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In the 1970s, “Darla Dirladada” was the most famous Greek song even though it was sung in several other languages. It was written by the captain of a sponge-diving boat.
Captain of a sponge-divers’ boat, Pantelis Ginis from Kalymnos had no idea that the silly song he wrote with one hand while stirring with the other would become an international hit. “Darla Dirladada” was conceived as an uplifting song to raise the spirits of the crew who were facing great difficulties.
Crewmen started singing the song and soon became a “hit” among seamen at first and then it was adopted by a wider public. When Greek ship crews were landing on foreign lands they were taking the infectious song with them.
The lyrics speak about the life of seamen and islanders, like the people from Kalymnos, famous throughout the world for diving for sponges. They are humorous and slightly bawdy. But it is the rhythm that made the song irresistible. It is said that the rhythm originated from the North African peoples. Legend has it that Ginis was holding the rudder with one hand and writing the lyrics with the other.
It is also said that Ginis had gone to Athens to record his first 45rpm record with traditional Greek musician Domna Samiou. Savvopoulos heard “Darla Dirladada” and put it on his album “The Garden,” saying it was a traditional song. Ginis went to the courts and proved that it is his own song. After dying at a relatively young age, his family in Kalymnos inherited the copyright for the song.
In 1970 the song was recorded by Italian-Egyptian-French singer Dalida and was released as a single and album track. She recorded the song in Italian, German and English.
The song has been covered by Dutch singer Marva and others. The most notable cover version, so far, is that of G.O. Culture in 1993, which became a huge hit in France.
The song is popular in Finland as well, recorded with Finnish lyrics by Kai Hyttinen in 1972 who made a hit single of it. Finnish music group Jean S. has also covered the song.
In 1995, rock band from Skopje, “Memorija,” recorded a version of the song, titled “Dirlada.”