The lists below are framed around my own knowledge and tastes, but they’ll nevertheless provide a good introduction to rebetika.
A note: rebetika is a form of music that requires your time; it’s an acquired taste (for most). Listen, then listen again. It may all sound the same at first, but eventually it won’t. At some point, the rich and unique melodies and rhythms of the music will become more distinctive. But it requires time if you’re a Westerner.
1. A mixed collection of rebetika songs. This playlist represents a fairly broad range of music, from smyrneïka to peiraiotika and even American rebetika. It includes music by Halikias, Anestis Delias, Kostas Bezos, Yiannis Papaioannou, Hadjichristos, Mitsakis, Chrysafakis, Papazoglou, Toundas, and Tsaous.
2. Markos Vamvakaris. One of the most important of the rebetes (and my favorite composer). His music remains well known today in Greece.
3. Vassilis Tsitsanis. Equally important as Vamvakaris during the 30s, and more so during the post-war period, when he helped transform rebetika, moving it toward laïko. He was so popular that he was given a state funeral when he died in 1984 by the PASOK government and is buried in Athens’ First Cemetery.
4. Rebetika Instrumentals. Some selections from Tsitsanis, Vamvakaris, Papaioannou, Peristeris, and Halkias.
5. Also, take a look at this YouTube page – he’s compiled a tremendous amount of original recordings and provided background information for most of the songs (in Greek).
6. Fotis Vergopoulos. A young guy who plays wonderful early-style rebetika. This playlist contains many clips from his performances in Melbourne, Australia.
7. Nikos Vrachnas. A true rebetis; he learned rebetika from Stelios Keromytis and died only recently in 2003.
8. Finally, take a look at this live recording of Tsitsanis from 1981.