Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Tsitsanis, rembetika and Indian music

In the book, Βασίλης Τσιτσάνης: H ζωή μου, το έργο μου, consisting of interviews Vassilis Tsitsanis gave in the mid-1970s to Kostas Hatzidoulis, the great rembetika musician recalls with bitterness the decline of the rembetika song in the 1950s and squarely pins the blame on unscrupulous composers and producers who would rip off tunes from Indian records and films – Indian films were popular in Greece in the 1950s – and present them as Greek creations.
This is what Tsitsanis says (my translation):

‘Indian rule (Ινδοκρατία) started to prevail in the field of popular music in the first few years of the 1950s… Those irresponsible so-called composers, without a trace of shame, took music from Indian records and, after changing the lyrics into Greek, presented them to the public as their own creations and genuine Greek songs. An unprecedented wave of Indian songs swept over our country…

‘Everything we [rembetika and popular music] composers had created with sweat and blood was swept away by Indian rule. And yet nobody ever spoke out against these criminals… nobody denounced them so that the entire world could learn who, in cold blood, had killed genuine popular music.

‘One of these criminals would go with his tape recorder to cinemas playing Indian films and record the tunes. After, he would write new lyrics, make the record and have a big hit. And when I say "hit", I’m talking at least 100,000 records. With each record they put out, they were able to buy themselves a new flat.’

One of the most famous songs to come out of this Greek-Indian fusion is Δεν Με Πονεσε Κανεις (No one ever hurt for me); the tune for which comes from the Bollywood classic, Mother India (1957).

The first video above is the original song from the Indian film; the second video is the Greek version (Δεν Με Πονεσε Κανεις) sung by Eleni Vitali. Also, in Radio Akritas I’ve made available the song as sung by Eleftheria Arvanitaki, from her first solo album, Eleftheria. From the same album, I’ve included in Radio Akritas two Tsitsanis songs: Αραπικο Λουλουδι and Με Πηρε Το Ξημερωμα Στους Δρομους. This last song is one of the darkest in the Tsitsanis’ repertoire. The lyrics are Alekos Angelopoulos’.

Με πήρε το ξημέρωμα στους δρόμους
να σκέφτομαι και να παραμιλώ
καρδούλα πώς άντεξες τους πόνους
που μ' έχουν καταντήσει πια τρελό.

Μια λέξη απ' το στόμα μου δε βγαίνει
γιατί έφυγε και τούτη η βραδιά
λες και την καταδίκη μου να φέρει
η μέρα που 'ρχεται μες στην καρδιά.

Με πήρε το ξημέρωμα στους δρόμους
ανθρώπινο κουρέλι τριγυρνώ
καρδούλα μου πώς άντεξες τους πόνους
με τις φουρτούνες τούτες που περνώ.


Ivy said...

Hi, I liked this post of yours and I would like your permission to post the whole post on my blog, with a link to your blog, of course. I have a lot of Indian friends, to whom I would like to apologize to.

john akritas said...

Hello Ivy
I'm glad you liked the post and of course you can use it on your blog. Indian music is great and we've got to give credit where credit is due.

Ivy said...

Thanks a lot. I shall try and combine the post with a recipe. I'll probably post it tomorrow.

Hermes said...


Latest episode of Tomes. Kostas Hountas is in his usual form.

john akritas said...

The dynamic duo were slightly calmer this time round, I thought.
Unbelievable that Paul Tsimas should suggest naming a road in Thessaloniki after Mustafa Kemal. Why don't we just hand over the country lock, stock and barrel to the Turks and have done with it?