"Voice of the Aegean" Irini Konitopoulou-Legaki Dies at 91

konitopoulou credit amna

One of the greatest singers of traditional Aegean island music, Irini Konitopoulou-Legaki, died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

She was born in Keramoti on the island of Naxos and was the daughter of an acclaimed violinist, Michalis Konitopoulos.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said “Konitopoulou-Legaki was…the voice of the Aegean. She preserved the music of the Greek islands, kept it alive, and made it modern.”

“Her voice accompanied us in the summer festivals when as young archaeologists we worked in the excavations in the Cyclades. With her characteristic voice, she conveyed the sound of our homeland to Greeks everywhere. Irini Konitopoulou-Legaki leaves behind rich work and great lessons for those who serve traditional music,” says Mendoni.

Irini Konitopoulou-Legaki began her singing career in the 1960s

In 1951, she settled in Athens and soon began a partnership with the National Radio Foundation (EIR), where Simon Karas was head of the folk music section. Her uncle, lutist Dimitris Fyrogenis, was the one who commended Irini to Simon Karas.

In 1955, she married Stelios Legakis with whom she had four children. Together with her brother Giorgos Konitopoulos and, later on, her daughter Eleni Legaki, they would create a family heritage in the “Nisiotika” musical tradition of the Greek islands.

She has a rich discography which began in the 1960s with 45 rpm discs and has taken part in many concerts in music venues in America.

Nisiotika are the songs and dances of Greek islands with a variety of styles. The lyre is the dominant folk instrument along with the laouto, violin, tsampouna, and souravli with widely varying Greek characteristics.

Representative musicians and performers of Nisiotika include: Mariza Koch, credited with reviving the field in the 1970s, Yiannis Parios, and Domna Samiou.