Thursday, 3 June 2010

Can’t recommend this enough, one of those real delights you'd rarely unearth on purpose. The compilation consists of recordings from the 1930s golden age of rebetika/rembetika - urban underground music. This was the music disaffected Greek refugees from Asia Minor brought back with them, and boy… True to its origins, the Byzantine modes and unresolved structures give the style a strong Middle Eastern feel, but that doesn’t really cover it. The musicianship is impressive, intricate, often deceptively simple, and it still feels very Balkan, i.e. wistful as a troupe of wand'ring gypsies. These songs are ethereal when excised from worldly distractions and, as it turns out, made for stoners by stoners; which goes some way to explaining the disorientating side effects - even by today’s 'ethnic music' standards, where obscure and alien sounds issued from the dusty vaults are a dime a dozen.

Rebetiko is a folk style, and thus the tracks range from what I am informed are laments of woe to vital celebrations that make you want to dance badly, smash a few plates and drink copiously at a Mediterranean wedding reception... Ironically, my Greek ladyfriend hates it (too Turkish). She adds: ''rembetika originates from the verb 'remvazo', which means be lost in thoughts/absent-minded''. How apt!


Below is a stonking BBC documentary on rebetiko, vintage: 1988.