Eskenazi was born as Sarah Skynazy. He was the child of a poor Jewish Sephardic family in Constantinople. Throughout her career, she hid the actual date of her birth and claimed to be born in 1910. In fact, she was at least a decade older and most likely born between 1895 and 1897. Her father, Abraham Skinazi , he was a jerk. In addition to Rosa, Abraham Skinazi and his wife, Flora, had two sons, Nishim, the eldest, and Sami.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the Skinazi family moved to Thessaloniki, which was still under Ottoman rule. At that time the city was experiencing rapid economic growth, with its population increasing by 70% between 1870 and 1917. Abraham Skinazi found a job in a cotton processing plant while at the same time doing various occasional work to improve it. financial situation of his family. At that time, she trusted young Sarah in a neighborhood girl, who taught writing and reading to various girls. These lessons were Rosa's only formal education.

For a time, Sarah, her brother and their mother lived in Komotini, a city that at that time had a significant Turkish population. Rosa's mother found a job there as a maid in a wealthy family and Rosa helped her with the household. One day the Turkish owners of a local tavern heard Rosa sing. They were overwhelmed by her voice and immediately went to her home to ask her to appear in their center. Sarah's mother was outraged at the prospect of Sarah - or any other member of her family - becoming an artist. Many years after this episode, Rosa admitted that the time she had lived in Komotini was a turning point in her life. It was there, he said, that he decided to become a singer and dancer.

The first professional years

Sarah was only going to realize her dream after returning to Thessaloniki. At that time, her family lived in a rented apartment near the Grand Hotel Theater, and many of their neighbors appeared in the theater. Sarah used to help two of these dancers bring their work clothes to the theater every day, hoping that one day she would be on stage with them. It was there that she finally began her career as a dancer. While still in her teens, Sarah Skynazy fell in love with Yannis Zardinidis, a wealthy man who came from one of the Cappadocia's wealthiest families. Zardinidis' family, however, did not approve of this relationship, considering Sarah to be morally questionable. However, the two young men were stolen around 1913 and Sarah changed her name to Rosa, the name she became known during her career.

Zardinidis died of an unknown cause around 1917, leaving Rosa with a small child, Paraschos. Realizing that Rosa could not pursue her career and raise a child at the same time, she handed it to St. Taxiarchis in Xanthi. His father's family agreed to support him and Paraskhos Zardinidis later became a senior officer in the Hellenic Air Force. He reunited with his mother several years later after finding her in Athens in 1935.


Rosa had moved to Athens after Zardinidis' death to pursue a career in music. She soon became associated with two Armenian cabaret artists, Seramou and Zabella, who stood out for Rosa because she spoke Turkish and had a talent for singing. So, although Rosa continued to appear as a dancer, she also began singing for the center's patrons in Greek, Turkish and Armenian. It was there that Panagiotis Tountas first discovered it in the late 1920s. Tundas immediately recognized her talent and introduced it to Vasilis Toumbakaris of Columbia Records.

K. Lambros, R. Eskenazi, A. Tomboulis (Athens, c. 1930)

Rosa's first two recordings for Columbia, "Scarf Kalamatiano" and "Cut Eleni's Olive" (circa 1928), marked the beginning of a major breakthrough in discography, which would continue almost uninterrupted until the 1960s. By the mid-1930s, Rosa had recorded nearly 300 songs in the company, and had become one of the most popular pop music stars. Some of these songs were traditional, especially from Greece and Smyrna. However, her most important contribution to the local music scene was the recording of rebetika songs and, more specifically, the Smyrna school of rebetika song. It had a special place in the popularity of this music within the folk culture of the country and even today its special voice is identified with this genre of music.

Shortly after recording began, Rosa also began appearing at the Taygetos Center in Athens owned by the Serelea family. Accompanying her were composer Panagiotis Tountas, violinist Dimitris Semesis (or Salonikios), Agapios Tomboulis in the oud, Lambros Savvaidis in the canon, and Lambros Leontarides in one of his closest collaborators. However, Eskenazi was the big star of these appearances and made an unprecedented amount of 200 drachmas every night. Many years later, she confided to her biographer, Kostas Hatzidoulis, that she should have become richer than just her appearances, but had a weakness for expensive jewelry and spent much of her income on them.

D. Semsis, A. Tomboulis, R. Eskenazi (Athens, 1932)

As her career progressed, Rosa signed an exclusive contract with Columbia Records, circa 1931 or 1932. Under the terms of the contract, she had to stagger 40 songs a year and receive 5% on each disc sold. At the time, she was the only singer to have a percentage deal with a record company.

International career

Her career did not take long to spread beyond the Greek borders into the Greek diaspora. Tombouli traveled with him to Egypt, Albania and Serbia, where he was welcomed not only by the local Greek communities, but also by the Turkish. Her songs also contained some sharpness, and one of them, "Pinch When You Drink" was censored by the dictator John Metaxas himself. As a result of this decision, many other rebetiko artists were marginalized, while the new stream within the rebetiko, represented by Vassilis Tsitsanis, would gain ground after the war.

.World War II

Soon, however, Greece's independence itself would be hit hard. In 1940 Italy invaded Greece and in 1941 the German army occupied the country. Despite the oppressive regime of the Occupation, Rosa continued to appear, and in 1942 she even opened her own music center, the Crystal, with her son Paraschos, with whom they had reconnected. Although he was Jewish, he was able to obtain a fake birth certificate. However, what secured her protection was her relationship with a German officer.

But Rosa was not an ally of the Germans. Instead, she used her privileged position to support the Greek Resistance, hiding resistance fighters, even English envoys, in her home. He also managed to save several Jews in Athens and Thessaloniki. Among those saved by Rosa from their move to Auschwitz was her own family. But in 1943 its cover collapsed and they arrested her. She remained in prison for three months and was subsequently released after the concerted efforts of her German lover and her son. He hid for the rest of the war until the end of the war, fearing he might be captured again by the Germans.

The postwar years

During her long career, Rosa developed good relationships not only with Vasilis Toumbakaris, the director of Columbia Records, but also with Minos Matsas, who had founded Odeon / Parlophone in the meantime. This has allowed her to promote many other well-known artists, such as Marika Ninou and Stella Haskil. He put them in the music club, "Mutual Assistance", and after a while they started recording Vasilis Tsitsanis' songs.

In 1949, Rosa, who was singing in Patras at the time, went to the police station to obtain a new identity. The event that took place all her life came when she met Christos Filippakopoulos, a young police officer who was about 30 years younger. But despite the age difference between them, they fell in love. This relationship was to last, in various ways, until the end of Rose's life.

Although Rosa had toured the Balkans by then, she traveled to the US for the first time in 1952 to sing in the Greek and Turkish communities of the diaspora. The tour, sponsored by the Pantheon Greek Restaurant and Bar in New York City, lasted many months.

This was the first of a series of Rose tours abroad. In 1955, Albanian impresario Ayden Leskoviku of the Balkan Records Company invited her to appear and record in Constantinople, the city where she was born. Rosa eventually recorded about 40 songs and received about $ 5,000 for those recordings. Even though it was a relatively low fee, Rosa would later say that her pay for those appearances, along with the tips, was ten times higher than that.

Shortly after Istanbul, Rosa left for two more tours of America. Appeared in New York, Detroit and Chicago. On July 5, 1958, during her second trip to the United States, she married Frank Alexander. But that marriage was only by name. Rosa made it to work in the US. However, Eskenazi loved America and would have settled there had she not left behind her other great love, Christos Filippakopoulos. So he returned to Athens in 1959 to be near him. With the money he had made in America, he bought for them a large house in the Garden City, as well as two trucks and some horses. Together with Filippakopoulos they would live in this house until the end of Rosa's life.

Decline and rebound

Eskenazy was in her sixties and the music scene in Greece had changed significantly over the last 40 years, that is, from the time she started her career. Smyrna and Rebetiko had lost their popularity, and so, like other great celebrities of this type, Rosa occasionally appeared in provincial festivals and in smaller-scale art events. Although she did record some songs in the years that followed, they were mainly re-performances of her older known hits that she recorded with small record companies in Athens.

It was only in the late 1960s that an interest in her early work began to manifest itself. RCA released two 45,000 record albums containing four of her songs (including "Amane Sabbah") with violinist Dimitris Manisalis, but their release was limited. But all this was changed in the early 1970s during the last period of military rule in Greece. Suddenly the Greek youth became interested in urban folk songs of the past and many important collections were released. One of the most important was "Rebetika History", a collection of six rebetika records, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. After a long time out of the spotlight, Rosa, now in her seventies, became a star again.

What made the difference in the 1970s was the widespread use of television. Rosa quickly adapted to this new medium and appeared in a series of shows. In 1973 she appeared in a documentary, To Bouzouki (directed by Vasilis Marou) and in 1976 in a television show dedicated to Haroula Alexiou, which featured interviews and songs. All this time, however, Rosa has never forgotten her roots in music centers, so she appeared in some weekly performances at "The Foundation", a bouquet in Plaka.

As one of the few Rebetiko singers still alive, artists and musicologists of that time began to study the style of her music, which saw the "authenticity" of that kind of music. All of this had a significant impact on a new generation of performers, such as Haris Alexiou (with whom they had appeared together on television), Eleni Vitali and Glyceria later. Unfortunately, although musicians and academics were thrilled with her talent, as well as with her knowledge of a lost musical world, the general public did not show the same interest and regarded Roza more as something extraordinary. However, she continued to appear. Her last appearance was in Patras, in September 1977. Fans of all ages came to see her sing and dance, but also to get a taste of the music of the past.

The last years of Rosa

Rosa Eskenazi spent the last few years of her life in her home in the Garden City, along with Christos Filippakopoulos. Although born Jewish, he was baptized an Orthodox Christian in 1976 and was named Rosalia Eskenazi. For the next two years she began to show signs of Alzheimer's disease and often lost focus as she returned home. In the summer of 1980 she fell down and broke her hip. She stayed in the hospital for three months, with Christ standing next to her to take care of her. She returned home for a while, but then returned to a private clinic due to an infection. She left her last breath at this clinic on December 2, 1980.

She was buried in a makeshift grave in the village of Stomio, Corinth. In 2008 the village's cultural association raised money and added a tombstone, which read "Rosa Eskenazi, Artist" ...

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