Friday, 28 December 2007

Nothing in excess

I should have written this post about excess before Christmas; but never mind.

When the Greeks said Μηδὲν ἄγαν (Nothing in excess), they meant in all aspects of life – in politics, ethics, aesthetics, culture, art, architecture, psychology and so on – defiance of which invited hubris, discord and catastrophe and amounted to the repudiation of what the Greeks aspired to more than anything – living with beauty and truth.

Nevertheless, it was Nietzsche who pointed out the essential deceit of the Nothing in excess maxim – carved into the temple of Phoebus Apollo at Delphi – and asserted the root of Greek art and life is not rationality and moderation but strife and pain, and that only a people – like the Greeks – who experienced an ‘excess of strength and courage to gaze into the horror of individual existence and not be turned into stone by the vision’, who were familiar with the ecstatic dream world of Dionysiac art, would have dared to unravel the mysteries of beauty and truth.

‘What suffering [the Greek] race must have endured to reach such beauty [in their culture],’ Nietzsche says at the end of The Birth of Tragedy.

Here’s another view of excess, from Odysseas Elytis, as expressed in his poem The Sovereign Sun, in which he prefers to extol the virtues of moderation, praise the man who has few needs in life and pity the tragic fate of those – like the Greeks – who create modest paradises and then find themselves at the mercy of the avaricious, the envious and resentful, of those whose needs are excessive and malicious.

There’s nothing much a man may want
but to be quiet and innocent

a little food a little wine
at Christmas and at Easter time

wherever he may build his nest
may no one there disturb his rest.

But everything has all gone wrong
they wake him up at break of dawn

then come and drag him to and fro
eat up what little he has and lo

from out his mouth from out of sight
and in a moment of great delight

they snatch his morsel in an evil hour.
Hip hip hurrah for those in Power!

Hip hip hurrah for those in Power
for them there is no ‘I’ or ‘our’.

Hip hip hurrah for those in Power
whatever they see they must devour.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Radio Akritas: Greek carols


On Radio Akritas, I've made available some Christmas and New Year's carols from various parts of the Greek kosmos, which give a good indication of the heterogeneity of the Greek tradition, how the larger Greek world consists of multifarious, smaller Greek worlds.

The carols are from:
1. Zakynthos
2. Magna Graecia/Megali Ellas, i.e. southern Italy
2. Epiros
3. Propontis
4. Thrace
6. Crete
7. Cyprus

More carols from the Greek kosmos can be heard here:

The depiction of the nativity is from the church of Panayia tou Araka, in the village of Lagoudhera in the Troodos mountains, Cyprus.

Καλά Χριστούγεννα σε όλους

Friday, 21 December 2007

It’s a Wonderful Life… or is it?



‘Frank Capra… in my estimation is the greatest of all American directors, a man so beautiful, so forgiving, so democratic, so damned talented, so full of life and energy that his films patrol the imagination of America today’. John Cassavetes

As you settle down this Christmas to watch Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, remember that you are not watching a sentimental or light-hearted film, but a film about a desperate man, George Bailey, in irreconcilable conflict with the full range of social, bureaucratic and discursive conventions conspiring to thwart his hopes for self-expression and self-realisation; a film which depicts a ‘wild-eyed’ dreamer relentlessly frustrated and disappointed, who goes from one crisis to the next, suffers one wound after another, until his sense of defeat and estrangement is so great that he wants to kill himself.

This, at least, is the interpretation of It’s a Wonderful Life provided by Raymond Carney in his book, American Visions: The Films of Frank Capra, which touts Capra as a ‘poet of suffering and tragedy’ and aims to rescue his films – which include other classics such as American Madness, Forbidden, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Ladies of Leisure, Lost Horizon, It Happened One Night, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Mr Deeds Goes to Town and Meet John Doe – from accusations of ‘sentimentality’ ‘corn’ and fatuous celebrations of the American Dream, and establish him in a tradition of artists – such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, William James, Edward Hopper and John Cassavetes – who examine the conflict between what American society offers and what it delivers, the gap between imagination and reality in which alienation exists, who are advocates for the man or woman who dares to dream or desires too much, and defenders of the visionary individual battling against systems, ideologies and cultures out to repress, control or crush passionate impulses and creative energies.

The phone scene (in the above video) gives a good idea of the almost unbearable emotional strain and tension that Capra makes George Bailey endure in It’s a Wonderful Life, the turmoil and suffering that permeate the film and which not even the film’s notoriously ‘happy ending’ can heal.

Indeed, in relation to the ending, Carney says that even though George doesn’t commit suicide and seems to have found renewed reason to live thanks to the love of his family and friends, he has gone through too much to be so easily redeemed or reintegrated into society.

‘Capra wants us to know that George Bailey's life is wonderful – not because his neighbors bail him out with a charity sing-along, and certainly not because of the damnation of his life with the faint praise embodied in Clarence [his guardian angel's] slogan, "No man is a failure who has friends," but because he has seen and suffered more, and more deeply and wonderfully, than any other character in the film.

‘This Cinderella, unlike the one in the fairy tale… is returned to the hearth… [but] with no future possibility of escape and with only the consciousness of what has just been lived through in the preceding dark night of the soul as consolation – [although] that, Capra argues, is enough. The adventure of consciousness that George has lived through in dreamland is greater than any of the romantic adventures he has talked about going on – but it is at the same time only an adventure of consciousness.’

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Radio Akritas: Για τον Στέλιο

Στελιο, μην στεναχωριεσε. Κι’ εγω πονω. Εχουμε μιλησει πολλες φορες για psyops. Αυτα τα τραγουδια ειναι για σενα.

1. Του Βαγορή, Νταλάρας
2. Ο Θούριος του Ρήγα, Νίκος Ξυλούρης
3. Πότε θα κάμει ξαστεριά, Νίκος Ξυλούρης

Πότε θα κάμει ξαστεριά
Πότε θα κάμει ξαστεριά,
πότε θα φλεβαρίσει,

να πάρω το ντουφέκι μου,
την έμορφη πατρόνα,

να κατεβώ στον Ομαλό,
στη στράτα των Μουσούρων,

να κάμω μάνες δίχως γιους,
γυναίκες δίχως άντρες,

να κάμω και μωρά παιδιά,
να κλαιν' δίχως μανάδες.

Του Βαγορή
Εννιά τζιαι δέκα τζι' εκατόν τζιαί σίλιοι πεντακόσιοι
τ'άρματα εζωστήκασιν στον πόλεμον τζιαι πάσιν
ο πκιό μιτσής τριών γρονών χαζίριν τζιαι παρπάταν
τζι' ο μιάλος ήτουν εκατόν τζι' έδειγνεν τους τη στράτα

Ήτουν ο γρόνος δίσεχτος μήνας Δευτερογιούνης
τη στράταν που πηαίννασιν λαμπρόν την πκιάννει μιάλον
ο πρώτος ο μιτσότερος ελούθην του κλαμάτου
πον εισιεν μάνα να το δει μήτε γονιόν κοντά του

Τζι' έτσι σαν ήτουν το λαμπρόν τζι' ούλλα κατάπιννεν τα
τζι' ο φόος ήτουν δακρυκόν τζιαι τ άρμάτα κρουσμένα
ομπρός τους συνομπλάστηκεν πέρκαλλος τζειν' την ώραν
τζι' "ώρα καλή" εφώναξεν λαλούν `με Ευαγόρα

Τζι' επολοήθειν ο παππούς στα εκατόν του γρόνια
τζιαι άννοιξεν το στόμαν του τζιαι λέει τζιαι λαλεί του
"ώρα καλή σου Βαγορή που `ρτες που την αγχόνην
είμαστεν αγνοσύμενοι που πάππον ως αγγόνιν"

Πάππος, μωρόν τζιαι πέρκαλλος τα μμάθκια εσηκώσαν
καρτζιλατούν τον Πλάστην μας πκιάννουν ευτζιήν τζιαι στράταν
τζιαι εφκήκαν μιαν ανηφορκάν τζιαι στην Τζιερύνειαν πάσιν
τζι' η νύχτα που'ταν Βαρετή έφεξεν στο Καρπάσιν

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Radio Akritas: Papaioannou, part two

On Radio Akritas last week, I made available three Papaioannou songs and said the great rembetis was from Asia Minor and that part of his repertoire included several songs in Turkish, which I liked and wanted to share but felt guilty about sharing.

I said to myself that if anybody mentioned anything to me about wanting to hear the Turkish songs, I would put them up; and, indeed, my fellow Cypriot, Ardent, from Australia, didn’t like the reason I gave for not putting the songs up – i.e. guilt about the songs being in Turkish – and effectively challenged me to play the songs. So here they are:

1. Gelmenden, sung by Papaioannou and Rena Ntalia.
2. Rambi-rambi, sung by Rena Ntalia; and
3. Karapiperim, sung mostly in Greek by Eleftheria Arvanitaki; though I do have an even livelier, full-blown Turkish version of this song somewhere.

Vasilis Michailides: Cyprus’ national poet

Yesterday, the 18th of December, marked the 90th anniversary of the death of Cyprus’ national poet, Vasilis Michailides.

The biography of Michailides as described on Phantis is as follows: ‘Vasilis Michailides was a poet born in [currently Turkish-occupied] Lefkonoiko, Ammochostos province, Cyprus in 1849.

‘Michailides initially studied art and painting, first in Larnaca and later in Naples, Italy. In 1877, he left for mainland Greece and fought in the uprising in Thessaly. He returned to Cyprus in 1878 as British rule began and settled in Limassol. He then began writing poetry for various newspapers.

‘Michailides wrote several poems in Cypriot dialect, among them The Woman from Chios [concerning the Turkish massacres in Chios], The Nereid and The Greek Man's Dream.

‘Arguably his most famous work is The 9th of July, 1821, a poem based on the execution of Archbishop Kyprianos, the rest of the Cypriot Orthodox Church leadership [and 470 other Greek Cypriot notables] by the Ottoman rulers of the time [to prevent the Greek war of independence spreading to Cyprus].

‘Michailides fell into poor health and poverty later in life, much of which was due to alcoholism. He finally died on 18th of December, 1917.’

Here is an excerpt from The 9th of July, 1821, from the scene where Archbishop Kyprianos has been brought before the Ottoman pasha, Kucuk Mehmet, who has vowed not only to rid Cyprus of Greeks, but also ‘to go round the whole world [and] kill all Greeks’. Kyprianos answers:

‘The race of the Greeks was born when the world was born;
No one has ever been able to root it up.
God shelters it from the heights: it cannot die.
Not till the whole world ends will the Greek race vanish!

‘You may kill us till our blood becomes a torrent,
You may make the world a slaughterhouse for Greeks,
But when an ancient poplar is cut down
Three hundred offshoots sprout and grow around it.
The ploughshare thinks it eats the earth it cuts,
But is itself destroyed and eaten up.’

‘Η ρωμιοσύνη εφ φυλή συνότζιαιρη του κόσμου
Κανένας εν ευρέθηκεν για να την ιξηλείψη
Κανένας, γιατί σιέπει την ‘που τα’άψη ο Θεός μου.
Σφάξε μας ούλους τζ’ ας γενεί το γαίμαμ μας αυλάτζιν,
Κάμε τον κόσμον ματζιελειόν τζαι τους ρωμιούς τραούλια,
Αμμά ‘ξερε πως ύλαντρον όντας κοπή καβάτζιν,
Τριγύρω του πετάσσουνται τρακόσια παραπούλια.
Το ’νιν ανταν να τρω τηγ γην τρώει τηγ γηθ θαρκέται,
Μα πάντα τζιείνον τρώεται τζαι τζιείνον καταλιέται.’

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Nothing is Ever Lost




Here’s a video of Haris Alexiou, Sokrates Malamas and Alkinoos Ioannidis singing Tipota den Paei Hameno (Nothing is Ever Lost), at a concert given at Lykavittos Hill in Athens in 2006.
The song is from the 1979 album, Ta Tragoudia tis Haroullas (Haroulla’s Songs), probably the best and most emblematic Greek album of the 1970s, combining three of the most outstanding talents in Greek music in the post-Theodorakis/Hadjidakis era – the incomparable Haroulla Alexiou; the Cypriot composer Manos Loizos – who died in 1982, aged 45; and the eccentric but brilliant songwriter Manolis Rasoulis, who round about the same time was also collaborating with Nikos Xidakis; the result of which were two other groundbreaking 1970s albums, I Ekdikisi tis Yiftias (The Revenge of Gypsydom) and Ta Dithen (The Posers), albums which pointed to an unadulterated, authentically Greek post-rembetika style, which briefly illuminated Greek music but failed to evolve into the dominant popular form, losing out to horrible ersatz Western pop music and skilladika now prevailing in and undermining contemporary Greek culture, which, on his website Rasoulis – a keen follower of the controversial Indian ‘guru’, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (or Osho, as he is now known) – describes as ‘unmitigated amoralism, [emiting] the most pseudo-glamourous decadence in the entire global village [making it my] goal to express the deeper soul of Greece with the universal soul and the global potential in the discovery of an antidote and the production of a new ideology, a new code of values, something which at this very moment is the grail of every intelligent, sensitive and honest citizen of every country, every race, every social class and both genders’.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Ασερόμπασμαν, sung by Alkinoos Ioannidis





Two Cypriot folk songs sung by the Cypriot singer Alkinoos Ioannidis.

The first is Ασερόμπασμαν, an almost unbearably beautiful song.

Ασερομπάζω refers to the process of taking straw after threshing and piling it in a storage area (ασερονάριν) for use throughout the year as animal fodder and so on.

The ασερόμπασμαν was an ideal opportunity for a young man, as he went from threshing to the ασερονάριν carrying straw on his donkey, to pass by the home of the girl he was in love with and sing her love songs.

The lyrics to Ασερόμπασμαν go something like this: Ασερομπάζω and I’m coming at daybreak to your neighbourhood to see your black eyes and listen to your voice (λαλιάν). I shiver when I’m near you; let me embrace you and find some peace (πνάζω).

Ασερόμπασμαν
Ασερομπάζω τζαι έρκουμαι
αυκήν στην γειτονιάν σου
να δω τα μαύρα μμάθκια σου
ν'ακούσω την λαλιάν σου.

Έχω κοντά σου μιάν ριτζάν
τζαι καρτερω να περάσει
ν' αφήκεις το κορμάκιν μου
στ'αγκάλια σου να πνάσει.

Ξύπνα δκιαμαντοπούλλα μου
τζαι ήρτα στην γειτονιάν σου
να δω είντα εννά μου κάμουσιν
τα γειτονόπουλλά σου.

The second song, The Song of St George, constitutes the last verse of a Cypriot song concerning the mythological exploits of St George. St George is a particularly popular saint in Cyprus.

Το Τραουδιν του Aη Γιωρκου
-Τράβα το κόρη λυερή στην χώραν να το πάρεις
Για να το δουν αβάφτιστοι να παν να βαφτιστούσιν
Για να το δουν απίστευτοι να παν να πιστευτούσιν
Άνταν τους βλέπει ο βασιλιάς κρυφές χαρές παθθαίνει
-Πκοιός ειν’ αυτός που μου ‘καμεν τούτην την καλοσύνην
Να δώκω το βασίλειον μου τζ' ούλλον τον θησαυρόν μου
Να δώκω τζαί την κόρην μου τζαί να γενεί γαμπρός μου
Τζ' επολοήθην Άγιος τζαί λέει τζαί λαλεί του
-Έν θέλω το βασίλειον σου μήτε τον θησαυρόν σου
Μιαν εκκλησσιάν να χτίσετε, μνήμην τ’ Άη Γιωργίου
Που έρκεται η μέρα του κοστρείς του Απριλλίου
Που έρκεται η μέρα του κοστρείς του Απριλλίου.

Alkinoos Ioannidis' version of the song has a Cretan flavour – with the Cretan lyre – having sung it at the 2007 Yakinthia, the annual cultural festival that takes place in the fabled Cretan mountain village of Anoyia.

The Yakinthia are held in honour of an obscure local saint, St Yakinthos (Hyacinth), the saint of love, the Greek equivalent to Valentine, and with some obvious connection to the Hyacinth of pre-Christian Greek mythology, the beautiful but tragic youth loved by Apollo. St Yakinthos' (above) icon is unusually erotic.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Radio Akritas: Yiannis Papaioannou

On Radio Akritas, there are now three songs from Yiannis ‘Ο Ψηλός‘ Papaioannou, the pioneering rembetis who was born in Kios in Asia Minor in 1913 and died when he smashed his car against a lamppost in Athens in 1972.

Papaioannou’s songs are often witty and playful but his more melancholy works can be as powerful as Tsitsanis’. Papaioannou also recorded some lively songs in Turkish, which I like – and feel guilty about liking – and I thought about putting these up for their exotic value, but went instead for two melancholy songs and one ironically melancholy song – Πεθανε ο Περικλης.

The songs are:
1. Άσε με (Leave me alone), sung by Sotiria Bellou
2. Πεθανε ο Περικλης (Pericles has died), sung by Stratos Payioumtzis; and
3. Τα νειατα δεν τα χορτασα (I haven’t had enough of my youth), sung by Papaioannou himself.

Τα νειατα δεν τα χορτασα, my favourite Papaioannou song, is also known as Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα (Among the pines and firs), and is a song about tuberculosis. Here are the lyrics to sing along to:

Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα
Τα νιάτα δεν τα χόρτασα,
Δεν θέλω να πέθανω.
Σαν τον ανθό μαράθηκα, μανούλα μου,
Και δεν μπορώ να γιάνω.

Βλεπω τα φύλλα απ'τα κλαδιά,
Να πέφτουν μαραμένα,
Και όταν τα βλέπω σκέφτομαι, μανούλα μου,
Πως μοιάζουν σαν κι εμένα.

Στα πεύκα και στα έλατα
Μου’πανε πως θα γιάνω.
Γι'αυτό πήγα στη Πάρνηθα, μανούλα μου
Και στην κορφή απάνω.
Γι'αυτό πήγα στη Πάρνηθα, μανούλα μου
Το πόνο μου να γιάνω.

Among the pines and firs
I haven’t had enough of my youth,
I don’t want to die.
I’ve faded like a flower, Mother,
And I can’t get well.

I see the leaves on the branches,
Falling, withered,
And when I see them I think, Mother,
How like me they are.

Among the pines and firs,
They told me I’d get well.
That’s why I went to Parnitha, Mother,
To the high peak.
That’s why I went to Parnitha, Mother,
To cure my pain.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Cyprus, Russia, Kosovo and Sweden

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was in Nicosia yesterday for meetings with Cyprus’ political leadership. Lavrov is a frequent visitor to the island and once again his trip was successful and demonstrated the excellent relations that exist between Cyprus and Russia.

Both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation have always supported Cyprus against the designs of Turkey, Britain and the USA to partition the island and this support has often proved vital in the UN Security Council where Russia, and increasingly China (the Chinese ambassador to Nicosia speaks perfect Greek), has time and again blocked, and even vetoed, pro-Turkish Anglo-American resolutions and initiatives.

Cyprus’ financial services sector has also greatly benefited from the large number of Russian companies registered on the island, taking advantage of the tax breaks on offer in Cyprus, making Cyprus, with $31.8bn of accumulated investment, the second largest investor in the Russian economy.

This happy arrangement has spawned a considerable Russian community in Cyprus – maybe up to 40,000 strong – particularly in Limassol, and an estimated 200,000 Russian tourists visit the island every year.

There are also strong cultural bonds between Russia and Cyprus. Not only are both countries Christian Orthodox but because of Cyprus’ traditionally large communist party, AKEL, thousands of Cypriots benefited from Soviet higher education and are fluent Russian speakers and Russophiles.

Indeed, one of Lavrov’s purposes in visiting Cyprus yesterday was to present to former minister of communications and works, Haris Thrasou, and Moscow-educated AKEL general secretary, president of the Cyprus House of Representatives and candidate – and likely victor – in next February’s Cypriot presidential elections, Dimitris Christofias, with the Alexander Pushkin medal, awarded to those who promote the use of the Russian language and friendly relations with Russia.

While in Cyprus, Lavrov criticised the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, and his six-monthly report on Cyprus, released last week, which again called on the international community to end the ‘isolation’ of the Turkish Cypriots.

Now, of course, the cause of the ‘isolation’ of the Turkish Cypriots is the occupation of northern Cyprus by 40,000 Turkish troops, which Ban’s report made no mention of – nor did it mention the 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees ethnically cleansed from northern Cyprus by Turkey in 1974 and ‘isolated’ from their homes and land for more than 30 years; oversights, omissions and disregard of existing and long-standing UN resolutions which prompted Lavrov to say yesterday he hopes in Ban’s next report to the Security Council the secretary general will reflect ‘the real situation’ on the island and mention, among other things, the constructive approach of President Tassos Papadopoulos to the so-called Gambari process for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, and the many initiatives of the Cyprus government aimed at supporting the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Lavrov was also in Cyprus to shore up Cyprus’ opposition to recognition of Albanian nationalist efforts to detach Kosovo from the rest of Serbia, a matter on the EU agenda this week.

Cyprus is touchy about secessionist entities achieving international recognition – given Turkey’s concerted campaign to gain recognition for its puppet occupation regime in northern Cyprus, the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ – and is holding out against any EU approval of Kosovo secession before an appropriate UN Security Council resolution.

European newspapers reported yesterday that, of the 27 EU member-states, Cyprus was the only one against an agreement to recognise Kosovo secession; but this targeting of Cyprus seems to be based on statements made by Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, who, over the last few months, has become Turkey’s and the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus’ most ardent cheerleader in the EU.

(Last June, for example, Bildt took the provocative step of inviting the leader of the occupation regime in northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, for talks in Stockholm, since when Bildt has been persistently mouthing off about the EU needing to ‘do more to live up to its commitment to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ – ‘ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ is code to the Cyprus government for legitimisation and indirect recognition of the occupation regime).

Not surprisingly, relations between Cyprus and Sweden are at all-time low, culminating last week with Papadopoulos, fed up with Bildt, implying that the Swedish foreign minister’s outbursts and interference did not reflect the official Swedish government position on Cyprus; a comment which so offended Bildt that he cancelled the planned 18 December visit to Stockholm of his Cypriot counterpart, Erato Markoulli.

(Apparently, Bildt’s increasing animosity towards Cyprus has been fuelled by Cypriot newspaper reports pointing out his prominent role in George Soros’ Turkophile Bilderberg Group and the Swede’s extensive business interests in Turkey).

Anyway, Cypriot government spokesman, Vasillis Palmas, denied that Cyprus was out on a limb in the EU in opposing Kosovo secession and said that Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia also had strong reservations about precipitately approving the Albanian move.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Achaean Coast: the enclaved of Agia Triada



The video above was made by the Cypriot artist Toula Liasi as a tribute to the enclaved Greeks from the village of Agia Triada in the remote Karpas peninsular, which has been under Turkish occupation since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974.

Agia Triada, a satellite village of Yialousa, had an exclusively Greek population of some 1,400 in 1974, whose rights to stay on their land and carry on their lives unimpeded, after the invasion, were supposed to have been guaranteed and regulated by the Third Vienna Agreement of 1975.

But the Turks never honoured this agreement and as a result of violent and bureaucratic means the number of Greeks living in Agia Triada has dwindled to around 100, mainly elderly people who, despite daily pressure and harassment from the Turkish occupation regime and the hundreds of Turkish settlers dumped on the village, refuse to leave.

Toula Liasi is from Agia Triada and her parents remain enclaved in the village, and in 2004 she documented these unlikely heroes and heroines – these Cypriot resistance fighters – in an exhibition shown in Nicosia called Αχαιών Ακτή.

Αχαιών Ακτή/Achaean Coast (Achaean being the Homeric name for Greeks) is the stretch of coast off Agia Triada where the first Mycenaean Greeks are said to have landed on Cyprus in the 1300s BC. These pioneer Mycenaeans were traders, and were joined in Cyprus over the next two centuries by refugees fleeing the collapse of Mycenaean civilisation and Dorian invasion in Greece.

The Greek geographer Strabo writing in the first century AD presents a (more mythical) variation on the theme of Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus and the naming of Αχαιών Ακτή. He states that Achaean Coast is where the locals believed that Tefkros, after the Trojan war – having failed to prevent the suicide of his brother, Ajax the Great, and consequently condemned to exile by their father, King Telamon of Salamis, the island-kingdom 16km west of Athens – landed with his companions to initiate the Greek presence in Cyprus.

Tefkros, the legend continues, went on to found Salamis in eastern Cyprus – 6km north of occupied Famagusta, 45km south of Yialousa – which became the pre-eminent city-state in ancient Cyprus, and a bastion of Greek culture on the island.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Cyprus: eternally Greek



This video was originally shown at My Greek Odyssey, and consists of a slideshow of photographs taken in the free and occupied areas of Cyprus in 2006.

In April 2003, the Turkish army eased crossing restrictions to the occupied areas and many Greeks ethnically cleansed from northern Cyprus in 1974, not having seen their homes, land, churches and villages in 30 years, made the pilgrimage to a life denied them, what was and what might have been, but found no solace in the journey only more heartbreak as they saw first hand the systematic Turkish attempt to obliterate Cyprus’ past and memory and crudely reinvent the island.

Anyway, the first pictures are from the occupied areas, beginning with Pentadaktylos mountain; then there is the monastery of Apostolos Varnavas – containing the tomb of Cyprus’ patron saint – prior to 1974, a major place of pilgrimage for the Orthodox faithful, but which the Turks have now turned into a museum; then there are photos of the looted and desecrated churches of Agia Marina and Agios Therissos in the village of Yialousa, in the remote Karpas peninsular, followed by images of the desecrated cemetery of Yialousa; then there are images of the sea around the church of Agios Therissos.

(Agios Therissos or Thirsos, is a local saint, who during the period of the Arab raids was Bishop of Karpasia and became renowned for his leadership of the faithful in those times of foreign invasion and depredation.

(After the island was freed from the Arab threat and returned to the Byzantine fold by Nikephoras Phokas, Therissos resigned from the bishopric and became a hermit-monk, though this did not diminish his popularity among the faithful in Karpasia who visited him for guidance.

(After the monk’s death, near the site of his hermit cave, a church was built, the ayiasma/holy water from which soon became associated with miracles, curing, in particular, those suffering from skin disorders.

(For the miracle to happen, a supplicant would first wash with the ayiasma and then wash again with seawater – the photos show the spot near Ayios Therissos’ church where the faithful would immerse themselves in the sea).

The church of Agia Triada is next and is one of the few Christian monuments in northern Cyprus which has not been vandalised or destroyed and serves the 120 or so enclaved Greeks, who despite daily pressure and harassment from the occupation regime and Turkish settlers refuse to leave the village of Agia Triada.

The next pictures are of the monastery of Apostolos Andreas, the most important religious shrine in Cyprus, followed by images of the pristine wilderness of Cape Apostolos Andreas at the northeastern-most tip of the island, though the Turks are now planning to build marinas and luxury hotel complexes in the area.

After passing through the Turkish army checkpoint, we are back in the free areas of the island and the Troodos mountains, ancient Kourion in Limassol, the Paphos mosaics and the Tombs of the Kings, also in Paphos.

The music is Evridiki singing a rocked up version of the traditional Cypriot folk song, Tessera gai Tessera.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Radio Akritas

After much aggravation, I managed to embed an mp3 player on Hellenic Antidote (see right) – which I've called Radio Akritas – where I'll be able to upload and share some of my favourite music. Now you'll be able to listen to Tsitsanis, Vamvakaris, Kazantzidis, Theodorakis, etc, etc, as you read my highly entertaining posts.

Even better, by clicking on the link – control click for Macs, I don't know how it's done on PCs, similar I should imagine – you'll be able to download the songs to keep as mp3s to your desktop and music libraries. (I've a reasonable collection of Greek music, particularly rembetika, so will take requests for Radio Akritas if any are forthcoming).

I've set Radio Akritas an impossibly high standard by initially selecting three of Tsitsanis' best songs, as sung by Tsitsanis himself. They are:

1. Fantazes san prinkipessa/You imagined yourself a princess
2. H drosoula/The dew
3. H litaneia tou manga/The manga's ceremony

Here are the lyrics to sing along to.

Φάνταζες σαν πριγκηπέσα
Έμαθα πολλά, μικρό μου
έμαθα πολλά, μικρό μου
έμαθα πολλά, μικρό μου
μου ζαλίζουν το μυαλό μου

Πως γλεντούσες στον Περαία
πως γλεντούσες στον Περαία
πως γλεντούσες στον Περαία
μαυρομάτα μου κι ωραία

Φάνταζες σαν πριγκηπέσα
φάνταζες σαν πριγκηπέσα
φάνταζες σαν πριγκηπέσα
μα με πρόδινες, μπαμπέσα.

Η δροσούλα
Άνω κάτω χθες τα κάνανε στου Σιδέρη τον παλιό τεκέ
Πρωί πρωί με τη δροσούλα απάνω στη γλυκιά μαστούρα
Στήσανε καυγά δυο μάγκες για να κάνουν ματσαράγκες

Τέκετζή μου βάστα να σου πω του μιλάει ο μάγκας με καημό
το χασίσι κι αν φουμάρω εγώ κανένα δεν πειράζω
είμαι μάγκας και αλάνι τίγκα στο τεκέ χαρμάνι

Μπήκα μόνος μέσα στο τεκέ να φουμάρω έναν αργιλέ
Να φουμάρω να μπαφιάσω και τις πίκρες να ξεχάσω
Μες τη τόση μου σκοτούρα βρίσκω γλέντι στη μαστούρα.

Η λιτανεία του μάγκα
Σαν χριστιανός ορθόδοξος σ' αυτή την κοινωνία
εβάλθηκα ρε μάγκες μου να κάνω λιτανεία

Εμάζεψα τα σέα μου κι ένα κομμάτι μαύρο
και ξεκινώ ρε μάγκες μου να πάω στον Άγιο Μάμα

Μπαίνω μέσα στην εκκλησιά στις στρογγυλές καμάρες
και αρχινώ τις τσιμπουκιές σαν να 'τανε λαμπάδες

Νάσου κι ο αρχάγγελος με μια μεγάλη φούρια
απ' τα ντουμάνια τα πολλά τον έπιασε η μαστούρα

Μου λεει άκου χριστιανέ δεν είναι αμαρτία
που μπήκες μες στην εκκλησιά να κάνεις λιτανεία

Μα ξάφνου ένας καλόγερος μου λέει κάνε πίσω
γιατί κι εγώ έχω σειρά τζούρα για να ρουφήξω.