Theodorakis, the foremost Greek composer ("Zorba's Dance") and prominent politician, composed Canto General while in exile in Paris in 1972. At the time his music was banned in Greece. In September 1973, he learned of the coup while on his way to Santiago to present the work. In July 1974 the Colonels' dictatorship collapsed - but not before it had provided, with implicit American encouragement, the pretext for the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus. The first version of the Canto General was presented a year later, in 1975, in 4 concerts in Athens and Piraeus and were attended by 125.000 people. Here is how the prominent actor Manos Katrakis introduced it then to the Greek public:
The General Song, the Canto General, put to music by Mikis Theodakis, is not only the greatest work of Pablo Neruda; it is also one of the poetic masterpiecies of our times. The General Song is the song of South America, of its birth, of the birth of its rivers, its mountains, its birds, its people. It is the song of the struggle of its people for the conquest of freedom. And for this reason it is the General Song of all the people stuggling for a brighter future. Neruda and Alliente were planning to present it in the form you will hear it today in the great stadium of Santiago and to dedicate the concert to the liberation of Greece from the Junta. But as things turned out, today we are having this concert here, in liberated Greece, while our hearts and minds are turned to the distant land of Chile. Solists are Maria Farantouri and Petros Pandis, accompanied by the Paris Philharmonic Choir, the Percussions of Strasbourg, and the Mikis Theodorakis Folk Orchestra.
The original version consisted of the introduction and the 7 parts included in the videos page in the order they appear in the album. Later Theodorakis added 6 more parts, including the tribute of the composer to the poet, whe died shortly after the 1973 coup. These are presented in lyrics page, in the order they appear in the CD.