Here’s a short YouTube recording of Markos Vamvakaris playing several of the roads that are commonly used in Greek music (esp. the rebetika). If you can’t read Greek, he’s playing the following: sabax, niavent, hitzaz, houzam, kourdi, peiraiotiko, rast, hitzazkiar, and ousak. You should be able to pick up the changes road to road (he makes of note of it in Greek in the video). For an overview of the dromoi (roads), take a look at this website. Many of the roads may be found, in various forms, in Turkish, Arabic and Persian music. Obviously, in those traditions and idioms, they are somewhat different. In fact, even among Greeks one can encounter differences of opinion when it comes to the roads, which is not surprising within the context of a folk music tradition.
Here’s a playlist of some really exceptional musicians who played together back in April at Peran in Athens. Fotis Vergopoulos leads with his inimitable bouzouki, Avgerini Gatsi provides her angelic voice, Kostis Kostakis lends his subtle yet essential pre-war kithara, while Yiannis Zarias’ violin captures the mood as only a violin can. But the star of the show is Solon Lekkas, a native of Lesvos, and one of the few remaining Greek vocalists who can sing proper amanedes (songs of lament). Here’s a documentary produced in Greece featuring Lekkas, though I would recommend simply listening to the playlist below — you simply must hear a proper amanes and only then will you recognize its potency, its purpose…..and then, well, if you were really listening, you might learn something. So, enjoy this playlist, for in our perilous times music can heal, unite, and teach us many things.
If you would like to humanize the humanitarian crisis that’s happening right now in the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and the Aegean, watch this short documentary from the NYT. In it, you will be presented with a view of the crisis from the front lines – the Greek coast guard and the refugees themselves. What can one say? The scenes are simply heartbreaking. Refugees–among them many women and children–desperately attempting to flee war and state collapse, and on the other side, the Greek coast guard and Greek islanders who simply lack the resources to deal with such an enormous, difficult situation but make every effort to do so. And no one lends a hand. The EU has forsaken Greece, made it into some sort of quarantine zone–problem solved, they must say! Typical Eurocrats–heartless, cruel, selfish to the core. And the broader international community? Well, the US has done little, in no small part due to the rampant Islamophobia gripping the country (fomented more so by the vile campaign of Donald Trump). And so the lost are left to fend for themselves, told (effectively), to deal with it, wait a bit (or, you know, for months or years), for some sort of coherent policy to emerge. Such will never arrive. For these are the world’s forgotten, the have nots–everyday Syrians, Afghans, and others–the “collateral damage” from the games of the great powers, whose mercy is absent and lust for destruction knows no bounds. Perhaps a few heads of state should sit and watch this video–watch as near-dead children are rescued and resuscitated, watch as the masses of the dispossessed float in the cold Aegean–and see their policies in action. For ours is a reprehensible global order, writ large in this video through the suffering of the innocent.
A good article that details the situation on Greece’s eastern Aegean islands:
But the deal has also turned Greece’s eastern Aegean islands into holding centres. Those rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard are shipped to the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros, and Kos, and confined there until their first asylum interview has been conducted. Depending on the outcome, they are either given permission to complete the asylum process on the mainland or deported back to Turkey. But so far, just 509 people have been returned to Turkey under the deal and there are now some 14,000 refugees on the islands, overwhelming facilities built for half that number. More arrive nearly every day.
Papazoglou, 1935, Kalogria (“Nun”).
Βαρέθηκα τον κόσμο πιά, καλογριά θα γίνω,
και απάνω σε ψηλό βουνό, μονάχη μου θα μείνω.
I’m tired of this world, I’ll become a nun,
and go up to a tall mountain, where I’ll live alone.
Here’s a wonderful version sung by Eleftheria Arvanitaki in her younger years. The folk guitar in this recording is simply fantastic–what a sound.
And the original:
Aigina, 1977. Nikos Vraxnas and Thanasis Athanasiou–two old school rebetes, prepping for an album that never came to be. Enjoy and, please, appreciate the extraordinary uniqueness of this recording: