The Dirlada has been popular on the Greek island Kalymnos for a very long time.
Dirlada, which we encounter in several versions and in a number of variants, is a work song, which might be sung oil-press to hearten the workers tolling at the hand-press of the time, or in the boats during the processing of sponges, or when pulling the oars.
The tune but also the name, seem to be related to similar songs of the peoples of North Africa, with whom the Kalymnians long maintained - and still maintain - close relations, owing to the islanders' sponge-diving activities along the coasts of Egypt and Cyrenaica.
The musicologist Samuel Baud-Bovy speaks of tunes that are common to the peoples of the Mediterranean. We encounter such tunes in Kalymnos, as well (see the Smuggler's Song.. CD Lyceum Club of Greek Women, Kalymnos Annex).
In the years after the last world war, it began to be danced on Kalymnos in a manner reminiscent of Arabic dances, arapika , as they were called; that is, it was danced by couples, as a face-to-face, and the steps were quick and springy. The song is begun by one singer, the rest of the group joining in at the "break" and repeating the words.
Description is from the next CD: http://www.hotelelies.gr/sites/default/files/lykeio_cd2.jpg
The first recorded version I could find is by Παντελής Γκίνης (Pantelis Ginis).
It was recorded around 1965 under the production of Domna Samiou.
Listen here: http://www.hotelelies.gr/sites/default/files/DIRLADA-by-PANTELIS-GINIS.mp3
The verses of this particular version are - as is generally admitted - the singer's own.
"Kapetan" Pantelis Ginis was discovered in the '60s by Domna Samiou, under whose direction were recorded the outstanding songs, the "Aghanda Yialessa" and the "Dirlada", which were recorded on the Fidelity-label (a sublabel of Polygram).
Today, as Domna Samiou herself confesses, she no longer remembers the names of the musicians who accompanied the song. Vivid in her memory, on the other hand, remains the extraordinary personality and fine voice of the late lamented "Kapetan Ginis".
The "DIRLADA DIRLADADA" is a sponge diver's song. Pantelis Ginis was a captain on a sponge diver's boat. Thus, to understand the lyrics, even if you know Greek, you have to know a few things about sponge divers' life and their working conditions.
Sponge divers started their trip to the North African coasts (so called "Barbaria") at Easter time and returned at the end of October.
They used a big boat called "Rezerva" as a storage for supplies, to store the sponges and to meet for dinner, which was the only meal they had during a day. The sponge diving was done with smaller boats most of which were operated by oars.
So sponge divers were working under the hot African sun all day, with very little hot and rusty water, with nothing around them but the open sea.
It was normal that after a while they had little courage to continue working. Their mind was at home, at food and of course at sex that have missed for months.
The purpose of Dirlada was to encourage sponge divers and to give them the rhythm while oaring. This was done by imaginary returning them to Kalymnos and offering visions of what they mostly desired at these difficult times.
|Geek Lyrics in latin characters||Translation||Explanation|
|Eh! dirlada dirladada, da da dirladada||Eh! dirlada dirladada, da da dirladada||no translation|
|Oh! dirlada ke teza oli||Oh! dirlada everybody exhausted||exhausted from the work|
|vre gia na paroume tin Poli,||courage to get the Poli (Constantinople)||the expression "to get Constantinople" also means "to conquer woman"|
|Oh! dirlada dirladada, apo tin Poli tin Chali||Oh! dirlada dirladada, from the Poli the Chali||From the inexpugnable Chali.|
Chali is a cape at the East side of Kalymnos. It belonged to the Municipality of Kalymnos who sold it to Nikolas Vouvalis the most famous and rich sponge trader. He made it his summer resort. With the money from this sale, the old port was built. It does not exist any more.
|tin Atsaina tin Kali, Oh! dirlada dirladada||The Kali of Atsa, Oh! dirlada dirladada||The Calliope daughter or wife of Atsas - probably another captain|
|Oh! dirlada ke teza plates vre gia xanthes gia mavromates.||Oh! dirlada keep your back tight for blondes and black-eyed||women of course|
|Oh! dirlada dirladada, choro ton go pou den trava|
i aderfi tou me ta mas
|Oh! dirlada dirladada, I can see this guy not roaring,|
well his sister is with us
|This is a very insulting expression for a Kalymnian man.|
|Oh! dirlada vre levedonia|
vre ke tis Barbarias glaronia Oh! dirlada dirladada
|Oh! dirlada you upstanding man you seagull of Barbaria Oh! dirlada dirladada|
|vre dirlada, vre ke vradiazi, vre ki i kouverta 'nestenazi|
vre ke o mageras fonazi, Oh! dirlada dirladada
|vre dirlada, the night is coming, the deck is overcrowded and the cook is screaming, Oh! dirlada dirladada|
|Oh! dirlada ke teza oli vre gia na paroume tin Poli,|
apo tin Poli tin Chali tin Atsaina tin Kali
|Oh! dirlada everybody tight to get the Poli,|
from the Poli the Chali the Kali of Atsas
|repeating previous lyrics|
|vre ti Chali to limionari, vre ti Maria tou Lisgari|
ke pano sto aspro tis podari tha pa na deso palamari
|then the little port of Chali, then Maria of Lisgaris|
and on her white foot I am going to belay a cable.
|Maria is the daughter or wife of Lisgaris (another captain probably), while the word cable is also used to describe the male sex|
|Oh! dirlada dirladada,Oh! dirlada ki irten o kombos|
vre sto lemo ndos ton archondo
|Oh! dirlada dirladada,Oh! dirlada and the bend has reached the lords' throats||The meaning of this lyric is not quite obvious.|
It might mean that we are ready to kill the lords or that the lords make so much money from us that they filled their stomach and reached their throat.
|irthen o kombos to Kombali, i Katerina tou Tsagari,|
vre tha ti valo mes sti plori ke tha tis kamo gio ke kori
|Kombali the bend arrived, Katerina of Tsagaris,|
well, I am going to put her in the bow and I am going to make her a girl and a boy
|Kombali and Tsagaris are probably captains.|
The meaning of the rest is quite obvious.
|Oh! dirlada dirladada,Oh! dirlada vre sis levendes|
vre tha sas kopso 'go violendes,
vre olonon 'po ena dyo vre ke tou Giorgou den tou dino.
|Oh! dirlada dirladada,Oh! dirlada you upstanding man|
I am going to cut violets for you, one or two for each one,
but I will not give none to George
But according to some sources there is a version that even predates the Pantelis Ginis-version !!!
This version is included in the CD of "Lykeion ton Hellnidon" with the following description.
4. PENDE KE TESSERA ENNIA (Dirladada) (Five and four make nine) (Vocal)
Satirical song sung by women at "glentia". The first woman sings the song proper, while the others clap hands in rythm and join in singing "da da dirladada" at the end of each verse.
There are other verses to the same tune sung by men (See Lyceum Club of Greek Women 107 CD B no.24).
It was subsequently recorded by Dionisis Savopoulos and became his best commercial hit.
(c) Dionysis Savvopoulos (1969)
Nikos Xilouris then followed along with many Greek and foreigner musicians.
In 1970 Boris Bergman, who had worked previously with Greek popgroup Aphrodite's Child, wrote French lyrics for this traditional song and it became a big hit in France in 1970.
(c) Les Dirlada (1970) (as "Darla Dirladada")
Take notion of the "OB LA DI OB LA DA" bassline beginning at 1 minute and 9 seconds
(c) Dalida (1970) (as "Darla Dirladada")
(c) Marva (1970) (as "Darla Dirladada") (Dutch lyrics Nelly Byl)
Listen to a sample here:
(c) Dunja Rajter (1971) (as "Salem Aleikum")
(c) Polis (1971)
Former singer of Les Helleniques.
In 1971 2 smart Germans (Michael Schepior and Dieter Dierks) wrote English lyrics for the tune and this version became a big hit in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.
(c) Juan Bastos (1971) (as "Loop Di Love")
(c) Shag (=Jonathan King) (1972) (as "Loop Di Love")
(c) In the French movie "Les Bronzés" (1978)
It was first sung as a parody in the French cult movie "Les Bronzés", directed by Patrice Leconte.
Performed by Josiane Balasko, Michel Blanc, Marie-Anne Chazel, Christian Clavier, Gérard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte and Bruno Moynot.
This parody was written by the Café-théâtre company "Le Splendid St Martin", with Patrice Leconte
It was sung at about 20 minutes and 35 seconds in that movie
And it was reprised at 1 hour 29 minutes and 30 seconds during the endcredits:
And here's the version from the soundtrack of "Les Bronzés".
(c) G.O. Culture (1993) (as "Darla Dirladada")
In 1993 G.O. Culture had a massive hit in France with a cover-version of the 1978 parody version of Dirlada from the French cult movie "Les Bronzés".
(c) Wendy Van Wanten (2014) (as "DarliDarlidada") (Dutch lyrics Petr Van Noort
Listen to a sample here: