When international Greek singer, Dimitris Basis, enters the offices of The Greek Herald in Sydney for our exclusive interview, I’m instantly struck by his charisma, intelligence and pure love of music.
He isn’t afraid to speak openly about how although he was born in the German city of Stuttgart, he always liked Greek and Byzantine music from a young age.
“During my childhood years, parallel with Byzantine music, I also uncovered Greek songs. I listened to the singers of that time – Dalaras, Bithikotsis and Kazantzidis,” Basis says.
“Especially Kazantzidis because my parents were migrants to Germany and his songs were a part of our life at home.”
This passion helped Basis realise he wanted to be a singer and although his parents were unsure about his career choice at first, they eventually accepted it was what he wanted.
“I was 21 or 22 years old and I told my parents, ‘I will be a singer. It is what makes me happy.’ They accepted it,” he says.
Basis and his friendship with Mikis Theodorakis:
Since then, Basis has performed across the world with a number of iconic Greek singers including Haris Alexiou and Yannis Kotsiras, but the one who will always hold a special place in his heart is the late composer, Mikis Theodorakis.
In fact, Basis is currently in Australia, with the support of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, to perform a number of tribute concerts for Mikis in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
The concert will focus on Mikis’ iconic composition, The Ballad of the Dead Brother, and Basis will be accompanied by a symphonic orchestra under the direction of George Ellis, with a special appearance by performer Maria Yiakoulis.
Basis says it is “a big honour” to be performing this piece of work by Mikis as he has a strong personal connection to it.
“In 1999, I was performing in a concert to honour Mikis Theodorakis in Samos… and Mikis was there. I was performing with Kotsiras, Sotiria Leonardou and Alexiou, and Mikis came to congratulate us,” Basis explains.
“He said to me, ‘well done, you have a great traditional Greek folk singer’s voice and you would be perfect to sing The Ballad of the Dead Brother.’
“Eight months later in 2001, his secretary rang me and said, ‘Mikis wants to see you.’ I didn’t believe it. Inside myself I said, ‘is this the real Mikis?’”
What followed was an unforgettable moment in Basis’ career. Mikis asked Basis to help him redo The Ballad of the Dead Brother because when it was first sung by Bithikotsis in 1961, some of the songs were censored due to the political situation in Greece at the time.
“It was a great honour as I was the second singer, after Bithikotsis, to have performed the whole song,” the singer says.
From there, Basis adds, his friendship with Mikis continued to grow and blossom right up until the composer’s death in September 2021 at the age of 96.
“I was very close to Mikis for over 20 years. I was fortunate enough to know him personally. I was also fortunate enough to visit his house and speak with him. Every time I was visiting Australia, I visited his house and he would tell me stories from Australia,” Basis says with a smile as he remembers.
“This was our friendship until the end and I promised myself and Mikis that for as long as I sing, I will sing his songs and I will play a part in spreading his music to the next generation.”
‘Greeks in Australia are incomparable’:
Speaking of the next generation, Basis concludes our interview with a strong message for the Greek diaspora in Australia and the readers of The Greek Herald.
The Greek singer stresses that as a child of Greek migrants he “knows what it means to miss Greece,” but he is amazed by the way the Greek community in Australia has been able to maintain Greek customs and traditions.
“Hellenism in Australia has made a huge impact on me and I say that knowing that I’ve travelled all around the world for my work… and the Greeks in Australia are incomparable,” he says, whilst encouraging the diaspora to keep buying and reading The Greek Herald.
“Love the newspaper, continue to support it because you’re not just supporting a newspaper. You’re also supporting your Greek heritage.”
And what about a final message ahead of upcoming concerts?
“I love connecting with the Greeks in Australia,” Basis concludes. “It is an honour for me and I always try to give them my 100 percent to repay them for their love.”
We can’t wait to see him live in a few days!
- Melbourne: Friday 6th May 2022 – Melbourne Recital Hall – (03) 9699 3333
- Perth: Friday 7th May 2022 – Perth Concert Hall- (08) 9231 9999
- Sydney: Sunday 15th May 2022 – Sydney Recital Hall – (02) 8256 2222
- Adelaide: Friday 20th May 2022 – Adelaide Town Hall – (08) 8231 4307
- Brisbane: Friday 27th May 2022 – Queensland Performance Arts Centre – 136 246