Nightclub Owner Aris San Dies
Aris San (left) pictured with band members. Photo: National Herald Collection

July 25, 1992

Aris San, who popularized Greek music in Israel, mysteriously dies at age 52 while living in Budapest. His quick cremation and past connections to organized crime at his nightclubs contribute to conspiracy theories about his death. 

Born in Kalamata, Greece, Aristides Saisanas followed a woman to Israel at age 17 and decided to stay. He shortened his name to Aris San and found an audience for his music in Haifa and Jaffa among Greek and Mizrahi Jews. Although he was not Jewish, he became an Israeli citizen five years after arriving, and soon he opened Greek nightclubs around Israel.

San gained fame in Israel through his clubs and such hit songs as “Sigal.” In the late 1950s and the 1960s, he helped popularize the Greek sound in Israeli music by playing the bouzouki and by creating a bouzouki-type sound on an electric guitar with a high-pitched, staccato style. The Greek hybrid music he played, known as laika, won fans such as Moshe Dayan and influenced the emergence of Mizrahi music in the 1970s.

San left Israel in 1969 after the birth of his daughter, Sani, with Mizrahi singer Aliza Azikiri, chasing his international popularity to the United States. He opened a club in New York, Sirocco, and repeated the success he had in Israel. But he spent two years in prison after refusing to cooperate with an FBI investigation of drugs and organized crime. He moved to Hungary in 1992.