Her parents were part of the vast wave of Greeks expelled from Asia Minor in the population exchanges of 1922–23. Living in a shanty town on the edge of Athens, without water or electricity, she grew up in poverty. But at the age of 13, while attending night school, her life was transformed when she was trained by the musicologist and song collector Simon Karas (1905–99) (website, with some projects; wiki)—whose largely prescriptive work set forth from the study of Byzantine modes.
Having endured German occupation and civil war, Samiou began working for the state-run radio station in 1954. Mass migration made Athens a convenient base to collect songs from all over mainland Greece and its islands. By 1963 she was travelling widely on recording trips. In 1971, with Greece still under the junta, she left the radio and started singing in public, opening the ears of younger generations to folk music. Inevitably, covering such a wide area, her forays sometimes remind me of the “gazing at flowers from horseback” style of lesser Chinese fieldworkers, with specially staged performances—but given her own background as a folk singer, the comparison would be quite unfair. Her surveys suggest the rich regional cultures of song, dance, and instrumental music—Thrace, Epirus, the Peloponnese, Asia Minor and Pontos, as well as the islands (Crete, Karpathos, Skyros, Skiathos, Lesbos, and so on).
This playlist includes some later videos:
Recording the mandilatos dance tune (2+2+3 beats—Taco taco burrito!):
Lazarines in west Macedonia, 1996:
We can explore a wealth of audio playlists here. Among Samiou’s albums of field recordings are
- Folk fables in song (playlist):
- and, particularly dear to her heart, Songs of Asia Minor (playlist):
(don’t miss #18, a wonderful free-tempo violin solo by Stathis Koukoularis!)
As society continued to change, Domna Samiou’s work laid an important basis for later, more detailed ethnographies of regional traditions.
 Apart from the material in this post, see e.g. this site; other starting points include wiki; The Rough Guide to world music and Songlines; The New Grove dictionary of music and musicians, The Garland encyclopedia of world music, and so on.
Note also the Kounadis Archive Virtual Museum, full of wonderful early 78s of rebetika, amanes, folk and ecclesiastical music, and more.