By Kathy Karageorgiou.
Many second-generation Greek Australians live in Greece. Some came as children, accompanying their Greek parents to Greece in the 70s and 80s. Others came on holiday in their late teens, falling in love with a local Greek, getting married and having children. These children are 3rd generation Greek Australians in Greece (mostly Greek Australian mothers).
Many of these 3rd generation Greek Australians born in Greece have not visited Australia. I wondered if they could in fact be called Greek Australians – and therefore 3rd generation? I spoke to one of these people – Nikos Christogiannopoulos, 24-year-old sound engineer and musician, about this, and more.
Nikos soon got me back on track. Asking him what he knows about Australia, Nikos replies “a lot”. I am taken aback. He tells me: “my mother is Greek-Australian, as is my yiayia – and my pappou who died a few years ago. Including my sister Petroula, we grew up in the same household in Greece.
He then recounts that his Australian cousins of the same age are visiting Greece and he keeps in touch with them online. In addition, his great-uncle visits him every year. Nikos laughs as he refers to his uncle’s story of the Australian police’s incredible “talent” at arresting traffic offenders.
“There are cameras everywhere, and a fine arrives in the post the next day with the proof! And I know that Australia is an organized country, where revenues from traffic fines – and taxes – are put to good use in the social welfare system, in health, education, etc. “, he told me.
Nikos’ charming, youthful smile is on display as he tells me, “One important thing” he knows about Australia… “Fish ‘n’ chips! Smiling, I confidently say, “Aah! You mean bakaliaro. “Oh no” he corrects me, “with a good fish and chips pastry that my grandmother learned to make in Australia.” I’m even more humbled when he tells me, “We’ve been eating real fish ‘n’ chips once a week since I was a kid.
I ask Nikos if he feels slightly different from other Greeks in his age group, due to his exposure to “Australia”. He surprises me again by replying “of course”, explaining that growing up with a Greek Australian mother gave him a more cosmopolitan outlook on life.
“And even my Greek dad who was in the national handball team was invited to Australia. But it was mum’s attitude, her vibe that was Australian I guess – she dressed differently to the Greeks, less concerned about fashion. She was freer, more open-minded and, like my father, she loved music. There was always music in our house, which definitely influenced me to become a musician,” he said. -he declares.
Nikos adopts a distant look in his eyes, telling me how familiar he feels with the house his mother grew up in in Australia. “My mother and grandmother have described it to me in detail over the years: the hallway, where the rooms were and the curving road you had to go around to get out of the street.”
Then, searching for words to express his deep admiration – “I can’t forget the special room – the room with the sun,” he said. “The veranda,” I blurted out enthusiastically, Nikos nodding and laughing.
Nikos took part a few years ago in a multicultural music festival – “The Yellow Days”, gathering international musicians.
There he met Australians of non-Greek descent, saying: ‘I bonded automatically and my English improved quickly. I started to see things in a bigger context, which helped me develop my creativity.
He continues: “I also see this broad perspective in Greek Australians. I watch videos online and they do Greek music for example, but it’s in a uniquely Greek-Australian way. I like that and it helped me to be more experimental with my music too.
Nikos plays bass guitar in an alternative rock band ‘Tsopana Rave’, which formed in 1993. Three of the oldest original members are still in the band, and there is a woman on keyboards, as well as three younger ones including Nikos, while his sister Petroula (also a 3rd generation Greek Australian), is a frequent guest singer.
He explains that his band’s sound is multi-dimensional, due to its diverse mix of generational and musical influences, “like that of the different Greek-Australian vibe that emanates from their music”.
Nikos learned classical guitar at a very young age at the music conservatory, then at age 12 became interested in baroque music through a teacher. With his deeper, darker sound, Nikos later expressed this appreciation by choosing the bass guitar.
A local sound and recording studio, “The Live Studio”, encouraged him. Nikos also performed with Pyx Lax in their 2018 album and studied sound engineering, hence his degree in music technology. Nikos is so invested and talented in his work that he is also in demand as a sound engineer by popular Greek musicians such as Kostantis Pistiolis, Manos Pirovolakis, Ifigeneia Ioannou and Eivala.
Although grateful and fond of his profession in Greece, Nikos tells me: “I would still have been a musician if I had grown up in Australia, but I would probably have had more opportunities, including a wider audience. He says he would like to visit Australia, including touring there with ‘Tsopana Rave’ because “I love the sense of community that Greek Australians have, and through our music we want to show that we
I really appreciate that and care about it.