“That’s the sound of justice!” sang a group of American tourists as they marched down Syntagma Square. I looked up from my notebook to find a crowd of people protesting while carrying a sign that read, “TOURISTS AGAINST TRUMP.” Curious as to what that might be about, I took out my phone and recorded a short video segment of them singing and protesting. I recorded only a few seconds of their song. Minutes later, their group vanished into the depths of the city.
At night, I played back the video of them singing one of their songs. Initially, I did not fully understand what their group was fighting for. I had only seen them in passing very briefly. All I knew then was that the voices I had heard singing had incredible vocal talent. I tried to find their songs online but I had no success. I wondered if their music was original or if it might be a remake of some song whose name I did not know. Despite scouring the internet that night and trying to Shazam my video, I could not find a single thing about the song online.
The next day, I was having noodles near Monastiraki Square when once again, I heard the same group of people marching and singing along the streets of Athens. There they were again!
I joined the massive crowd of people gathering to watch and listen to them. When they finished their last song, I quickly went up to one of the singers (unknowingly photobombing one of the pictures they were taking) and I quickly asked, “You guys are so talented! Sorry but I have a quick question. Are your songs available online? I tried to find them yesterday after seeing you by Syntagma but I couldn’t find anything online.”
“Yes and no, its complicated. All of the music we sing is produced by our choir. Everything is original. However, some of it is slowly becoming available online. Our website is revbilly.com. You can find some of our songs there and on YouTube.”
“Thank you so much! You guys really are great. I appreciate it,” I said before stepping away and realizing I was intruding on their group photo.
I sat back down to continue eating. I watched as tons of people approached members of the choir to praise, question, and comment. I found humor in watching the European double-kisses happening between all of the strangers and singers before parting ways. At one point, I spotted one of the most amazing singers whose voice is able to hit notes so high I did not know any person could hit so effortlessly. I waved and signaled for her to come over by me.
“I just have to tell you… your voice is absolutely amazing!” I told her, “I saw you guys yesterday near Syntagma Square and when I watched a video I recorded I couldn’t help but notice how talented you are. Your voice is beautiful!”
“Aw, thank you so much! I’m Jessica! What’s your name?” She asked.
“Rocky, it is a pleasure to meet you! Are you from America? What brings you to Athens?”
We talked for awhile. I told her my story. I explained how I was basically just roaming around, exploring, and meeting new people. I had only been in Greece for a few days. Finally, she said, “You know, we are going up into the mountains tonight to celebrate one of our choir member’s birthdays. If you’d like to come with us, we’d be so happy to have you join us.”
“Oh! Yeah?? Are you sure? I really wouldn’t want to impose. I’m kind of here on my own… so I actually would enjoy that a lot!”
“Absolutely! We’d love that.”
That night, I hiked with the Stop Shopping Choir up to Filopappou Hill. At first, I felt a bit weird and anxious to be walking with their group. These people all knew each other and then there was me…. a random guy following the choir to a remote area where they’d be celebrating and hanging out. Fortunately, it wasn’t like that at all. I quickly befriended a few of the people in the choir on the hike up the hills.
From spending time with Reverend Billy Talen and the Stop Shopping Choir, I learned more about their mission and the #touristsagainsttrump movement. The songs they sang were about minimalism, anti-consumerism, happiness, and justice. All of the themes resonated with my own beliefs. While packing and preparing for this trip, I watched documentaries on minimalism to learn more about it how to live with less. Consumerism is especially problematic in the realm of tourism where people are encouraged to buy and spend in excess. I loved what this group of people stood for. Outside of the protests, politics weren’t really discussed. They were a down-to-Earth, loving, amazing group of people.
Up on the mountain, we found a secluded area and sat down. We brought drinks, food, and snacks. There was talking, singing, and interpretive dance to enjoy. A few members had brought some of their instruments along so while some people played music, others danced. There was one really interesting performance in particular where one of the guys and girls did a ballet-like dance in the dark. I was mildly concerned someone might fall since we were positioned on the edge of a cliff but they seemed to know what they were doing.
Thankfully, no one got hurt.
I also befriended someone named Zoé from France. I didn’t know until late in the night but she was also temporarily adopted by the choir too. I didn’t know there was anyone else there who wasn’t actually a member of the Stop Shopping Choir there. We talked about our experiences in Athens, how we got invited to share in what had turned out to be such a magical night with the choir. I love meeting people from other countries. Zoé had an amazing story to share about backpacking through America as a European. She told me about how one of her observations in the USA was that despite what common beliefs might lead you to think, homeless people were some of the most helpful and friendly people to her during her trip. They would look out for her and her friend making sure they were awake in time for public transportation. She would take buses at night to travel so they could avoid paying for housing accommodations. Brilliant. Zoé made the night even more special!
The next day, I was invited to have dinner and drinks with the Stop Shopping Choir in Exarcheia.
That turned out to be absolutely amazing as well! We tried Ouzo, a famous Greek drink, and had a few classic Greek desserts. It was very nice. Oh, and there was music and singing the entire time we were there. The waiter came over to our table and I half expected him to ask everyone to quiet down so as not to disturb the other customers. Shockingly, he came and asked if they knew a specific Greek song. The choir sang it. The waiter returned and simply said, “Thank you.”
(This Instagram post is a slideshow. The 4th slide is a short video showing them singing at dinner.)