Panagiotis "Notis" Sfakianakis (Greek: Νότης Σφακιανάκης; born 2 November 1959) is a Greek singer of Folk music, and is one of the most commercially successful artists of all time in Greece and Cyprus. Sfakianakis began his career in 1985, opening at nightclubs for other artists. He was discovered by Sony Greece and released his debut album Proti Fora (1991). For his second album Eisai Ena Pistoli (1992), he moved to Minos EMI. While his first three releases were commercially successful, beginning in the mid-1990s, Sfakianakis released a series of multi-platinum albums that are among the best selling albums of all time in Greece — including Notioanatolitika Tou Kosmou (1994) with 120–150 thousand copies sold, 5o Vima (1996) which has been recognized as the best selling album of all time in Greece with 200 thousand copies sold, I Notes Einai 7psyhes with 132.5 thousand copies (265 thousand units) sold, the EPs Pro-Dia-Fimin (1997) with 100 thousand copies sold, and Around the World with 15 thousand copies shipped, XXX Enthimion (1999), which is the best selling live album of all time in Greece in terms of unit sales with 180 thousand copies (360 thousand units) sold, Polihroma Kai Entona (2000) that shipped 100 thousand copies and As Milisoun Ta Tragoudia (2002) which fared similarly. His signature song "O Aetos" is one of the most popular songs in Greek music history. Sfakianakis was the best selling artist of the 1990s and stands as the best selling Greek artist of his generation. However, in the 2000s he faced a significant commercial decline. Me Agapi O,ti Kaneis (2004) and Ana...Genisis (2005) shipped 40 thousand copies each. Nihtes... Magikes (2007) and Mnimes (2008) sold 30 thousand copies each, while the EP Kinonia Ora 07:00 sold 15 thousand copies. He then embarked on the Matomeno Dakry album trilogy (2009–2011). He has sold over 5 million records in Greece alone and in addition to these he has sold over 900 thousand copies of his albums as newspaper covermounts. Sfakianakis is also known for his controversial image and outspoken manner and opinions.
Early life and career
Notis Sfakianakis and his family moved to the island of Kos when he was seven. Notis became a disc jockey in his early 20s. He supported himself by working as an electrician, plumber, waiter, and labourer. In 1985 he formed a band and played in clubs in Kos. Due to the lack of success, the band broke apart after less than year of being formed. In 1986 Notis moved back to Crete to start his solo singing career.
Notis began opening for national acts like Poly Panou. He was discovered by Bourmas, the general manager of Sony in Greece. Bourmas signed Sfakianakis to the label, and Notis recorded his debut album Proti Fora (First Time) which made it into the Greek top ten. He is one of the most successful singers of his era in Greece.
Of his early works, his most notable release was "Opa Opa" which was written by Giorgos Alkaios and later covered by Despina Vandi and Antique in a more pop oriented manner. In 1994 he released the album Notioanatolika Tou Kosmou (Southeast of the World), which included "O Aetos" (The Eagle). This acclaimed single was the catalyst that propelled him to domestic superstardom and remains his signature song until today. He followed this with high profile tracks such as "Den Se Hreiazome" (I Don't Need You), "Soma Mou" (My Body), "Gyftissa Mera" (Gypsy Day), "Na Hareis" (Cherish) and "Oi Skies" (Shadows).
One of the more popular of his 21st century tracks is "Genethlia" (or "Gennethleia" as it was spelled when it featured on later albums and compilations). This song (the title of which translates as 'Birthday') was originally performed by Cretan lyra player and singer Stelios Mpikakis.
In November 2007, Sfakianakis released a new album, Mnimes (Memories). The songs which have become hits are "Ta Klemmena" (The Stolen), a grim reflection on the hardships faced by Greeks in Asia Minor, and "Par' Ta" (Take Them). In late 2009 and early 2010, after more than two years break, Sfakianakis released Kinonikon, the first part in a proposed trilogy of seven song discs called Matomeno Dakry. The most popular songs from Kinonikon are "Den Ypohoro", "Akou file" and "Mpogias". The second part, Erotikon was released in early 2010 and includes several successful songs, in particular "Kleinw tis kourtines", "Esti Ine O Erotas" and "Akouse Me Kala". The third part, Horeutikon, focusing on upbeat dance songs which released in December 2010. The most popular songs are "Ellinas" and "Den Yparxeis".
Sfakianakis is married and has two children; the family lives in Athens. In 2003, Sfakianakis had an operation on his vocal cords, leading to a two-year hiatus between his following albums, As Milisoun Ta Tragoudia, and Me Agapi O,ti Kaneis.
His 2004 album Me Agapi O,ti Kaneis, sonically illustrates Sfakianakis' mourning for his brother Giorgos, who died of cancer.
North American tour (2009)
In November 2009, Sfakianakis had his first North American tour since 1999 in the peak of his career. It was on this tour that he performed in Atlantic City, NJ, Chicago, IL, and Canada. Many in the Greek community believe that this 10-year period between Sfakianakis' last US visit was due to politically oriented comments he made during a concert in his prior visit that caused some displeasure among Greek-Americans. However, during his 2009 concert in Atlantic City, Sfakianakis expressed his gratitude to the audience for their devotion and affection over the years and wished to give them a concert that "we will all remember after 10 years." Sfakianakis made good on his word, as the crowd gave him numerous ovations during the concert.
Controversies and opinion
Not at all seldom, Sfakianakis' interviews to the press are always memorable and controversial for he has a reputation for being very outspoken and uses the press to air his opinions on various matters. When he has appeared on live television, he has drawn praise and criticism in equal measure - on the one hand, some have praised his disarming honesty and applauded him for addressing hard-hitting issues. On the other hand, he has been heavily criticised for being argumentative and confrontational; some critics claim he lacks the capacity to be diplomatic.
In 2002, he released the song Provata (Sheep), which was in essence a barely concealed criticism of George W. Bush. Although the then-United States President was not mentioned by name, the lyrics make several implicit references to him - there are mentions of the resident of a white house. In the song he implicitly compares the people of the world to sheeps, that must be wary of the threat of a wolf (implied to be Bush). Despite the cryptic nature of the lyrics, Bush's image is used openly in the video accompanying the song. In an interview that was recorded for a special release of the album Ana...Genissis, Sfakianakis was more direct in his criticism of Bush:
During a live performance in New York in 1999, Sfakianakis caused consternation amongst his audience after airing his critical opinions about America's foreign policies. As a result, certain members of the audience (composed mainly of Greek-Americans) attempted an unsuccessful boycott of Sfakianakis' concerts and productions.
In 2006, Sfakianakis released "To Systima" (The System), which was a scathing attack on the Greek music industry. In the song, Sfakianakis bemoaned the emergence of 'Tragoudistakia' - 'Little singers' - who are loosely defined in the lyrics as 'talentless kids with the same public image'. Since the release of the song Sfakianakis has also been critical of the emergence of TV talent shows such as The X-Factor, claiming that such shows trivialize the entire notion of music production. This stance has drawn criticism, with some claiming that Sfakianakis is afraid of facing competition. Fellow laiko singer Thanos Petrelis, who began his career after finishing third in the 2003 edition of Fame Story, gave his take on Sfakianakis' criticism:
In the late nineties, Sfakianakis appeared in a television interview, during which he argued that cannabis should be legalised in Greece. When asked if he had ever used the drug, Sfakianakis admitted that he had been habitually smoking cannabis for the last ten years.
Also in the same period, some publications were talking about tax evasion from him and other artists.
He has claimed to be an atheist raising the argument that one can't be both Christian and Greek. However he has baptised both his children as Greek Orthodox.
He has also declared that one of Greece's giant singers, Stelios Kazantzidis, used to have a "somewhat okay vocal ability" and play a role when singing, while claiming that he would never sing at the Greek Concert Hall, as never would he visit a place that he dislikes not mentioning if such a musical scene would invite him.
In the late 2011 he claimed the Greek recession to be "figurative", suggesting that it's all about an attempt from German to conquer Greece. He also mentioned he had previously foreseen whatever is going on in Greece at the moment, while the Greeks "are sleeping".
Most of the criticism he has raised is a result of his highly supportive statements towards the Greek far right, Golden Dawn, which he argues are not fascists. More analytically, he said that "everyone must support Golden Dawn because they're about the dawn while everything else is plain darkness" and objected to an elected political party's leader being imprisoned. These declarations of his were the main reason for the discontinuance of his on-stage collaboration with Despina Vandi, a result came after Vandi being deeply insulted, coming from an immigrant family.
Several times in the past he has expressed the argument regarding extraterrestrial beings not only existing, but also to have created him and all of the world's people as well as a lot of world's famous buildings like the Acropolis. He believes that UFO's exist somewhere between and visit us quite often and that we may or may not share the same figure. He also suggested that the Greek Mythology is actual history and the ancient Greek Gods were UFO's.
He has also used his position to improve awareness of music piracy.
- Proti Fora (1991) (First time)
- Eisai Ena Pistoli (1992) (You are a gun) (Gold)
- Me To N Kai Me To S (1993) (With the N to the S) (Platinum)
- Notioanatolitika Tou Kosmou (1994) (Southeast of the world) (2× Platinum)
- 5o Vima (1996) (Fifth step) (4× Platinum)
- I Notes Einai 7psyhes (1998) (The notes are immortal) (5× Platinum)
- Polihroma Kai Entona (2000) (Multi-coloured and intense) (2× Platinum)
- As Milisoun Ta Tragoudia (2002) (Let the songs speak) (Platinum)
- Me Agapi O,ti Kaneis (2004) (With love whatever you do) (Platinum)
- Ana Gennisis (2005) (Rebirth) (Platinum)
- Mnimes (2007) (Memories) (Platinum)
- 21+4 Matomena Dakrya (2011) (Bloody teardrops) (4× Platinum)
- 16 Avtotelis Istories (2013) (16 accomplished stories) (5× Platinum)
- Ta Zeïbekika Tou Noti Stis 9/8 (2002) (Notis' zeibekika at 9/8)
- 32 Megales Epitihies (2002) (31 big hits)
- Notis: Deka Me Tono (2003) (Notis: ten with an accent) (Gold)
- Evaisthites Notes (2004) (Sensitive notes)
- I Oraioteres Balantes (2005) (The most beautiful ballads)
- 14 Megala Tragoudia (2007) (14 big songs)
- The Collection: The EMI Years (2007)
- Opa Opa...Ta Horeftika (2010) (Opa Opa...the dance songs)
- 25 Hronia (2010) (25 years)
- 'Hits on DVD: Notis Sfakianakis — 1992–2001 (2004)
- Ta Horeftika Tou Noti (2005) (Notis' dance songs)