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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Η Μικρή Του Καμηλιέρη
(I Mikri Tou Kamilieri)

(The Little Camel Driver)

 

 

This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the Greek song "I Mikri Tou Kamilieri" (Η Μικρή Του Καμηλιέρη), which was sung by Marika Ninou and Thanasis Evgenikos. Also included is a pronunciation guide for the Greek lyrics so you can sing along if you like.

The lyrics of this song praise a young woman in Algeria. Greeks have always been in present-day Arabic-speaking lands for thousands of years. During the late 1940's, after World War 2, many of the younger generation left Greece to seek work in there as well.

For more information about the laiko and rebetiko styles of music, see Introduction to Laiko / Rebetiko Music elsewhere on this web site.

Song lyrics are provided for educational purposes. If you like the song, please purchase either the album or a download from an authorized source.

About Marika Ninou

Marika Ninou was one of the duet who debuted this song.

She was an Armenian-Greek rebetiko singer. She began her musical training as a child in school, learning to play the mandolin and becoming a chanter at the Armenian church. After she married Nikos Nikolaides in 1944, the couple became known as the Duo Nino. As others in the music industry heard her sing, she was offered additional opportunities to advance her career. By 1949, Ninou was working with Vasilis Tsitsanis at Fat Jimmy's, a club that provided continued opportunities for both. Tragically, Ninou became ill with cancer. Although she was still recording new music as of 1955, her health was already declining, and she died in 1957 at the young age of 39.

Song: I Mikri Tou Kamilieri (The Little Camel Driver), 1949

Lyrics: Apostolos Hadzihristos

Music: Apostolos Hadzihristos

Original Artists: Marika Ninou and Thanasis Evgenikos

Bouzouki by Stavros Tzouanakos

Dance Style: Zeibekiko Aptaliko

Album: 78 Strofes

Τραγούδι: Η Μικρή Του Καμηλιέρη, 1949

Στίχοι: Απόστολος Χατζηχρήστος

Μουσική: Απόστολος Χατζηχρήστος

Πρώτη Εκτέλεση: Μαρίκα Νίνου κ Θανάσης Ευγενικός

Μπουζούκι Σταύρος Τζουανάκος

Χορός: Ζεϊμπέκικο Απτάλικο

Άλμπουμ: 78 Στροφές

 

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Lyrics

Numbers in parentheses refer to footnotes that appear at the bottom of the translation.

Greek Lyrics

Pronunciation

English Translation

Η μικρή του καμηλιέρη ee mikri tou kamilieri The young girl of the camel driver,
Aραπίνα από τ' Αλγέρι Arapina apo t' Alyeri Arabian girl (1) from Algeria,
όποιος να τη δει opios na ti dee whoever sees her
την θέλει, για λελέλι tin theli, ya leleli wants her, ya leleli! (2)
όποιος να τη δει opios na ti dee whoever sees her
την θέλει, για λελέλι tin theli, ya leleli wants her, ya leleli! (2)
     
Τραγουδούν οι Aραπάδες tragoudoun ee Arapades The Arabian [men] are singing
και χορεύει στους οντάδες ke horevi stous odathes and she dances in the chambers. (3)
το κορμί λυγάει σαν χέλι για λελέλι to kormi ligai san heli, ya leleli She moves her body like an eel (4), ya leleli. (2)
το κορμί λυγάει σαν χέλι για λελέλι to kormi ligai san heli, ya leleli She moves her body like an eel (4), ya leleli. (2)
     
Στο χορό κρατάει το ντέφι sto horo kratai to defi While dancing, she holds a tambourine,
και παντού σκορπάει κέφι ke pandou skorpai to defi and everywhere she spreads happiness.
η ματιά της στάζει μέλι, για λελέλι ee matia tis stazi meli, ya leleli Her glance drips of honey, ya leleli! (2)
η ματιά της στάζει μέλι, για λελέλι ee matia tis stazi meli, ya leleli Her glance drips of honey, ya leleli! (2)
     
Φορτωμένη με στολίδια fortomeni me stolidia Loaded with jewelry,
Σκουλαρίκια, δαχτυλίδια skoularikia, dahtilidia earrings and rings.
η καρδούλα μου την θέλει, για λελέλι ee kardoula mou tin theli, ya leleli My heart wants her, ya leleli! (2)
η καρδούλα μου την θέλει, για λελέλι ee kardoula mou tin theli, ya leleli My heart wants her, ya leleli! (2)
     
η καρδούλα μου την θέλει, για λελέλι ee kardoula mou tin theli, ya leleli My heart wants her, ya leleli! (2)
η καρδούλα μου την θέλει, για λελέλι ee kardoula mou tin theli, ya leleli My heart wants her, ya leleli! (2)
  1. Many of the old songs use the word "Arapia" or "Arapina" and its variants liberally. The lyrics generally use it to refer to Arabic-speaking or Indian women. Unfortunately, in the modern Greek language, the term "Arapis" has become an offensive racial slur for people with dark skin. Although this newer definition now exists, it did not mean this when the lyrics were written. When newer generations listen to these older songs today, they realize the lyrics are referring to an innocent use of the word, and can enjoy the music in the way it was intended.
  2. The words "ya leleli" are not Greek. They are Arabic. The word "ya" means "O", such as "Ya Habibi" in Arabic would mean "Oh my darling". In Arabic, "leleli" is derived from the word "leil" for "night", but Arabic-speaking singers often improvise using the syllables "leleli" in the same way an English-language song might use nonsense syllables such as "tra la la".
  3. The word "odathes" probably comes from a Turkish word for a certain type of room. This is a summer room with an aestheic look reminiscent of 1,001 Nights.
  4. In Greek, if someone says a dancing woman resembles an eel (which is a type of fish), that is a very favorable compliment. It suggests that she can move her body sinuously, like the way an eel undulates its way through water. Other Greek words that can be used in the same way are the words for "snake" and "mermaid".

 

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Translations of
Marika Ninou's Songs On This Site

Other translations of songs composed by Marika Ninou on this web site include:

 

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About the Translator

This page was contributed by Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, who is happy to share her culture and music she grew up with! Here's how Panayiota describes her background:

I always love engaging with intelligent like-minded people, especially artists. I love sharing anything and everything about my Hellenic culture and upbringing, especially music and dance. A conversation with me will bring you back to America's favorite Greek-American movie by Nia Vardalos called My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I love investigating Greek culture, history, music, and dance. Speaking of investigating, I think I missed my calling, I probably should have been an investigator. Instead, I use those skills to dig and dig and dig tirelessly, often times falling asleep on my laptop... just to find the truth. But, most importantly, accurate truth. For me personally, and other respectable folklorists, my culture and accuracy are very important. Each generation of ethnic born artists has a duty to do the best it can to pass down our traditions as was taught to us. We have been given this artistic gift to be the gatekeepers of our heritage and culture.

Panayiota

 

 

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