An Ethno musicological Analysis of the Music of a Greek Sub-Culture

Rembetika is the Greek urban song that emerged during the 20th century. The aim of this dissertation will be to approach, explore, evaluate, and compare rembetika as cultural art expression and as heritage art expression. It will explore the roots of rembetika, the historical and political forces that influenced its development, and the changes that have transformed it into what it has become today.

It will seek to address the question of how this Greek musical tradition managed to develop and survive on Turkish grounds. In addition, it will study the role that rembetika has played in Greek society, and explore what made this form such an important vehicle of expression for the people who lived during the years in which it flourished the most (the period after the Asia Minor Catastrophe).Finally, it will discuss the ethnomusicological aspects of rembetika by comparing it with the music of similar subcultures, such as fado,tango, and flamenco.

Literature Review

Researching rembetika has presented special challenges, as its acceptance into society is relatively recent. In addition, its existence as a legitimate subject of academic investigation is relatively new.

The work of Gail Holst (later Holst-War haft) was tremendously helpful in researching rembetika, as her work spans a number of years. Her earlier writings are enthusiastic and passionate, although unfortunately much of the information she presented was not quite accurate, as the sources she relied on did not have the correct information to begin with. She discusses this in the preface to third edition Road to rembetika Her later writings, particularly the essay'Rebetika" The Double-descended Deep Songs of Greece', are written in a much more scholarly fashion, and are carefully researched and documented. In general, her work was an invaluable resource.

Elias Petropoulos' book, Songs of the Greek Underworld: The Rebetika Tradition, was another helpful source. Petropoulos' first-hand knowledge of the world of rembetika gives him an insider's perspective that is difficult to find in the literature that is available on this subject. As a source, however, it tends to be uneven, as the mythology of the rebates is intermingled with his notes on musical modes and lyrical style.

In addition, some of the information is contradictory. For example, although Petropoulos asserts that the practitioners of rembetika were basically law-abiding people, he spends a great deal of time talking about their prison hierarchies. He does this without explaining why these law-abiding people would spend so much time behind bars.

Of course, over the course of doing this research, one is able to devise theories to explain this contradiction. As a marginalized people and members of a subculture, practitioners of rembetika were often vulnerable to authorities. This would certainly explain the fact that they spent a great deal of time in prison, since they would be persecuted for this and for their rebellious attitudes as well. In addition, the excessive use of hashish, although not at the time illegal, may have been a factor that would contribute to this. At any rate, the lingo of prison figures prominently in many of the rembetika lyrics, and the lyrics are so closely associated with the actual lives of the rebates that the merging of myth and man seems inevitable.

Petropoulos also points out that lack of availability of rembetika records makes a thorough ethnomusicological analysis of rembetika as a musical form very difficult. He asserts that in order for there to be an initial compilation and transcription of songs, more resources would have to be made available. Petropoulos also states that as of 2000,there were no moves in this direction, although he points out that he has deposited all of his rembetika archives in the Gennady’s Library in Athens.

Recent journal publications on the social and cultural aspects of rembetika, though not as plentiful as those available on more mainstream musical cultures, are generally well-researched and carefully documented. The work of Sand, Ste ingress, and Tunis were all very insightful. There is every indication that this is a growing field of study that merits further research.

1. Introduction

The music of a society is said to be a reflection of that society, and this is true of sub-cultures of a society as well as it is of the mainstream of which they are a part. As this paper intends to demonstrate, rembetika reflects the subculture of the people who shaped and developed it. Although it has become part of the modern culture not just of Greece, but also of the diaspora - and, as Tunis has suggested, the wider multicultural world - traditional rembetika is not truly reflection of today's society. It reflects back on an early time. Thus, in a sociological cultural framework, though rembetika still exists, the rembetika we know today is a reflection of a marginalized group or subculture that no longer truly exists.

Rembetika, as defined earlier, is the Greek urban song that emerged during the 20th century. It is closely identified with a Greek subculture that developed after the incident known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe - an event that changed the course of Greek history and affected the lives of the millions of refugees and immigrants who were forced to leave their homeland.

Section 2 of this paper, 'The History of Rembetika', discusses rembetika music by placing it in a historical framework This is accomplished by discussing the political and social atmosphere in which the musical form developed, as well as the events which shaped and directed its future. Also addressed are current theories of the derivation of the word 'rembetika'. The section concludes with discussion of the language used to analyse rembetika.

Section 3 analyses the components of rembetika music form itself: the lyrics, the music, and the dances. Although the three together comprise what is known as 'rembetika', by taking them apart for individual analysis, one is better able to understand the essence of the music form. The lyrics of all the songs, from the love songs to those that praise the freedom of escape through hashish, express a pervasive sense of loss. These are the 'authentic' songs of rembetika - these are not the lyrics that were written after rembetika's status had been elevated to respectable and eventually popular, levels.

In terms of music, the melodies of rembetika conform to the modal types of Greek folk music as well as Turkish folk music, with strong ties to Byzantine church music. In addition, as Petropoulos points out, they have been influenced by a number of other sources which were brought to Greece by the gypsies. Therefore, the music also shows traces of influence from Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, southern Russia, the Caucasus, Syria, Egypt, and India (Petropoulos, 2000: 75).

In Section 4, rembetika is analysed within a sociocultural framework. First is a discussion of the social acceptance of rembetika as it has waxed and waned over the years. Following this is a look at rembetika within an ethnomusicological framework in which it is compared to the music of similar subcultures, such as flamenco and fade.

The ways in which rembetika music reflects Greek society are not simpleton determine, given the complex nature of its history. How, then, does one attempt to analyse rembetika music in order to understand it in a cultural sociological framework?

Ste ingress offers a framework for doing this. He bases his theories on years of research on ethnic music styles associated with subcultures, including rembetika, as well as tango and flamenco styles. Using the data amassed from these studies, he offers a set of criteria by which each of these musical styles can be assessed. He also points out that traditional modes of study do not work for these non-traditional cultural forms, asserting that 'ethnocentric, nationalist or essentialist approaches to ethnic music-styles afford little insight into the social and cultural significance of postmodern popular art'(Ste ingress, 1998: 151).

2.. History of Rembetika

This section discusses the history of rembetika music, placing it in ahistorical framework by discussing the political and social atmosphere in which the art form developed, as well as the events which shaped and directed its future. It also addresses current theories of the derivation of the word 'rembetika', and presents a discussion of the language used to analyse rembetika.

2.1.1 The Asia Minor 'Catastrophe'

Discussing the tragedy of the Greek-Turkey conflict, Holst-Warhaftwrites: 'so symbolic of tragedy is the defeat of the Greek forces in Asia Minor and the fire that destroyed Christian Smyrna in 1922, that it is simply referred to as 'The Catastrophe' (Holst-War haft, 1972:114). Indeed, 'The Catastrophe' was an event that forever altered the character of the newly independent country. In order to truly understand rembetika, one must understand the events that affected its development. The Catastrophe is one of them.

According to the treaty of Sevres, Greece was accorded the right to occupy Smyrna. Despite the obvious difficulties this presented, the Greek army forged ahead and tried to do this in 1919 with the support of its allies. The apparent goal was to gain a foothold in Asia Minor; however, there was more involved than obtaining land to the Greeks. It was also 'a symbol, for most Greeks, of the cherished dream of recovering some part of their former Byzantine glory' (Holst-Warshaft,1972: 114).

Though initially things went well, the Greeks decided to march inland in an attempt to take Ankara. During this period, the French backed out, and eventually the Greeks were left to fend for themselves. The Greek army was forced to flee, joined by the Greek population of Smyrna - Greeks who were unaccustomed to living in Greece. Thousands were killed in The Catastrophe, and the city of Smyrna was burned to the ground by the Turks (Barrett. Holst-War shaft, 1972). The outcome of the Turku-Greek war resulted in an international conference in which it was decided that a compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey should be put into place. This exchange was based solely on religion. Actual nationality was not considered at all. Hence, people who were Orthodox were considered Greek, and people who were Muslim were considered Turkish (Holst, 1983: 25).

'The effects of the Asia Minor Catastrophe were devastating and far-reaching. The refugees who had fled from Asia Minor were now penniless; in addition, they had left without a chance to take any belongings, so they were in a desperate state. Although they came from far more cultured, affluent land, when they relocated in Greece they were forced to live in poverty as inferior individuals. The huge and sudden increase in population led to the growth of huge shantytowns on the outskirts of Piraeus and Athens. It also created for the first time, as Holst-War shaft writes 'a sizable proletarian audience for songs that dealt with themes of poverty, nostalgia, hashish smoking, and low life. The expulsion of Asia Minor Christians also became enshrined in Greek popular culture as a metaphor for loss and grief'(Holst-War haft, 1998: 115).

The refugees were literally living on the edge of Greek society. According to Holst, 'it was not surprising that many of them joined there bêtes or mange’s in their loosely organised sub-culture, or were attracted to the hashish-smoking takes, to which they were accustomed in Turkey' (Holst, 1983: 27).

This passage from Barrett explains the plight of the refugees with poignancy:

Imagine yourself as a refugee. In Asia Minor you may have had business, a nice home, money, friends, family. But in the slums of Athens all you had was whatever you could carry with you out of Turkey, and your shattered dreams. You went from being in the middle class toeing underground in a foreign country that did not particularly want you. Rembetika was the music of these outcasts. The lyrics reflected their surroundings, poverty, pain, drug addiction, police oppression, prison, unrequited love, betrayal and hashish. It was the Greek urban blues. (Barrett, 2005: nap.)

As stated above, the refugees hailed from a far more cosmopolitan environment. This, naturally, included the musicians, who brought with them a sophisticated level of skill. According to Holst-War haft, the influx of refugees had an impact on the music, and there was a revival of the oriental, or what would come to be called 'Smyrna-style' music.

According to Emery, 'the effect of these forced migrations was to shatter the previously existing social and economic structures of Greece. Classes and hierarchies that had existed in the diaspora communities were turned topsy-turvy in the bedlam of flight and the ensuing struggle for survival' (2000: 19). Furthermore, the refuges were plagued by unemployment, since the sudden population explosion made employment opportunities scarce. Finally, the issue of racism created yet another set of pressures for the newly transfixed refugees(Emery, 2000: 19).

'So the violent break-up of traditional social structures was accompanied by another violence, in the ways in which social spaces and living conditions were organized for the newly arrived migrants’, writes Emery (2000: 19). Formerly productive members of a more sophisticated society, the refugees were now living in squalid conditions, suddenly impoverished and traumatised. Considering these conditions, the only options open to them for survival were prostitution and crime. If they sought their escape through hashish, it seems harsh to condemn. The fact they also sought escape through their music is something later generations can be thankful for.

2.1.2 The Language of 'Rembetika'

Holst addresses the issue of spelling in her Preface to the third edition of Road to Rembetika, noting that she is frequently asked why her transliteration of the Greek word ρεμπέτικα is 'rembetika', instead of the frequently-used 'rebetika' that tends to be favoured by foreign scholars and researchers. Explaining that phonetically, the English 'b'is at best a close approximation of the Greek 'μπ', she asserts that there is a strong case for transliterating both 'rembetika' and'zembekiko' with an 'm'. That is the spelling that is used in this paper, except when quoting the material of others who use different variations. In those cases, the spelling of the original document prevails.

In his introduction to Petropoulos' book, Emery offers a number of possible derivations for the word term 'rembetika', which is alternately spelled 'rembetiko', 'rebetiko' and 'rebetika'. 'Like all subculture music’s, rebetika poses difficulties of classification ‘writes Emery, noting that 'individual rebetologists each have their own explanations' (2000: 16). It is his estimation that the most likely derivation is from the old Turkish word rebut, which means 'of the gutter'. Other possibilities offered by Emery include the term rebetasker, which is what the Turks used to refer to irregular troops, or people who defied authority. The Serbian word reebok, or 'rebel', is another possible source, as is the Hebrew rab, which is the root word for 'rabbi' (2000: 16). Holst concurs that there is no certainty about the beginnings of the word. She explains that it is not known where it comes from, or when it was first used. 'What is no longer in doubt’, she asserts, 'is that the type of song usually termed rembetiko derives from or has its origins in an oral tradition where improvisation played an important part in both the music and the lyrics of the songs'(Holst, 1983: 2).

Other words that are part of the language of rembetika include rebates(plural rebates; also rebates with the plural rebates). This word refers to the original practitioners of rembetika - the men who actually lived the life and formed part of the sub-culture in which rembetika developed. The word mangas (plural mange’s) is close in definition; it also refers to members of the sub-culture, but they may or may not have been directly involved with rembetika. In addition, mange’s were generally part of the underworld (Holst, 1983: 13–14).

2.1.3. The Figure of the Rebates

Petropoulos asserts that 'you cannot talk about the rebetiko song without first talking about the rebates' (2000: 42). Though often associated with the underworld, this classification is not fair, and it is often untrue. Petropoulos makes clear the distinction that members of the underworld are usually considered as acting outside the law, while rebates, for the most part, existed with it. Here is his colourful description of the rebates: 'the rebates was careful to safeguard his personal freedom. The rebates detested bourgeois ways, consequently he did not marry. The rebates was a fighter. The rebates smoked hashish. The rebates knew how to use a knife. The rebates spoke in slang' (2000:43).

Petropoulos goes into great detail about the rebates. As for physical appearance, the rebates was usually slender with 'no sign of a belly’. His hair was often greased with brilliantine, and he would probably sport a single curl that would fall over his eyes. He would usually have a moustache, which would also be waxed. Use of body paint was common, as were tattoos. There was usually a specific tattoo on the back of one of his hands. He would walk 'with a lop-sided, rolling gait, his left shoulder raised, and moving only his right hand. The look would be heavy and vaguely threatening, the voice hoarse from much smoking of hashish' (Petropoulos, 2000: 49).

As for clothing, the rebates seem to have been very particular. Perhaps this was a way in which these displaced individuals, torn from their homes without possessions, were able to re-invent their identities in this strange new land. It may also have been a secret form of communication within the closed group. For example, they would wear black republican hat with a wide black band on days of mourning - and also on days when enemies were to be killed.

The rest of their outfit included a black jacket with ivory buttons that were never buttoned up, as well as a peculiar type of trousers. According to Petropoulos, 'the trouser-bottoms were so narrow that the rebates used to say that they needed a shoe horn to get them on, and had to soap their heels to get them off', although he does not offer an explanation for this (2000:51). The trouser legs were also turned up at the cuff. This was done to reveal a patch of red velvet that was sewn on the inside, 'precisely in the style of the kapadaides of Istanbul' (Petropoulos, 2000: 51). This, again, suggests a sense of sartorial solidarity.

Petropoulos also states that the rebates had a fondness for a certain type of yellow shirt and would also wear a red tie known as achasapikes, which resembled a bow tie. However, at the start of the twentieth century, they stopped wearing ties, considering them too bourgeois. They continued to wear a sort of cummerbund, however. This was called a sonar Although it seems that this item of clothing would also have been rejected as bourgeois, Petropoulos explains that, on the contrary, it was usually arranged with great care, since it was both a way of transmitting messages as well as a convenient hiding place for weapons. For example, one end of the sonar would hang down, and 'to tread on the trailing end of a tough's sonar was equivalent to laying down a challenge' (Petropoulos, 2000: 51). The sonar was also, according to Petropoulos, the last remaining vestige of oriental influence on the rebates' clothing.

According to Petropoulos, the rebates would carry a range of weapons, although they 'preferred the silence of double-edged knives and stilettos' (2000: 53). They also had standard ways of both humiliating their enemies and killing them. To humiliate an enemy, they would chase him down and slash his buttocks. If the intention was to kill, they would use a double-bladed knife to stab the victim in the stomach. According to legend, the rebates would then pull the knife out and lick the dripping blood. Alternate legends indicate that the rebates would either bend over the dead man's body and do one of two things: either bite of an ear, or suck out an eye (Petropoulos, 2000: 53).

Their other weapon of choice was the cudgel: 'the rebates would dangle their cudgels ostentatiously from the left arm. Transferring the cudgel to the right hand indicated the threat of a beating to come'(Petropoulos, 2000: 54). As might be expected, most of the fighting and killing took place in the evening hours. The format of the fight itself is described by Petropoulos as 'Homeric'. The fight would inevitably begin with 'an outpouring of oaths', and it was considered unacceptable to kill someone without warning. In addition, 'the adversaries would wrap their jackets round their left arms, providing them with a kind of shield, somewhat like a medieval sword fight. . . No third party had the right to separate two feuding mange’s who ha drawn their knives'(Petropoulos, 2000: 54).

Rebetes who were in prison had a very clear hierarchy. The leader was known as a tsiríbashi: 'the tsiríbashi who wanted to assert his authority would hold his knife high and force his fellow prisoners to pass beneath it'. As a show of bravado, the mangas would use their knives to eat, shunning all forms of cutlery. In addition - not unlike today - anyone in prison who did not obey the tacit code might end up getting knifed himself.

Although Petropoulos asserts that the rebates were basically law-abiding people, he spends a great deal of time talking about their prison hierarchies. He does this without explaining why these law-abiding people would spend so much time behind bars. Perhaps their existence as a marginalized people made them often vulnerable to authorities, and consequently, they spent a great deal of time imprison because of this persecution. Although this may be true, the excessive use of hashish, although not at the time illegal, may have been a factor that would contribute to this. At any rate, the lingo of prison figures prominently in many of the rembetika lyrics, and the lyrics are so closely associated with the actual lives of the rebates that the merging of myth and man seems inevitable.

3. The Essence of Rembetika

This section analyses the components of rembetika: the lyrics, the music, and the dances. Although the three together comprise what is known as 'rembetika', by taking them apart for individual analysis, one is better able to understand the essence of the music form.

3.1.1 The Lyrics

According to Petropoulos, 'some researchers labour to discover ideas in rembetiko song', and he is highly dismissive of this: 'the rebetes organized their life in their own particular way, and that is all there is to be said on the matter' (Petropoulos, 2000: 68). He does present his own theories on the lyrics of rembetika music, however, and because he is so intimately familiar with the modes and style of rembetika, his insights may be considered rare and valuable.

For starters, he breaks rembetika music lyrics down into a series of twenty categories, which are listed below:

1. Love songs

2. Songs of parting and separation

3. Melancholic and plaintive songs; songs of remonstrance

4. Songs of the underworld

5. Hashish-smokers' songs

6. Prison songs

7. Songs about poverty

8. Songs about work and working-class life

9. Songs about TB and ill health

10. Songs about Charon and Hades

11. Songs about mothers

12. Songs about exile and foreign parts

13. Songs about dreams; orientalist songs; exotic songs

14. Tavern songs

15. Songs which sing of small sorrows

16. Satirical songs; songs which give advice about life; songs which threaten violence and retribution

17. Songs which are depictions drawn from life

18. Songs which sing the praises of various cities and their inhabitants

19. Songs of army life and war

20. Songs composed for specific individuals (Petropoulos, 2000: 69).

Petropoulos also points out that many songs can easily fit under more than one of these categories, and sometimes several at a time.

Of the categories above, Petropoulos states that approximately half of the recorded rembetika songs he knows of fall under two major categories. The first of these is love, including parting or separation. The other theme has to do with elements of the rebetic subculture, including the underworld, hashish, prison, tavern, and fights. 'The rebates never ventured to attack the established institutions of society', he asserts; 'the police remained the only real target for their aggression' (Petropoulos, 2000: 70).

As for the style, he explains that the songs were written 'in a simple style, with a fair smattering of argot' (Petropoulos, 2000: 68). It is Petropoulos' contention that since in Greece 'official' folklore studies are considered the domain of academic professionals 'who lookdown on both rebetika and slang', it is highly unlikely that a thorough understanding of rebetika lyrics will not be available in an academic format. He also asserts that since many of the important rembetika practitioners have long since died, their memories and experiences are no longer available to be recorded (Petropoulos, 2000: 70).

Because the rebates of this time lived in poverty and squalor, there are a large number of songs that deal with issues of poor health. Most of these, according to Petropoulos, focus on tuberculosis, which was responsible for taking many lives during this time. The high death rate among this subculture also led to quite a few songs about the afterlife, with 'images of Charon carrying off the dead and taking them down into the underworld, into Hades' (Petropoulos, 2000: 71).

There are also a considerable number of songs in praise of maternal figures, as well as an absence of songs about fathers. According to Petropoulos, the figure of the mother was very important to their betas, and if there was a hierarchy of women figures, the maternal figure would always be on top: 'where the mother appears simultaneously with the singer's beloved, precedence always goes to the mother'(Petropoulos, 2000: 71).

Here again, Petropoulos is dismissive of professional analysis of the lyrics: 'I shall avoid psychoanalytic clichés and say simply that we don’t know the explanation for the rebates' one-sided fixation on his mother' (2000: 71).

Underlying all the songs, from the love songs to those that praise the freedom of escape through hashish, is a pervasive sense of loss of this disenfranchised group. These are the 'authentic' songs of rembetika - these are not the lyrics that were written after rembetika's status had been elevated to respectable, and eventually popular, levels. According to Holst,

As the lyrics of the rembetika songs and the descriptions of the rembetika musicians depict them, the mange’s were far from being the idealistic, daring young braves a number of modern Greek writers would have us believe. They were, however, an extremely interesting sub-culture, whose beliefs and habits remain in a rare state of preservation thanks to the words of the rembetika songs' (1983: 45).

18. Lemonadhika

Down in Lemonadhika,

there was a fuss going on.

Thomas was caught, together with Elias.

Hey, Thomas,

don't go making a fuss,

because you'll come off worst,

with a load of bother.

Down in Lemonadhika,

there was a fuss going on.

They caught two pickpockets,

and they acted innocent.

They stuck them in handcuffs

and took them off to prison,

and if they don't find the loot

they'll get beaten up.

Mr. Policeman, don't beat us,

because you know

that this is our work,

so don't come looking for a kick-back.

We steal purses,

we knock off wallets,

so the prison gates get to see us

pretty regularly.

Death doesn't scare us,

only hunger does,

that's why we steal wallets

and lead the good life. [By V. Papazoglou]

(in Petropoulos, 2000: 141)

This song was selected because its lyrics strongly suggest the attitude of the rebates of this time. According to Holst, much of the anger and defiance exhibited by the mange’s was directed towards the police. She explains that they do not actually protest the way they are treated, although it seems they often had the right to. Petropoulos concurs here, asserting that when the lyrics of the rebates seem to be in the form of protest, the focus is 'vague and non-directed' (Petropoulos,2000: 70). 'It was not so much that they protest their ill-treatment’, asserts Holst, stating that 'in fact they obviously feel some pride in having "eaten wood" (been beaten up) and served their time in jail; it is rather a refusal to change their way of life or to be submissive before the police, or to lose their sense of humour' (1983: 45).

The sense of futility and helplessness in the second verse, in the advice to Thomas: 'don't go making a fuss/because you'll come off worst/with a load of bother'. This is clearly the attitude of a segment of society that knows better than to challenge authority. They are aware of their low status in the social hierarchy and know better than to assert themselves in any way, for the consequences will be 'a load of bother'.

The lyrics of the fourth and fifth verses clearly indicate familiarity with what appears to be a corrupt police force. They know the routine: first their compatriots will be restrained with handcuffs, and then they will be further restrained - locked away in prison. Furthermore, they know that if the police do not get their 'percentage ‘of the stolen goods, that the perpetrators will receive, in addition to everything else, a beating.

The progression of thought from verses five through seven is also interesting to note. In verse five, the alleged pickpockets demonstrate perceptive knowledge of criminal life: they know a beating is to follow, and they try to prevent it. In verse six, they admit that they are used to this routine: 'the prison gates get to see us/pretty regularly'. By the final verse, they seem resigned and tough: 'Death doesn’t scare us/only hunger does/that's why we steal wallets/and lead the good life'. The last line is feisty and full of bravado, the kind of bravado that seems to have been the rebates' defining trait.

The Little Hanoumakia

At Panayas on the beach, there was a little teké,

And I went there every morning to drive away my blues.

Two pretty little hanoumakia, stoned the poor things,

I found them there one morning, sitting on the sand.

'Come close my dervish and sit near me

And I'll pour out the blues from my heart.

Take your baklama and entertain us for a while,

And light up a joint and smoke with us'.

'First light up my narghilé, so I can smoke and turn on,

And later, hanoumakia, I'll take my baklama'.

If you want to get high on the narghilé with fine Turkish hashish,

It's Uncle Yanni's teké, down in Pasalimani.

These lyrics contain words that, as Petropoulos stated above, need tube explained if one is to grasp the gist of the song. Holst explains that the word hanuman, as well as its diminutive form hanoumaki (pluralhanoumakia) is a word with different meanings in Turkish and in Greek.Considering the mixed backgrounds of the rebates, this means that itwas probably used - and interpreted - in different ways by differentsingers and listeners.

In Turkish, the word basically means 'female' or'lady'. However, in Greek, the 'lady' in question takes on verydefinite characteristics. The Greek usage usually refers to a girl whowas found of hashish, often sharing a pipe with one or more of themanges, or members of the subculture who were also frequently members of the underworld. She would have been familiar with, and perhaps aregular patron, of the hashish dens. In addition, she may have been aprostitute, though that was not always the case (Holst, 1983: 87).

As for the term 'dervish', it referred to a member of the hashishsub-culture. The word teké (plural tekéthes), as noted earlier meantden where hashish was commonly smoked, while a narghilé was the hashishpipe. Baklama would most probably be an alternate spelling for baglama,an instrument that was frequently used in rembetika music.

'Revival' Lyrics

According to Holst, as rembetika became more popular as well ascommercially successful, good musicians were inspired to write lyricsin the rembetika style. Unfortunately, this also led to monotony, 'asthe lyrics became duller through lack of immediate contact with alively sub-culture' (Holst, 1983: 3). Soon composers began looking fornew lyric writers. By the 1950s and 1960s, even the more sophisticatedcomposers - such as Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis - had begun towrite in the rembetika style. As Holst points out, 'the songs theywrote may have been vastly different from the rembetika of the Piraeusunderworld, but they were unthinkable without it' (1983: 3).

31.2. The Music

Holst explains that the roots of rembetika are closely tied into thefolk music of Turkey. During the early development of rembetika, theTurks still occupied large sections of the land, and many Greeks livedin land that is now a part of Turkey.

Therefore, the music itself reflects a strong Turkish influence.Because of the animosity that continues to exist between the Greeks andthe Turks, however, Greeks are often resistant about acknowledging theTurkish influence, and play it down as much as possible. When Greeksare asked about the connection, Holst asserts that most will respondthat the Turks got their music from the Byzantines in the first place.'Perhaps there is some truth in this,' writes Holst, 'but theinterdependence of Eastern-Greek, Western-Turkish music is obviouslyhigh' (1983: 64).

Nonetheless, Holst asserts, the musical terminology used in rembetikamusic shows clear Turkish influence, 'but this may be because Turkishfolk music is allied to the ancient Arabic classical tradition and hasan established terminology for such things as modal types and tunings'(1983: 64). Since the folk music of Greece lacks any formalterminology, and since Greek and Turkish musicians often borrowed fromeach other, it is likely that Turkish terminology simply wasassimilated by the Greeks. There is also the impact of the migrationand the population exchange that occurred after the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Since immediately after this, rembetika flourished as a musical form, the Turkish influence cannot be denied (Holst, 1983: 64).

Holst also points out that the melodies of rembetika conform to themodal types of Greek folk music as well as Turkish folk music, withstrong ties to Byzantine church music. Petropoulos states that he would'like to believe that it was the great Ottoman music of the peoples ofAsia Minor that gave rebetika its highly individual rhythmic andmelodic colouring' (2000: 75). He admits, however, that this colouringis influenced by a number of other sources which were brought to Greeceby the gypsies. Therefore, the music also shows traces of influencefrom Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, southern Russia, the Caucasus,Syria, Egypt, and India (2000: 75).

Petropoulos also points out that availability of rembetika recordsmakes a thorough ethnomusicological analysis of rembetika as a musical form very difficult. 'For these two stages of work (the initialcompilation and transcription of songs, and a comparativeethnomuiscological study) to be undertaken, a specialist institute ofrebetiko song would need to be established in Greece' (2000: 74).Although rembetika's improved status in society may one day make thispossible, at the time of Petropoulos' writing, there were no moves in this direction, although he points out that he has deposited all of hisrembetika archives in the Gennady’s Library in Athens.

31.3. Rembetika: The Dances

Holst describes her first experience of solo dancing to rembetika as 'unlike any dancing' she had ever seen before:

The music would begin, the rhythm insistent, the voice harsh andmetallic, and the dancer would rise as if compelled to make hisstatement. Eyes half-closed, in trance-like absorption, cigarettehanging from his lips, arms outstretched as if to keep his balance, hewould begin to slowly circle. As the dance progressed, the movementswould become more complex; there would be sudden feats of agility,swoops to the ground, leaps and twists, but the dancer seemed always tube feeling his way, searching for something, unsteady on his feet. Thedance took place in public, people were watching it, and yet itappeared to be a private, introspective experience for the dancer(Holst, 1983: 12).

Holst's description is of the zeimbekiko, which is the primary dance of rembetika. There are various theories about the origin of the word, butthe consensus seems to be that it is Greek in origin, rather thanTurkish. 'Herodotus (c. 484–c.424 BC) refers to the word bekos as doesthe Byzantine dictionary, to mean artos (bread), and the word Zei is aderivative of Zeus, the Olympian deity' (Savrami, 1992: 57).

The zeimbekiko dance is believed to have originated in Thrace. Thracianwarriors brought it to Asia Minor, and after the Asia Minor Catastrophe, it found its way back home to Greece. It has been mostcommonly associated with rembetika music, and in fact became 'the mainform of expression of the rebetiko movement in the period between thetwo world wars' (Savrami, 1992: 57).

However, zeimbekiko is clearly known to be a man's dance This is why,according to Sand, there are displays of 'unrestrained physicality andsexuality, including gyrations of the pelvis, which play a role in bothfolk and rebetika dances (1998: 132). For this reason, the dance may beacceptable for Greek men to perform, but it is taboo for women.

One of the most striking features of the zeimbekiko is that it is asolitary dance. Furthermore, it is a dance without structure: there are no set movements. It is a man's dance, 'ritualistic in nature, allowingthe dancer to express his inner self, alone and for himself, as if in atrance. His manliness and virility are projected through the dance'(Savrami, 1992: 59). As Holst's initial impression suggests, it is alsoa dance of inward flight:

The zeimbekiko is a solo dance which takes the dancer "away". Itinvolves a transposition of the kinetic material. The movements arebased on whirling, rotating, with arms out-stretched like wings. Thedancer moves as if about to fly. He behaves as if having wings on hisback and is floating in the air, suspended between time and space(Savrami, 1992: 59).

Petropoulos describes zeimbekiko as the 'king of dances'. He alsodiscusses the energy and passion of the dance, and remarks that'anybody daring to interrupt a rebates dancing the zeibekiko might findhimself dicing with death' (2000: 78).

The counterpart of the zeimbekiko is the tsifte-teli. Tsifte-teli is aTurkish word, and its definition is literally 'two strings' or 'doublestrings'. This refers to the manner of playing the instrument withwhich rembetika is most commonly associated, the bouzouki, although itmay also refer to the 'ud (Sand, 1998: 127). However, 'despite itsoverwhelming popularity, tsifte-teli is problematic for many Greeks,along lines of identity, gender and the body' (Sand, 1998: 127). It isalso interesting to note that tsifte-teli is the only rembetika dancein which a woman smiles: 'it is a "frivolous" dance in contrast to the"seriousness" of male dance' (Sand, 1998: 131).

Modern Greece has struggled to develop a cultural identity as anindependent entity. According to Sand, Kazantzakis aptly captured theidentity crisis of modern Greeks with the phrase "double-descended"'(Sand, 1998: 129). 'While no doubt overly simplistic, this schemapoints to the highly dualistic nature of Greek identity, and the searchfor 'authentic' Greek culture which marks Greece's modern history'(Sand, 1998: 129).

4. Rembetika and Greek Culture

This section analyzes rembetika within a sociocultural framework,discussing first the social acceptance of rembetika as it has waxed andwaned over the years, then exploring it in an ethnomusicologicalframework in which it is compared to the music of similar subcultures,such as flamenco and fade.

4.1.1. The Social Acceptance of Rembetika

The social acceptance of rembetika has varied throughout the tumultuousyears of Greek history. According to Giannaris, rembetika had beenconsidered immoral since the late nineteenth century: 'to respectablepeople bouzouki music was hashish-bearing, and to the Greek chauvinistsit was considered Turkish, Oriental, and hence, non-Greek (Giannaris,1972: 125). Rembetika was, in fact, banned in 1936 during the Metaxas dictatorship. Musicians associated with rembetika in any way weretargeted and sometimes arrested by Greek authorities, and tekkedes(hash dens) were regularly raided. According to Emery, citizens 'caughtsinging rebetika (or indeed playing the bouzouki) were likely to betaken for dissolute hash-smokers and shipped off to internal exile'(Emery, 2000: 26-7).

Censorship was re-imposed, according to Emery, in 1947, although thelaw was never really reinforced (Emery, 2000: 28). This may have hadsomething to do with a speech given at the Art Theatre in Athens in1949, in which composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadzidakis cameout in support of it. According to Theodorakis biographer Giannaris,'Mikis was particularly incensed by the scorn for the rebetic, orcity-song, an outgrowth of the hashish joints.

Why this scorn for thenative music of Greece? Why had the Athens Conservatory never takennote of this music?' (Giannaris, 1972: 80). Because of his strongfeelings about what he felt was a central part of Greek culture,Theodorakis became more and more outspoken on the subject, becomingmore and more controversial as time went on.

At the Art Theatre event, both Theodorakis and Hadzidakis defendedrembetika, 'claiming it as an integral part of the Greek musicalheritage' (Emery, 2000: 28). After the composers gave their speeches,there was a performance in which rebetika singers Sotiria Bellou and Markos Vamvakaris both sang. 'The presentation of rebetika to asophisticated Athenian audience by a man respected as a "serious"composer marked the beginning of the cultivation of rebetika by asignificant group of Greek artists and intellectuals' (Holst-Warhaft,1998: 123).

Petropoulos points out that in Greece, the very word 'rebetiko' wasforbidden: 'I found it impossible to get a publisher for Rebetika Songsprecisely because of its title. In the 1970s, it was inadmissible tospeak of rebates and rebetika. For me, the price of my decision to goahead and publish the book myself was a five-month prison sentence'(Petropoulos, 2000: 42).

According to Emery, rembetika was 'rediscovered' shortly after theCivil War ended: 'it came out of its low-life backwaters and into nightclubs where rich people went. And at this point the character of the music changed. The bouzouki went electric, everything went electric,and the players began to perform for the upper bourgeoisie. Rembetikabecame a fashion' (Emery, 2000: 28). Thus, it appears that rembetikawas being transformed: once associated with social groups on the veryfringe of society, it was now filtering into the mainstream.

Intellectuals began to defend the songs of rembetika, seeing them as aform of self-expression from the downtrodden proletariat. They embracedcauses such themes as the oppression of the working class, theprevalence of drug use and addiction, and the tragically high number oftuberculosis deaths. As Holst-War haft points out, 'if rebetika could besaid to have crystallized as a pan-Hellenic form of popular music in the 1930s, it is only in the post-war period that it was discovered byintellectuals and began to slowly make its way into popular culture'(Holst-War haft, 1998: 121).

Rembetika's ascent into respectability was the cause of considerablecontroversy, however. There were members of society who would neveraccept this music that was tinged with so many of the negative elementsthat were associated with the subculture. The status of rembetikabecame an even more divisive issue after Theodorakis came out with'Epitaphios'. This was a group of poems that had been written by thepoet Yiannis Ritsos. Ritsos, though considered left-wing, was not of the working class and was therefore accorded a higher standing insociety. The cycle of poems known as 'Epitaphios' were written about anunfortunate incident that had taken place in Thessaloniki in May of1936: the massacre of unarmed tobacco factory workers who had beenprotesting unfair wages. Theodorakis set the poems to music - music thatwas performed by rembetika musicians, and in so doing he createdoutrage in the Greek community (Holst-War haft, 1998: 124–5).

'No other composition in the history of Modern Greek music has arousedsuch controversy', asserts Holst-War haft. However, in her view, theoutrage was not over the content of the poems, or over Theodorakis'spolitical associations. Rather, 'what caused the furor over'Epitaphios' was Theodorakis's decision to use a rebetika singer and abouzouki to perform songs that were settings of a high-brow poet, inother words, to combine the low-brow and disreputable rebetika with anintellectual if Marxist poet' (Holst-War haft, 1998: 124–5).

According to Giannaris, however, the furor was due to a number offactors. First, there was the fact that the poet Ritsos was a leftist,and that the subject matter was an unpleasant memory. In addition, thechoice of singer was controversial, since Bithikotsis was a plumber byday and a bouzouki player by night. Finally, there was the choice ofinstrument: 'no serious composer should waste his talent with thebouzouki, or debase good poetry by wedding it to such music'(Giannaris, 1972: 118). Giannaris also points out that Theodorakis'sactions offended several segments of society: 'Mikis' daring step tobreak down the demotic, fifteen-syllable meter of Ritsos' poetry, andset it to the 7/8 or 4/8 of the rebetic rhythms, angered the literaryscholars and the musical aesthetes' (118).

The popularity of Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek has done much topopularize rembetika, and in so doing has encouraged the public to bemore accepting. Describing the passionate dance scene in Zorba the Greek, Holst-War haft writes: 'It may be a romantic and distorted visionof what the working-class rebates . . . offered the Greekintellectuals, but it may have something to do with why the rebetikasongs have been so enthusiastically revived since the 1960s. It mayalso be what attracted foreign scholars to the genre' (Holst-Warhaft,1998: 111).

41.2 Rembetika: A Cultural Sociological Framework

The music of a society is said to be a reflection of that society; thisis true of sub-cultures of a society as well as it is of the mainstreamof which they are a part. The ways in which rembetika music reflectsGreek society are not simple to determine, given the complex nature ofits history. How, then, does one attempt to analyse rembetika music inorder to understand it in a cultural sociological framework?

Ste ingress offers a framework for doing this. He bases his theories on years of research on ethnic music styles associated with subcultures, including rembetika, as well as tango and flamenco styles. Using the data amassed from these studies, he offers a set of criteria by which each of these musical styles can be assessed. He also points out that traditional modes of study do not work for these non-traditional cultural forms, asserting that 'ethnocentric, nationalist or essentialist approaches to ethnic music-styles afford little insight into the social and cultural significance of postmodern popular art'(Ste ingress, 1998: 151).

According to Ste ingress, trends in comparative cultural sociology havebegun to shift towards a new investigative approach when it comes tomusical styles like rembetika. Rather than isolating the subculture onwhich rembetika is based, this approach focuses on viewing thesubculture within a larger sociological framework.

This perspective is based on the belief that 'cultural differences haveto be considered less a consequence of isolation than of mutualrelations of different social and ethnic groups, or culturesthemselves' (Ste ingress, 1998: 151). However, he points out that a needremains for 'a comparative and/or cross-cultural study that mightexplain regional musical styles in a broader and more systematic way'(1998: 154).

Ste ingress also asserts that ethnic musical styles are oftenromanticized and manipulated in the attempt to analyse or define themwithin an intercultural framework. (1998: 160). Holst-War haft alsonotes this in her discussion of the increasing popularity that comes asa result of the commercialization of rembetika music. She comparesrembetika, as Ste ingress does, to similar styles of popular,commercially successful music, including tango, fade, blues, andflamenco. Her conclusion closely echoes that of Ste ingress: 'Howevermuch they are, or once were, the expression of a marginalized group,they are listened to, exploited and analyzed by people who are not partof that group' (Holst-War haft, 1998: 112).

Furthermore, Holst-War haft asserts that although the initialidentification may have been of the disenfranchised, that this is nolonger true, as it is 'later it is packaged and sold to a broaderaudience' (1998: 112). Both Holst-War haft and Ste ingress discuss thesemusical cultures as needing to cling to a sense of nostalgia. As Steingress asserts, 'this ambiguous affinity not only to modern urbanculture but also to nostalgic traditionalism that turned these musics into vehicles of identity construction in a supposed chaotic social environment' (Ste ingress, 1998: 160).

The criteria that Ste ingress puts forth include a set of common socialconditions and socio-cultural determinants within each of three musicalstyles, including flamenco, tango, and rembetika. These criteria willbe summarized with respect to rembetika below.

First, Ste ingress asserts that in all three of the musical styles he has studied, there is clearly the existence of a marginalized socialgroup. These groups consist of outcasts and outsiders, or generally ofpeople who refuse to conform to the rules and regulations of theestablished social and political order. In the world of rembetika,these marginalized group members are referred to as tsiftes and rebates(Ste ingress, 1998: 161).

All three groups are urban or suburban in origin. They all consist ofindividuals who are considered outsiders and/or immigrants. The members of the groups first appeared in city environments, either within thecity or on the outskirts, and generally had certain gather places wherethey would meet. In the case of rembetika, these places would includeprisons, brothels, taverns, cafes, and hashish-shops such as theCaféAmán and tekkédes (Ste ingress, 1998: 161).

Next, each of these groups had a mode of self-expression that wasunique to that group. This self-expression was generally a type ofmusic or dance that was marked by extreme passion. The themes expressedincluded a wide range of emotions. At one extreme, the emotionsincluded grieving, pain, sorrow, loneliness, and death. At the otherextreme, sensual and sexual pleasures would be included. There was adefinite level of eroticism in the dances of these groups. Inrembetika, this would be reflected in the tsifte-teli and zeibekikoRembetika also shares with flamenco a strong attraction to the image of the female Gypsy, who was viewed as both deeply erotic as well astauntingly sinful (Ste ingress, 1998: 161).

Other characteristics shared by the three groups include pronouncedmale chauvinism, which Ste ingress describes 'a reflex of the generalcultural attitude of the social environment' (1998: 161). There is alsoa strong use of slang in songs and in the vocabulary in general, orwhat is referred to as mangika in rembetika. In addition, each of thesemusical styles reflects a complex melding of social and ethnic factors.In rembetika, according to Ste ingress, 'it points to the conflictiverelation of Asia Minor Greeks and continental Greeks, as well as ofTurkish and Greek culture' (1998: 162).

By systematizing these social, cultural, and ethnic factors, Steingresshas developed what he refers to as an explanatory model that attemptsto assess the role of subcultural popular music with modern society. Heviews popular music styles as 'mass media supported artistic eventsthat transmit symbols and significance, values, habits and rules ofbehavior all of which figure into the production of social identities'(Ste ingress, 1998: 165).

Tunis points out that for people outside the physical country,rembetika music takes on additional significance. 'Rebetika is onecultural form among many which continues to be "re-created" by migrantcommunities in their new homeland', he notes (Tunis, 1995: 99). Healso suggests that rembetika is no longer solely the domain of Greekculture, pointing out that due to the mobility of the community memberswho embrace it, 'rebetika is becoming a musical icon of passion forboth the Greek diaspora and wider multicultural community' (Tsounis,1995: 99). Ultimately, Tunis concludes, 'the symbolic constructionsof passion and expression in rebetika are neither homogeneous normonolithic, but rather, are multi-layered and constantly undergoingnegotiation for articulation and dominance' (1995: 99).

Thus, in a sociological cultural framework, though rembetika stillexists, the rembetika we know today is a reflection of a marginalizedgroup or subculture that no longer truly exists. Alternatively, asHolst-Warhaft has suggested, the people who now listen to and exploitrembetika are not part of the group that the musical style is actuallya reflection of. The desire for a sense of nostalgia has been noted byHolst-Warhaft and Ste ingress, who discuss it as a need for order in achaotic society, as well as a longing for a connection to an idealizedpast.

The music of a society is said to be a reflection of that society, and this is true of sub-cultures of a society as well as it is of the mainstream of which they are a part. As demonstrated here, rembetikareflects the subculture of the people who shaped and developed it.Although it has become part of the modern culture not just of Greece,but also of the diaspora - and, as Tunis has suggested, the widermulticultural world - traditional rembetika is not truly a reflection oftoday's society.

5. Concluding Remarks

In Road to Rembetika, Gail Holst offers her favorite definition of rembetika, which she takes from the composer Rovertakis: 'Rembetikasongs were written by rebates for rebates...The rebates was a manwho had a sorrow and threw it out' (Holst, 1983: 14). This is anappealing definition, both for its pithiness and its cleverphraseology. It also implies that rembetika - insofar as it is the workof the rebates - is the work of the past. The rebates are gone;rembetika remains, but in an altered form.

In her discussion of the revival of rembetika that began towards theend of the dictatorship, Holst suggest 'there was something in theswaggering individuality and the pain of rembetika, the contemptuousreferences to the police and the secret language of hash smokers, whichappealed to a population living in a military-police state' (1983: 16).

Thus, the revival, or re-emergence, of rembetika at this time seems alogical reaction, given the political atmosphere of the time. At thebeginning of the revival, however, the 'new' practitioners of rembetikawere merely imitators of the traditional style: 'at first they weredeterminedly puristic and musicians rather solemnly imitated thenuances of vocal and instrumental style they had heard on records'(Holst, 1983: 3).

This gradually changed, as time passed and these new young musicians found their voice. As Holst explains, the programmes now reflect abroad mixture of rembetika, both the original, early Smyrna stylesongs, the 'orientales' of Tsitsanis, and fresher, newer songs thatreflect a variety of international musical styles (Holst, 1983: 3).

Holst asserts that 'that the most important thing we have learnt about the rembetika is that they are still alive in whatever form they arepresented and however much the purists may claim they are dead (1983:3). She is quick to point out, however, that the songs of today have

strayed a long way from their musical and social origins. They havesuffered a comparable period to the blues of rejection on moral andsocial grounds. They have been similarly modified to suit the tastes ofa broader audience and later revived in an artificially puristic style.Now that they are being performed in a variety of free and strict formswe begin to appreciate the best songs of early, middle, late orrevival-style rembetika for what they are - good songs by any standards'(Holst, 1983: 4).

Holst is not the only researcher who has commented on the similarity of the evolution of rembetika to that of the blues. Barrett, too, assertsthat 'rembetika were urban blues of a quasi-criminal subculture,despised by the middle classes and suppressed by the authorities (2005n.p.).

Discussing the passionate dance scene in Zorba the Greek, Holst-Warhaftnotes that it is impossible to study the evolution of rembetika withoutconsidering the impact of this popular film. Barrett concurs; he alsomentions the movie Rembetiko, by Kosta Ferris, which is based on thelives of Marika Ninou and Vassilis Tsitsanis. Barrett notes that 'thefilm documents the rise and fall (and rise again)' of rembetika music(2005, nap.)

Although Holst-War haft suggests that films such as these may be overlyromantic and may distort the concept of what the rebates actually werelike. However, she does admit that their popularity 'may have somethingto do with why the rebetika songs have been so enthusiastically revivedsince the 1960s. It may also be what attracted foreign scholars to thegenre' (Holst-War haft, 1998: 111).

As we have seen here, rembetika is frequently compared to the music ofother subcultures, including tango, fade, flamenco, and blues. Likethese other types of music, rembetika songs are commercially successfuland quite popular today. However, as we have seen, these songs are notthe traditional songs of rembetika. As Holst-War haft points out,'however much they are, or once were, the expression of a marginalizedgroup, they are listened to, exploited and analyzed by people who arenot part of that group' (1998: 112).

Thus, in a sociological cultural framework, though rembetika stillexists, the rembetika we know today is a reflection of a marginalizedgroup or subculture that no longer truly exists. Alternatively, asHolst-Warhaft has suggested, the people who now listen to and exploitrembetika are not part of the group that the musical style is actuallya reflection of. The desire for a sense of nostalgia has been noted byHolst-Warhaft and Ste ingress, who discuss it as a need for order in achaotic society, as well as a longing for a connection to an idealizedpast.

The music of a society is said to be a reflection of that society, and this is true of sub-cultures of a society as well as it is of the mainstream of which they are a part. As demonstrated here, rembetikareflects the subculture of the people who shaped and developed it.Although it has become part of the modern culture not just of Greece,but also of the diaspora - and, as Tunis has suggested, the widermulticultural world - traditional rembetika is not truly a reflection oftoday's society.

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