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Ah, Misirlou, magical, exotic beauty
January 23, 2007 8:06 PM   Subscribe

From Rebetika to Surf Rock: Misirlou is a melody that has spanned genres, from Greek, Turkish and Jewish folk songs to the classic Dick Dale version on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack to the Black-Eyed Peas, to the obligatory Greek folk version/Pump It mash-up.
posted by costas (35 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry for the Greek-centered versions, I don't know what to Google for Turkish or Jewish renditions...
posted by costas at 8:07 PM on January 23, 2007


Here is a Turkish version (wma).
posted by palet at 8:25 PM on January 23, 2007


Wow, that's fascinating. Thanks for the post, costas :-)
posted by p3on at 8:28 PM on January 23, 2007


My wife and I danced to Misirlou (Dick Dale version) at our wedding.

(I was organist in London's Premier Surf Combo at the time).
posted by unSane at 8:38 PM on January 23, 2007


the black eyed peas version is the same as dick dale's version.
posted by Hat Maui at 8:40 PM on January 23, 2007


Also widely regarded as one of the most difficult songs in Guitar Hero II. (youtube)
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2007


My band opened for Dick Dale and also you missed one: Miserlou is in Rayman Raving Rabbids, which is a great game for the Wii.
posted by Brainy at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2007


IMO, the Black Eyed Peas are like the Ann Coulter of music. All they did was do whatever it is they do over top of Dick Dale's version. For that, and that "humps" thing, they're dead to me.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:58 PM on January 23, 2007


FYI, my understading is that Dale is of Lebanese heritage, and that musicians are a part of that heritage. Surf music == guitarra d'andalus == les ouds des morros. Sorta.
posted by mwhybark at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2007


Γειά σου Κώστα. Nice post. Here is another page focusing on the yiddish Miserlou. Apparently,
Miriam Kressyn, a Yiddish singer and actress, created lyrics for the song in the 1940s. The narrator of her "Miserlou" sings to and about his distant love, the titular Oriental princess, while the song swells with stylized obsession... The klezmer "Miserlou" is typically sung at weddings... The Klemzer Conservatory Band has a great cover of Miserlou.

From the same site,
[Dick] Dale, born Richard Monsour, is half Lebanese, and his radically original version nonetheless preserves the Middle-Eastern sound of the original. That explains it.

Also, here is a beautiful Armenian Misirlou (Anita Darian).
posted by carmina at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2007


mwhybark, sorry, no preview.
posted by carmina at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2007


So cool! Thanks for this interesting post. I'm amazed by the transitions that piece of music made in the various cultures. Fascinating story about Dick Dale's Lebanese parents playing oud bellydance Misirlou and him translating it into surf groove for a kid who wanted a song on one string. wow. Really enjoyed that.
posted by nickyskye at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2007


OMG! Will.I.Am will sooooooooo be on your ass for linking to that YouTube clip. He's got that shit on lock.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2007


My personal favorite is the Beach Boys version on the Surfin' USA EP.
posted by Count at 10:11 PM on January 23, 2007


Good post, I had no idea it was an old song. I just assumed it was a Dick Dale original.
posted by zardoz at 10:51 PM on January 23, 2007


Also, Anna Vissi is extremely hot.
posted by zardoz at 10:53 PM on January 23, 2007


I defy anyone to link to a more passionate and groovier version than this one!
posted by bonefish at 11:54 PM on January 23, 2007


heh. miserlou is the ringtone on my cellphone. i am very happy now. thank you costas!
posted by lapolla at 12:47 AM on January 24, 2007


I should have added that the NPR link on the FPP includes snippets from the Jewish version plus Dick Dale talking about how and why he came up with his song; worth checking out...
posted by costas at 4:44 AM on January 24, 2007


Somewhere I came across the Kronos Quartet doing a twist cover of "Misirlou," but I've lost the link to it. Best I can come up with on short notice is this Last.fm link.
posted by pax digita at 5:24 AM on January 24, 2007


Great post! My only disappointment is that the "Rebetika" link doesn't go to a rebetika performance but to a Wikipedia article. The article is excellent (and even has the Greek lyrics, which makes me very happy), but isn't there a performance anywhere on the net? I love rebetika! (The NPR link has Rabbi Abulafia and the Kronos Quartet and god knows who all, but no Greek, malaka!) The Wikipedia talk page is educational, too; I did not know this:
[Turkish] Misirli is a gender-neutral word that could refer to any person or object from Egypt. Misirlou [the Greek word, borrowed from Turkish] refers specifically to a Egyptian female person, and even more specifically to a member of the country's predominant Arab/Muslim population (members of the large Greek/Christian community at the time would never be referred to as 'Misirlides' but as 'Egyptiotes').
Also, here is a beautiful Armenian Misirlou (Anita Darian).

That was another disappointment: Ms. Darian is of Armenian extraction, and the video shows a lot of Armenian travel posters, but she's singing in English.
posted by languagehat at 6:14 AM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat, I have a Greek version by Manolis Aggelopoulos with some very nice bouzouki playing here. I suppose it is more laiko than rembetiko but one begets the other, so it's all good in my book. I guess the server will get MeFi-ed by posting this link but if it gets more people to listen to Greek music, it's worth it.

Costa, great post.
posted by a_day_late at 6:47 AM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


@gnomeloaf

the version on guitar hero II varies quite a bit from the dick dale version. althogh it is still incredibly difficult
posted by tylerfulltilt at 7:38 AM on January 24, 2007


I guess the server will get MeFi-ed by posting this link but if it gets more people to listen to Greek music, it's worth it.


a_day_late, here is a mirror for you if it helps.
posted by djeo at 8:28 AM on January 24, 2007


a_day_late: Many, many thanks! It's a gorgeous version, and my happiness is now complete.
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on January 24, 2007


Thanks for this post, costas. I had no idea about the history of this song. I have fond memories of blasting the Agent Orange version out of a boom-box while skating in the concrete washes of AZ (in the 80s).
posted by chupacabra at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2007


djeo: Thank you for the mirror!

languagehat: Glad you enjoyed it. It should always be so easy to help out.
posted by a_day_late at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2007


Metafilter: It should always be so easy to help out.

Thanks for this costas - great finding out the history of a song. Didn't even know about Dick Dale's heritage - go Lebanon! (I'm half Lebanese myself).
posted by rmm at 9:28 AM on January 24, 2007


Fantastic post costas! Posts like this is why I keep coming back to Metafilter.
posted by vacapinta at 12:51 PM on January 24, 2007


As mentioned in the Dinosaur Gardens article, Esquivel and Martin Denny do great exotica versions of the song.
posted by hippyboy at 1:03 PM on January 24, 2007


Languagehat: Here's one by Lela Papadopoulou. (disclaimer: Greek music is, well, all Greek to me.)
posted by arto at 7:02 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Further Lebanese / surf / skate rock trivia: the 80's Phoenix-based hardcore / surf band JFA toured with brothers Richard and Allen Bishop playing both in JFA and in their own free-improv (and longer-lived) band Sun City Girls. Rich, a smokingly precise guitarist, is an accomplished surf-guitar master, and, yes, both are of Lebanese heritage.
posted by mwhybark at 12:34 AM on January 25, 2007


Thanks, arto! Man, that's some serious rembetika; I'm not sure I would have guessed it was Misirlou.
posted by languagehat at 5:40 AM on January 25, 2007


arto, this is not Misirlou. The title of the video indicates it is shot in "Misirlou" a rembetika taverna in Athens.

However, the song is another well known rembetiko and the guy dancing is absolutely great. Zeibekiko is usually performed by males alone (recently women chime in -pheh, I say) which is a solo, solemn and kind of demure dance.
posted by carmina at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat, I've located a rembetiko version sung by Tetos Dimitriadis.
posted by a_day_late at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


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