Vasos Argyrides in a confession about love, music and Limassol!

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His mobile phone would not stop ringing since the very first moment we sat down for the interview. Sometimes he would look at the number with the edge of his eyes for a moments, to decide that he could call back later, but he rushed to pick it up 2 – 3 times immediately. Those were the times he had a call from the theater, about the rehearsals or the schedule of the coming days. No matter how many time our talk was interrupted, he had no difficulty to get back in it, probably because he thinks very highly of the communication between people.

Vasos Argyridis is a man who won’t hesitate to look at you straight in the eyes, to talk loud and clear, without being afraid of exposing his thoughts. It may by the free spirit of the artist, which does not allow to conceal his character. After all, his art is so immediate and erotic, that has influenced his contact with people in general. That’s why humor, teasing and flirting are on a daily row.

“The girls working at the theater always nag about the men today, how they do not flirt. I think that they lack the way to do it, the main tool, which is the language. We used humor every single time we wanted to flirt, back when we were 25, and even if it wasn’t always good, at least we knew how to speak a few words in Greek. Now, with Facebook and greeklish, they hide their linguistic insufficiency behind the safety of the distant communication. And women need communication so much more than we may think they do, since they had been suppressed for decades in our society, where no one would talk to them. Men had the option to go out to the coffee shops or even to work, and talk to each other. Women had to stay in the house, feeling suppressed and muted, losing her feminine identity even. And since the marriages in societies like ours were arranged with fixed matches, people missed the opportunity to flirt, to experience the teasing. That’s why even a 70-year-old woman today, as soon as she hears a compliment, she will bloom”.

Born in 1960, he has been ever since living in Agia Zoni area. He has been near the city center for ever and this has been the setting of most of his experiences: from the very first years of his youth, when he watched his first Bug Bunny cartoon movie at Palas theater (now Pattichion), until his latest role as the director of the Pattichion Municipal Theater in Limassol.

“We used to watch the movies with 20 Pepsi Cola cups instead of a ticket”, he remembers, while the cinema experience is also related with his first flirt, too, when he decided to show to a little girl at class in school, how is to kiss someone like in a movie (which resulted to the little girl arriving with her mother’s company in the next day). 

There is an erotic connection with the audience, just as with a woman: you would rather draw the attention of the one that does not turn her eyes easily on someone...

“On Saturday noon they were screening cartoons and the advertisement of that era allowed us to watch the show with cups, instead of a ticket. After all, cinema was a show for the masses. So, we would go around the coffee shops to collect any cups we would find on the floor, to watch the movie. A few years before I came to Pattichion, I was thinking that we could revive this habit, in order to bring the nearby villages back to life, with festivals, featuring music and cinema”.

His father was a municipal clerk, his mother was a housewife, a high school graduate, which was rather rare back then. He remembers that they were never deprived of the essentials, even though they did not have everything. Other families did have some serious financial problems and some children did not even wear any shoes at school. Still, in an environment where no one had any inclination in art, his parents did notice his talent in music and encouraged it.

There were poor people in Limassol, but there was no social discrimination and everyone played with anyone in the yard.

“There was solidarity between people in the neighborhoods then. The houses were closer to each other and the neighbor would help those who needed it”, he remember, but he stresses out the “there was no social division and everyone played with everyone in the yard”. He went to the Urban School I and he still remembers the trenches, both at school and the house, with the coaches of the Civil Defense explaining their use.

A 57-year-old teenager around the city center...

Where the cartoons at Palas your first contact with the place that now hosts the Municipal Theater?
Actually, I used to spend my summers at the family entertainment venue called “Acropolis”, on Gladstonos Street. There were 3 summer cinemas in that area – Alambra, Yiordamli, summer Palas (which is now the parking area for the theater) and the winter Palas, which is Pattichion Theater now. The area was familiar to me. Some people and places are still the same.

Has Limassol changed now?
Yes, social discrimination is more common now. Today the image dominates, that is the ability to present yourself in public to people that are not witnessing your presence with their own eyes. The TV has provided this opportunity to reproduce images, then the life style magazine covers created the models and then Facebook came along. My wife showed me something they sent her some time ago, which commented: Do you imagine acting in the street the same way you do on Facebook? You would be showing thumbs up to indicate that you like random people sayings, you would take pictures of your children and show them to strangers etc. in the end, there yould e several people following you, some policemen and 2 – 3 psychiatrists.

From early on, I knew that I could here something more in my ears, than the rest of my schoolmates. My parents enrolled me in the Limassol Municipal Museum, when out of 100 children, only 3 would study music.

Thus, a magazine now can name you a socializer, without any particular reason. New professions came up lately, to sell people’s vanity. If we decide to publish a magazine now, with absolutely no content, we will always have people’s vanity. The lady illustrated on the cover may have a businessman husband, who will provide some advertisement packages. A friend of hers may be jealous and ask for the same kind of exposure and so on. Thus, we reproduce the image of a society that has nothing to present.

When did you realize you had a musical talent?
I suspected it when I was 7 – 8 years old. I caught myself at the primary school walking around and making music for anything written on signs or even in the yellow pages. Then I started my studies in music  at the Municipal Odeon, as soon as my parents realized I had this gift, when out of 100 children, only 3 would study music.

To know that you are popular is not bad. The issue is what you do with your popularity, if you merchandise it, if you capitalize from it. I don’t care about that. 

What did your decision to become a professional musician mean?
I work hard. I have been in the administration of Pattichion Municipal Treater since August 1st, 2016. This is my first official job, with a pay check every end of the month, like most people, and I am already 57. All the other years, things had their ups and downs. There were even some time when my wife had to cover my expenses. I definitely did not make any money out of my music and I am not going to. A concert, depending on the load of work, may pay from €400 - €500 up to €2.000. Concerts abroad may pay better, but it is not what one would think. After all, I mostly worked for movies, TV and theater, I has no share in the great discography hits. 

Since August 1st, 2016 Vasos Argyrides has been in charge of the administration of Pattichion Municipal Theater, which operated for the first time after 10 years. In this place, of the former Pallas cinema, little Vasos used to watch cartoons on the screen, during the 1960s. 

How is the daily life of a professional musician?
I am a morning person. I start early on. At 7:30 I am already on my desk with coffee and I get all the work done by 10:00 – 10:30, with my mind so clear and strong that I feel I can pick up an entire house. Some other colleagues prefer the night. Personally, I get fertilized in the night and I give birth in the morning. We may be outside, having dinner, and I would be conducting music in my head.

I will only work at night if there is something pressing to be finished. But mornings are more productive for me. Also, I am a person that communicates a lot, I won’t waste an opportunity to go for beers with a friend at night. I will not sacrifice that anymore, to the point that – even if I am at work – if some friend invites me for a walk, for kebab at our hung-outs, I give up and give in.

I definitely did not make any money out of my music and I am not going to. There were even some time when my wife had to cover my expenses. 

Is this a luxury of your profession?
It is a matter of decision. It is a way to taste every aspect of life.

Don’t you have to live of your job?
Of course I do. We have children to support through their studies, we have houses. My job has always been my only income. I don’t have an uncle in the USA, nor have I inherited anything. Small things are easy to buy. If you happen to be happy with small things, your life will be easier. Of course, immortality is in the moments, not in postponing things.

Do you regret putting work off to enjoy life sometimes?
If I had to weight things over, I would say that I regret more the things that I have done, rather than for things that I haven’t. Gatsos said that we have no time coverage, we cannot do everything, thinking that we have the time to do them. Like now, for example, I could have said that things are so busy at the theater and skip this meeting, but I am here. This is what I want to pass along to my friends and children, too: if you have 5 doors open in front of you, you should use just 1.

Does “I don’t have time” sound as an excuse to you?
It is not an excuse. It is rather the insecurity that comes from being used to something. Life in the modern world, directed by the global financial system, from the banks, the money, the profit, have forced a load of anxiety for ma king a living. So, there have been times when I caught myself thinking that I wish a job was postponed, so that I could meet with people.

Is that a mentality your entire family shared?
No, my father was working to support the family and he even got a second job at some point, in the clothing industry, with which my mother got involved, too. This way of thinking was not cultivated at home. Every person’s road is private. If you are what you are, it is because you were meant to be it. Even if you want to follow someone else’s route, it will actually be a different one, than theirs. It is a great question, though, whether we choose our way, or whether someone throws us in it and we only get to choose how we walk, fast or slow, with stops. I don’t know if I did choose my way, but this is not the question here.

If I had to weight things over, I would say that I regret more the things that I have done, rather than for things that I haven’t. Gatsos said that we have no time coverage...

So, how is ones character formed?
We come in this world with some features, a first material, but this I s not the final product. The material will be processed and transformed according to what you choose.

Do you enjoy leisure?
No, let’s not confuse this. Leisure enthusiasts can be selfish, atomists. I am not like that. I want everyone to be fine around me. Then I am happy. If they happen to be happy because I am around them, that makes me even more happy. I like to have a good time, in the aspect of eliminating the compromises I did in my 20s and 30s.

Do you do favors when you are asked to?
Yes, it happens very often. Usually I give in, even if I am not certain that I can do it, because I can’t seem to say no, I can’t find an excuse for it. No is a hard word for me, because when a friend asks for help, you cannot turn them down. My only way of refusing, is the phrase “I will see what I do, but I cannot promise”.

At age 57, this is his first "regular" job, with a pay check every end of the month. For as long as the interview lasted, the only phone calls he answered were the ones related to the theater.

Why do you do this?
I don’t know. My wife says that I am just too good in my heart and I want to give joy to people. Being in the theater’s administration, I think that I can support young artists that come from studying abroad and they have several difficulties. I was in that place, too, back in 1986, when I came back with a master degree from Moscow and an opera in Germany at 30 years old. I could not even find the musicians to play with in Cyprus. We were 5 – 6 people then, the first or second generation of musicians with studies.

When you returned in Limassol, did you get to work?
I was 26 then, I had many dreams and I was ready to make them happen. I have an element in me that helps me a lot and this is the cat that I never feel miserable. Even at the greatest difficulties, I still saw the positive side. And, yes, I did encounter difficult times, which may haven’t even been known to my parents, because I concealed them, to protect them from being sad.

I want everyone to be fine around me. Then I am happy. If they happen to be happy because I am around them, that makes me even more happy. 

But I was never miserable. In Cyprus, due to the many conquerors, we did inherit this attitude, but we always must dream a better world. Even if I have uncountable wealth, how could I be content, if this does not apply for anyone around me? Could I be in a 5-star hotel, having fun, when people next to me are not ok?

Did you ever do any jobs that did not represent you, because you had to work?
Yes, but that was not very common. It happened mostly when I was younger and I couldn’t see from the beginning that something did not suit me.

That’s why you never did anything in the TV?
I have nothing against this medium. After all, I really do like technology and this is truly an achievement that can bring images closer to you. But, what I would like the most is a TV that would get you out of the house, saying “go out, you don’t have to watch me 24 – 7.  Go to the theater, meet your friends”. But we did reach a point in which the TV is the absolute ruler and seeks all the attention. 

"I may be intense in a conversation, but while I state my beliefs, I always have in my mind that I can be wrong". 

Since its product is the image, it has to bring me show, movies, documentaries, sports events. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy these from afar otherwise. But, while it could be a medium that produces culture and socialization, instead of desolation, it has become a hungry medium that keeps you nailed in your chair.

What if all of the TV station owners decided to close their programs and tell you to go outside? The radio is different. It does not keep you in one place, you can go around and listen. I remember experimenting, when I was on the radio. I would announce that I would close the microphone for 1 minute to see how people would react. I always wanted to keep it informal and friendly, unlike other people, in Cyprus and abroad, who thought they should get serious and even alter their voices on the radio. 

Every person’s road is private. If you are what you are, it is because you were meant to be it. Even if you want to follow someone else’s route, it will actually be a different one, than theirs…

Are there still people walking around with the radio in Limassol?
There have been many all these years and there still are. Mr Maria is a typical case, but she is not the only one. You will see her walking around, always listening to the radio, Kanali 6. 

Haven’t you ever felt like a star?
No. To know that you are popular is not bad. The issue is what you do with your popularity, if you merchandise it, if you capitalize from it. I don’t care about that. I am very sociable, so I act the same way in the street, as I do on the radio, too.

Are you arrogant?
No, I think I have zero arrogance. Being famous was never the goal of what I did in my life. This does not change my character. I am a people’s person. When you meet me outside with friends, at taverns, I am in my jeans and me sweatpants. I don’t even have a suit with a tie. I am not snob either. I know who I am. Stavro Xarhakos told me that only a flag is supposed to be up in the sky.

As long as a society keeps the citizens inside the house, it cannot move on. The quality of life means that you have spaces, like squares, where you can breath and meet people.

Are you a firm believer?
No. I may be intense in a conversation, but while I state my beliefs, I always have in my mind that I can be wrong. This came into my life relevantly late. The times have crashed us and the fables have been torn apart, so I demand from others to have the same approach in conversations. I would rather loose in a conversation, but leave with new information. I like to communicate with people.

But you do state your mind, especially in political matter.
Yes. I am a man of the arts and I may also be part of what is thought to be the intelligentsia in a country. Also, through this job, I have become a public figure and people may find out what I think quite easily. I do not hide my beliefs, after all. Of course, my family suggests that I should say less. But I am a leftist, even if I disagree with the left party in Cyprus, mostly in matters of national identity.

This past year, since its official opening, the theater has staged several important performances, from ballet and jazz from abroad, to musicals, as well as notable local artists.

I dream of a world with social justice, with solidarity, in which everyone will have access to education, health, housing and work, with decent conditions and income that will allow you to support your family and have a good life. The paradox is that the social system that represented this, has collapsed, instead of the one we have now. Why? Because there was bureaucracy, they were not allowed to travel, they did not have jeans or freedom of speech. Do we have freedom of speech now? Could we talk about these things if we were on TV now? If you are not petting the system, it will hide you.

You lived in Moscow during the Soviet Union era. Do you still support the left?
More than any other time. Now the state, instead of being the one that protects the citizens, it is actually a competitor. How could the state not care if you are, if you are unemployed? Today, we dream of a better future, not because we are romantics, but because this is described in socio-political terms. That’s why we need to pass from wishing, to knowing who is behind everything that happens and why.

30+ years of love with music...

You have written songs for many popular artists.
Yes, we did a great hit with Costat Makedonas, “Taxi”, as we did with Demetris Basis. Dalaras has sung my songs in a movies, as did Tsaligopoulou. I have worked with almost everyone.


I have composed music for several movies and plays. I have composed the music for 3 films, directed by Andreas Pantzis, “The slaughter of the rooster”, “The offering”, “Thejoy and the sorrow of the body” and for 2 documentaries about the visit of Seferis in Cyprus, for the Public Television in Greece. The dramatic documentary “When the weather was interrupted” by Stelios Charalambopoulos was awarded with a first prize at the Festival in Drama in 1993, while the movie by Andy Rodites “Cyprus: Alone in the air and the sea” was awarded with a gold medal at the Festival in Huston, Texas. A particularly important project to me are the remakes of traditional Cypriot music pieces for the Symphonic Orchestra of Moscow, which was recorded on a disc, while at my 30s I undertook the composition of an opera for the Phalztheater in German, entitled “Manoli”, on a play by Giorgos Neofytou, which was staged in Germany in 2 different productions. This opera in Germany was my first international hit, which was strongly praised and featured on the front page of a 300.000-copies newspaper, Deutche Zeitung.

Which would you consider your greatest work so far?
That is a good question. You know, us composers often judge based on the amount of work we do, but people do not judge the same way. For example, people loves disproportionately the few lyrics of "Apokrisis" by Demetris Lipertis, which I wrote music for. This is very touching indeed, but I know that some works of mine are going to need some time to be appreciated. I know that the Cypriot dances I remade for the symphonic orchestra are an important piece and they will be played in the years to come and even taught in schools. But even this 3-minute song can stand out for so many people.

So, could this little song be the most important part of your communication with people?
Quantity is flattering. For example, it sure is great to play music for a theater of 600 excited people. But I would be much more flattered if 80 people that are particularly picky with music, fell in love with my work. The relationship with the audience is erotic, just the relationship with a woman: you would rather draw the attention of a woman that never lays eyes on someone, than any 100 women. The same applies with art, too.

Were you always interested in the administration of the theater?
When the vacancy at Pattichion was announced, I expressed my interest. I liked the idea that I could step into a new phase of my career this way, being in charge of the strategic design of the product. Through this we create the mark of the theater, while we also do other things, easier and more simple, hosting some events. I never wanted to be admired as something special. We do something successful, with diversity and variety, which allows the artists to meet with the audience.

My office is always open and we assist for things to get done. Someone described me the other day as the “most accessible director” to contact with, without waiting or leaving messages to others. Our role is to be a bridge for artists – producers – audience, as well as being the matrix of new ideas.

I would like a kind of TV that would get you out of the house, saying “go out, you don’t have to watch me 24 – 7.  Go to the theater, meet your friends”. 

At the same time, the theater educated, especially in Limassol, where there were no theaters before the operation of Rialto. The employees of a theater are a new kind of profession in the city and I have already suggested that it should be mandatory for them to watch at least 2 – 3 shows every month. We should leave something behind with all of these. 

Are we behind in therater culture?
Not exactly behind. There was a time in Cyprus when the demand for culture was bigger than the offer. The audience was more ready than we were. The new generation went abroad to study and there were things they would ask for in Cyprus, but they could not find any.

The theater of over 700 seats is a true gem for the Limassol city, providing entertainment options for the people for over half a century.

Is the theater intended for an elite?
No, there are shows for the majority of the people, too. Some events may be more demanding, but there is something for everyone. 

Is it just for those who are into the arts?
Every place hosts a program that fits best. For example, some artists perform better in concerts in theaters. Others are better when performing in night clubs or music stages. The point is that even the audience prefers to see each one in their natural environment. Would anyone like to listen a Greek pop artist, without a drink or the flowers they throw on the stage?

What music do you listen to?
I studied classic, symphonic and modern music, I admire the great classics, and Beethoven in particular. I consider the Greek, people’s music as a worldwide landmark, where the poetry is shared by everyone, through the music. I love the old popular songs and the rebetika. If I am having a great time I will get up and dance, even though I am not good at it. 

"Behind every picture from Limassol, there is a man..."

Do you think that Limassol is properly promoted?
Ever since the ancient times, the city was the sum of the work of its residents, which is the architecture, the research, the knowledge, the forum, the exchange of ideas. Around 15 — 20 years ago, most of the channels for the promotion of Limassol presented an image that resembled a carte — postal: nice pictures, dining tables to promote our gastronomy, great hotels with 5-star rooms. The people were missing, thus the content was poor.

Because, behind every photo, there is a person. We are used to conceal the creators. Even in the photo of a table, instead of showing a chef , we only see table. But, not just for the Marina and the seaside park, which are large scale projects, even for the fact that 700 people attend an event in the theater, is an important aspect of the city, for which some people, or even generations, are striving. When a visitor of a country like Cyprus, who only expects to find leisure in the sun and the sea, would never imagine that there are other things, too.

I am quite Eastern, there is nothing Western in my mentality, and I am proud for that. But this does not mean that I have this kind of quality of life.

Recently I convinced a friend from Russia, who lives here permanently with his family, working in the event production industry, to move close to the city center, behind the Technical School of Limassol. “You do not know the city”, I told him and after he moved, he confessed what an amazing feeling it was to be so close to everything. There is a social division in  what we call tourist industry.

Could you live anywhere else?
I could live in Greece. Once I was about to move there, but I stayed behind after all, for some reason. Also, I felt that the recording industry was in a downward spiral and I was proved right eventually.

I am a fan of Limassol, but not among those who say that Limassol is the best city in the world. If you are stuck in traffic at Agias Zonis street, you are not in the best city of the world. I would like to live here, in the Mediterranean, but have the stuff I am missing, too, since we are a northern African country. I feel more Eastern, I don’t really share the Western mentality, and I am proud for that. But this does not mean I can’t share the quality of life. I would like less cars, more pedestrian ways, better mass transportation, more sparse buildings. 

What else would you like to have for a quality living?
Without the element of social interaction, the sense of the ancient forum, a society will never move ahead. The humanity produces culture, through the movement of ideas. As long as a society keeps the citizens in the house, it cannot go forward. Quality of life is having the space, such as a square, to breathe and meet with people. Limassol has improved, but it still has the image of a water-head city. If someone lives at Agios Athanasios, there is no park or square nearby.

There have been times when I caught myself thinking that I wish a job was postponed, so that I could meet with people.

What bothers you in our mentality?
I am annoyed about the way we drive. I am also bothered by the fact that some people close their eyes to illegal actions, like parking on a double line, as if this is the status quo. In general I am bothered by the fact that everybody knows someone, like a best man or a relative.

Has Limassol progressed at all?
The greatest achievement that would be fatal otherwise, was the rejuvenation of the population. Limassol is a rather aged society. The University helped this aspect and this is an element to work with. 

Do you mind the high-rise buildings?
The image does not bother me. It only bothers me if it is just a new trend, which follows no schedule. Let the authorities decide that a certain spot will be our own Manhattan. The ones in important positions should be able to make decisions and have a sense of the responsibility that comes along with it, just like I had to take the responsibility and explain why I invited an artist to perform. But, we are afraid of responsibilities in general in this country.

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With Vasos Argyrides you can keep talking for hours, for endless days without running out of things to say. After all, he does not look for affirmation through these talks, but to share ideas, to source in and out food for thought. A man that met a top  moment in his career at the age of 30, with his work in thousands of front pages in Germany, he knows from experience that life has its ups and downs, but he keeps on with his head up high. Because he knows what he is waiting for, what he is dreaming of, what he hopes for in the world. So, he hopes that his own creative powers can be part of the forces that lead the city into change.