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Musical Traditions
May 8, 2007 5:27 AM   Subscribe


 
And nice photos accompany most of the articles there, which is of course always nice.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:35 AM on May 8, 2007


I live in a very heavily Greek neighborhood, so sometimes when I sit on the porch I hear rembetika playing from the neighboring buildings. It really grows on you.
posted by jonmc at 5:52 AM on May 8, 2007


It really grows on you.

Hey, and no wonder: it's the Greek blues!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:58 AM on May 8, 2007


Greek Blues? Lightnin' Stavros and Thessalonki Slim doing "I Asked For Ouzo, She Gave Me Gasoline" that sort of thing?;>
posted by jonmc at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2007


Thanks, flap! I've landed on this guy's article collection like lilypads when doing research on a particular topic, but never stopped to examine the whole site. Hours' worth of time-wasting ahead!
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on May 8, 2007


Wonderful post flapjax! Nice. Opened the African-American yodelers link...so evocative...In the black South African coming-of-age novel Familiarity is the Kingdom of the Lost, author Dugmore Boetie drew from his late 1930s childhood to describe a young apprentice thief who lived with an adopted street-father in a tunnel or storm sewer in old Sophiatown. Their subterranean lair harboured an array of stolen goods, including a gramophone and some 78s, one of which put the boy in a trance...

wow. A feast to peruse. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2007


(apologies to flapjax who is a fine poster, and with a disclaimer that I have nothing against Turkish people and their fine music).


As far as the Greek rembetika site goes, it is historically inaccurate to say the very least. There is no "turkish mode" of singing in rembetika. The author (who is ignorant and lazy enough to look into some bibliography and proper terminology) is probably referring to ecclesiastical music itself (stemming from Byzantine Christian Orthodox choir and chant music) with elements incorporated from Turkish, Jewish, Slavic and Roma (gypsies). What a superficial, sloppy coverage. Also the following paragraph reveals that the author is truly biased:
In 1922, following the failure of Greek territorial exploits in Turkey, there began a mass exodus of refugees from Asia Minor to the Greek mainland culminating in the burning of the port of Smyrna by Turkish troops. This displacement of one million people, Greek in name but entirely Turkish in existence, had a dramatic effect on Greece both economic and cultural.
Greeks from Asia Minor (one of my grandfathers came from Smyrna) were Greeks. They were Christian, spoke the Greek language (and some Turkish, of course). Living for 400 years under the Turkish occupation did not make them Turkish. Neither will the author of this piece (of shit).
posted by carmina at 8:51 AM on May 8, 2007


Thanks for your comment, carmina. It would appear that politics has shaded the issue here. If this particular piece of writing is indeed as grossly inaccurate as you maintain, it is hopefully not an indication that sloppy scholarship is the norm for pieces featured at Musical Traditions.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:24 PM on May 8, 2007


Greek Blues? Lightnin' Stavros and Thessalonki Slim doing "I Asked For Ouzo, She Gave Me Gasoline" that sort of thing?

Well yeah, but there's this whole gangsta rap thing going on too. There was this bunch of hard, pipe-hitting Hellenes called mourmourdhes who used to love to go on about getting high and stabbing people and getting stabbed and how they were so tough jail didn't phase them and getting more high in jail and busting some heads. Here's a (pretty typical) lyric I pulled off track 15 of this CD, as translated by Charles Howard in the liner notes:
"The Ruffians"
Those coppers who showed up just now
What do they want at such a time
They came here to make a raid
And take away our argile [a kind of hash pipe]

And they'll take away our pipe
And we'll remain without a smoke
And afterwards, where will I find
An argile, a pipe, some black [hash]

Go on, right away, you ruffians
Take the loula [a different kind of hash pipe] into your hands
We must not be scared of them
But fight them savagely...

And my man continues, egging his homies on to draw out their knives "with the argile in your hands."

There's another dude on track 4 of the same CD, who sings to his old girlfriend about looking forward to getting out of jail so he can kill her. Yeah, he knows he'll do another ten years (literally "eat another ten," which is pretty hardcore) but it won't phase him, and it won't be a big loss to the world to be missing another woman.

And the old recordings were full of shout-outs, too (e.g., "Yia sou, Yianni, me to kanonaki sou" ~ "My man J-Dog in tha house on tha mix," more or less.)

Inventing western civilization wasn't enough for my people; they went on to invent NWA.
posted by Opposite George at 7:17 PM on May 8, 2007


Inventing western civilization wasn't enough for my people; they went on to invent NWA.

You would appear to be insinuating that NWA is something distinct from or not a part of western civilization...

BTW, Opposite George, I've got a copy of this CD around somewhere (can't seem to locate it at the moment, though) and as I recall some of the tunes on that had some of that badass vibe as well. In fact, that's why I originally compared rembetika to the blues upthread: I was thinking about rembetika's historic social milieu, and the air of rough violence that was such a part of the world it inhabited, and thinking of how similar was the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of the Delta juke joints with their hard drinking and knife fights and such.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:52 PM on May 8, 2007


You would appear to be insinuating that NWA is something distinct from or not a part of western civilization...


Ouch. Shoulda put "western civ" in quotes, I guess. Of course you're right, but I can tell you that when my chauvinistic relatives are busy taking credit for everything from democracy to "Greek" coffee, Eazy-E's name never comes up* (though my brother always said that Ice Cube looks kind of Hellenic...)

Re: The Blues -- Right again, though the gangsta thing registered first with me. I guess it's partly having grown up listening to rap and partly that I'm listening to the wrong blues!

I'm not familiar with the CD you pointed to you (though my Dad has it) but if you like it you might want to check out the one Amazon suggests buying with it, namely this one. It's one sweet disc, if only because it's got the great Roza Eskenazi's "Trava, Re Manga kai Alani." The label's perfect translation, "Hipster, Hit the Road!" reflects a timeless sentiment as at home in 1930s Piraeus as 2007 Williamsburgh, and definitely one I can get behind.
---

*Not even that of Efkolos Epsilon, of "Straight Outta Smyrna" fame.
posted by Opposite George at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2007


Cool, OG (that's actually for Original Gangsta, right?), thanks for the reccommendation: I'll check out that disc.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:05 AM on May 9, 2007


... it is hopefully not an indication that sloppy scholarship is the norm for pieces featured at Musical Traditions.

flapjax, thank you for toning it down. Indeed I checked first the link to rembetika, got infuriated and did not check anything else for a few hours. But it seems that the other pages in Musical Traditions (which were not written by the same author) have more in depth analyses, with bibliography and somesuch, although my own knowledge is limited.

Attribution of the genre rembetika to a single nation is difficult, as I (probably) said earlier, because at its genesis there was a plethora of cultures dwelling the region and which certainly influenced it. I was irked by the notion that the greeks that were expelled from Asia Minor were not greeks but turkish. Anyway, I sincerely hope I did not come across as a nationalist pig. Or a silly chauvinist greek immigrant.
posted by carmina at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2007


carmina,

I hear ya. The concept of nationality as distinct from place of residence is one that's foreign to most Americans, I think. I see the unfortunate conflation of the two all the time, even in publications like The New York Times, where you'd think they'd know better.

You know, thanks to this country's relatively easy citizenship process, a lot of folks just take it for granted that things are the same everywhere else in the world, and always have been. We're just not wired to get it -- and countless mistakes in this country's foreign policy betray a failure of comprehension even at very high official levels.
posted by Opposite George at 5:22 AM on May 10, 2007


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