Magazine article New Internationalist

The Rough Guide to Rebetika

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Rough Guide to Rebetika

Article excerpt

Thei Rough Guide to Rebétika

by Various (World Music Network RGNET1142 CD)

Roza Eskenazi, captured here in all her creeky wonder, was discovered in a tavern in 1929. What her family made of her hymns of praise to the pleasures of hashish isn't on record, but, as any rebétika fan knows, hash and low-life Greek taverns were a marriage made in heaven - and anyone who tried to sunder the two was asking for big trouble.

Rebétika (or rembetika) is the Greek equivalent of the blues: a marginalized music that to some extent reflected the difficulties of a developing Greek state. The Rough Guide's 22-track compilation traces rebétika from the raw vocals of Eskenazi or her chief rival, Rita Abatzi, of its first recordings to the slicker production values of revivalists such as Mario and Glikeria.

What strikes first are the wavering microtones: bouzoukia, fiddles and hammer dulcimers locate rebétika in a Middle Eastern sound world, and the older the songs are, the more this is so. …

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