1921 - 1997
Sotiria Bellou was the most significant Rebetissis of the "Classical" generation of Rebetiko artists . In fact she is the best known female vocalist from that entire period . With her characteristic " take care of business" no nonsense delivery , she was a vocalist very much in demand by all the major composers of the day . In some respects Sotiria Bellou represented the Rebetissis as outsider in more ways then one . First of all she was Lesbian . Secondly she had been a member of the communist party during the forties and third she was absolutely uncompromising and unwavering in her commitment to her art . She was an " I Derbetissa" of the first order with an interpretive style , that usually emphasized the darker as well as deeper elements of the human condition . There was nothing manufactured or contrived in this approach , it was all quite natural and very much in character for a Sotiria Bellou , whose first name interestingly enough translates to Salvation . Born to middle class parents , she did not have to suffer the indignities or deprivations of poverty while in her childhood . However her life was to become quite marginal during the War years when she was reduced to selling confectioneries on the Street and even working for a time as a maid . After the war she began performing in various tavernas and eventually came to the attention of one Vasilis Tstisanis . Tsitsanis immediately recognized her extraordinary talent and began composing songs for her . She made her first of many recordings around 1947 and became a Rebetiko stalwart thereafter . Her career had it 's up and downs following the on again off again popularity of the genre but she has always remained a perennial favorite among well seasoned Rebetiko fans . By the time she passed away recently in 1997, she had left a legacy , that will forever serve to define the standard for artistic professionalism in the art of " I Derbederissa" .