Dimitris Semsis

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Dimitris Semsis

Dimitris Semsis was born to Greek parents around 1883 in Stromnitsa. His family moved to Thessaloniki while he was still a child (which directly led to his nickname in later years - Salonikios). Dimitris began to learn violin when he was about 10, and became a virtuoso violinist.

At the turn of the century, he joined the band of a circus which travelled extensively over the Balkans. He later joined other touring orchestras and played in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Soudan and elsewhere. Around 1920, he went to Smyrna and met musicians and composers of the Smyrnaic school.

In September 1922, Dimitris was among the million Greeks expelled from Smyrna and arrived in Greece a refugee. In 1923 he married Dimitra Kanoula, and they had 4 children.

By the end of the 1920s, Dimitris was recording director at HMV and Columbia, a role of great influence that he retained throughout the 1930s - 1940s.

In the 1930s, Dimitris recorded extensively with Roza to great acclaim, and often accompanied her in tavernas along with Tomboulis, Lambros Savaidhis and Lambros Leonaridhis. His compositions were also recorded by the greatest artists of the day including Rita Ambatzi, Dalgas, Stellakis Perpiniadis, and Stratos Payoumtzis. He wrote Rembetic and Demotic songs, as well as Smyrnaika and Amanedes.

As is clear from recordings, Dimitris was, without doubt, the greatest violinist who recorded in the Rembetic/Smyrnaic style. He recorded many hundreds of sides, and we are fortunate that many of them have been re-released in recent years. When interviewed in 1972, Roza said that Dimitris played "the best violin in the World!".

After a short illness, Dimitris Semsis died of cancer in Athens on 13 January 1950. He has surviving descendants in Greece today.