16 Feb 2002

The mirror has two faces ~ Tahidromos, 16 Feb 02

Just a moment. Don’t read this interview. Consider what you would like to know about Sakis Rouvas. Think of whom you believe him to be. OK? Now let’s erase the stereotypes. Let’s share the surprise and remember William Blake’s verse: “The one who knows you best is the one who allows you to mislead you”.

The girls who rocked in tune with the music next to the stage were a given. The women – of all ages – who couldn’t take their eyes of him and hummed his songs were more or less expected. But the groups of people sitting in the back of “REX” were a surprise.

Like the group of 4 couples from Chalkis, around 30 something, that sang with passion and joked among themselves or a group of males in suites around 40 who were mimicking the teenage girls and obviously had a blast. And of course there was always the conservative mum who “Liked the show but Sakis was way to provocative if you ask me”. And her daughter’s reply “If you have the goods why not show them around”. Sakis is now 30 years old. His fans have grown with him. Is he afraid of the passing of time? “Not at all. I feel very comfortable. Life has taught me that as time goes by you are getting better and better, you learn, you grow, you mature. What you are gaining in turms of brains and souls is far more than what you lose”.

When the audience realizes that Sakis is about to start his program, they start to chant his name. When Sakis sights the public automatically sights with him. Everybody has their own reasons for doing that. Maybe that is the usefulness of the “stars” in our lives: “That’s what I do” Sakis was mentioning earlier in his dressing room “I am a mirror that reflects what everyone wants or needs to see. Who I truly am is impossible for the world to know. They see what they want to see. Maybe that’s why despite what has been said and published about me, I still feel that they love me”.

This interview was done over a number of encounters, while we were alone or with other people, during a photo shoot, over the phone with notebooks and without. And I remembered some interviews – very few – on TV when after a question Sakis was smiling instead of answering. At the time some said that Sakis didn’t have the answers and that’s why he hesitated. That’s what I thought too.

It was a fine stereotype, until Sakis started talking. And I realized that Sakis was not answering all of the questions because he doesn’t want to share some sides of his personal life with us. What should concern us was his work not his secrets. Sometimes, when he wants to and usually when the tape recorder is turned of, he can be very talkative.

This interview did not happen with words only. Sakis has a way of looking at you. You catch him looking at you when you are doing something else. He tests your reactions. He refuses to let you be dazzled by his fame, becoming very earthy. Or just by remaining silent.

His differences don’t matter to him. “You are playing games of charm” I tell him. “You enter a room full of strangers and you smile widely certain that you will charm them”. “It makes life easier” he replies “When you smile, It’s easier to communicate. Do you think that it’s the same if I was morose?”

“Would you say that you have worked hard to come this far?” “I do what I love and in time I evolve. I try, when something comes my way, to learn to become better. I see that more is coming and I imagine this will continue”. “Do you take lessons?” “I have started courses in America with a very good teacher, Ras Kennedi. Every time I go to the States, almost every year, we work at least for a month. While I was recording Disco Girl in Miami, he was there too”.

“Will you continue to be a pop singer or do you plan to change?” He reacts. We end up discussing what is pop anyway. It’s just a characterization of a different era when meanings were simpler. “It’s dangerous to place labels. A few decades back music genres were easier to identify. Today it’s harder to distinguish between rock, pop, funk or ethnic. One genre interacts with another. Fusion is on even in music. You can combine rap with ethnic nowadays. I don’t have a problem experimenting with other genres. If something interests me, I don’t care what its label is”.

Apart from music he is interested in many other things. He visits frequently _ it’s no secret – Mount Athos and its monasteries and people that have a lot to teach him. He believes in God and quite recently he has discovered that he has always believed in a deep and meaningful way.

I ask him about death and what’s his approach. “Who am I to speak about these things?” he responds. “What’s the point of announcing my beliefs publicly? The important thing is to change and improve myself. To walk on my personal path without faltering”. Later on we will wander about what is pointless. “There are some thing that we do out of vanity and some other things – the important ones - that we do for ourselves” We will agree that everything comes from “within”. So what’s inside Sakis? “I am far from tranquil …” he says.

And then we get back to everyday life. He uses internet to chat with his friends from abroad, he is an avid reader of Steven Hawkins books, his new video clip for his latest album that will be filmed in South Africa and his diving experiences in Philippines, where sharks are swimming.

When he is on stage, he rules. During a photo shoot, George the photographer, told us an incident when a lady was eating and then her eyes fell on Sakis while he was doing his routine and she stayed like a statue watching him with her fork in the air and her mouth half open. His choreographies are very sensual. Edgard Moren talks about the sensuality of the stars: “Sexiness is transmitted from the entire body, clothes, face etc”. Does Sakis feel that his sensuality is a product, part of the package that he is offering?

“Sexuality is part of our lives. We expose it as much as we expose other aspects of our character. We show who we are. I’m Sakis and I have 10 things. You can see them. Everyone makes their choices and collects whatever they want.”.

We have read everything about him. He implies that at some point when he was younger he was upset about the invasion of his privacy. In some ways those constant attacks reminds us the story of Mithridates. A small dosage of poison each day can make you immune and practically invulnerable … Today he deals with these things better, considering that no matter how filthy the publications his public still loves him. “I understand that they want to know more about me. I’m used to it. Does it bother me? It’s an attempt to invade my privacy. It’s not my choice and I prefer to keep some things for myself. Any disrespect for my decision is annoying”.

“So I shouldn’t ask if you have ever been in Love, if you have ever felt that feeling of complete surrender.” He thinks before answering. He smiles. He repeats the question, and tries to respond but then he changes his mind. His eyes tell a story. In the end he decides to keep silent. Respect. “You have everything.” I tell him “Fame, money, beauty ...” “Not by a long shoot” he interrupts me, “I don’t believe I have everything. Besides everything is a relevant term”. I correct myself “A lot of people would think that you have everything. What keeps you grounded?” “My friends. I live in the real world. Maybe not like you, I mean I can’t go for a walk but I do know what’s happening around me”. He might not be a persistent viewer of the news but he is informed about everything that’s going on and not just in Greece. “Our country is limited by borders. But the world and their love don’t end there. When I hear that a forest is burning in Amazon it bothers me as much as if it was burning in Rodopi. Besides we now know that when something happens in Asia it could affect the climate here as well. The planet is a home for all of us.”

There are those who claim that the age of massive vision is past. But in Argentina, Porto Allegro people are still marching. “Times change, history repeats itself. When the world is hungry, they will march. It’s not about vision. It’s about hunger. When in one day your 100 euros turn to 40, you will definitely protest. It’s a matter of sense”.

And what about show biz? What about this whole game? Which part would he like to curve for himself? “I don’t want to claim any part of it. I lay a claim on my life and soul. I don’t care about anything else”.
“What about happiness Saki? Have you ever felt it?” He is silent again. “Let’s just say I touched it sometimes …”

It’s good to be Greek

What does international career mean to you? Do you fell that you reached your target in Greece?
The goal is not to cover one place say Greece, and then move on to Italy and then somewhere else. Things sort of happen. You can’t say right from the start you are going international. My record will be released in France. It’s not a record I have made in Greece for Greece. I recorded it with Universal France for France and for the rest of the world. Of course, it will be released in Greece as well.

Yes, but the lyrics in most of the songs are Greek. Why?
Because I am Greek. And it’s good to be Greek. Not just for you but for everybody. When foreigners hear the word “Greece” they have good images in their minds. I was impressed by the French persistence when it came to Greece, I realized there is deep admiration.

Wouldn’t you be more secure in an international audience with English or French lyrics?
I don’t feel that there is risk involved by addressing the audience in Greek. Nevertheless I am taking lessons in Spanish and French, not because I need to sing in these languages but because I need to communicate with the people.

So the future is full of lessons, I take it?
He laughs. The present is full of lessons as well. Life is the biggest lesson of them all.

Images and perfumes of Corfu.
Gymnastics, discipline, school. That’s how Sakis remembers his childhood. It was his choice without any intervention from his parents. He was about 7 or 8 when a gym trainer went to his school and chose a few kids she believed had a future as athletes. “She took us to a gym. We performed some tests so she could determine our physical condition and she choose us”. A little while later he went to Athens as a member of the Corfu team to compete for the National Competition. He won the bronze metal. It was his first. “It was the first time I was rewarded for doing something I truly loved. I still remembered how I felt in front of the cheering crowd”. In Corfu he continued training. What image comes to his mind when He thinks about Corfu? “The image that comes in my mind is Ash Friday, when the wholly procession moves thought the streets of the old city and the community band is playing and everybody sings traditional songs”. Was Corfu the first time he sang in public? “No it was in Cyprus. It was connected with sports. I was there as a member of the national Gymnastics team and when the competition was over we went out to eat and have fun. There was a band there and a grabbed a guitar and sang some Beatles’ songs. It was a huge surprise for my co athletes”.

Tahidromos, 16/02/2002