View Full Version : Rebetiko

Mar-03-2004, 9:39am

Through a greek friend I came to know a little bit of rebetiko. Searches on the net revealed two things:

1. There is a good deal of information about rebetiko on the net
2. most of it is in greek

So... my question is: Is there beginner information about rebetiko to be found on the net that is in English? Things I want to find out:

1. Scales, tabs, standard notation etc.
2. What are the evergreens
3. Which cds to buy/listen to and where to find them
4. Maybe translation of lyrics
5. Any other help, comments, etc. would also be welcome!

regards Roel
(who is still searching through european folk music to see what he likes best http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif )

Mar-03-2004, 12:20pm
I havnt had much luck either. I know someone, my dad actually is going to chios this summer and a cafe member is going somewhere over there in the spring and I think he may get me something. I am sure there is some out there on the net. maybe you can find a cryllic or greek to latin character translater online?

oh yeh, type in your search box, Vitrifolk partitions greques. they are not all the coolest greek tunes, but some of them are!

Mar-03-2004, 12:24pm
ps if you go there, watch out!

little letters mean minor chords, capitol means major.
no sign for diminished. there is also an "h" chord they use, swear to god. H. I dont know what the %$# it is, but it is there. also , no chords are written as flat or sharp, just the letter alone, so you have to pay attention to your key sig.

we have joked in jamms, #dissonant "wrong turns" were infact "H" chords. so yeh, no legato ties to indicate a "hammer on" or the little "hold" symbol thingy, nothing to indicate what this H is. I think its "no chord here"

Mar-03-2004, 12:30pm
George's Greek Midi Site (http://www.greekmidi.com/index.html)

The Rebetiko (http://www.rembetiko.gr/intro.htm)
Good article (in English) about the history of Greek rebetiko music. (Tsitsanis, Vamvakaris and other bouzouki players, singers)

The Rebetisses (http://www.violetta.demon.co.uk/)
Info, sound samples, etc on the female singers of Greek rebetiko music of 1920's-50's

Rounder has some good (and long, 70 mins. or so) compilations of old Greek stuff:
Markos Vamvakaris - Bouzouki Pioneer, 1932-1940 (Rounder 1139)
Vasilis Tsitsanis (Rounder 1124)
Roza Eskenazi- Rembetissa (Rounder 1080)
various - Rembetica: Historic Urban Folk Songs From Greece(Rounder 1079)

various - Greek-Oriental Rebetica, The Golden Years 1911-1937 (Arhoolie/Folk-Lyric 7005)

more modern stuff:
various - The Rough Guide To The Music of Greece (74 min compilation inc. tracks by Arvanitkai, Glykeria and 19 others.)

and keep on the lookout for discs by (singers) Eleftheria Arvanitaki (The Bodies And The Knives), Haris Alexiou (Di Efchon, Glykeria, George Dalaras, who have a few of their numerous discs released in the US.

Ross Daly has some really good Cretan-style instrumental stuff out on various European labels.

Niles Hokkanakis

Mar-03-2004, 12:45pm
ammababoula is a greek avante garde or free or noise or whatever youcallit jazz.

I want sheets, myself. but bands and where to buy audio is ok advise too

Paul Kotapish
Mar-03-2004, 1:15pm
Hi Sellars,

There are quite a few English websites dedicated to rebetico, although you'll need to try a few different spellings of the term on Google to ferret them out.

Many folks--I included--use the Gail Holst transliteration rembetika, and still others use rembetica, rembetico, and rebetika.

Here are a couple of introductory sites with some history, introduction to the music and instruments, and many links:



The best way to learn about the music is to listen to it, of course. CDs of rembetika music can be a bewildering experience because there have been so many reissues of the same stuff on different labels, but those Rounder anthologies that Niles listed are as good a place as any to start. A lot of my own collection came from rummaging around various Greek import stores around the country, but lots of stuff is now available online. Here are a couple of links to places that carry Greek and Rembetika CDs:


Also, I'd recommend reading Gail Holst's

Road to Rembetika. Australian rembetika enthusiast Holst (now Holst-Warhoft) offers some great insights into the music and culture, and it's a fun read. Apparently it's out of print, but I saw a few copies at Down Home Music in El Cerrito not long ago, and I think Amazon can get it for you. In the meantime, here's a review of the book:


You could try contacting Down Home to see if they still have it:


For a dose of bouzoukimania, check out Sam's site:


To get an overview of the Greek instruments readily available in the U.S. for playing rembetika, check out:


You might also enjoy my little article on the history of the bouzouki:


If you really want to learn the music, there are a couple of summer music camps worth considering.

Lark in the Morning in Mendocino, California, always has a big Greek contingent, and the camp is an amazing amalgam of acoustic music from around the globe.


If you really want to get serious, consider Balkan camp:


Hope this helps.


Mar-03-2004, 1:40pm
ISBN: #9607120078
Author: Holst, Gail # # # # #
Title: Road To Rembetika: Music Of A Greek Sub-Culture Songs Of Love, Sorrow And Hashish
Price: (£)10 # # # #Binding # # Paperback # # # #Pages #181 # # # #Date Published: #5/1/94

Description: #
Rembetika, the music which began in the jails and hashish-dens of Greek towns and became the popular bouzouki music of the 30's 40's and 50's, has many parellels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembetika songs were the soul music of a group of people who felt themselves to be outside the mainstream of society, who developed heir own slang and their own forms of expression. 'Road To Rembetika' is the first book in English to attempt a general survey of the world of the 'rembets'. who smoked hashish while they played the bouzouki and danced the passionate 'zembekiko' to release their emtoions. It is an enthusiastic introduction to the subject, written by an Australian musician who first came to Greece in 1965 and has been interested in Greek music ever since.
- - - - - - - - - - -

Your best chance of finding a copy of the Holst book (if it is out of print again) is from Zeno Booksellers (http://www.thegreekbookshop.com/thegreekbookshop/) in London which is where I got mine a few years ago.

Niles Hokkanen

Mar-03-2004, 1:48pm

thanks , Ill look for that #

Mar-03-2004, 2:22pm
"there is also an "h" chord they use, swear to god. H. I dont know what the %$# it is, but it is there."

H in Continental Europe is the same as B in Anglo-American usage. Continental "B" instead is the same as Anglo-American B flat. There´s some historical reason for this oddity, but I have forgot it...

So, B major in USA is H-dur in Germany (and si majeur in France).

greetings, Arto

Mar-03-2004, 3:06pm

Great to see such an overwhelming response!

In April that greek friend is going back to Greece. I hope she will bring me a lot of music http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif last time she brought me the soundtrack to the film.

Last week she got me the rebetiko film on DVD. I absolutely love it!! the film featuredsome mando-banjo.

I wished I could understand the lyrics, but alas, leaning Greek isn't a commitment that I can make time for in the near future ;)

I am certainly going to look after those cds.

Is the mandolin used historically in rebetiko (or however you want to spell it in this alphabet http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif)?

Mar-03-2004, 7:02pm
Here is a link to articles, some in English, and there are links to other items including the annual October Rebetiko Gathering on the Greek island of Hydra:


Mar-04-2004, 8:56am
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif that makes my day. the mystery of the H chord and un B flat solved!!

thanks arto!!!

Mar-14-2004, 4:58am
I went to the Greek bookstore in Amsterdam yesterday, and thare they had Road to Rembetika. I'm allready half-way through it http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

A good thing is that a german translation is now in press. Its a hardcover wit an extra CD. I don'tb read german, so I bought the english version, but its nice to see that the book is in print again.

There were a lot of rembetika books there, but they were all in greek (which I Don't read).

Mar-14-2004, 12:54pm
[/QUOTE] "Niles Hokkanakis "

http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif #I LOVE it! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif


Vic (the Greek)

Bob A
Mar-30-2004, 8:00pm
Ordered and rec'd a copy of the Road to Rembetikos from England when this thread came out - book arrived yesterday and I devoured it in one gulp. Very interesting read; also ordered a bunch of CDs. Hope they live up to the billing. Still, what's not to love about songs of love and hashish?

Mar-31-2004, 9:17am
hope you got some vambarakis, he's cool and his voice is very bold and commanding. I am looking for george batis also. he's so crazy he quite recording after mention of hashish and prostitution and anything "seedy" legal forbidden by the greek govt.

Mar-31-2004, 9:51am
speaking of vamvarakis, I just figured out "H ATAKTH" , and I cant believe its in 6/8, I could have sworn it was in some odd # time sig

Mar-31-2004, 10:11am
Yes, Batis was quite the character, too. He was buried with his baglama at his side... Not much of a singer (not that ANYone of them was, in the "cultivated" sense of singing) but quite a character. Unlike others, however, he was a successful shopkeeper —hardly a derelict— and a benefactor to all his indigent friends in their time of need.

Vamvakaris lived long enough to survive the nasty, fascist dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas in the '30's, through WWII, and onto the post-war era, only to see —much to his surprise—#the good society people come to hear him, something unthinkable one generation earlier. He is truly the encyclopedia of the rebetiko.

Bob A
Apr-20-2004, 4:38pm
Read the book, got the CDs. Each hearing brings more enjoyment. Put on some Vamvarakis for the grandson (1 yr) and straightaway he decided this was dance music. One hand on the table (not walking solo yet) and one hand waving free, he began some thoughtful footwork. I was impressed with his immediate understanding and proper response to the medium.

Apr-21-2004, 4:36am
Put on some Vamvarakis for the grandson (1 yr) and straightaway he decided this was dance music. One hand on the table (not walking solo yet) and one hand waving free, he began some thoughtful footwork. I was impressed with his immediate understanding and proper response to the medium.

thats great! the little one really has taste http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

children are really responsive to music, and unspoiled in what they should and should not like http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Apr-21-2004, 10:22am
"...he decided this was dance music..."

But... of COURSE! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

"...one hand waving free, he began some thoughtful footwork..."

Naturally. He was doing the zeybekiko.

You truly have one musical grandson, Bob! Enjoy him, especially as he enjoys the rebetiko.



Apr-21-2004, 3:00pm
This just appeared in The Guardian. # (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/guesteditors/story/0,14481,1194728,00.html)It is an interesting overview of the inside history and who the players are ... I think some of the sequences are a little skewed but for me, the closing statement puts the whole Rebetiko movement in perspective "... this may be the only way the original punk spirit of rebetiko can sleaze its way into the 21st century."

Now I no longer wonder why I'm so attracted to this aspect of Greek Muisc. (That and a spectacular brunette from Zakinthos.)

Also included in the article is a listing for a VERY militant Rebetiko (http://www.rebetiko.org/) group who want to (among other things) "1/ End the imperialistic tyranny of the four-course bouzouki"

2/ "the subsequent indigestible syrtaki-like fake music served in oily greek restaurants"

3/ "Outlaw occidental major scales and imported kitsch rythms"

4/ "interminable fat tremolos running along the neck and swooning german old biddies"

And I thought some American "traditionalists" had a socialization inferiority complex.

Sorry Scott - shouldn't editorialize here ...

Keith Miller
Apr-21-2004, 5:06pm
Try www.rebetico.gr. This site lists itself as the home of rebetico on the web. It is in Greek but there is an option to translate the whole site to English on the home page.

Apr-22-2004, 7:06am
Truly excellent article, Dion. Of course, the history therein is a bit, ehm... revisionist at times. For example, the statement that [QUOTE]"The desperate Greeks were forced into the sea, where most drowned" misrepresents drowning as some sort of accident, thereby exonerating the Turkish troops and paramilitary gangs from what responsible historians accurately and fairly call The Smyrna Massacre, where innumerable Greek civilians (and even more non-combatant Armenians) were slaughtered while the British, French, and Italian fleets sat, floating idly by the bay. 99.999% of historians and eyewitnesses can't ALL be wrong about the accounts they have left us.

But a wonderfully articulate article, all in all.

As for the lovely brunette of Zakynthos that so enchanted you, Dion... well, I can assure you she was not of rebetiko lineage. Mandolin, rather. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Apr-22-2004, 7:58am
Hey, great article!! thanks


Apr-22-2004, 8:48am
As for the militant "trichordo" group, I find them quite hilarious in their good intentions.

Of course, as a matter of principle, I do not agree with putting people down for what they like or dislike. But I must agree with the core issue of that site, namely the preference for the three-course instrument, for this repertoire.

I also have a firsthand distaste for the post-WWII, popular bouzouki-culture, but again, no accounting for that, I suppose.

I guess that my particular, social dysfunction is that I am attached more to the 1800's-1910's mandolin culture than the subsequent rebetiko. That runs in the family, of course, and I cannot argue why a fifth-generation baker might have a taste for warm, fresh bread, or a fifth-generation carpenter for the smell of freshly cut wood; that is both too deep and too simple an experience to warrant explanation.

At least, I put up no website calling people names. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Apr-22-2004, 9:15am
Several weeks ago I taught a 3-day Beginner Mando Boot Camp. I don't use a whole lot of different tunes, prefering to use a few tunes over and over to demonstrate different ideas or techniques; have a recurring baseline makes it much more apparent and clear what the difference is between "what is the basic tune melody?" and "what's been done to the tune?"

tune list:
Old Joe Clark
Cripple Creek
Song Of The A-s-s <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>(medieval carol, XIII century)</span>
Emma <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>((Finnish waltz in Am)</span>
Fjellrillen <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>(#(assymetrical Norwegian reel in A-lydian</span>
Varka Yialo <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>((Tsitsanis hasapiko in G)</span>

It's very rare that I have a student who has ever played any Greek tunes, or one who has even thought about playing any Greek music on the mandolin; but class responsiveness is usually overwhelmingly positive when I'll teach one. # And a couple of students will say that of all the tunes being used or taught, the Greek one really grabbed them the most. (But there are others who'll respond most to the minor Nordic waltzes). # #

Niles Hokkanen

Apr-22-2004, 9:26am
I just heard from Dino Bersis last night, my bazouki 4 course is ready, speaking of the devil....
I wonder, about vic's suggestion to have a three string nut and bridge made so I can go "bi" about it... I am wondering, dino said it has to settle in, still has some fret buzzing.... should I wait to switch things up,,,, should I leave it under the 4 course string tension,,, will that make a difference, in tension,,, how fast this thing settles in???/

Apr-22-2004, 9:28am
Well, Jeff, putting the instrument under less tension than it was built for will certainly do no damage. Still, I think Dino is right; do give it some time to settle before "going bi-", as you say. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Apr-22-2004, 10:38am
well I suppose I am a cheezball according to these guys in trichordo..

actually, everyone I talk to , musician or not, if they know rebetiko, they know the 3 course is the "golden era". #

but I do work at "oily greek restaurants". thats where I start I suppose. I am in my twenties so I hoping I have plenty of time to move up to better... but what is there? I mean I live near a greek town, and I cant say there is too many options... festivals, what? #to get the real spirit rebetiko, I agree with the strings, but it seems like since we dont have hash houses here, no matter what you do, you will be playing for my grandparents in the end. #I am trying to put together a seedy bar room band of gypsy and rebetiko music, we wont tag ourselves rebetiko, since most bar owners probably dont know what that is.... and if I play to greeks, only problem, it will be my grandma, not the people I want to touch... ei, hot girls, stoners, night time people.... I think that could maybe come kinda near distant close to the spirit. I dont know how it will go, I think we will get gigs when we start trying...now I gig with one guitar player in restaurants, my mandolin get up. #I do like restaurants, its fun, but I would like to play more live feeling gigs. #you can take a greek to the deke , but you cant make him smoke. no offense anyone, please, I am just messin around, my grandparents are greek, so I feel like I can poke some fun.
(shuniak , shoo- nee-(y)ak is carpathian, not greek) and we all look like my carpathian grandfather especially, like clones. back to the music, I would love to revive old style rebetiko, but I want the spirit of the audience to be there too... if I gigged in tarpon springs, greek place, and say an audience member catches a whiff of pot smoke between sets.... they would be on the phone with the police so fast.....not to put so much credit in the smoke, from a musicians perspective, its completely rediculouse to even consider and I dont mean to undermine the depth and importance of the music,,, but I think atmosphere helped make this scene exist.... vamvarakis would be in jail today..or living in california with a doctor's script...

Apr-22-2004, 11:17am
Of course, Jeff; music is your business, as it is mine.

For a parallel example: I used to have a lovely, 18th-century Tyrolean bass that sounded like an angel come down from heaven; problem was, it was smaller than the usual instrument seen and heard in symphony orchestras. Obviously, I could not afford to have every conductor (and contractor) in New York thinking of me as "the guy with the little bass". And conductors (great experts that they are) will immediately blame the player with the visually different instrument for any flaw in the ensemble. Go figure...

With heavy heart, I sold it (via consignment) to the lady who plays in Christopher Norrington's Academy for Ancient Music in London, where, of course, a period instrument is prized, not put down. I live where you live.


Bob A
Apr-22-2004, 2:28pm
Always a problem, outlaw music. If you want to be authentic, you need both the culture and the oppression. Even if there were hash dens locally, they wouldn't be necessarily filled with Greeks. And of course the continuity is lost.

It is surprising to me that a dozen or three guys with zouks were able to generate a musical style that flourished and spread and dug its roots in so deeply. I suspect you really need that prohibition-style repression, not to mention some jail time, to fertilise the music with blood and sorrow, and make it really a major element of a subculture.

It's also too bad you can't get decent hashish around here. I guess folks just can't be trusted not to enjoy themselves. Nevertheless, even though we're missing so much of the basics, maybe repression is just around the corner. So tune up, and wait for the politsmani. We may yet get our opportunity.

Apr-23-2004, 6:31am
Many, many and complex reasons behind the eventual acceptance of the rebetiko.

Speaking in parallels, again: The revival of chant in late 19th-century France, the Scola Cantorum, the new Catholic pietism, on the heels of the boundless Wagner-mania in mid-19th century French tastes, seen as a corollary and consequence of the Franco-Prussian wars, where the (by their own presumption) vastly superior French armed forces are trashed by those of (after all) a small German kingdom from up north. The sudden distaste for all things German becomes self-evident.

In parallel: The mandolin, popular instrument par excellence but, of course, of Italian origin; the disgraceful conduct of fascist Italy in WWII and the consequent distaste for all things Italian, the pursuit of a "national" music, what the article from The Guardian calls the de facto living music of post-WWII Greece, etc.

The article, of course, glosses over (social) class issues— nor could it be expected to fully address a far larger, sociological subject. It also does not heed local origin, which in many respects is THE core issue.

Another important subject, and one that I have no ambition to tackle here, is that post-WWII Greece is inseparably connected with American foreign policies of the time, the "Truman dogma", the belated industrialization of a petty-retail economy, and all the complex, correlated historical facts that led youngsters like myself to grow up playing in pop/rock bands (in the American fashion) as opposed to anything even remotely connected to the bouzouki and its culture.

Ah, well... I have already blabbered too much this morning. Time to get back to typesetting my latest score. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Bob A
May-12-2004, 11:41am
Having gotten deeper into the subject, I noticed something: Holst notes that the various "roads" of rembetika were, as played originally, usually lengthy instrumental introductions to the songs. They would set the mood and melodic direction, and serve as a sort of extended intro to the song. Of course, when recorded on 78rpm discs, the whole thing couldn't last more than 3-4 minutes, so we have lost the major part of the music, it seems to me.

Does anyone know of a LP or CD that might have been made in the later years, by performers of the30s era, that would include such an extended intro? Or in fact any recorded source of the dozen or so "roads" as described, that formed the heart of the real rembetika?

Paul Kotapish
May-12-2004, 1:48pm
Does anyone know of a LP or CD that might have been made in the later years, by performers of the30s era, that would include such an extended intro?

There is a wonderful recording by Vassillis Tsitsanis made late in his career called Homage to Tsitsanis on the Ocora label from France (C 582010 Ocora).

This recording features many taqsims--the long, improvised, introductory solos you were asking about. It's an essential album, IMHO. The peformances are a bit unusual for Tsitsanis because he does all the singing on these songs, many of which are considered classics. Tsitsanis typically worked with woman singers--the great Sotiria Bellou and Marika Ninou them--but on this recording he sings the songs himself, and the results are lovely. The settings are more spare than in on many of his larger ensemble recordings, and that makes his soulful bouzouki work stand out all the beter.

Tsitsanis was a transitional player who began playing very hard-core rembetika stuff and softened it a bit with more westernized melodies and chord structures and cheerful lyrics. He was a prolific composer and an amazing and soulful player with deep roots in the older traditions, and this record is a great introduction to his art. I have many of his earlier recordings, but this is the one I listen to most often.

1. Taqsim
2. Se Mazepsa, Se Symmassa
3. Taqsim et Danse Aptalikos
4. San Apokliros Gyrizo
5. Taqsim et Danse À 5/8
6. Baxe Tsifliki [A la Taverne Baxe Tsifliki]
7. Taqsim
8. Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki
9. Taqsim et Danse Karsilamas
10. Pira Ti Strata K'erkhomai-Paixe Khristo to Bouzouki
11. Taqsim Sur le Rythme Khassapikos
12. Sakaflias
13. Taqsim
14. Taqsim et Danse Karsilamas

It's available from lots of places, including Amazon.

Check it out.

Bob A
May-12-2004, 3:05pm
Thank you, Paul - I'll look for it ASAP.

May-13-2004, 6:25am
Once, at the request of Dion (Dolamon), I wrote down an informal encyclopedia-of-sorts regarding the actual "theory" of the dromoi, or roads of the rebetiko, covering and explaining the modes used and all other salient points generally unavailable anywhere else. I must warn you, however, that (in quite Shakespearian fashion), this mini-dissertation is both brief AND tedious. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

I would be happy to share this with you, Bob, or anyone else who might be interested. On the flip side, I must also say that you are definitely taking the better path to knowledge: Listening to good, representative performers and repertoire beats reading "theory" texts any day. This is one of my tireless mantras to all my composition students: Spend at least as much time listening to good music as you do reading this or that text! (... this, among other reasons, is why I have always been a maverick in the academia...)

Pick on!

Bob A
May-13-2004, 10:16am
Well, Victor, if it must be brief, making it tedious will at least permit us to savor it longer. Or so it will seem.

If it's brief enough to post, feel free. If it's simpler to email the text, I promise to read it at least once.

I can't agree more that the actual playing is what music is all about. Grammar is nice, for the time between learning to speak and being able to be artful with language.

May-13-2004, 11:27am
Oh, Bob... depending on the capacity of the application (and server) you are using, this may make a good, THREE e-mails http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

"Brief" as in "non-comprehensive"...

Should I? Your call.

Bob A
May-13-2004, 2:05pm
By all means, Victor. It may be too much of a good thing, or perhaps not, but sometimes I find a bit of theory helps me figure out what I'm trying to do. A penny will drop, and scales will fall from my eyes. So to say. (Truly a mixed bag of metaphors. All tender bits for the stewpot of my mind, such as it is).

My server awaits your pleasure. (I've ordered the above-mentioned Tsitsanis CD, and another book, by Petropoulos, on rembetiko).

May-14-2004, 6:37am
OK, then, Bob; three, voluminous e-mails have gone off to cyberspace in your direction.

Truly, one thing that gets somewhat lost in the translation of Ms. Holst's admirable text is the double meaning of the word "roads". She does, on one level (I presume) mean "paths of access", i.e. for the non-Greek readership to gain some understanding of the rebetiko. She also MUST have meant the word in direct translation of the Greek "dromoi". This word, apart from its quotidian meaning of "roads/streets", also means the modes, the folk scales on which the original rebetika were built, especially the introductory improvisations that traditionally were played before the "song proper" went into a fixed meter and tempo.

The theoretical blabber I just e-mailed you simply codifies those modes/scales. I hope you gain something of use from it.

P.S. I must warn you about a common anachronism: Tsitsanis was the one who said that "there are no other scales for my music than simply major and minor". He was, of course, the prime exponent of the POST-rebetiko laiko, the "people's music" (as in "layman"— direct cognate). The scales I discuss are exclusively applicable to the early, original rebetiko of the 1920's and '30's.

May-14-2004, 7:39am
"To Xapama" is another bare bones Tsitsanis album. #just a zouk, guitar, and baglama. and vocals with marika. every song is good. long intros. couple of instrumentals.

May-14-2004, 8:18am
my bazouki should be arriving anyday now....

vic, would you mind forwarding me those scales? #

I am going to leave it reg 8 string tuning for now. but I found a guy in town who has worked on many bazoukis, and I am going to ask him soon to make me a new bridge and nut...down the road and only if it seems easier to learn the songs.
(you know how sometimes you can learn a lick real fast just bc you know where they are on the fingerboard)

and if anyone has some 3 course chord/scale charts I would like to look and see, curious..

ps #-- does Tsitsanis mean THAT literally? #or is he being a musical smarta*s. hinting that all scales are simply major and minor, just flatten a two here, sharp a seven there.. so on.???

if he doesnt mean that, then he's telling a fib. I have plenty of his songs that use the 'byzantine family scales'. (for lack of a better term #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif )

May-14-2004, 8:29am
Jeff, the "scales" you speak of are text, as in, ehm... English, not musical notation. Do you, too, care to read through my turgid mini-dissertation? If so, sure, I can e-mail it to you as well.

Fingering on the 3-stringer is a BEAUTY! Everything, EVERYthing is symmetrical, as the outer courses are both D's. Every time you pivot your hand around the finger playing on the middle, A-course, you get another position of the same chord! Easier than that it does not get...

May-14-2004, 8:38am
scales #: # eeek!
I guess if its no trouble, send em over, I'll look at them .. I do have plenty of time this weekend no gigs except saturday night I sit in (two songs) with my friend's band, no pay just a favor and fun.

maybe I'll go tsitsanis route for now... major and minor, I'll flatten some two's here and there, same stuff I mentioned before...I think I am hearing vamvarkis using diminished chords and holding them, not using them as resolution chords.. that guy is crazy....what does he sing about,,, he sounds like a bad ###, but I fear he's singing about "taking his mom out to breakfast" or something corny. I want to really learn greek, maybe over the summer ( taking a class in school). I know a little, I am confident I can pick it up quick. my dad says its actually not too different, besides the alphabet, he says once once I learn the words and letters, I'll find the grammer part easy? similar to english sentence structure #
I am blithering, no need respond

May-14-2004, 9:13am
OK, then, Jeff. Please zap me an e-mail at work; I'm drawing a blank (as usual), trying to remember your direct e-mail address.

If Vamvakaris sounded like a bad###, it was only because he WAS one! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif And no, his songs are not about taking his mother out to lunch but about far more, errr... colorful dealings with womenfolk, about persecution by the police, about the consolation of hashish, the frequent stays at the local corrections facilities, and such other unsavory subjects.

While I would heartily recommend that you —and EVERYbody!— learn Greek, exactly on the grounds you mention, i.e. that the structure of the language is no different than other, Hindoeuropean languages (after you jump over the initial hurdle of the alphabet), I don't quite, ehm... recommend the lyrics of rebetika as your ABC. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

All the conversations you could possibly have, after studying these lyrics, would be: "Last I came out of jail —for stabbing that *)^$!$%!($^ I caught messing with my woman— I hit up Anestis for some hash; he was handing me the goods when a *$&)!&#$^ cop showed up, so we got into it (I had only one double-blade with me), but I still managed to spill his guts on the sidewalk, *(#&$*^!$ coward that he was; so, pass me the water-pipe, won't you?"

I just, ehm... *ekhm, ekhm* don't think that would get you far in present-day Greek society. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif I would start with some more —how do I put this?— wholesome educational materials.

May-14-2004, 10:24am
hey, but thats the way I talk in english, why not?http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif # # #subsitute "buds" for "hash", #girls always on my mind.. no stabbing.
only dreams of impaling the oligarchs. I didnt really say that, those words just appeared there...by magic.
ok email on the way.

Bob A
May-23-2004, 4:29pm
A bit of looking produced a book by Elias Petropoulos (trans with notes by Ed Emery). Pretty gritty, pretty informative, with more than you wanted to know about Greek jails, for example. Petropoulos seems to be a very interesting phenomenon in and of himself, with a scope of interest and publication that is almost Victorian in its incredible breadth. (Think Richard Burton in Greek).

It also has a bunch of scales depicting the various modes; oddly enough, they all begin on D. Also 20 songs in Greek and English, with musical notation. If you must have musical notation.

May-25-2004, 1:08pm
[QUOTE]"... the various modes; oddly enough, they all begin on D..."

For one familiar with the lineage of Greek folk music from Byzantine, ecclesiastical chant, not so odd. D-D being the range of the average, vocally untrained monk (or, for that matter, any male folk singer), modes are routinely written out in D.

Also, speaking of medieval semiography, why do you think that the lowest note on the staff (ledger lines excepted for the moment) is D? #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #Quite nifty, those musical/historical/anatomical associations. It all boils down to the "common" male voice, whether we are speaking of a pious, Byzantine monk chanting away in his cell on Mt. Athos or some lowlife rebetis strumming his baglama (tuned DAD, ergo in D! ) and singing along in his gruff, croaky voice.

Look at the Liber Usualis, the Graduale Romanum, the Anastasimatarion, the various troparies... D - D seems to be THE modal scope of choice.

But I digress into far more than you (or anyone in his/her right mind might) care to know...

Bob A
May-25-2004, 7:23pm
I guess it makes a certain amount of sense, or would if the scales were in the key of D; of course there is no key signature, so it becomes a scale starting on D in what would be the key of C except for all the incidental sharps and flats. Having a weak mind myself, and conceptualising from a keyboard, C would have been where I would have started.

Just to monkeywrench your monks and rembetes, the current scale is based on A440. I suspect that has been variable, if not totally unquantifiable, over the centuries (or millenia - this is a long scale we're looking at, I suspect).

Anyway, I'll either have to get a handle on it as it stands, or transpose the things into C. Meanwhile I've been working out scales from your essay, and enjoying the baglama. Grandson likes it too - he seem to think it was made for very short people, and is getting a bit proprietary about it.

May-26-2004, 10:15am
[quote]"Just to monkeywrench your monks and rembetes, the current scale is based on A440. I suspect that has been variable, if not totally unquantifiable, over the centuries (or millenia - this is a long scale we're looking at, I suspect)."

Of course, Bob; you are absolutely right. Bear in mind, however, that I was only speaking of semiography, i.e. strictly the manner in which music looked on the page, not the actual pitch-level at which it sounded. Both monks and folk singers took whatever octave-range "felt" right and called THAT "D-d", whatever the actual frequencies might have been.

I suspect, that is, that the notation in the book you mention is a continuation of that habitual "movable D" practice, if I may call it thus. Otherwise, of course, our "fixed" D has little meaning as an absolute boundary.

If I may throw in another trivium —why stop now?— #numerous church authors, throughout the 11 centuries of the empire and beyond, recommended most highly the trichordo(n), the Byzantine ancestor of the baglama, as the ideal instrument for learning chant, thanks to its wonderful construction, simplicity, and drone-like, tonic/dominant tuning.

[QUOTE]"Grandson likes it too - he seems to think it was made for very short people, and is getting a bit proprietary about it."

http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif #How adorable!

My own daughter, having advanced some at the violin, is starting to look at me with a degree of compassion (or is it pity?) when I still try to demonstrate something or other on the violin.

Bob A
May-26-2004, 10:32pm
Yeah, my granddaughter is far past the stage where I can impress her with being able to scratch out something on her violin. But for some reason hidden in her 12-year-old soul, she picked up the Kevorkian yesterday and thru sheer grit managed to pick out a bunch of Celtic tunes on it. So soon my lack of mandoskill will be challenged, and the only one that I'll be left able to impress will be the grandson. But for how much longer?

FWIW, my first folk instrument was the (appalachian) dulcimer, the very apotheosis of a modal instrument. (Of course it did not have the abominable extra fret - truly a loathesome backward step). I've always loved drones.

Jun-09-2004, 2:33am
yesterday was my birthday (hooray! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif) and as a present I got a 3CD box from the "panorama of rebetiko songs" series. This is a series of 12 3CD boxes, each with its own theme. The one I got is called "good times and high spirits"

From this series I also have "learning about your country" which focusses on Greek folk music, and "songs from the fringe"

The CD sets are on FM-Records, and the song titles and performers are printed in Greek and in English.

I really reccomend these sets! If you can lay your hands on one or more, certainly do so! I have seen them in the Greek bookstore in Amsterdam, so they are available outside of Greece.

Any more rembetiko discoveries?

http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/blues.gif &lt;-- mangas http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jun-10-2004, 9:31am
Happy birthday! (albeit belatedly)

The Panorama is a great anthology, indeed, and gives one a good, overall picture of "what's there". Once, of course, you narrow it down to what you like the most, then you can take it from there: Tsitsanis, for example, has an ENORMOUS discography, spanning his long and productive life; his records are universally available.

Of the "old guard", Vamvakaris made quite a few records, too. Máthesis appears on several records, although I don't know whether he made any of his own, featuring primarily himself; a rough (but colorful) character, with several prison-terms, a lengthy criminal record, concentration-camp tenure, and other, ehm... "credentials" on his curriculum vitae.

Sadly, some of the greatest talents left no "hard copy" legacies: Yiannis Eitzirides (a.k.a. Yovan Çiaüs) did not perform much in public, and died of food poisoning during the Nazi occupation of Athens; Artemis died in his late 20's of heroin overdose; Skarvelis and Stratos were virtually unknown outside their own, "inner" circle. And so on...

Of the others, I would recommend most warmly the works of Christos Papaioannou, who recorded few, but truly excellent LP's; he was driven out of Greece by the greedy, callous, artist-UNfriendly record companies of the time (those of today are hardly better...) Still, a true peer of Tsitsanis.

Of the singers, I adore the voice and character of Marika Ninou. Sotiria Bellou lived longer, of course, but she was, err... something else. Mary Linda (a stage-name, of course), lead vocalist and wife of the late Manolis Hiotis is still on stage, believe it or not!

The discography is really, really enormous. Seek and ye shall find... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Sep-01-2004, 12:03pm
Well gang, I'm here in Athens for a few more days. Having left the band I came with for reasons I won't go into right now, I have a little more free time.

So Victor, I hope you're reading this. Where's a good spot for rebetikas that isn't too smoky? I've been staying in a place that's about halfway between Thissio and Metaxourghiou but I'll be moving on Thursday.

E-mail me at martin@stillion.com if you want.

Sep-01-2004, 12:34pm
So glad to hear from you! A nice place for authentic rebetika is a taverna up in Kaisariani. Do you know the area? Kaisariani is one of the hills surrounding Athens, where the famous, medieval monastery by the same name is found, etc. The specific location of the taverna is around the Skopeftirio ("shooting range"), where much of the rebetiko culture was born in the first place. From the 1920's until fairly recently, Kaisariani had the densest population of Greek refugees from Asia Minor relocated in Athens, hence the rebetiko connection. The name of the taverna, however, escapes me.

I could call my folks and find out the exact name of the place but that may be a bit too late before I respond, too late for your stay in Athens. Ask around: All rebetiko-lovers should know what I'm talking about. No, it is not really close to the Metaxourghio— my father's childhood neighborhood, by the way!— but, as you know, EVERYthing is kind of close and accessible in Athens, with public transportation to and from anywhere in town.

To get to the place I am recommending, just take the bus that runs up the boulevard of Ethnikis Antistaseos (National Resistance Blvd.), that in my years was simply known as Kaisarianis Ave., as it takes you straight up the hill to the monastery. My sister lives in Kaisariani and knows the taverna quite well. She, too, is familiar with it as a popular gathering place for those who love rebetiko.

Enjoy my hometown!



Sep-07-2004, 1:55am
I have been listening a lot of rembetiko lately, and that got me wondering:

How much original rembetiko is there around? What is known of the recording history of rembetiko? Where were the studios, who were the engineers, what were the record labels?

Has there been any attemt on compiling a discography? Is it all 78rpm's or also 45rpm's, 10" 's, maybe even albums? Did record labels had any series in hich they released rembetiko songs?

A LOT of questions. I hope somebody has some answers or directions


Sep-07-2004, 6:59am
The first record label to take up the rebetiko was the one run by Minos Matsas; the company name was simply Minos Matsas & Son. Others followed...

This is truly an ENORMOUS subject, Roel. Odeon (Parlophone) was another firm. Most early issues were 45 rpm, with LP's following a good deal later. All this under the cloud of the Metaxás dictatorship, which forbade rebetiko and all that went with it.

The real profusion of recordings did not happen until AFTER the original rebetiko was effectively over, i.e. post-WWII, towered by Tsitsanis and his post-rebetiko, popular style— I attach no negative connotation to this description and admire his music unreservedly.

Some of the "old guard", like Vamvakaris, Máthesis, Batis, did record a bit after the war but, in their case, such recording projects were already viewed as "retro". As I have mentioned, I did once hear Vamvakáris live around 1970, shortly before his death. He was revered by the connoiseurs but, all the same, a dinosaur by then.

As for today: There has been great interest in reviving "authentic" rebetiko. I don't know how successful efforts in this direction have been. At any rate, ANY revival is just that: A revival. You cannot reconstruct the socioeconomic circumstances that spawned the rebetiko— not that you would WANT to!

There are ample sources of discography. Happy hunting!

Sep-07-2004, 7:21am
Most early issues were 45 rpm, with LP's following a good deal later.
Thanks Victor! You are a source of knowledge and information, as usual!

but are you sure about the 45rpms? if I recall correctly they were invented in the late 40s, and did not become popular until the late 50s.

Also the old recordings sound very 78rpm like (but that could be my imagination mind you)

Do you know of any famous (English speaking) rembetiko collectors?

Sep-07-2004, 7:47am
Sorry, Roel. What I meant, rpm's apart, was that early issues were (as you guessed) singles; albums came later. I could post some discography but, oh, it's a DISSERTATION! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Sep-07-2004, 8:14am
I would be very much interested in seeing that!

At this point I'm trying to collect anything I can lay my hands on, since there is not much out there. If it is too large or too off-topic for the board, you could always email it to me if you're ok with that!

Sep-07-2004, 3:16pm
As I said, Roel, this is the tip of an ENORMOUS iceberg. You may try to track down these:

Columbia Records (i.e. the Greek subsidiary): DB 2014—CB841; W 697—A494; CB 110—DB 6066

Parlophone (a subsidiary of Odeon): 21747—B101493; 21747—101451

His Master's Voice: A.O 2141—O.T. 1611; A.M. 206—A.2247

Phillips: P.H./P.R 33121

All songs by Tsitsanis. Again, this is less than 1% of his annual output during his heyday. Also look up Polydor Records, and others, and others...

Sep-08-2004, 1:37am
Hi Victor,

Thanks. That's some good information. I started looking in the backlog of ebay using the terms greek and 78. There are a lot op pictures of greek 78 rpm records. Now it is time for me to try and make sense of the record labels, and their series. Maybe that's a good handle to get this bull by the horns (is this also an English expression, or is it just Dutch?).

When you were talking about "dissertation" I thought you already had something on paper, that's why I mentioned the email. sorry for the misunderstanding.


Sep-08-2004, 5:57am
Glad to be of help, Roel.

As for Greek 78's, please feel free to post the eBay links here, if you wish— I certainly would not bid against you! What I could do is tell you what I know of the recording.

Regarding bulls and horns: Yes, the expression is more or less international. The Greek version— rather brusque, I must admit— transposes the phrase to preachers and their private parts. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

On dissertations: I was the one who misled you, Roel. Sorry. What I meant was not that I myself have written a "dissertation" on the discography of the rebetiko but that there are thousands and thousands of entries in such efforts of others. A lifetime's project, really...

Best of luck in your quest.

Bob A
Sep-08-2004, 5:23pm
I'd have thought the bull and horns thing originated near Greece: sounds very Minoan to me. Still, one must applaud the sentiment behind the preacher grabbing.

I suspect "prairie oysters" are an American name for a common country dish. (I was surprised when the vet tossed my newly-gelded horse's superfluous items onto the barn roof. "Brings luck", he said. Didn't specify whether good or bad. Doubtless the deprived animal had his own opinion.)

But I digress.

Sep-15-2004, 1:31am
I just came back from a super weekend!!

I followed a course in greek music where I played my baglamas the whole weekend! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/blues.gif

I learned very, very much about greek music. I knew next to nothing so learning a few chords and some songs was as far as I hoped for, but the teacher was really good and explained a lot about scales, modes, playing hard (scliros? is that the good word victor?) and soft (I forgot the word) scales (play scales with H W and A tones vs playing on a fretless board and being able to intonate yourself). Typical greek style elements, playing backup with baglamas, and a lot more!

It was absolutely fabulous!!

Sep-16-2004, 12:47pm
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Roel. I would love to hear more about what you learned.

Yes, "scleros" (or "scliros", pronounced "sklee-rOs") is right; it means "hard", as in arteriosclerosis, i.e. the hardening of the arteries, a condition that may sadly await many of us. In music, at least, it has no medical counter-indications that I can think of. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

I am not quite clear on what you mean by "H W and A tones"... Would you care to explain?

Sep-16-2004, 3:27pm
Oh, by that I meant just the western half, whole and augmented steps in the scales (or maquamat if you wish)