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HomeTaoismStreet to rebetika | Stephen Jones: a weblog

Street to rebetika | Stephen Jones: a weblog

Rebetes in Karaiskaki, Piraeus, 1933. Supply: wiki.

Having been beguiled by the well-liked songs of outdated Istanbul, I assumed I’d discover rebetika in Greece—which is once more a spotlight for nostalgia.

The dispersal of the style across the Aegean seaboard was additional prompted by the displacement of the Greek inhabitants of Asia Minor (notably Smyrna) to Athens, Thessaloniki, and the USA. *

I’ve been re-reading the evocative introduction

  • Gail Holst, The highway to rembetika: music from a Greek sub-culture, songs of affection, sorrow and cannabis (1975, many reprints).

When Holst first got here to Athens in 1966, she was struck by the manner of the lads dancing, usually alone, to juke-box recordings in tavernas:

Not exuberant, not being carried out for the enjoyment of motion, not even sensual […] the dancer would rise, as if compelled to make his assertion. Eyes half-closed, in trance-like absorption, cigarette hanging from his lips, arms outstretched as if to maintain his steadiness, he would start to slowly circle. Because the dance progressed, the actions would turn out to be extra advanced; there could be sudden feats of agility, swoops to the bottom, leaps and twists, however the dancer at all times gave the impression to be feeling his method, looking for one thing, unsteady on his toes. The dance happened in public, folks have been watching it, and but it appeared to a be a personal, introspective expertise for the dancer. […] It was as if the dance served as a kind of catharsis for the dancer.

Holst was impressed by studying Elias Petropoulos’s e book Rembetika tragoudia (cf. Songs of the Greek underworld; observe the documentary An underground world (see additionally Landscapes of music in Istanbul).

Whereas Istanbul was a teeming metropolis, the inhabitants of Athens solely started to swell with the inflow of migrants after the expulsion of Greeks from the Anatolian seaboard from 1922. This added the Smyrna type to the combo, however it could quickly be diluted.

The rebetika scene thrived within the port of Piraeus. Its subaltern picture was dominated by manges “spivs”, fuelled by hash and cocaine—a part of a typical theme within the city underworlds of flamenco, fado (right here, with sequel), and tango. There was a nexus between the songs of the cannabis dens and the prisons, the connection “being very successfully stored alive by the actual fact of the habitués of the previous regularly turning into inmates of the latter”, as Rod Conway Morris observes.

As at all times, we discover fast social and musical change. Holst provides vignettes of Nineteen Twenties’ Piraeus, with characters like Loopy Nick, Marino the Moustache, and Papazaglou the Cucumber. Ladies singers have been frequent in Istanbul, and so they grew to become well-liked in Athens too, corresponding to Marika Politissa, Rita Abadzi, Rosa Eskenazi, and Marika Papagika (hear underneath Songs of Asia Minor!). An influential male group was the “Pyraeus 4” (Syros, Márkos, Artemis, Batis, Stratos).

Whereas rebetika was each censored by the Metaxas dictatorship and deplored by the Communists, a extra normal change was underneath method because it was eclipsed by new genres of well-liked business music. The change in type was expressed in going “to the bouzoukis”—which Holst discovered kitsch even within the Nineteen Sixties. However because the nostalgia business (cf. Kuzguncuk) grew to become well-liked, old-style rebetika suited the anti-authoritarian temper of the 70s, and even when it was onerous to listen to reside, recordings started to be reissued. As Holst noticed,

What appeared to me like a faddish revival of early rembetika within the late Seventies has turn out to be a longtime phenomenon of the 80s.

She compares its trajectory to that of the blues, “equally modified to go well with the tastes of a broader viewers and later revived in an artificially puristic type”; each “have been allowed to degenerate and die, and have subsequently been dug up by the youth of the following technology and lovingly enshrined”.

As rebetika developed in Greece, the system of dromos “roads” or paths, associated to the Center Japanese maqam, went into decline, as did the premium on improvisation. The beautiful free-tempo preludes taxim/taksim (cf. Indian alap) of the oriental type have been abbreviated or omitted in recordings. Amongst many fantastic amanedhes (hear underneath Songs of Asia Minor; see additionally Gail Holst-Warhaft, “Amanes: The legacy of the Oriental Mom”), right here’s Roza Eskenazi:

As to bounce, the favored 9/8 zeibekiko (a solo male dance, just like the one which so impressed Holst) was one other import from Asia Minor.

Holst is eager on the singing of Sotiria Bellou (1921–97)—see e.g. her chapter (as Gail Holst-Warhaft) in Music and gender, “The feminine dervish and different shady women of the rebetika”. Right here’s a 1959 recording of Bellou singing San pethano sto karavi (“If I die on the boat”), with an all-too temporary opening taxim:

Ah, if I die, what is going to they are saying? Some fellow died,
A fellow who beloved life and loved himself. Aman! Aman!

Ah, if I die on the boat, throw me into the ocean,
In order that the black fish and the salt water can eat me. Aman! Aman!

Cloudy Sunday was composed in 1943 by Vassilis Tsitsanis through the occupation, and recorded in 1948:

Right here’s the reissue Rebetika 1918 to 1954 (playlist):

Name Me Previous-Usual (but once more), however I’m nonetheless drawn to the extra introspective songs, corresponding to Gazeli neva sabah (“The hour of loss of life”, #5), with Rita Abadzi:

and Tıs ksenityas o ponos (“The ache of being overseas”, #8), sung by Antonis Dalgas, is paying homage to the oriental, free-tempo type of early amanedhes:

By means of distinction, right here’s Bouzouki favourites: smyrneika and rebetika (86 tracks):

I nonetheless can’t overcome the picture of the bouzouki within the Monty Python cheeseshop sketch.

Supplementing my little checklist of reissues in Songs of Asia Minor, there’s a wealth of CDs, corresponding to

  • Rembetica: historic city people songs from Greece (Rounder, 1992)
  • Misplaced homelands: the Smyrniac music in Greece, 1928–1935 (Heritage, 1995)
  • Mourmoúrika: songs of the Greek underworld 1930-1955 (Rounder, 1999)
  • Ladies of rembetica (Rounder, 2000)
  • Rembetika songs of the Greek underground 1925–1947 (Trikont, 2001)
  • Mortika: uncommon classic recordings from a Greek underworld (Arko, 2005).

There are additionally many documentaries, corresponding to this seven-part sequence:

And the function movie Rembetiko (Kostas Ferris, 1983) is a traditional:

In fact, whereas rebetika waxed and waned, there’s way more to Greek conventional music…

* A 1981 essay by Rod Conway Morris is helpful, with results in performers and recordings. Observe the positioning greeksongstories.com. The wiki entry is intensive too; see additionally The Tough Information to world music. The broader context is described in chapters 5 and 6 of Peter Manuel, Widespread musics of the non-Western world (1988), and by Paul Vernon (e.g. right here); see additionally The Tough Information to world music (underneath each Greece and Turkey), and Songlines.


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