Thursday, 7 February 2008

Rembetiko fundamentalism

Here are a couple of videos that illustrate the argument of the so-called Rembetiko fundamentalists for Rembetiko Dechiotification and Bouzouki Detetrachordisation.

Rembetiko should be played, according to the fundamentalists, using a trichordo bouzouki – i.e. three sets of two strings – (see first video of an unknown exponent performing the first verse of Giorgos Mouflouzelis’ Που 'σουν μάγκα το χειμώνα/Where were you this winter, manga; and Tsitsanis’ late classic Το βαπόρι απ' τη Περσία/The Boat from Persia) – which is tuned D-A-D and provides the bouzouki and rembetika with its distinctive droning, eastern quality; and they reject Manolis Chiotis’ innovation of adding a fourth set of strings to the bouzouki and tuning the instrument D-A-F-C, like a western guitar – only suitable for Greek rumba and Turkish bolero, according to the fundamentalists.

Chiotis’ crime of tetrachordisation, say the fundamentalists, is compounded by his electrification of the bouzouki and his vain elevation of the bouzouki player to a virtuoso performer, which resulted in the kitschification of Greek popular music – see second video, of Chiotis playing bouzouki in the film Some like it cold.

This is a tough one. While the rembetiko fundamentalists’ dedication to authenticity and devotion to Markos Vamvakaris – the patron saint of their movement – is admirable, and they are right to point out that trichordo rembetika has a mystical and spiritual quality which the tetrachordo does away with; it’s also worth noting that Chiotis is not only responsible for some classic popular songs, but he also influenced many great rembetes to take up the tetrachordo bouzouki – including Tsitsanis and Papaioannou – and directly inspired Theodorakis to create the sonorous style which characterises some of Theodorakis’ most famous early works, such as Epiphania (Seferis), Epitaphios (Ritsos) and Axion Esti (Elytis).

1 comment:

Stavros said...


I've never been a purist. Music, even the traditional variety evolves, although it may not necessarily get better. It all sounds good to me but then again my one attempt to play a musical instrument, the guitar, ended badly.

One of the interesting things about the movie Rembetiko is that you can see some of the natural development of the music during the life of the protagonist.