Markos Vamvakaris is considered to be the founder of rebetiko and folk song. He was born in Ano Syros, in the district of Skali, on May 10, 1905. The involvement with music characterized his poor family: His father played the bagpipe and his grandfather wrote lyrics. Initially he apprenticed at the spinning mill of his uncle, while at the same time he helped his father who used to make panniers and studied in the Catholic school. At the age of 13 he left as a stowaway for Piraeus, lived in the “margin”, became a habitué of the hash smoking dens (“tekedes”) and dedicated himself to the bouzouki which he was taught by Nikos Aivaliotis along with the musical idioms of the Asia Minor refugees. In 1925 he joined the army and when he was discharged he started writing his first songs. He used to play in taverns and has smoking densed and in 1934-1935 he made his own band and performed in a live music stage of Piraeus. Up to 1933 he had written fifty songs. He dedicated renowned “Fragosyriani” to his birthplace circa 1937 and he was inspired upon returning from his first journey to Syros.
The period just before World War II was very creative for Markos: He released quite a few records and then he became famous. After the war he continued releasing records that had significant sales. In 1960, with the initiative of Vasilis Tsitsanis, old and new songs of his were released by Columbia Records which were he himself sand along with Grigoris Bithikotsis, Katie Gray and Stratos Dionysiou. After the huge success of this record, Markos worked in rebetiko music stages and gave concerts. In 1966 he played in boîtes in Plaka and afterwards he performed a lot in Athens and in other Greek cities. He died in 1972 in Nikaia, but he left his mark on the modern Greek cultural field.
The Museum of Markos Vamvakaris is housed in a house of Ano Syros which was renovated in 1995. Personal items, clothes, photos, books, old gramophones etc. are exhibited there.