up surrounded by them.  The spot was ideal as I was only a few minutes away from the speedboat I needed to take to Aegina island that morning.

Lefteris once had to jump over the window panel separating my flat’s balcony from the neighbour’s, as I had fallen so deeply asleep that I couldn’t hear the doorbell and everyone was worried – neighbours and mates.  We were also supposed to go out, so waking me up was imminent.  He used to sport a long raincoat back then, so he really looked like a superhero as he landed on my balcony.  It  might sound funny now, but this was on the 2nd floor, so he was really taking a risk to check up on me.

There was a door-policy in those days where single young lads where not really welcome in clubs, as management tried to keep the male-female population in balance.  One of the bouncers we knew in the area of Castella in Piraeus used to come up with completely unlikely but very entertaining illustrations of his love-life while we waited in the queues.  Once he claimed he had sex with a girl on the ceiling, hence the mention of “ceiling-style” door policies.  It is something Lefteris, Costas and I laugh about to this day.  The “Knights” resemblance refers to how well we dressed to improve our chances of being allowed in, so when we weren’t it was even funnier.  The word ‘knight’ also refers to ‘gentleman’ in Greek.  Imagine half a dozen well-dressed teenagers spending New Year’s eve on the streets, under balconies and in the rain – this actually happened a few times too many.

I was in my first proper band then and we were called “Dotes” which translates to “Givers”.  Two of the members were Don and Adonis, I played keys, they both played guitar and Adonis lived near the “Cross”, a sailor’s monument on the bay of Piraiki.  We used to jam in his flat quite often.  So, memories of rehearsals and jams are carried over in this verse alongside mentions of some of the small venues we played such as: TiVenno (café), 9th (high-school), 8th Street (club).

I used to carry this heavy keyboard when I played gigs and I was really into cowboy boots.  This proved to be a fatal combination as I once slid all the way down the very steep Dolianon street – which commences at Tzaneio hospital and where Effie’s flat was – with my very hurt backside and the keyboard simultaneously reaching the bottom of the road.  This was the crossroad where Dolianon street met Freattidos avenue.  Effie’s one-liner “don’t even think about it” is not something she actually shouted from the 3rd floor that day, but it was her favourite phrase back then, so I could hear her in my head as the keyboard and I were scraping the rough tarmac.  We laughed very much about it when I later described the incident to her – in fact, we still do.  Speaking of one-liners, the king of those was my mate Johnny, who was nicknamed John Depon by Lefteris.

The little bar on the exotic island refers to the plan Lefteris, Costas and I have had for years; to build a little chilled-out cocktail bar somewhere tropical one day, after we’re all content with our careers.  Apart from daydreaming like that, we also indulged in an early form of Jackass antics, one of the funniest ones being when Lefteris – wearing the famous raincoat – found a child’s tricycle in the trash and decided to try his luck riding down one of the steepest roads of Mikrolimano port in Piraeus.  Mikrolimano being a port, meant that Lefteris almost hit the edge of the bay, hence the reference of how he was about to catapult himself to the island of Chios (which is actually closer to Turkey than Piraeus, but it rhymed well and illustrated the sheer speed of his downhill ride).  Nest-man was Lefteris’ nickname as he had quite long hair that got bushier at the back and resembled a nest.  The cling-film joke refers to how Lefteris and I tried to put Costas off his kebab once in my flat, while the nickname “Sifis” stems from Greek slang describing someone with a short-fused temper – one of Costas’ funniest characteristics.  Finally, Katafugio – meaning shelter – was the bar in Mikrolimano where we drunk far too much bad quality Southern Comfort, which we ended up calling sulfur.  “In-pieces” refers to Greek slang for very drunk  🙂

  1. Lili says:

    Predivno, iskreno, dinamicno i dirljivo, bravo!

  2. Gina says:

    Teleio blog Stereo Mike!
    Oso gia ti mousiki sou, exo to satirical nomads se weekly rotation! To latrevo!
    Gina, Notting Hill

  3. Michael Melinchok says:

    Great post Mike! Nice back story on the song, especially for us non-native speakers who happen to be into the land of Socrates…

    τα λέμε,

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