Mintoff got Zorba the Greek composer to pen Malta’s Freedom Day hymn in 1979

Labour premier got Marxist rebel Mikis Theodorakis to write hymn commemorating Malta’s Freedom Day in 1979

Acclaimed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, who died at 96 last week, had a Maltese connection: that of being commissioned by Dom Mintoff to write a hymn commemorating Freedom Day in 1979.

Best known for composing the soundtrack of the film Zorba the Greek, based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel and starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas, Theodorakis was commissioned by the Labour prime minister to pen a hymn marking the day that saw the last of the British forces on Maltese soil.

An icon of the Greek anti-fascist resistance, Theodorakis had been arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.

He also opposed the military junta which took power in 1967, whose ordinances included a complete ban on the composer’s music.

Theodorakis went into hiding, but was soon arrested, and jailed in the infamous “re-education” camp on the small island of Makronissos near Athens. As a result of severe beatings and torture, Theodorakis suffered respiratory problems, which plagued his health for the rest of his life.

In prison he suffered tuberculosis, was thrown into a psychiatric hospital, and was even subjected to mock executions.

Following his release, he was commissioned by Dom Mintoff to compose the “Innu lil Malta” for the occasion of the closure of all British military bases on 31 March, 1979.

The manuscript on which the hymn was written was recently posted by the National Archives. included a note written in Greek stating:

“The composition was done at Vrachati on 27 August 1979 with the mediation of the mayor of Athens and in consultation with the government of Malta. I have chosen, on purpose and symbolically, the paper which I had in Averoff Prisons. The red signature of the Director of Prisons served as a permission that I could write music.”

With the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, Theodorakis returned to Greece a hero. He served as MP for the Greek Communist Party during the 1980s.

But as a reaction to the corruption scandals which rocked the socialist government of Andreas Papandreou, he ran as an independent candidate within the centre-right New Democracy party, later serving as a minister without portfolio in the government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis.

Later in life he spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and against the austerity imposed by the Troika.

His works also included an anthem for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and film scores for Serpico and Z, a film based on the assassination of Greek peace activist Grigoris Lambrakis which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1969.