Vembo Sofia

Her real name was Sofia Bebou. She was born in Gallipoli, Eastern Thrace, on February 10, 1910, where her father, Athanasios G. Bebos (1864-1944), a native of Tsaritsani, had settled there, working as a tobacconist. In 1912 her family moved to Istanbul, where her brother George (1914-1969) was born, who was called George, her sister Alice (1913-1993) and her younger brother Andrea (1919-1989). In 1914, with the signing of the Greek-Turkish population exchange agreement concluded by the government of Eleftherios Venizelos, her family was forced to leave Constantinople and return to Tsaritsani and from there settled permanently in Volos.

In Volos, Efi Bebo, as she liked to be called, after her circular studies was forced due to poverty to work to help her family. So he started working as a cashier in the “Floria” store in Volos. At the same time she liked music and buying a guitar she started practicing on it with the help of her friend Maritsa Hasapi.
In September 1933 she decided to go to Thessaloniki to find her brother George who was studying where he had time to send a letter. So taking her guitar she boarded the A / P “KEFALONIA” where during her trip she started singing with her guitar. In a short time all the passengers of the ship and the crew were around her and applauded her enthusiastically at her voice. This was theoretically Sophia’s first public appearance.
Among the passengers was an artistic director who, listening to her, was so excited that in the end he approached her and was introduced to her, Konstantinos Tsimpas, was the greatest impresario of Thessaloniki (who later proved to be an agent of the Germans), who proposed to Bebo upon her arrival in Thessaloniki to work at the large cosmopolitan center ASTORIA. Arriving in Thessaloniki, Bebo, where her brother was waiting for her, discussed Tsimba’s proposal, so with his consent, Bebo started her first artistic appearances the next day, where the audience extended her program every night with their continuous applause.

Within a week, her fame has reached Athens, where she is immediately offered to appear at the theater of Fotis Samartzis. Bebo, informing her parents who did not object, accepted the proposal and on October 25, 1933 she is on the Athenian stage of the “Kentrikon” theater, of Fotis Samartzis, in Kolokotronis square, participating in the inspection “Papagalos 33”, with Samartzi – Miliadis troupe.
In this review, Bebo was presented as a gypsy with a guitar with which she performed her first song which was “A woman passed”. The success she had was amazing, when in the end she bowed and passed her guitar on her shoulder and headed backstage, the other actors shouted at her
– Where are you going, you do not hear the people calling you “biz”
– And what do I care if they shout biz? Bebo replied, not knowing the term which meant repetition.
Bebo had to repeat this song four times during the premiere in order to satisfy the audience that went crazy and applauded standing up. At the end of the show, all the actors congratulated her, saying “well done you were wonderful”, including Orestis Makris, Marika Nezer, Fotis Argyropoulos and others.
Then he signed a contract of 10,000 drachmas a month, astronomical for that time for a singer and for a theatrical period. It is even noted that in this show Paul Knorr christened her artistically Sofia Wembo (instead of Efi Bebo). From that first performance, the artistic development of Sofia Wembo has been leaps and bounds.

This first great recognition of Sofia Vembo to the Athenian public caused the renewal of her contract and her appearance in two theaters, in the “Central” and the “World Cup”. However, her fame reached Egypt, where Wembo, responding to a relevant invitation, appeared at the “Grand Trianon” in Alexandria, marking a huge success there as well. Returning, in 1934 she continues her performances at the summer theater of Samartzis on Karolou Street with new songs written for her and which immediately become hits such as “My black eyes”, “Do not ask for kisses”, while with her appears Alice’s sister.
The first recording of Wembo songs was made in the company Parlofon, after the initial refusal of A. Vitalis, head of the Columbia company, on the grounds that Wembo’s voice departed from the then established style of the soprano leger. However, when he realized how wrong he was with the great success of “Do not ask for kisses”, he immediately rushed to Wembo and signed a long-term contract. Thus, all the following songs were recorded by Columbia on 78 rpm records with the first being “I love you” (by K. Nikolaidis and K. Giannidis), which was also a huge success. The same year (1934) followed the song “For your kiss the sternum”.

In 1935 Wembo sings “Let me die” whose lyrics were hers, which was another great success. At that time, almost all the lyricists were recruited to write songs for her, starting with Costas Giannidis and composer Sougioul. So this year follow the songs “Let me drink”, (lyrics and music by K. Giannidis), “Here’s why I still love you”, (also lyrics and music by K. Giannidis), “You have nothing, but you have something “(By N. Nikolaidis and N. D’Angeli), and” And if you love me do not tell me “.
In 1936 new successes of Vembo sung all over Athens are “I apologize to you, ask me to forgive me” and “Something pulls me close to you” (by Aim. Savvidis, Gaitanou and M. Sougioul).
1937 is a milestone in Wembo’s career. In addition to recording her new songs “For a Woman” and “Goodbye” in the fall, she travels by invitation, for the second time to Egypt, in order to reappear at the “Grand Trianon” in Alexandria. During her performances there, Wembo accepts the proposal of the film producer Togo Mizrahi, with whom she signs a contract and participates in the film “Refugee Girl”. At the exact same time of the contract, N. Papadopoulos, of the Santigo cinema offices, received an immediate order from America for an urgent realization in Athens of a cinematic “shorts” in which the popular [3] billionaire Sofia Vembo must sing in order to be included in the new season. of American cinemas in areas where Greeks live. Wembo, faithful to her contracts, told Papadopoulos that she was committed to her contract, so she would have to ask Mizrahi for permission.
1938 was marked as the golden year of Sophia Wembo. On her return from Egypt on February 15, 1938, she remained in Piraeus for two days in order to meet by chance Mizrahi’s financier, Beha, who was on a ship bound for Italy and was approaching Piraeus. Eventually the meeting took place, in the presence of Papadopoulos, the permission was given but the shooting of the shorts with shots from the national garden, and from the hill of Nymphs overlooking the Acropolis began after the return of Wembo from Istanbul where by invitation he appeared at the secular theater Maxim with huge success there too.

At the same time, the record successes of S. Wembo this year are amazing [citation needed]. Columbia Company in its new contract transfers 10% of the profits from the sale of each of its records, which happens for the first time, while all the others were paid a lump sum (per diem) for each discography. In the Summer of 1938 at the Samartzi Theater, which has staged the review “Siroueta”, Wembo sang “Some Secret” and “Cry” with lyrics by Kofiniotis and music by Leo Rapitis, followed by “Zehra”, with lyrics by Aim. Savvidi and music by Suyul, which was a great success. This was followed by “I will wait for you”, the bucolic “Diamantoula” by Th. Sakellaridis and “Let the old world say” by A. Sakelariou and M. Sougioul. In the summer of the same year, a radio antenna was installed in Zappeion, Athens, where Wembo’s songs were the first experimental broadcast. On Christmas Eve 1938, Sofia Vembo sings at the big New Year’s Eve party “Sandeklair” in Cyprus. He also collaborated with the great Cypriot musicians Michalakis and Antonakis Giasemidis.

In 1939, Sofia Vembo has already established herself as the first singer of Greek light song. The movie “shorts” that was shot last year with the title “Greece of 1938 speaks”, where it was literally a magazine and which participated with two songs [4], literally breaks the box office of American cinemas while copies are requested in Latin America. It is noted that the recording of this film was edited by the Greek company M. NOVAK Co.
In the meantime, her theatrical presentations with new discographic successes continue, initially at the Samartzi Theater with the songs “How much I regret” (by V. Spyropoulos and K. Giannidis) and “Tell me the truth”, while in the summer, continuing at the World Theater, she sings the two tangos “Stin akrogialia” and “Heimonas”, both of which became hits. On the eve of Christmas 1939, Wembo is at her peak, when in the review “Nani – nani” she sings the homonymous song whose refrain she left implied by the coloring of her voice, achieving great success. Shortly before the end of the year, Wembo had met the great jazz composer, Apostolos Moschoutis, whose composition was the song “Two flowers at one end”.
In 1940 dawned with the clouds of war, many countries have already been occupied by the Axis powers. In Greece, the first violations of the national airspace by Italian planes are recorded. In January, the review “Pausate pyr” has been staged at the World Theater, where S. Vembo sings her new hit “The new moon” (by A. Sakelariou and G. Kyparissi). During that inspection, S. Vembo also met Georgia Vassiliadou, where she promised to help her, seeing her talent. A little later, the song “Psaropoula” (by Ch. Giannakopoulos and Ch. Hairopoulos), becomes the new great success. In the summer, the review “Evening Madness” goes up in which Wembo sings the wonderful waltz “In the morning you wake up with kisses” (by Ch. Giannakopoulos and G. Kyparissi). In the meantime, S. Vembo was looking for a song with a local idiom of the Greek countryside, at her request some people rushed to various primary schools of the time, but she finally chose one of her area where her mother is said to have sung before, completing some lyrics herself. with the help of Moschoutis. It was the song “St ‘Laris’ vgain’ o avgerinos”. When Wembo completed it with great enthusiasm, perhaps out of a load of memories, she gave it to K. Giannidis, a little to play it in rehearsal, he, reading it, strongly denied it, telling her:

-Are you okay my Sophia that I will play this idiot? I quit!

However, after the insistence of Sofia and the theatrical businessman A. Makedos, K. Giannidis finally started playing it with a cold heart. In the first show that followed, it was ruined. Theatrical audiences four times (biz) forced Sofia Vembo to return to the stage. When after that show the businessman asked K. Giannidis his opinion, he answered:

– “But you did not see? She sang it to us with a sketch that was not enough for the stage, she sang it to us leaning on the piano, she sang it to us leaning on the stage, she sang it to us with her back to the audience, only on her back she did not sing it to us!

It is noted that the same thing happened later with the song “Anakasia”.
On October 28, 1940, at 10:00 am, when the radio program of Zappeion would continue with the rebroadcast of songs by S. Vembo, the announcer Costas Stavropoulos interrupted the flow of the program and made that historic announcement of the attack of the Italian forces against Greece and the defense. of mothers. The Greek-Italian war had begun.

The explosion in her career came with the declaration of war on October 28, 1940. Then, all the inspections adapted their theme to the war news and the songs are rewritten with patriotic lyrics. Wembo sings satirical and war songs and becomes the national voice that inspires the Greek soldiers at the front and shocks the whole of Greece. At the same time, in a symbolic act, he offered the Greek Navy 2,000 gold pounds. Upon the arrival of the Nazi troops in Athens, she fled disguised as a nun in the Middle East, where she continues to sing about the Greek and allied troops there.

Sofia Vembo with Evangelos Kalantzis at an event of the Royal Gendarmerie.

In 1949 it acquired its own theatrical home in Metaxourgeio, the “Vembo Theater”. After a long relationship with Mimi Treiforo, they finally got married in 1957, a multi-faceted relationship that lasted until her death and was a catalyst for the great singer. In the mid-1960s she diluted her theatrical appearances, which she stopped at the beginning of the next decade. On the night of the Polytechnic, Wembo opens her house and hides students whom she refuses to hand over when security knocks on her door. Her appearance at the event held in Kallimarmaro for the return of the Republic, singing: / Children of Greece children and tanks knelt that night …, came to soften the sad impressions from her presence on the tasteless chariots at the fiestas of a few years ago in the same place [6] She died of a stroke on March 11, 1978 and her funeral turned into a pandemic rally. The Singer of Victory is adored that day by the Greek people who considered her his heroine.

The memorial of S. Vembo in the 1st Cemetery – Athens

My love, the time is coming
My man
I remember you tonight
Winter has begun again
Let it be for a while for a few minutes
Let the old world say
Let me drink
Oh, if the old days were coming back
Duchess puts on his uniform
Violinist gypsy
This is not life, it is not
You have nothing but you have something
I do not cry anymore
I do not know what your heart is hiding
I would sit next to you
I wish it could be done
New life now
Have a nice trip
Take courage my Greece
Some secret
Someone Somewhere Sometime
Something pulls me close to you
And if you love me, do not tell me
Are you crying
Mussolini sucker
London, Paris, New York
I like
Maro, Maro
Do not leave again
Single scales
That’s why I still love you
Here is Athens
Let the clouds take me
Do not leave again
John and Pagona
The month has thirteen
Omonia Plus
Wherever you go you will remember
When the swallows turn
Always together
Children, children of Greece
Homeland (Better an hour of free life)
I’m so sorry
I will never tell you
Appointment in Athens
I love you because you are the only one
I love you and I love life
Turn off the light and full of peace
Souvenir d’Athens
Spanish song
On the beach
The Italian goes to war
I apologize to you, forgive me
Cigarette case
The new moon
In the morning you wake me up with kisses
The song of freedom
The song of Moria
The moon is red
What I dreamed of turned out to be false
Movie theater

Sofia Vembo has participated in the Greek films “The Refugee Girl” (1938) in the role of Sofia Nakou, “Stella” (1955) in the role of Maria and in the 1959 film “Stournara 288” in a double role, of the old piano teacher Mrs. Eugenia (once famous Jenny Blanche) and Sophia Wembo. The scene in which the two women meet and sing together remains typical.


“Encyclopedia Papyrus Larus Britannica” vol. 14th, p. 17.
ERT: “Sofia Vembo 100 years since her birth” Special radio tribute – October 2010.
“The Backstage” (weekly magazine of art criticism – 16-7-1938) issue 98.
Giannis Soldatos: “History of Greek cinema” vol. 4th – Athens.
The news of her death, Macedonia, March 12, 1978.
Lambros Liavas, The Greek song: from 1821 to the 1950s, published by Emporiki Bank of Greece, Athens 2009, pp. 178-187
Takis Kalogeropoulos, “Vembo Sofia”, in the Dictionary of Greek Music, vol. 1, published by Gialleli, Athens, 1998, p.354