‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis speaks during a concert in support of Palestinian people in Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece, April 10, 2002. (EPA)
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Updated 02 September 2021

‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

  • It was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ ‘Zorba the Greek’ in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name
  • He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia

ATHENS, Greece: Mikis Theodorakis, the beloved Greek composer whose rousing music and life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home, died Thursday. He was 96.
His death at his home in central Athens was announced on state television and followed multiple hospitalizations in recent years, mostly for heart treatment.
Theodorakis’ prolific career that started at age 17 produced a hugely varied body of work that ranged from somber symphonies to popular television and the film scores for “Serpico” and “Zorba the Greek.”
But the towering man with trademark worker suits, hoarse voice and wavy hair also is remembered by Greeks for his stubborn opposition to postwar regimes that persecuted him and outlawed his music.
“He lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, social solidarity,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement.
“He wrote music that became intertwined with the historical and social developments in Greece in the postwar years, music that provided encouragement, consolation, protest, and support in the darker periods of our recent history.”
Born Michail Theodorakis on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on July 29, 1925, he was exposed to music and politics from a young age.
He began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. During the war, he was arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.
Some of those same groups bitterly opposed the government and monarchy that led immediately Greece after the war, leading to a 1946-49 civil war in which the Communist-backed rebels eventually lost.
Theodorakis was jailed and sent to remote Greek islands, including the infamous “re-education” camp on the small island of Makronissos near Athens. As a result of severe beatings and torture, Theodorakis suffered broken limbs, respiratory problems and other injuries that plagued his health for the rest of his life. He suffered tuberculosis, was thrown into a psychiatric hospital, and was subjected to mock executions.
Despite the hardships, he managed to establish himself as a respected musician. He graduated from the Athens Music School in 1950 and continued his studies in Paris on a scholarship in 1954.
A prolific career as a composer began in earnest, as he worked in a huge range of genres from film scores and ballet music to operas, as well as chamber music, ancient Greek tragedies and Greek folk, collaborating with leading poets including Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca and the Greek Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis. A music series based on poems written by Nazi concentration camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis, “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” described the horrors of camp life and the Holocaust.
But it was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek” in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name.
The movie starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irene Pappas picked up three Academy Awards.
As Theodorakis’ fame grew, political turmoil in Greece continued, and his compositions were banned by a military dictatorship that governed the country between 1967 and 1974 — turning his music into a sountrack of resistance that would be played at protest ralies for decades. Tireless in later life, Theodorakis continued to work with emerging artists and compositions that included music for the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and maintained an active interest in politics.
He was a member of parliament for the Greek Communist Party for most of the 1980s but later served the cabinet of the conservative government. He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia.
His defenders saw him as a unifier, willing to take bold decisions to try to heal the country’s bitter and longstanding political divisions, many rooted in the Cold War. Fans who disagreed with him looked past his politics, and tributes to Theodorakis Thursday came from all of Greece’s political parties as well as his fellow artists.
“He was a giant and we were all proud of him. His music, his life, he was unique,” singer Manolis Mitsias, who worked extensively with Theodorakis said. “Greece was orphaned today.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared three days of national mourning, posting a photograph with Theodorakis at his home following a recent hospitalization.
“I had the honor of knowing him for many years ... and his advice has always been valuable to me, especially concerning the unity of our people and overcoming divisions,” Mitsotakis wrote.
“The best way to honor him, a global Greek, is to live by that message. Mikis is our history.”
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.


Saudi Arabia has embarked on a real cultural revolution, says Arab World Institute president Jack Lang 

Updated 29 July 2022

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a real cultural revolution, says Arab World Institute president Jack Lang 

  • There has been a radical change brought about by the impetus of the crown prince in all areas of culture, Lang tells Arab News
  • Crown prince’s Paris visit will open up new possibilities in bilateral relations and consolidate ties, says former minister of culture 

PARIS: Jack Lang is one of the prominent cultural public personalities in France. He was minister of culture from 1981 until 1986, and again from 1988 until 1993. He was also minister of national education from 1992 to 1993, and from 2000 to 2002.

Lang has been deeply connected with Arab culture by virtue of his presidency of the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), or the Arab World Institute, in Paris since 2013. Under his leadership, the Arab World Institute, founded in Paris in 1980, has organized cultural workshops, concerts, conferences, exhibitions, festivals and activities both in France and around the Arab world.

The IMA has a museum, library and auditorium, and seeks to provide a secular location for the promotion of Arab civilization, art, knowledge and aesthetics as well as the teaching of Arabic. It was founded in 1980 by 18 Arab countries and France to research information about the Arab world, including its cultural and spiritual values.

Q. What is your perception of Franco-Saudi cooperation?

A. First of all, I welcome the visit of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to Paris. This is an important event, which will certainly open up new possibilities in bilateral relations and will consolidate the political, economic, strategic and cultural ties between France and Saudi Arabia.

I am not directly linked to political life, so I do not have to comment on related issues. I know that there are differences that may arise; these are discussions that will undoubtedly take place between the leaders of the two countries, President Emmanuel Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

For my part, I cannot forget that historically, the two founding countries of the IMA were Saudi Arabia, at the time of King Khalid, and France, with President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

France's former culture minister Jack Lang. (Supplied)
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Q. What about Franco-Saudi cooperation in the context of cultural projects?

A. Saudi Arabia is a fabulous country that is developing many ambitious projects like the AlUla project, initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Saudi minister of culture, and supported by France via the French agency in charge of the development plan for this site.

Personally, I belong to the advisory committee, operating under the authority of Prince Badr. The committee does exceptional work for the preservation of the site, its history and the beauty of these incredible places. Every time I go to AlUla, I am struck by the progress of archaeological, touristic, economic and social projects.

I am also impressed by the respect that AlUla officials have for the history of the sites and the local populations, who are fully associated with the project, which is indicative of the ambition the Kingdom sets for its cultural revolution.

In France, in Europe, and more generally in the West, we do not know enough about the extent to which Saudi Arabia is starting a real cultural revolution. If we compare the situation five years ago with that of today, we see a radical change brought about by the impetus of the crown prince in all areas of culture: Cinema, theater, museums, architecture and music.

There is a rather unique cultural breath and momentum in this country. I can cite the first Red Sea International Film Festival, organized in Jeddah last year, or the many exceptional projects scheduled in Riyadh, a city destined to become one of the greatest cultural capitals of the world.

It is the same for the other cities and regions of the country, which are experiencing this dynamic in all artistic and creative disciplines. What is being accomplished today in Saudi Arabia is astonishing and remarkable.

If the visit of the crown prince is an opportunity to make this happy and positive metamorphosis better known, it is wonderful. I can only rejoice in this extraordinary cultural effervescence which makes Saudi Arabia a major country in world culture.

Cinematic masterpieces and their creators flocked to Jeddah for the long-awaited Red Sea International Film Festival late last year. (AN photo)

Q. What is the place of youth in this “cultural revolution?”

A. This cultural, educational and scientific strategy mobilizes the youth, who represent the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow. Many young people recognize themselves through this new impetus. If we go today to Jeddah, Riyadh or elsewhere in the country, we see that a new cultural event takes place every week. It is kind of a permanent cultural revolution.

Personally, I am one of those people who thinks that each country must prioritize culture, youth, science and education. This is the choice made by the Saudi authorities to build the future of the country.

France, as a country committed for a long time to these issues, will find itself in full harmony with Saudi achievements.

Q. What about cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the IMA?

A. Since I have chaired the IMA, I have forged close relationships with the cultural leaders of the Kingdom. The crown prince has decided to provide financial support for the renovation of the mashrabiyas on the walls of the IMA building, designed by (French architect) Jean Nouvel.

We are discussing many projects, including the possible creation of an IMA in Riyadh and, above all, the possible support of Saudi Arabia for the renovation of the IMA museum, which is destined to become one of the most important museums of contemporary Arab art in the West.


Controversial Saudi painter aims to make her mark in modern art

Updated 23 July 2022

Controversial Saudi painter aims to make her mark in modern art

  • Jana Mousa has been the subject of criticism for portraying womanly shapes
  • She's been backed by her family and buoyed by Saudi government support for the arts

RIYADH: A controversial Saudi painter is aiming to overturn traditional public perceptions of art with her modern abstract style.

Jana Mousa has been the subject of criticism for portraying nudity and womanly shapes in her vibrant artwork.

But backed by her family and buoyed by Saudi government support for the arts, she remains determined to open her own modern art museum to showcase her work and that of other up-and-coming artists. 

Backed by her family and buoyed by Saudi government support for the arts, Jana Mousa remains determined to open her own modern art museum to showcase her work and that of other up-and-coming artists. (Supplied)

She told Arab News: “My art isn’t traditional, but what makes me creative is that I don’t relate myself to an idea or a concept of one agenda, because I don’t want to be in a box. 

“I feel as though many people still hang on to traditional art, the art of horses, Arabic calligraphy, and such, but when they see modern art, it’s new to them, and the reaction varies. This is why I want to introduce modern art to the public and let it have its space.”

It was during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown when Mousa rediscovered her love of painting and with the help of her family, she set up a social media account and started posting her work online.

She said: “I was criticized for portraying nudity and, in general, for my modern style, and when I displayed my work in Al-Balad (historic area of Jeddah), I got comments that my paintings were just doodles that ruined the place. Because they did not show a horse or swords, then, to society, it was not considered art.” 

Backed by her family and buoyed by Saudi government support for the arts, Jana Mousa remains determined to open her own modern art museum to showcase her work and that of other up-and-coming artists. (Supplied)

Undaunted, she has since gone on to exhibit her pieces at Jeddah corniche, the port city’s Durrat Al-Arus, Culiart gallery — as part of a collaboration with chef Joud Badr — and in March, the Silence art gallery.

“Chaotic and full of life is how I would describe my artwork. I don’t have one direction, and I like to mix styles, but eventually, a pop of color needs to be included in my paintings.

“I like to feel the painting and touch it. Art doesn’t have rules or right or wrong; anything you do is art, and the possibilities are endless,” Mousa added.

She plans to open her own modern art museum to showcase her artistic style, support local artists, and provide a space for them to exhibit their work.

“I am noticing a lot of support from the government to empower art. The Jameel district in Jeddah is a good example of art encouragement, and many local artists are invited to display their artwork in Al-Balad,” she said.


Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

Updated 01 July 2022

Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

  • Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, described the new museum as the latest addition to the list of world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks
  • He was speaking during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a prestigious three-day event that took place at the Louvre Museum this week

PARIS: The UAE’s Museum of the Future has unveiled its bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow. It presented its ideas during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a three-day event at the Louvre Museum in Paris that attracted many of the world’s leading cultural institutions.

The delegation at the event, which concluded on Thursday, was led by Khalfan Belhoul, the CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, and also included Lath Carlson, the executive director of the Museum of the Future, and Majed Al-Mansoori, its deputy executive director.

The museum, which is located in Dubai’s Financial District and opened in February, was invited to attend the trade show to share its ideas for incubating a new generation of talent and helping to build a better future for humanity.

By embracing the latest breakthroughs in advanced technology, its team also aims to offer unparalleled visitor experiences and help to stimulate the cultural economy of Dubai.

“Our presence here in Paris represents a golden opportunity to engage with like-minded peers and establish deeper ties as we create pioneering experiences in a museum focused on making history by perceiving the future,” Belhoul said.

He described the Museum of the Future as the latest addition to the list of the world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks and added that it has set new benchmarks in the design and development of cultural landmarks.

“Today, it serves as an incubator for bright minds to accelerate big ideas that can strengthen Dubai’s position as a place to address some of the world’s most complex challenges,” he said.

By embracing cutting-edge technology and the pursuit of innovation to drive social, economic and environmental growth, Dubai is helping to unify global efforts to build a better future for humankind, added Belhoul.


Saudi artist brings world pop culture into Kingdom's landscape

Updated 28 May 2022

Saudi artist brings world pop culture into Kingdom's landscape

JEDDAH: Imagine seeing Disney’s Princess Aurora in historic Jeddah, one of the titans from the Japanese anime “Attack on Titan” lurking behind the mountains of Taif’s famous Al-Shafa road, or international figures appearing in old alleyways. These are just some of the products of Hazem Al-Ahdal’s wild imagination.

I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality, says Hazem Al-Ahdal

The 26-year-old photographer and graphic designer draws inspiration from both visual art and cinematography, merging images of global figures and cartoon characters into landscape photographs and then using his graphic design skills to create realistic artworks.

HIGHLIGHT

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)

Al-Ahdal said that he has been interested in the visual arts since childhood.

“Because of this passion, I decided to start my own art world and realize it,” he told Arab News.

His personal favorite artwork imagines Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby, elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia, in an old market in Tabuk.

“This is my favorite because of the integration of Western and Arab civilization in one work. Because of this work, other ideas began to come,” said Al-Ahdal.

“I love anything vintage or related to history. I loved her classical attire and thought it would suit the vision I had for the photograph,” he said, referring to the 20th-century Russian countess.

Al-Ahdal said that he chooses characters from a host of international figures or cartoons based on the site of the photograph, “and so the integration process begins.”

One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores.

“Of course, there are stories with many works of art, including when I was drinking coffee in one of the cafes and I was in front of an empty chair. My fantasies began with characters who may be sitting in front of me,” he said.

“I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality.”

Al-Ahdal converts his digital art into posters and even fashion items.

“I have no limits in art. I participated in many exhibitions with realistic works and paintings, I even participated in the field of fashion and I’m planning on participating in more projects,” he said

Al-Ahdal said that he loves ’90s movies for their content. “The best old classic works from the ’90s and before — these films contain stories and lessons in life,” he said.

“One of my favorite TV shows is the sitcom ‘Friends’ and one of my favorite distinctive films is the Italian film La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful),” he added.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The Saudi pavillion at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. (Arab News)

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

 

 

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.