The Rough Guide to Rebetika (World Music Network)
The Rough Guide to Rebetika ventures into a rougher neighborhood and somewhere akin to the early years of American blues, Portuguese fado or gypsy music in general. Greek rebetika which derives from underground society, doesn’t sound anything like flamenco or American blues, but the social messages of the songs feature similar themes. Rebetika does recall early fado, with its tearful vocals and shimmering lutes, but also as described on the liner notes, carries influences from Persia, the Ottoman empire, Byzantine lyrical chants, as well as, Jewish and Slavic popular melodies. The music derives from the Greek underground which existed shortly after Greek national independence (1830 to 1950). This CD features historic liner notes, a glossary of of song styles, instruments specific to rebetika, as well as, other paraphernalia that accompanies this musical genre and lifestyle.
As you might imagine, most of the artists on this CD were of another era and many of them were born in the early 1900’s with the exception of Glikeria (born in 1953), and a Janis Joplin look alike, Nena Venetsanou (born in 1955), an interpreter of this genre of music who currently resides in France. Andonios Dhiamandidhis wails over weeping lyra, Glikeria sings a more up tempo revival piece, Grigoris Asikis also wails over a weeping lyra, Rita Abatzi (1931-1969) tells a story from the seedy of society and bouzouki master and songwriter Yiannis Papaioannou shows off his talent.
The stories of the artists offer plenty of human drama as well as, historical facts about the lifestyle that accompanies rebetika music. In fact, when you read the stories, you will see why the performers sing these laments. Rebetika music is not the type of music that I prefer, but the music here does provide an archive for contemporary Greek history, both musically and otherwise. As always, the folks at World Music Network have done a thorough job compiling artists and providing biographical notes.
This archival review by Patty-Lynne Herlevi formerly appeared on Cranky Crow World Music.
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.