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Amalia Bakas (born Mazaltov [Mally] Matsa, 1897, Ioannina (then part of Turkey); died 1979) was a Greek singer and performer in the United States during the 20th century. She was heavily involved in the 8th Avenue scene in New York City and in Greek communities around the United States. Her repertoire consisted of mostly traditional songs to which she added her own style and words. Unlike other singers of the time, her songs were mostly about love. She also wrote two songs, “Elenitsa Mou” after she was baptized and “Diamontoula Mou” for her daughter.[1]


Little is know about Bakas before her time in the United States. She was born in Janina, Turkey in a Romaniote Jewish community. The Romaniote community was male-dominated and births of females were not even recorded[1] which may account for lack of information of Amalia’s early life.

In 1912, when Bakas was 15 years old, she traveled to America on the Kaiser Franz Josef I ocean liner. She was detained at Ellis Island, lacking the necessary $50 fee until a phone call to a relative was made, who paid the fee for her. In 1913 she married Jack Saretta, also from Janina, Turkey and they lived on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side in New York, NY. She worked in a factory as a seamstress and the couple had two daughters, Diamond and Ester Cleonike.[1]

In the 1920s, Bakas began to perform in the café-amans and Turkish nightclubs in the early 1920s taking the stage name Amalia. Her first recordings were made with the M.G. Parsekian Record Company in Hoboken, New Jersey and consisted of 8 Turkish songs. Later in Chicago she recorded 6 Greek and Turkish songs with the Greek Record Company.[1] Bakas also recorded with Marika Papagika, another popular Greek singer of the time. Bakas was one of Papagika’s only known friends and Papagika would babysit her daughter Diamond.[2] Her daughter Diamond would often perform with her mother by either singing duets or by accompanying her on the doumbak. As the life of a performer was not one a woman of the Romaniote community should be leading, Bakas' husband divorced her and sent her other daughter Ester to live in Greece. In 1926 she converted to the Greek Orthodox Church to marry Gus Bakas. Amalia and Gus worked in the restaurant business with Bakas still performing at the café-amans on 8th Avenue in New York City.[1]

During the 1930s, Bakas did not record, but traveled the United States to perform with George Katsaros. They performed in New York City, the Catskill Mountain region, Finger Lakes region, Detroit, Chicago, Gary, Indiana and Philadelphia where large Greek communities resided.[1]

During the 1940s, Bakas and her daughter Diamond were living in Chicago, working at a restaurant called Pantheon where she also performed. In the early part of the decade, Bakas recorded for Ajdin Aselois labels in which she had part ownership. She performed with a variety of artists including Gus Gadines, John Pappas, John Dalas, Garbis Bakirgian, Theodore Kappas, Alexis Zervas, and Nicke Doneff. During World War II there was a revival of Greek songs from the 1910s and 1920s and Amalia’s recordings reflected this shift.

In the early 1960s Amalia retired from the performing life. She moved to New Port Richie, Florida to be close to her daughter in 1974. She died in 1979 and her obituary did not even mention her career as a singer.[1]


During her career, Bakas made many recordings:[3]

Kyria Amalia (Yaniotisa)
"Hetzaz Manes"
"Antam Aman"
"I Agia Sophia-Zeibekiko"
"O Giatros (Ah! Giatre Mou)" (The Doctor)
"Gamjendeyem-Sarki" [in Turkish]
M.B. Amillia Hanum
"Kala Kalaya Bakar" [in Turkish]
"Turnam Nerdan Galior" [in Turkish]
"Gulfishan-Neva Canto" [in Turkish]
"Yolda Bouldoum Bir Elna" [in Turkish]
"Chifte Telly Ghazel" [in Turkish]
Amalia Bakas
"Ali Pasha-Yaniotiko"
"Paramana Cuna Cuna" (Rock the Cradle)-Zeibekiko
"E Thalassa" (The Sea) {Yanio Tiko}
NY April 11, 1927
"Nea Vaslio" {Young Basilio}-Kalamatiano
"T’Asteri To Lambro" {Bright Star}-Kleftiko
"Berbantis" {The Bomb}-Zeibekiko
"Sabah Taxim"
NY August 10, 1927
"Mesa Sto Perivoli Sou" {In Your Garden}
"Esi Kimas Me Ti Mama Sou" {You Sleep With Your Mother}-Sirtos
"Mavromata" {Black Eyes}
"Den Mou Lete Ti Na Kamo" {Tell Me What I Must Do}-Sirtos
"Apo Ta Mikra Mou Hortaniase" {My Grace Overgrown With Grass}
NY October 26, 1927
"Elenitsa Mou" (Bakas)
"Ta Mtia Sou Ine Galana"
"Haido Sirtos"
"Pes Mou Ti Tha Katalavis" - Zeibekiko
NY February 8, 1928
"Eliosan Ta Kokola Mou"
"Horis Elpida Na Zo" - Rembetiko
"Thelo Na S’ Alismoniso" - Karsilamas
"Mavromatou Me Pligoses"
"O Pselos"
"I Vlaha I Emorfi"
NY February 13, 1929
"Agrilamas Ke Psarades"
NY 1929


^ a b c d e f g h Dorsett, Richard (22 March 2003). "Amalia Old Greek Songs in the New Land 1923-1950 (review)". Sing Out. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
^ Papagika, Marika (1988). The Further The Flame, The Worse It Burns Me: Greek Folk Music in New York City, 1919-28. Ian Nagoski.
^ Spottswood, Richard Keith (1990). Ethnic Music on Records: a Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942. Ethnic Music in America. 3. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252017216.


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