All posts by World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central

First International Imzad Symposium

Tamanrasset, Algeria – The First International Imzad Symposium
organized by the “Save the Imzad Association” with the support of UNESCO, aims
at promoting awareness of this instrument, its role in Tuareg culture and in
today’s world, as a referent for women and a tool against poverty.

Speakers from 12 countries will be present and, in particular, musicians from
Mali and Niger as well as Algeria, countries where the Imzad is still in use.
UNESCO has promoted an Imzad training program for 40 girls who will receive
their diplomas at the seminar. This activity is part of the interdisciplinary
project for the fight against poverty (Millennium goal) “the Sahara of cultures
and peoples” which aims to promote sustainable development and poverty reduction
based on preservation and revitalization of the tangible and intangible cultural

The 2003 Convention on the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage
will be presented during the Seminar: Algeria is the first Member State to
adhere to this instrument.

[Photo Joueuse d’imzad, Tamanrasset © L. Veirier / UNESCO].


Harry Remmers Dies While Attending Folk Alliance Conference

Harry Remmers, a Lifetime member of the Folk Alliance, died in Montréal while
attending the conference. Although his name was not known to the general
audience listening to folk radio or sitting in the hall at a folk music event,
to many working in the folk world he is a patron and a hero. Harry was
passionately dedicated to acoustic music and gave generously to artists and
festivals, supporting the Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival, the Country Roads
Festival, and countless individual recording projects by musicians. He was a
constant figure at folk events in the DC area and a regular presence at
Kerrville, Falcon Ridge, and The Folk Alliance. Says Sherri Panzer, a good friend of Harry’s, “Harry appeared to be a quiet man
until you got him talking about one of his passions like folk music or travel
and he was a transformed man…his face would glow, his enthusiasm obvious, and
he could jabber on and on. What a pleasure it was to watch. But those occasions
were rare. What most people saw was someone who kept to himself, though that was
far from the reality. Harry worked incredibly hard and in his limited free time
quietly supported an amazing number of family and friends. He opened doors for
new performers by talking about them with fellow folkies and, helping them
produce their CDs. If he found a performer or CD he liked, he’d pass it around
to his friends (I’ve still got three of his CDs at home.) He helped some who
couldn’t afford to attend festivals to attend with him. The breadth of his
support is mind boggling. And amazingly he provided the same loving, caring
support to each one of his 11 brothers and sisters, and his parents, who loved
and will miss him very dearly. We will all miss him

[Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance].


Elaine Weissman — Folk Alliance Founder

It was a basic idea – create a cooperative organization of people who operated venues where folk music and dance were performed. As Director of the California Traditional Music Society (CTMS), Elaine Weissman saw the need for networking on behalf of her own organization on a daily basis, so Elaine did what Elaine did best – became the catalyst. Along with her husband, Clark, in 1989 she put out a call, over 125 people met in Malibu, CA, and the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance began.But the Folk Alliance was only one of Elaine’s many hats. As the Director of the
California Traditional Music Society she oversaw a full calendar of concerts,
classes, the Summer Solstice Festival (and training for volunteers and on-site
staff), the Taste of Folk Music festival, and Music in the Schools program.
Elaine was a committed arts advocate in the city and county of Los Angeles,
fighting for recognition for folk music and dance in all sectors of the arts and
at all levels of government.
Elaine was one of the first people to bring traditional Quebecois artists into
America, and worked for many years booking various bands, as well as running her
other projects. Her love of tradition (celebrated in the new scholarship fund
for traditional artists described on page 3) meant that community-based voices
were preserved and celebrated. A major result of her advocacy resulted in the
Folk Arts position of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
being posted in the CTMS office – an unprecedented vote of support and
recognition of the high quality of work that CTMS as an organization produces.

Elaine was a proud wife, mother, and grandmother. Her partnership with her
husband, Clark, made many things possible, for themselves, their children, their
many friends in the greater folk community across the U.S. and Canada, and
Jewish community of southern California.

Committed, concerned, tireless, energetic, opinionated, inspiring, supportive,
visionary, generous of spirit are just a few words that can be used to describe
Elaine, a woman of many talents and a vast-reaching heart. Our favorite story
was told by her daughter Suzanne in Montréal at the luncheon for the newly
re-named Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony. She described her
mother going in for her cancer chemotherapy fully loaded down with Irish or Old
Time music, mailing labels, and the CTMS newsletter – and introducing all her
fellow patients to that old folkie tradition – the newsletter mailing party.
Everyone buckled down to slap mailing labels on newsletters – just one more
story in the life of the woman who no one could say “no” to.

[Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance].


Ojos de Brujo Bari Remixes

Ojos de Brujo - Remixes From Bari
Ojos de Brujo – Remixes From Bari
Los Angeles, California, USA – The turntable wizardry of Spanish group Ojos de Brujo takes center stage with the U.S. release of Remixes From Bari, a blast of neo-Mediterranean bangers that brings the up-all-night sound of afterhours Barcelona to American dancefloors. Conjured up by the group’s brilliant turntablist, DJ Panko, this six-track collection offers up remixed favorites including “Cale Bari,” “Tiempo de Drumba” and a hypnotic reinvention of “Quien engaña no gana” (“Cheats never win”). Also included is a remix from the group’s resident gitano guitarist (and breakdancer) Ramón Giménez.The band will play concerts at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, on March 19, 2005, and a U.S. tour is set for June and July 2005.

Ojos De Brujo Touring Lineup: Marina “La Canillas” Abad – vocals; DJ Panko – turntables; Max Wright – MC vocals, percussion; Ramón Giménez- flamenco guitar, breakdancing; Paco Lomena – flamenco guitar; Javier Martín – bass; Sergio Ramos – drums; Xavi Turull – percussion; and featuring: Elisa Belmonte – flamenco dance; Andre Cruz – video production and direction.

Buy Remixes From Bari


Bruce Rouse, Rouse House Concerts, Dies in Texas

Bruce Rouse, co-founder of Rouse House Concerts, and a former Folk Alliance board member died unexpectedly on February 26, 2005. News of Bruce’s death reached many at the Folk Alliance Conference in Montréal and provoked widespread mourning among his many friends at the conference. Bruce was an avid supporter of the Folk Alliance. He attended every annual
conference from the 1997 meeting in Toronto through the 2004 meeting in San
Diego. He served as a judge for the 2004 official showcases in the
singer/songwriter category and led peer group sessions for house concert

As a member of the Folk Alliance Board of Directors from 2000 to 2003, Bruce
advocated for the interests of house concert promoters and those of the artists
that meant so much to him. He was a dedicated Board member, bring to the table a
great heard and love of the Folk Alliance community. He was a tireless advocate
for bringing the Folk Alliance International Conference to Austin, working
closely with the Texas Music Office to help make it happen. No one was happier
than Bruce when Austin was chosen as the host city for the 2006 conference.

Bruce and his wife Liz made their mark on the Austin folk scene by hosting
concerts in their North Austin home for 14 years — hundreds of artists and
thousands of folk music fans gathered at the Rouse House Concerts, to enjoy and
celebrate music and friendships. They suspended their series in the fall when
Bruce retired from his job as a petroleum engineering researcher at the
University of Texas and the couple moved to Sun City Texas in Georgetown,
planning to soon continue the tradition of music in their new home.

[Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance].


Musician and Actress Rachel Bissex

Rachel Bissex
Rachel Bissex
Rachel Bissex, 48, musician, actress, arts activist, and mentor and friend to many died on February 20, 2005 after a long battle with cancer. A warm and welcoming presence at Folk Alliance, SERFA, and NERFA meetings for many years, Rachel was quick to spark others with her enthusiasm for performance and her love of the music.

Anyone on the receiving end of that Rachel smile felt an instant kinship with this lovely and witty songwriter. A tireless learner when it came to her career on the music business, Rachel also provided stages for herself and fellow performers through her “Submerging Artists” and “Converging Artists” showcases. A kind, generous, and talented person Rachel will be missed. A tribute CD, Remembering Rachel–The Songs of Rachel Bissex, spearheaded by Vic Heyman, Micah Solomon, and Tom Prasada-Rao, will help fulfill Rachel’s wish for her children to be able to finish college. You can view details of the many participants to this project and then order this CD online at At the website, you can also contribute directly to the
college fund, or receive instructions for contributing by mail.

Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance.


Comusication: Towards a new general theory of music

In order to build a general theory about music, a social scientific approach must be accepted, based on evidence collected from individual and collective experiences all over the world and from history. First, music has historically not been a means in the struggle for survival, but rather a “language” to establish better emotional communication within human communities. This cohesive role is crucial in order to have a new insight into the real meaning of music. Although it is based on a specific sense, it is different from other functions of hearing, such as understanding words or as a tool for completing a representation of the real world. And one of its most distinctive features is its connection to emotion. That is not the case with words, which can have an objective meaning, like “chair”, which can become an object represented invariantly in our minds. The same melody can have a totally different meaning in
different emotional contexts: the French national anthem has a completely
different emotional impact on a native of France than on someone born in
Argentina; and it will surely have a different “meaning” when it is sung at the
beginning of the school day or in a homage to soldiers fallen in combat. The
same can be truth on a smaller scale. In the context of a music school, the
interval of a perfect fifth (as between C and the G immediately above it) may
sound as an abstract sequence or superposition of notes, without any particular
emotional connotations, but in another context it can transmit a supernatural,
magical feeling.

This connection between music and emotion could be the
external translation of some kind of physical wiring between the cells of
different parts of our brains: those located in organs related to our emotions
(“the reptilian brain”) and those in the neuronal regions of the cortex devoted
to higher functions. As far as we know, there are no scientific experiments in
this specific direction, but there is strong indirect evidence of this link in
its external expression: behavior. We can find evidence of this influence in the
results of music therapy, in the powerful effect and emotional impact of film
music, in how often a simple song can awaken memories of past emotions of
sorrow, joy or faith, etc.

Are there any common elements to every kind of music? Why
is this type of human expression so widespread throughout history and cultures
all over the planet? We will try to get an objective answer by considering the
facts most common to all humanity, like gestation and social behavior.

Prenatal education

About 20 weeks into gestation, the first sense that the
human fetus develops is hearing, a long time before it has any input from the
real world through vision, touch or other senses. From this point on, the human
fetus is subject to a genetically determined educational program based on the
acquisition of the primary concept of regularity. This program coincides with
the stage of synaptic growth and consolidation between the neurons of the fetus’
brain. This simple program is based on an association of the concept of
regularity with the gratifying and pleasant sensations of its mother’s
heartbeat. On the other hand, the changes of this beat’s regularity are
associated with a discharge of adrenaline right to the fetus’ blood stream
through the umbilical cord. The fetus reinforces the cortical synapses connected
with the concept of regularity during the following weeks and months, broadening
the capacity for discernment with the inclusion of a category for noise, which
every irregular beat event will fall into. This category, associated with an
unpleasant self-somatic sensation, will at first encompass all sorts of
uncomprehended sound signals, like the kinds of sounds arriving from the world
outside its mother’s placenta. Also, the fetus begins to perceive these outer
sounds (especially its mother’s voice, transmitted through the vertebrae closest
to her womb) filtered by the aqueous medium of the amniotic liquid where it
grows. Liquid media transmit sound more quickly than air, but they filter high
frequencies, softening the timbre (or “color”) of the sounds, something that
will soon be categorized as a pleasant sensation (as anyone can experience
simply by submerging his/her ears in a bathtub).

These experiences are common to all human beings and other
mammals too, but only humans develop such broad neural activity during this
period, creating new neurons and synapses, especially in a specific part of the
brain called the neo-cortex, a part more developed and connected to higher
mental functions than in any other species. This categorization happens prior to
birth and to any functional differentiation of the sense of hearing between
music and other kinds of sounds.

First hearing patterns

The prenatal educational program lays the foundation for
further sensorial experiences. First, it consolidates the primary model or
representation of regularity that will later on accommodate further
subcategories of regular sounds. One of the most important also takes place at a
very primary level: sounds with a regular pitch, what we commonly know as
musical sounds. This kind of input requires a very low level of interpretational
effort necessary to understand the sound inputs of hearing. The same can be said
about a regular, simple beat progression, that may be translated into a binary
division of the beat into two sub-beats that the newborn tries to imitate by
regularly shaking noisemakers like rattles.

The same kind of analogy regarding regular and binary
subdivision of the beat could be applied to pitch. If we duplicate the frequency
of a pitch, the result is a sound an octave higher than the fundamental. Hearing
also perceives this simple variation as an analogy that can be categorized along
with the regular pitch. This equivalence of octaves (e.g., the interval between
a C on the piano and the next C up the keyboard) is a musical phenomenon common
to all human cultures. One of the most obvious examples is when a male adult and
a child (or a female adult) sing the same melody: actually they sing in parallel
octaves because of their different voice registers. Thus, regular pitch becomes
a flexible category capable of encompassing many invariant representations of
analogies to a basic model of regularity that evolves over time. But this
capacity does not end here. Gradually, the newborn’s mind will be capable of
accommodating new and more remote analogies to regularity in his/her mental
representation of the original.

Noise, Silence and Sound Information

But what about irregular sounds? At first, these
misunderstood sound events fall into a general category of noise. But gradually,
in association with the input and consequences of other senses and experiences,
they can transform into distinct new categories. Some of these noises became
part of a new analogy to regularity. For example, a steady noise can saturate
some part of the hearing bandwidth so that we can’t really hear it. This is the
case with our own blood flow, pumping through the veins close to our ears, or
the very high, steady sound of the electrical activity of our nervous system.
These are the sounds that the composer John Cage discovered when trying to
perceive absolute silence inside an anechoic chamber, as he describes in his
book “Silence”. These sound are always sounding as long as we are alive, but we
do not interpret them because of their steadiness. In conclusion, we could say
that exposure to a steady, regular noise is, in fact, perceived, but is not
interpreted, creating a new category called “silence”.

We can see a lot of indirect evidence of this process. For
example, many babies (and adults) have trouble getting to sleep in a very quiet
foreign environment, because their minds associate silence with a pattern of
regular noises (night birds, insects, the train passing at 11:11 p.m., a
lullaby…). Silence, by this definition, is an analogy to noise associated with
some kind of strong regularity. On the other hand, some noises start acquiring
meaning by association with past experiences. The first is the newborn’s
mother’s voice. This kind of irregular sound perceived during the late stages of
pregnancy becomes the first recognizable sound object (or event) associated with
pleasant sensations thanks to the self-somatic sense of nutrition, the warmth of
maternal touch, and seeing her face. Therefore, after birth, hearing her voice
facilitates the baby’s interpretation and understanding of sound information. In
this way, the newborn initiates an intelligent, real-world sound information
categorization process, reinforced by association with positive emotions. This
primary process triggers a complex sound information modeling process , by which
he/she will associate vocal sounds with other human beings close by (father,
brothers and sisters, etc.).

Musical Information and Ellipsis

Most sound information is made up of noisy events. Names,
words and the sounds of objects (including animals and other manifestations of
sound in nature) in the environment we grow up in get their signification
(mental representation) as an abstraction derived by association with other
senses. But musical information is rooted to the first sound patterns learned
during gestation. As we pointed out earlier, the primary concept of regularity
has been incorporated into our categorization in association with emotions, not
objects. Starting from the maternal heartbeat, we learn to accommodate sound
analogies like musical sound (steady pitch) and musical beat (independently of
its velocity or tempo). By this means, we are ready to process further analogies
like octave equivalence and binary subdivision of the beat. A step deeper into
this learning process, we are able to accept and categorize other subdivisions
of rhythm and pitch as musical information.

For example, we are able to recognize a subdivision of the
beat into 3, 4 or more equal parts, as in compound time, where the first two
sub-beats are linked together, but the third one is not. This irregular rhythmic
pattern may or may not be associated with other experiences (like dragging one
foot while limping, with the other one stepping properly). A completely
different but likewise simple variation of the sequence of identical beats may
be linking together the first two, but not the following pair, giving a pattern
based on a subdivision of the beat into 4 parts. These rhythmic irregularities
do not translate into noisy sound events, but rather into a new kind of
“object”, not necessarily associated with other senses but instead with the
primary categorization of the regularity of the beat and the related emotions .

In the field of pitch variation, we have seen the analogy
of duplication of a fundamental frequency with the acoustic result of the sound
of its octave. An analogous situation to the irregular rhythmic patterns we have
just seen is the further multiplication of the fundamental frequency by other
whole numbers such as 3, 4, and so on. These exact multiples are the natural
upper harmonics of a sound. Each new prime number in that infinite series sets a
new note whose frequency is a whole-number multiple of the first note of the
series, which in turn is called the fundamental. Therefore, the note that
vibrates three times as fast as the fundamental (the third upper harmonic) sets
a new interval. If the fundamental were a G, that third harmonic would be the
second D up from the fundamental. If we obviate this octave leap (by
equivalence), the interval would be a perfect fifth, made up of 7 semitones in
the Western musical tuning system. The fourth harmonic is an octave higher than
the second one, and two octaves distant from the fundamental. The same note will
reappear at the eighth, 16th, and 32nd places, and so on.
As for the D, it will reappear at higher octaves in the sixth and 12th
positions, and so on. In the prime-number positions of the series, we will find
new notes that form new intervals with the fundamental: the major third in the 5th
position (B), a note out of tune with the Western tuning system in the 7th
position (a lowered F), etc.

This mathematical relationship can become a powerful source
of analogies for the emergence of new musical sounds, which will make up the
basic building blocks for melodic development. But additionally, hearing these
natural intervals requires a lower interpretive effort. Thus, the use of those
building blocks in melodies coinciding with a simple rhythmic pattern can soon
be categorized as musical information: minor irregularities over regular
repetitive patterns developed over time. In order to be categorized this way,
these kinds of variations must be repeated over time, something that
characterizes all basic melodies all over the world.

But as we said before, the simple identical reiteration of
an irregular pattern (like those categorized as noise) may come to be
interpreted as silence, so we can find a universal trend to add some small new
variations or irregularities after some identical repetitions. We can appreciate
this kind of process in every musical culture on the planet and in songs with
basic forms like A – A – A – A’ (this last being a rhythmic-melodic variation of
the original).

The reiteration of musical information over time, either
identically or with minor variations, also produces a predictable musical
behavior: we expect to keep hearing the same musical pattern. Sometimes it
happens, but mostly it does not, since the original musical information does not
disappear completely from our minds, given that we have already created a
prediction about it. This is a powerful tool in the hands of musicians, who use
it to create different layers of musical representations associated with related
or opposite emotions, which can interact to create a new, dynamic and
multi-layered interpretation. We call this kind of musical pattern that actually
does not keep sounding an ellipsis. These patterns are related to musical
information, in that they carry information, though not sound information. They
are also related to silence, because we are not aware of that information. And
they are the opposite of noise, that is perceived but not interpreted.

Musical signification

This interaction is shown in the following diagram, in
which arrows show the transformational paths as we described them.

After birth, we gradually start developing a more
sophisticated mechanism for categorizing musical events that surround us. The
reiterative ones are just obviated (their information is silenced); the simplest
ones begin their transformation into musical information we can deal with: their
reiteration transforms them into a kind of structural memory: an ellipsis, that
coexists and interacts with the perceived musical events, to create a richer,
more complex mental representation. In this way, we can accommodate an ever
greater number of “recognizable musical objects” due to our knowledge,
understanding and memory capacities.

After birth, musical information, unlike other general
sound information, remains associated to emotions due to its origin, but
develops a more mental processing. These growing intelligence capacities
(memory, prediction, signification) allow the incorporation of musical social
habits, like a tuning system, modal and scale material, a local type of
rhythmic-melodic patterns and variations, and so on. These habits are learned
during one’s very first years and have a long-term impact on our musical
preferences and capacities.

This paradigm will also allow us to configure a local
musical language that can easily spread and be universally understood based on
the same elements of emotional association and signification processing. It is a
human communicational process that I have dubbed comusication.

© Jorge Luis Rozemblum
Sloin. All right reserved.


Rupande Shah Recorded live at the Saptak Festival in Gujarat

UK – Indian classical music singer Rupande Shah has a new album, Aanand, recorded live at Saptak Festival in Gujarat. She is accompanied by Matang Parikh on tabla and Raju Gandharva on harmonium. The recording, on Sense World music, includes Raga Kedar: 1. Khayal ‘Sej Nis Nind na Aaye’ in Vilambit Ektaal (12 beats – slow) and 2. Khayal ‘Chatur Sughar Balama Re’in Drut Ektaal (12 beats – fast); and Raga Basant: 3. Khayal ‘Phoolwa Ab Phool Rahi Baname’ in Madhya Teentaal (16 beats – medium), 4. Khayal ‘Sarasarang Phool Rahe’ in Drut Ektaal (12 beats – fast). Rupande Shah has made a major contribution to the development of cultural and music institutions in Gujarat through her inspiring performances and teaching. From her childhood, she was initiated in various performing arts under the guidance of Shri Raosaheb Mhasker of Gwalior Gharana.

Her training in music with Shri Raosaheb Mhasker was carried out in the background for about fifteen years when dancing was her main focus. She devoted herself to Rabindra Sangeet, songs of the celebrated Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, and Ghazal singing under Shri Surendra Jaitley and was a performing member of the ‘Feetale’ Group. After that she began to train very seriously in Classical Music. Ustad Gulam Kadir Khan, Pandit Manirmji and Ustad Gulam Ahmed Khan imparted her intensive training. Finally Pandit Rajan Mishra guided her in the Benares Gharana style, helping her to expand her repertoire and initiated her in the finer points of concert performance.


Addy Elders in America: Yacub Addy and Obo Addy

Contributed by Amina Addy

Two elder Ga drummers of repute have made their homes in the United States of America for many years, Yacub
on the East Coast and Obo
on the West Coast.  Both are members of the Addy family of
drummers, dancers and singers from the village of Avenor, Accra, Ghana. Yacub is
the second born and Obo is the fourth born from the same father and mother. 
Their father, Okonfo Akoto, had 10 wives over the course of his life (1860-70’s?
to 1960), so there were 10 mothers and over 50 children born over a very long
period of time.

Mustapha Tettey Addy is their younger stepbrother from the last marriage of their father. Adja Addy, now deceased, was their nephew. Basically, their father, a renowned medicine person, got tired of the politics of dealing with drummers, who were essential to his practice, so he had his eldest sons trained as drummers.  They taught the middle generation (Yacub and Obo’s generation) and the Addy’s became a famous family in Ga drumming. 

The best of these elder brothers were Mankatta Addy (Adja’s father, who played the leading obrenten drum) and Tettey Aku Addy (who played the difficult supporting pretia drum).  Both are long deceased. I had the pleasure of witnessing Tettey Aku Addy playing obrenten in a family gathering in 1990, a few years before his death, and his tone and technique, as well as the subtlety and complexity of his rhythm was superb.

Yacub and Obo’s mother, Akua Hagan, was during her marriage to their father, his lead singer, and each of her four musical sons inherited her ability, although different voices.  Tettey Addy (ak.k.a. E.T.), the eldest, passed in 2000, having been a member of Yacub’s group Odadaa! for 15 years. The youngest, Okoe Thompson, from their mother’s second marriage, was a member of Odadaa! for 8 years and now works from time to time with both Yacub and Obo’s groups.  He’s a gifted and creative artist.

Today Yacub is the oldest practicing traditional drummer in the family at 73.  He was the first, both in the family and in Ghana, to stage traditional drumming and dance.  Yacub is known for his traditional integrity as an artist, organizer and as a person, for the excellence of his performance ensembles, and for the clarity of his hand technique.

Obo started out as a pop artist with very fast hands and his mother’s voice, and later returned to learn more about the traditional culture of other tribes at the Arts Council of Ghana. Obo’s creative music is based in the best of his jazz/pop experience and his traditional experience. It is quite uniquely different than typical Ghanaian highlife, to me far superior because of the inclusion of more tradition than usual, the sophistication of the arrangements and the standard of Addy artistry of his generation.

Yacub concentrated on and sacrificed much to maintain and create tradition, again with the high artistic standard of Addy artistry of his generation. At the time highlife began, there was prejudice against traditional music. Yacub spent much of his life fighting this mentality, so it is natural that his creative music is more directly traditionally based. His work has been aptly termed “classic.” His performance ensembles have maintained a standard for traditional artistry. 

Over the last 22 years of its life in America, Odadaa! has included in its personnel some of the greats among Ga drummers and dancers of this period.  Yacub also has a lifelong love of jazz and is currently working on projects combining traditional music with jazz, as usual trying to keep traditionalism strong in the process.


The Greek underworld: original roots to revival sounds

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to Rebétika
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Rebétika
The Rough Guide to Rebétika [rebetika is also known as rembetika and rebetiko]showcases some of the best rebétika artists from its early roots to the rising stars from the more recent revival movement.

Rebétika is the music of the Greek underworld, whose golden years started shortly after Greek national independence and lasted until the 1950s. A rich and heady stew, rebetika focuses on hopeless love, disease, drugs, death and imprisonment. As a musical form, it draws on numerous sources such as the formal instrumental suites of the Ottoman court, the solo vocals of Turkey and Iran, and the captivating, sophisticated instrumentation of the café aman in Istanbul and Izmir. Andonios ‘Dalgas’ Dhiamandidhis (1892–1945) is ranked as one of the greatest Greek singers of his time. Known as ‘Dalgas’ after the undulations in his voice (‘dalgas’ is Turkish for ‘wave’), his recording career was brief but prolific.
Steeped in the multifaceted Constantinopolitan musical tradition from an early age, Dalgas arrived to Greece in 1922 and soon became celebrated for his live recitals.

Efstratios ‘Stratos’ Payioumidzis (1904–1971) was nicknamed ‘O Tembelis’ (‘The Lazy’) for his chatter and love of leisure. He was the star singer of the famous 1930s ‘Piraeus Quartet’, which included Yiorgos Batis (composer of ‘Zeïmbekano Spaniolo’), Anestis Dhelias and Markos Vamvakaris.

Vamvakaris (1905–1972), who also features on this album, was one of Greece’s most rebetic composers (and undisputed master) of the bouzoúki. This song, composed by Spiros Peristeris and based on real people, eulogizes boatman Andonis ‘The Knife-Puller’, who for the sake of a certain ‘Carmen’ gets knifed
in a taverna.

After working with Markos Vamvakaris in 1937, Yiannis Papaïoannou became one of the most prolific and influential songwriters and bouzouki masters. Universally loved for his generous spirit, ‘Pende Ellines Ston Adi’, perhaps more than any other zeibekiko, encapsulates the defiant rebetic spirit, telling the story of five Greeks meeting up in hell and commencing festivities.

The Rough Guide to Rebetika focuses on music from the Golden Age of the genre but it also features artists who have been important in rebetika’s recent revival. Born in Athens but educated and residing in France, Nena Venetsanou is one of the most versatile Greek interpreters of both modern compositions and traditional material.

Agathonas Iakovidis began playing with the revival group Rebetiko Synkrotima Thessaloniki in the early 1980s. He has gone on to forge a distinguished recording and live-performance career, relying on essentially the same eight-member backing band, which is distinguished by its clean, uncluttered

This album also features Glikeria, one of the key figures in the revival of Smyrneika, tsiftetélia and folk material in the 1980s, Mario, one of the pillars of the 1980s rebetika revival in Tessalonika (Thessaloniki in Greek), and Manolis Dimitrianakis & Dimitris Kontogiannis, who perform here with the
Rebetiki Kompania, one of the foremost rebetika revival groups of the 1970s.

Moving back to the musicians who form the historical heart and soul of the genre, Roza Eskenazi moved to Greece as a child. Discovered singing in a taverna by producer Panayiotis Toundas in 1929, she went on to embark on a successful career spanning over four decades. Her delivery is unmistakable, and ‘Enas Mangas Sto Teke Mou’ is a zeibekiko from her career peak during the 1930s.

Roza Eskenazi’s main rival, Rita Abatzi, who possessed a huskier, more textured voice also features on this album. ‘O Xemangas’ is one of the few songs disparaging being high and, in the song; the singer proposes to abandon his hashish habit.

Marika Ninou was working as a singer in an Athens music hall when Vassilis Tsitsanis discovered her in 1949. Featuring Ninou and Tsitsanis, ‘Ta Kavourakia’ was a huge success and many Greeks in their fifties confess that this uptempo, light-toned song is the first one they can remember.

Marika Papagika recorded more than 200 sides for several companies in between 1918 and 1929, and on ‘Galata Manes’ cello, violin and cembalo (European hammer dulcimer) form one of the most unusual instrumental ensembles in the café aman repertoire.

This album also includes music from Theodosia Stinga, Kostas Roukounas, Yiorgos Katsaros, Stella Haskil and Grigoris Asikis, one of Greece’s ud masters.

Buy The Rough Guide to Rebétika