Complaint of censorship of a Hadjidakis song in the classroom goes viral, sparking controversy

Source: Manos Hadjidakis’s official site

By @Inflammatory_ and @IrateGreek

The latest case of censorship in Greece found an unlikely target in a song by famous Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. 

Deputy Minister of Education Theodoros Papatheodorou ordered last night an ex officio investigation into claims by a primary school music teacher in Thessaloniki that the principal of her school forbade her from teaching Hadjidakis’s song Kemal to her 5th-grade class. This was followed today by a question in parliament by New Democracy MP Giannis Michelakis, who called upon the Ministry of Education to take an official position on the matter and condemned the school principal in the harshest of terms, calling the incident “a monument of ignorance, fanaticism and stupidity.”

Update 19:35 EEST: The preliminary investigation of the Ministry of Education appears to show that the teacher’s claim is correct. The principal has been asked to give a written explanation for her reaction. 

The music teacher posted on 29 May the following complaint on Facebook, that went viral after it was re-posted by a friend:

A parent visited my school to complain to the principal that I taught Hadjidakis’s song”Kemal” to 5th-graders in the music lesson and accused me of Islamist propaganda. How did the principal respond to that? She came into my class and took away from the students the photocopies I’d already handed them. She then called me to her office and when she finished expressing her disappointment with my work, she went through the reasons why teaching kids love for the homeland and boosting their national morale should be our only concern in primary school. In case something similar has happened to you (I am referring to fellow teachers) I would like you to get in touch with me, as I reckon that things have gone out of hand and we need to do something about it, even just by going public. It is unacceptable that teachers’ work is subjected of censorship, especially that of arts teachers, and that we see these incidents of bigotry that are freezing our blood come into our schools with the blessing of our principals and their superiors.

The teacher has not filed an official complaint at this point, and, when contacted by radiobubble, said that she would seek to resolve the issue under standard procedures of the education administration. It is unclear whether other, similar incidents have occurred in the school in the past. It must be noted that under legislation recently pushed through by the government, the teacher may be put on furlough merely for having been the subject of disciplinary action. 

Hadjidakis is considered as one of the greatest modern Greek composers, with tens of international awards and distinctions, among them the Oscar – which he rejected – for his score of Jules Dassin’s movie Never On Sunday, which includes the legendary song The Children of Piraeus. His song Kemal talks of the fairy tale of an Oriental prince who fought for justice only to be assassinated by his oppressors. 

The composer’s popularity in Greece never waned after his death in 1994. In 2009, radiobubble organized an internet tribute to Manos Hadjidakis, which drew participation from more than 100 blogs. Today, in reaction to this latest incident of censorship, you will find texts, photographs and songs of the composer under the hashtag #Hadjidakis on Twitter, with the slogan “we’ll never get used to it.”

You can listen to the song Kemal below and read a translation of the lyrics (from the blog Anatomy of Melancholy)

Hear now the story of Kemal
A young prince from the East
A descendant of Sinbad the Sailor,
Who thought he could change the world.
But bitter is the will of Allah,
And dark the souls of men …
Once upon a time in the East,
The coffers are empty, the waters are stagnant.
In Mosul, in Basrah, under an old date-palm,
The children of the desert are bitterly crying.
A young man of ancient and royal race
Overhears their lament and goes to them.
The Bedouins look at him sadly
And he swears by Allah that things will change.
When they learn of the young man’s fearlessness,
The rulers set off with wolf-like teeth and a lion’s mane.
From the Tigris to the Euphrates, in heaven and on earth,
They pursue the renegade to catch him alive.
They pounce on him like uncontrollable hounds,
And take him to the caliph to put the noose around his neck.
Black honey, black milk he drank that morning
Before breathing his last on the gallows.
With two aged camels and a red steed,
At the gates of heaven the prophet awaits.
They walk together among the clouds
With the star of Damascus to keep them company.
After a month, after a year, they find Allah
Who, from his high throne, tells foolish Sinbad:
‘O my vanquished upstart, things never change;
Fire and knives are the only things men know.’
Goodnight, Kemal. The world will never change. Goodnight…

And below the English version of the song, as arranged by the composer and the New York Rock’n’Roll ensemble:

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