Sotiria Bellou (Greek: Σωτηρία Μπέλλου; 1921–1997) was a famous Greek singer and performer of the Greek rebetiko type of music .
Sotiria Bellou was born in Halia of Euboia. She was the oldest of 5 siblings of a wealthy family. Her father, who was particularly fond of her, was an Orthodox priest. As a little girl Sotiria would go to church along with her father and she would absorb the religious sounds and Byzantine hymns. A movie featuring the popular singer Sophia Vempo was the catalyst that pushed her to pursue an artistic career.
In 1940 she decided to move to Athens. Her arrival in Athens coincided with World War II and a new challenging period started for Bellou. Her family completely lost touch with her. They found her again after 7 years, singing with legendary rebetiko composer Vassilis Tsitsanis. In the meantime, she had worked in many different jobs. One night she was working at a rebetiko club as a waitress and sang two songs after a bet with a client. Kimonas Kapetanakis happened to be there and recognised her genuine talent. He introduced her to Tsitsanis. Tsitsanis instantly became fond of her powerful and melodic. After that, she sang in the best music clubs of Athens such as the Rosiniol, Tzimis o hontros, Hydra, Triana, Falirikon and many more .
During her long career from 1941 to 1976 she has collaborated with the best composers of Rebetiko. Some of her greatest hits were:
* Synefiasmeni Kyriakh (Συνεφιασμένη Κυριακή) (Cloudy Sunday) of Vassilis Tsitsanis
In 1938 she met her future husband Vangelis Trimouras and ignoring her family's advice she married him very soon after they met. Their wedding unfortunately lasted for only 6 months as he was reportedly abusing her. Being a hot-blooded woman, she once reacted by throwing acid in his face. She was put in jail for 3 years and 3 months but she appealed and was released after 6 months. She then returned to her hometown where she was treated with hostility and was often beaten by her relatives for the embarrassment that she supposedly brought to her family.
Bellou was not only a talented singer, but a political activist too. Being such an opinionated and strong personality, she joined the Greek Resistance against the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. She was caught by the Nazis, tortured and then put in prison. In 1944 she participated in the Dekemvriana as a member of the National People's Liberation Army (Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos, or ELAS) ELAS. During the civil war she supported the leftists and she was caught at least once and kept in detention. Members of extreme right groups have never forgiven her political stance and in one incident they visited the club where she was singing and demanded that she sing a famous right wing song. After her refusal she was beaten. In her personal life, she had two big weaknesses: gambling and alcohol that eventually led her to poverty and caused her mental problems. She has been treated in a psychiatric clinic on at least one occasion.
Her talent has attracted many celebrities and she had many famous fans. Among them was the famous Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis who would burst into tears each time he listened to her unique voice. Although she was particularly admired by artists, critics and public she was alone and ignored towards the end of her life. Only a handful of people supported her in the last stages of her year-long fight with cancer. Paradoxically, the government never honoured her during her lifetime, perhaps due to her controversial personality. Only after her death was she acknowledged as one of the most original Rebetiko voices that Greece has ever produced.
Sotiria was openly lesbian. She was very comfortable with her sexual orientation and never denied this fact about her life when asked. During the time that she lived, Greek society was very traditional and homophobic. Today most of Greek society is aware of Sotiria's sexual orientation.
1. ^ Kotarides Nikos, Ρεμπέτες και ρεμπέτικο τραγούδι. Athens, Plethron, 1996
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