By Marina Paul
GIOTA NEGKA, one of the great female voices of Greece is in Australia this weekend for the very first time to perform at The Greek Festival in Melbourne & Sydney. She says, “It’s always been a dream of mine to come to Australia and from my excitement I didn’t even find the long-haul flight tiring. I couldn’t wait to embrace the Greek community in Australia; it’s mind-blowing that hundreds of thousands of Greeks live here and I will get to sing to them and with them. From what I’ve managed to see, this country is extremely beautiful but what matters to me and what I believe gives a city it’s beauty, colour and identity, is its people. From the moment I arrived here, I have felt one massive hug from the community, and I feel so very welcome. Coming to Australia is a dream come true!”
I’m a big fan of Giota Negka’s work and I was fortunate enough to have some time with her backstage in Sydney to get to know the woman behind the voice. In the short time we spent together she left me with some positive messages which were also the inspiration behind the title of her latest album, Oti Theleis Sti Zoi To Kataferneis (Whatever you want in life you achieve).
I asked Giota if the album’s title rings true to her and what her advice is on achieving goals. She said, “Dreams come true if you have a clear goal, genuine motivation and belief in yourself. My motivation was never to be famous, I do what I do because it’s a need and it’s what I love! If I didn’t sing, I would burst! It’s a necessity for me.”
It’s no coincidence that my chat with Giota was predominantly about her very romantic, philosophical and positive outlook on life, because she is very grateful for being able to do what she loves and looking back on her career she concedes with a smile that all she set out to do she has done, and that gives her enormous satisfaction. Through the title of her album and her music she wants to be a positive example to others who are striving to reach their goals, “times are tough and it’s easy to feel disheartened, overwhelmed and disappointed. It’s normal to feel these things, but try and keep your focus on what you want and to not be deterred if you stumble, just pick yourself up and keep going. Life knows how to bring you what you need at the right time.”
Giota has been singing and performing contemporary laika and entehna songs since she was a teenager, but it wasn’t until she was thirty-eight years old that she rose to fame with her first ever single, titled Me Ta Matia Kleista (With closed eyes). It’s every singer’s dream to have their first single release be a hit, and for Giota this was yet another dream come true! She admits, “I was lucky, very lucky that I was given that song”. When she reflects on her career, she says “everything happened as it should have, even though I became more well known to the masses later, I believe it happened when it happened at the right time.”
In the world of music, it’s rare that a singer becomes successful at a ripe age. Recent times have dictated that if you don’t make it in your earlier years you’re never going to. Giota disagrees with this attitude and she is living proof and there are many others in Greece who have seen success much later in their careers.
Giota says, “this brings me back to what I was saying about never giving up on your dream as it can come true even at a later stage in your life”. I asked what advice she would give an aspiring singer and she said, “If you want a job like mine, there is no one road for all; every person takes their own unique path, with their own personality and expression… I honestly believe that if you truly love something and you can’t live without it, the universe, God or luck will present you with roads that will take you closer to achieving your dream. I would also definitely encourage them to practice their craft by taking professional singing lessons, so they are technically correct and so they gain a greater respect for their audience and so they have healthy vocal cords. Every craft needs practice for it to improve, move forward and to reach its full potential.”
Negka was born in Athens and has lived close to the centre for the past ten years so I was curious to get her take on the city that is going through troubled times. She admitted that Athens has changed, but was quick to say that, “everything changes, and Athens is starting to once again find its feet. I love Athens, especially at night when she wears her best clothes and turns on the lights and is full of life, seduction and electric energy. When the crisis hit we were slapped in the face and we needed time to adjust, but if you look deep at the roots you will see that Athens is still the same. When I finish work late at night, I often take the long road home so I can soak up the energy and beauty of the city.”
In 2017 Giota put on a show that was unique to the music scene. She was the first female singer to present a show where she only performed songs from very well known, respected male artists. The show was called, Φυλλο Ανδρικο (Fillo Andriko). For many years in Greece it was considered unacceptable for women to sing songs sung by men, so for her to dedicate an entire show to singing these songs is admirable and I’m sure it was liberating. When I asked her what the inspiration behind this concert was, she said, “it’s simple, I love these songs so much, so I wanted to sing them! In the past I’ve shared the stage with a male, so naturally he would always sing the male songs and I would sing the female ones; I was always jealous” she laughs. “I wanted to have the chance to sing them with my own feminine expression. Again, it was a desire of mine, so I had to do it! I’m driven by my dreams and I do all I can to make them happen.”
What’s next for Giota? “I want to keep creating new music and to also rediscover old songs which I can bring to life through my own expression.” Lucky us I say!
Even though Giota beams with optimism and loves what she does, surely there are times where getting up on stage is the last thing she wants to do. I asked her how she overcomes those times when she feels sick, sad, tired etc. She responded with, “As soon as I step foot on that stage I feel a sense of magic! You look out at the smiling faces and then it’s like a page gets turned and all you felt before disappears and you are there in the moment singing from the heart!”
Giota’s latest album, Afto Pou Theleis Sti Zoi To Kataferneis is a fantastic body of work that has it all. It’s rare for an album to have so many songs to love. I urge you to listen to her music as you will feel like you’ve stepped into a warm bath…her voice soothes and engulfs your entire body and awakens your senses all at the same time.
At the end of our chat, I wished Giota good luck for her performances and she turned to me with a warm smile and said, “It’s not about luck it’s about love!”
Giota is performing in Sydney at Darling Harbour on March 1 as part of The Greek Festival.