Greece has been a cultural tour de force for a millennia, giving the rest of the world political and philosophical contributions, a unique Mediterranean cuisine, architecture, dance, and music.
Greek music is a true fusion of eastern and western music, combining rich harmonies from Western Europe with interesting rhythms and instrumentation from the east.
This is reflected in Greek vocal music, which has made its way into classical and pop music alike. Read on to learn about 10 of the greatest and most famous female Greek singers.
1. Vicky Leandros
Born on the island of Corfu, singer Vicky Leandros is now residing in Germany. Being the daughter of well-known musician Leandros Papathanasiou led her to sing at an early age.
In 1967, she rose to fame after participating in the Eurovision Song Contest. Despite coming in fourth with the song “L’amour est bleu,” the piece became popular worldwide. She returned to the contest in 1972, this time winning with the song “Après Toi.”
Leandros’s powerful singing voice led to numerous TV opportunities across Europe. Ever interested in reaching a wider audience, the Greek songstress spent time in the United States during the 1970s, recording in Nashville and Miami.
She has received several international awards, including a Record Award from the USA and a Goldene Europa. Leandros has released a total of 71 studio albums, with the latest dropped back in 2015.
2. Maria Callas
Soprano opera singer Maria Callas was born in New York to Greek parents. Through extensive conservatory training, Callas developed a virtuosic singing voice, leading many to refer to her as “the God-given.”
Callas went on to make her operatic debut in 1942 to rave reviews. She eventually gained a glowing reputation in Europe with roles such as Elvira in I puritani and in many other productions.
In 1951, she wowed audiences in La Scala with her part in Verdi’s I vespri siciliani, and soon, she was starring in international opera houses, from Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Sadly, during the latter part of her career, Callas became reclusive and passed away in her 50s in Paris. Despite this, she’s hailed as the Bible of Opera.
3. Haris Alexiou
Hailing from Thebes, Haris Alexiou has been active on the music scene since the 1970s. She is heralded as one of the most commercially successful Greek female singers, having over 1.5 million record sales.
During the 1980s, she released a number of popular songs, including “Ximeroni” (The Day Breaks) and “Fevgo” (I’m Leaving). With fans in Turkey, many of her songs are also in Turkish.
In 2004, the talented singer performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Bringing a twist to traditional songs and sharing them worldwide, Alexiou is regarded as a Greek cultural ambassador, and her fame still flourishes to this day.
4. Nana Mouskouri
Born on the Greek island of Crete, singer Nana Mouskouri is well-known for her song “The White Rose of Athens.” Recorded first in German then translated to Greece, the song became her first to sell more than a million copies.
Being multilingual, Mouskouri has songs in twelve languages. This has made her a hit not only in Europe but also on international shores, especially with “Je chante avec toi Liberté,” which has been translated into five languages.
Music aside, Mouskouri is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and though she retired in 2008, she returned to the stage for a final tour at age 80.
5. Agnes Baltsa
A talented pianist who went on to pursue vocal studies in her teens, Agnes Baltsa would go on to become one of the most renowned opera singers from Greece.
Her debut was in 1968 as Cherubino in the play The Marriage of Figaro, but she received massive critical acclaim two years later for her performance as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier at the Vienna State Opera.
Baltsa’s renditions of classical works are diverse in the repertoire, having sung works by Mozart, Rossini, and Mascagni, among others; and rose to international stature through featured solos with orchestras worldwide.
6. Sotiria Bellou
Rebetiko is an umbrella term for various types of popular urban Greek music, and Sotiria Bellou is the most famous singer of this style.
Born on the isle of Euboia, Bellou moved to Athens at the very beginning of World War II and lost touch with her family. By the time they found her, seven years later, she was singing in a rebetiko club.
This led to her being discovered by rebetiko composer legend Vassilis Tsitsanis, who helped her rise to fame. From 1941 to 1976, Bellou worked in the best music clubs and collaborated with other rebetiko singers to create a number of great hits, “like Synefiasmeni Kyriakh” (Cloudy Sunday).
Even as rebetiko music declined in popularity, Bellou was paramount to promoting the style and helping its revival in the 1980s, cementing her place in Greek music history.
Sting, Madonna, and Prince—are all musical artists who used one name on stage. Who was Greece’s most prominent artist to do this? Marinella!
Hailing from the northern city of Thessaloniki, Marinella was a local child star but took a hiatus in her teens to return to school, but soon joined a singing troupe.
After the release of her song “Nitsa, Elenitsa” (Little Helen) in 1957, she collaborated with Stelios Kazantzidis. This skyrocketed her to fame, as the duo became the greatest duet Greece has ever had, even to this day.
Known as the Great Lady of Song, Marinella has performed Greek music fused with folk, jazz, and pop, changing the atmosphere of dance clubs in Greece.
8. Helena Paparizou
Born to Greek parents in Sweden, Helena Paparizou was inspired to sing by her grandmother. Despite thinking of traditional Greek music as old-fashioned, she often blended her pop-rock style with laiko, a Greek urban folk song.
Like Leandros on this list, Paparizou rose to fame after becoming Greece’s representative in Eurovision in 2005. She won the season with the song “My Number One.”
Since the start of her solo career, Paparizou has released 10 studio albums, and all but one topped the Greece charts. Over 15 of her singles have also gained #1 status, landing the singer several accolades and awards, including a whopping 30 MAD Video Music Awards!
9. Melina Kana
Born in Thessaloniki, Melina Kana started singing as a student. After meeting composer Stavros Kougioumtzis, they both collaborated in creating songs. She also appeared in concerts with other Greek music artists of the time.
Soon, Kana began releasing studio albums—the first, Mistika Tragoudia, in 1991. She also formed artistic relationships with numerous composers and singers throughout her career. Her music—a blend of folk and Balkan music with contemporary—has gained a wide following.
A national icon in Greece, Kana has toured extensively in Europe and performed in the United States during the 1990s. Kana is still active to this day and regularly updates her social media presence.
10. Eleni Vitali
Born in 1954 in Athens to a musical family, Eleni Vitali has gone on to be a cherished Greek singer throughout the Mediterranean region. Her family is of Roma descent and traveled the country while Vitali was young, playing music as they went.
Vitali’s Roma heritage is present in her music, alongside traditional urban Greek influences. She’s known to participate in the Festival with Manolios as well as for her song “My Carnation” (Άι γαρούφαλό μου).
Aside from singing, Vitali is active in the business side of the music industry, alongside her husband, the musician Vangelis Xidi.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Female Singers From Greece
Now you know some of the most influential and recognized Greek singers of all time. These vocalists cover it all, from modern pop sounds with a twist to classical and opera to urban Greek music.
The eastern and western European fusions that make this unique Mediterranean country the place it is today are all present in the diverse music of its singers. From Balkan rhythms to harmony from the west, you’ll find its influences endure. Happy listening!