Excerpts from an interview with Georgios Markakis, veteran radio presenter from Greece
“I don’t have an organization working on peace but peace is a colour I always include in my life. It is like an ingredient I use in my everyday cooking. Democracy and peace both mean a lot to me. I have collaborated with George Papendreou , a popular Greek politician for several years. Being beside a politician, I have had to respect his ideals and values. I have learnt to believe in his thinking without being judgmental about his beliefs. It is important to spend time together to work constructively. His way of work too is very accommodating. He gives importance to the opinion of each of his team members and takes a consensus to create synergy. He had an important role in reintroducing the Olympic Truce where member nations are requested to lay down their arms so that the games may be carried on peacefully. This brings people to discussion and the moment people start discussing a lot of the animosity ends. He infact managed to do the impossible getting the leaders of North and South Korea photographed together.
I have been on the radio for 40 years. I collaborated with Papendreou since the year 1996. I am into culture. I travel around the world looking for interesting sounds. I not only look for music but lyrics with a message. I am trying to build a platform where the youth can coexist. I am following WOMEX since 1999. More than 2500 people meet there to share local colours of their place. Being exposed to different cultures helps fight xenophobia.
One needs to have the mind to judge the press in this age of fake news. We must be able to question any views. Now the media is very flexible. Everyone has access to technology and the means to reach out to people instantly. Thus it is important to filter the news that is relevant.
Once when Papendreou was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the corresponding Turkish Minister was visiting Greece, there was an evening dinner organized for the officials from both the nations. I was to play the music. I played examples of Turkish and Greek songs which had the same tune. These were songs made in the period of 1930-50s. I play these songs on the radio till date. This was just the message that I wanted to give out to the politicians that although there maybe differences at the policy level, both groups of people share a similar culture and thus should coexist. I still play songs in Greek, Turkish and Jewish which are very similar in structure. These 3 major world religions meet at the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Thus musicians and artists should probably have their own parliament where they focus on commonalities rather than differences.
A young guy informed me of an app that would hear a language and translate it into another language almost instantly. They will call it Babylonia. Babylon actually faced a crisis and crumbled as they had people from so many different places and they could not communicate. After 4000 years, there is finally a solution to that problem thanks to technology.
I am not a preacher but one can easily understand what I am trying to promote from my radio shows. I once played a song that just kept saying, ‘Stop fascism’ and then another song that explained what fascism is.
The younger generation is not aware of the war crimes committed during World Wars. So the youth need to learn and empathise so that these occurrences do not happen in the future. I feel responsible in sending out the right facts. Even then I would say there is no absolute. You have to be open to changes in beliefs.
I have faced challenges too. It was the time of the apartheid in South Africa in 1982. I played a song about the atrocities committed against the coloured people. My producers had an issue with that stating that it might affect the diplomatic ties our country shares with South Africa. I still feel if he had done his research he would not have had an issue with it.
I have been instrumental in setting up a radio channel with the broadcasting wing of the European Union where the idea is to play music from across the globe.
My message to the youth is to be open to and absorb different cultures. See what it tastes like. Feel it. This way one will be able to shape a better opinion. There will also be a lot of things about cultures that seem attractive but may not work for you. You have to learn to keep reinventing yourself to avoid getting stagnant. Keep your mind open and pick what suits you best but at the same time having respect is most important. “