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Biography

Markos Vamvakaris (10 May 1905 in Ano Chora in Syros – 8 February 1972) (Greek: Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης), was a rebetiko musician. He is universally referred to by rebetiko writers and fans simply by his first name, Markos. The great significance of Vamvakaris for the rebetiko is also reflected by his nickname; the "patriarch of rebetiko".
Vamvakaris was born on May 10, 1905 in Ano Chora, Syros, Greece. His family belonged to the sizeable Roman Catholic community of the island, the Frankosyrians, a name deriving from the common Greek reference to West Europeans collectively as "Franks".

At the age of twelve, believing he was wanted by the police, Vamvakaris left Syros and went to Piraeus. He worked as a stevedore, employee at a pit-coal mine, polisher, paperman, butcher and other jobs. He heard a bouzouki player playing, and swore that if he did not learn to play the instrument in six months he would cut off his hand with a cleaver (he was working in the Athens slaughterhouse at the time). He learned bouzouki, becoming an innovative virtuoso player, and began to compose music, and write songs. At first he often played in hashish smoking establishments known as Tekes, later he and his band, which included Giorgos Batis, Anestis Delias and Stratos Pagioumtzis played in more legitimate clubs. They were extremely popular, and Markos made many recordings.

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