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Rosa Eskenazi - JPop.com
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Rosa Eskenazi

Rosa Eskenazi

Rosa Eskenazi


Ρόζα Εσκενάζυ {Roza Eskenazi} (d.1980) was a Turkish-born Greek singer, one of the foremost early recording artists and performers of rembetika. Eskenazi was born Sarah Skinazi to a Sephardic Jewish family in Constantinople. Her date of birth is unknown; although she claims - in her autobiography - to have been born in 1910, researchers have offered dates between 1883 and 1900. Eskenazi moved with her family to Thessaloniki when she was about seven years old. Read more on Last.fm
Ρόζα Εσκενάζυ {Roza Eskenazi} (d.1980) was a Turkish-born Greek singer, one of the foremost early recording artists and performers of rembetika. Eskenazi was born Sarah Skinazi to a Sephardic Jewish family in Constantinople. Her date of birth is unknown; although she claims - in her autobiography - to have been born in 1910, researchers have offered dates between 1883 and 1900. Eskenazi moved with her family to Thessaloniki when she was about seven years old. She never attended school, but learnt to read and write from a neighbour.

She also learnt to speak Greek, having been brought up speaking Turkish. After moving to a house shared with women employed as dancers at a theatre called the "Grand Hotel", Eskenazi began helping out by taking costumes to and from the theatre. Her subsequent desire to go on the stage herself led, after a period practising in front of a mirror at home, to her appearing as a dancer at the Grand Hotel -- and then to a beating from her mother, who was determined that she not follow such a career. Eskenazi's determination overcame this opposition, however (though it is not know how), and in about 1910 she began to work with an Armenian troupe in Piraeus, performing at theatres and tavernas. She started as a dancer, but moved on to singing. At some point early in her career, her first name was replaced by "Roza" (or "Rozitsa"). In her autobiography, Eskenazi states that she did not work in "Cafés Aman" (a cafe where singers improvised songs) or "Cafés Satan" (cabarets), implying that such places were disreputable.

It is likely, however, that she did indeed work in cabarets as, although there is little documented facts, a photograph of her from 1915 appears to be of a typical Cabaret singer. In the late 1920s Roza was performing at an open-air Taverna called Tsitsifies near Piraeus, both singing and dancing. One night Παναγιώτης Τούντας {Panayiotas Toundas}, a legendary Greek rembetika composer, lyricist, and arranger (and then director of Odeon records), visited Tsitsifies and spotted Eskenazi; he arranged a recording session, and she made her first records in late September 1929. She was an immediate success with the public, and started recording prolifically. Eskenazi started working in Taiyetos - a taverna on Dorou Street - Δημήτρης Σέμσης {Dimitris Semsis}, Αγάπιος Τομπούλης {Agapios Tomboulis}, and Λάμπρος Λεονταρίδης {Lambros Leontaridis}, and experienced great success. They continued to perform there for over a decade (in addition to touring, etc). Eskenazi became the highest paid artist of the time.

She sang smyrneika, rembetika, amanedes, and demotic (folk) songs, and recorded over 500 songs in the 1930s -- a record for a Greek singer for that decade. She colloborated with all the leading figures in rembetika before and after World War II. She was multi-lingual, and sang in Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Italian, Ladino, and Armenian. Before the outbreak of World War II, She toured the Balkans and Near East, and recorded for HMV in Constantinople in 1937. Despite not having any formal musical training, she also composed and wrote lyrics - including the words and music of one of her most famous songs "Το καναρίνι" ("The Canary") which she recorded on 21st July 1934 (although the music was derived from a Turkish tune called "Bulbul"), though it is often mistakenly described as being traditional Eskenazi ran a restaurant in Satovriandhou Street in Athens during the Nazi occupation, and was renowned for the generous help she gave people in those difficult years.

She risked her own life in the process of helping others. She was an active member of the Musicians' Guild, and recommended the Guild to new and developing artists. In additiona, she was instrumental in helping to bring musicians such as Μαρίκα Νίνου {Marika Ninou} and Στέλλα Χασκίλ {Stella Haskil} to the attention of Athenians. Eskenazi worked, toured, and recorded again after the war. She visited the USA twice in the 1950s (one visit lasted nine months), and performed in Chicago, New York, and Detroit. She also returned to Constantinople in the 1950s.

She recorded songs in the USA and Turkey on these trips, and had great success both touring and with massive sales of records. In the late 1950s, she returned to Athens and bought a large house in Kipoupoli, Peristeri, where she lived for the remaining years of her life. She recorded 45rpm singles for RCA in the early to mid-sixties, both re-workings of songs she had recorded in the 1930s and new songs. With the revival of rembetika in the early to mid-1970s, Eskenazi's legacy was brought to the attention of a new generation, and she was in demand once again. Despite being between 75 and 85 years old, she performed live, singing and dancing in concerts and on television. Eskenazi stopped singing publicly in the late 1970s, and died at home on 2nd December 1980.

She was buried at Stomio on the Gulf of Corinth. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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