The Rise And Fall Of Rebetiko: "The Greek Blues"
Stratos Payioumides, Markos Vamvakaris, Batis, and Anestis Dhelias.
You’ve had unforgettable holidays in
Of course, living in Greece for nearly forty years, I was acquainted with rebetiko, often referred to as "The Greek Blues", then, by chance, I saw the film by Greek director; Costas Ferris, depicting the rebetiko era, the emphasis given to Marika Ninou, a "Rebetissa" (The female form of rebetes, rebetiko singer).
A film by Costas Ferris.
Not by chance was this film voted the most popular Greek film in 2000, watch it if you can, it will give you a true feeling and insight into the world of rebetiko.
See details of this unique film "Rebetiko" HERE
Recently, my daughter bought me the book, published for the first time in English:
"Markos Vamvakaris, the man and the bouzouki"
I could't put it down, I was in there, living alongside Markos Vamvakaris, father of rebetiko!
The book gave me the inspiration to write this post.
See details and read reviews about the incredible life of Markos Vamvakaris HERE
Performers of rebetiko, (The composers, players and singers) were known as rebetes, meaning rebellious, misguided or disobedient, a word related to “Manghes” someone with no respect for authority, someone anti-establishment.
Rebetiko was played in “Tekes” (A Turkish word, originally meaning a monastery for Dervishes) hash dens, usually a side room off a coffee house or taverna, here the rebetes went to smoke their nargiles and sing “Chasiklidika”; songs dedicated to the rituals of hashish smoking.
|Hookah shop in Ottoman Empire|
Theophilus Waldmeir. 1832-1915
A classic example of a rebetiko group is a two-stringed violin, oud,( A pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in Persian, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, Jewish, Byzantine, Azerbaijanian, Armenian, North African, Spanish Andalusian, Somalian and Middle Eastern music) and santouri, (A stringed instrument played with small, soft hammers), but, as yet, no bouzouki.
Greek children at music lesson learning to play traditional santouri stringed instrument,
in Agiassos on
Found on iainmasterton.photoshelter.com
Rebetes sang about their lifestyle, about what they knew, what they had experience of; family troubles, a nagging wife, being jobless, about being totally and crazily in love, about drugs, drink, gambling and about death, in short, they sang about life.
|Rebetes, smoking hashish in a "Teke"|
Some of the songs were rather mournful, sung with a sad note, songs known as “Amanades”, from the word “Aman”, something similar to the English word “Alas”
|Aivali. Asia Minor|
Before 1922 an entirely Greek town,
After the fall of Smyrna , known as "The Catastrophe of Smyrna" (1922) over a million Greek refugees poured into
|The Great fire of Smyrna.|
View from an Italian ship
|Greek refugees from Asia Minor|
|A view of Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey)|
View of Saint Fotini on the left
More and more female singers were working their way into this previously male dominated scene, one of the most famous was was Rosa Ezkanazi.
|Rosa Ezkanazi. Refugee from Asia Minor|
The most popular singer of the 20s and 30s
Rosa Ezkanazi's first mentor was Panayotis Toundas, himself an Asia Minor refugee and one of the most successful record producers Greek-language recording has ever known.
The great rival of Rosa Ezkanazi.
A decade or so after the success of this diverse "Smyrnaica" came the revival of the old, Greek style rebetiko, lead by Markos Vamvakaris from the Greek
Mikis Theodorakis, remarked:
"We are all but branches of a tree, Markos is that tree"
|Greek island of Syros|
Birth place of Markos Vamvakaris
Port of Ermoupolis
With his bouzouki and baglama, Vamvakaris revamped rebetiko, taking it to heights never imagined.
"Patriarch of rebetiko"
The Bouzouki, from the Turkish word “Bozuk”, meaning broken, is a part of the long-necked lute family, similar to the pandouris, believed to have been in existence in ancient
The baglamas is a smaller version of the bouzouki, making it easier to be carried, and easier to hide, during the era when most rebetiko songs were forbidden.
Vocals, usually male, but there are exceptions, are rough and hoarse, a short introduction, on the bouzouki, called a “Taximi” gets the "Kefi" ( Good mood) going,
|D. Semsis, A. Tomboulis, R. Ezkanazi|
Of course, these rebetes are Greek, dancing to rebetiko was compulsory!
And what dances!
Syrtos (Ancient chain dance of Greece, still danced today), Zeibekiko (The name is derived from the Zeibek warriors of Anatolia), Chasapiko (The butcher's dance, originally from Constantinople).
Henri Cartier Bresson
The dapper “Koutsavakides”, with their distinctive walk, “Koutsa Koutsa” in Greek, rather like a crab, sporting swirly moustaches and wearing their jackets with the right sleeve left empty, a fedora on their head, singing songs of disrepute to the click, click of worry beads.
|How to wear a jacket “Koutsavaki" style.|
Respectable society were slightly more tolerant of the “Manghes” with their "Devil may care" attitude and their street slang, along with the “Mortides” and “Dervisis”, a superior type of “Mangha”, a “cool dude”, someone to be looked up to by their peers.
Left, Vamvakaris, with bouzouki, middle, Batis, with guitar.
Rebetiko singers poured their hearts out over the terrible and gloomy times of poverty, expressing themselves in their songs.
"Music is the emotional life of most people"
Marika Ninou (1918 – 23 February 1957), was an Armenian-Greek rebetiko singer.
She recorded a total of 174 songs, of which 119 as lead singer. The movie Rembetiko by Costas Ferris is based on her life.
Brought respectability to rebetiko
There ended five thousand years of tradition.
"Never On Sunday" a great Greek classic with Melina Mercuri, music Manos Hadjidakis.
See details and read reviews of this classic film, created from the book by Greek author; Nikos Kazantsakis., music Mikis Theodorakis HERE
Zorba The greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis is the only book I have actually read in Greek, from beginning to end!
An amazing book, see detailsHERE
|Alekos Fassianos, Yasar Kemal, Elias Petropoulos, Abidin Dino.|
This then is rebetiko, songs of the working class, the down-trodden, sung from the heart; with passion.
But then, what else would you expect from Greeks?
Everything they do is with passion, done from the very depths of their souls.
God bless 'em!
|"Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underworld -|
Baglamas, Bouzoukis & Bravado"
4 CD Box set
Look no further;
"Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underworld - Baglamas, Bouzoukis & Bravado"
A four CD box set of original recordings, digitally remastered, an outstanding collection of eighty nine, well-loved, truly authentic Greek rebtiko songs.
See details for "Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underworld - Baglamas, Bouzoukis & Bravado"