Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Evagoras Pallikarides: hero and poet

Θα πάρω μιάν ανηφοριά
θα πάρω μονοπάτια

να βρω τα σκαλοπάτια

που παν στη Λευτεριά

(Ευαγόρας Παλληκαρίδης)

Evagoras Pallikarides was born in the Cypriot village of Tsada in the Paphos district on 27 February 1938 and was executed by the British colonial authorities on 14 March 1957, aged 19.

An intense, brilliant student who filled dozens of exercise books with poems, prose and letters, Pallikarides became involved aged 15 with the struggle to drive the British out of Cyprus and unite the island with Greece.

In June 1953, the colonial regime to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth arranged celebrations across Cyprus and ordered the Union flag to be raised over all schools. There were boycotts of the coronation events and demonstrations throughout the island and at his school, the Hellenic Gymnasium, in Paphos Pallikarides climbed the flagstaff, pulled down the British flag and tore it to shreds.

Two years later, and still a school student, Pallikarides joined the national liberation movement EOKA, and took part in pro-Enosis protests, at one of which he was arrested for assaulting two British soldiers trying to break up the rally.

A day before his trial, and having decided to join the EOKA fighters in the mountains, Pallikarides broke into his school and left the following message and poem for his fellow students to read the following morning:

‘Old classmates. At this time, someone is missing from among you, someone who has left in search of freedom’s air, someone who you might not see alive again. Don’t cry at his graveside. It won’t do for you to cry. A few spring flowers scatter on his grave. This is enough for him…

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I'll leave brothers, sisters
My mother, my father
In the valleys beyond
And the mountainsides

Searching for freedom
I'll have as company
The white snow
Mountains and torrents

Even if it's winter now
The summer will come
Bringing Freedom
To cities and villages

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I'll climb the stairs
I'll enter a palace
I know it will be an illusion
I know it won't be real

I'll wonder in the palace
Until I find the throne
Only a queen
Sitting on it

Beautiful daughter, I will say,
Open your wings
And take me in your embrace
That's all I ask…’

For the next year, Pallikarides took part in operations against the British in the Paphos district and had a bounty of £5,000 put on his head. On 19 December 1956, he was arrested carrying a gun – a capital offence.

At his trial, Pallikarides admitted possession of the Bren gun and declared: ‘I know you will hang me. Whatever I did, I did as a Cypriot Greek fighting for liberty. Nothing more.’

Despite protests and pleas from around the world, clemency was refused and the 19-year-old Pallikarides was sentenced to death. In his last letter to his family, Pallikarides wrote: ‘I will follow my fate with courage. This is my final letter. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t regret anything. So what if I lose it all? Death comes but once. I’ll happily find the way to my last resting place. We all have to die. It is a good thing to die for Greece. The time is 7:30, the most beautiful time on the most beautiful day of my life. Don’t ask why.’

Pallikarides was led to the gallows singing the Greek national anthem.

As mentioned, Pallikarides was a prolific schoolboy poet, and of the 500 poems he wrote many have been set to music.

I’ve made three of these available in Radio Akritas. They are from the CD Των Αθανάτων and are:

1. Των Αθανάτων (The Immortals). Music Dimitris Layios, sung by Giorgos Dalaras.
2. Ηρώων Γη (Land of Heroes). Music Dimitris Layios, sung by Giorgos Dalaras.
3. Ποτέ δεν θα πεθάνουμε (We will never die). Music Michalis Christodoulides, sung by Doros Demesthenous.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Comrade Christofias takes power

Long live the indomitable Cypriot people
Long live Cyprus

Homeland for all its children

(Dimitris Christofias, acceptance speech, 24 February 2008)

Comrades – and I feel I must address you as comrades now that Cyprus, where I'm from, has officially gone communist – I ask you, are Cypriots sixty years behind the rest of the world or sixty years ahead of it? No way of knowing. What we do know is that yesterday General Secretary of the Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus (AKEL) Dimitris Christofias was comfortably elected president of the Republic of Cyprus, defeating conservative challenger Ioannis Cassoulides by 53% to 47%.

A Christofias government is not going to confiscate private property and shut down churches, since there is nothing Cypriots revere more than private property and God. Indeed, Christofias revealed last week that as well believing in Marxist-Leninism and scientific socialism, he also believes in God, observes all his religious duties as an Orthodox Christian and that his political philosophy is largely motivated by the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In fact, as Christofias himself stated again and again throughout the election campaign he was not standing on a platform to transform Cyprus into Cuba, but to save Cyprus from the Turkish occupation and avoid the island's permanent partition. He said he would be able to do this better than his rivals for the presidency because of his and AKEL's long-standing connections to the island's Turkish minority, specifically with leftist Turkish Cypriots, who now lead that community. We'll see. The argument against such an approach is that it is not the Turkish Cypriots who decide what goes on in occupied northern Cyprus but Ankara and specifically the Turkish military.

A few more points on the elections in Cyprus.
First, admittedly from my vantage point 4,000 miles away from the island in London, I thought the campaign was highly civilised, engaged people – turnout in both rounds of voting was 90% – addressed the issues and was conducted, largely, without bitterness and rancour, with passions under control. (Inevitably, one is forced to compare the standard of political logos in Cyprus with Greece and wonder why they are so different).

Second, the intervention of Archbishop Chrysostomos in the campaign, urging his flock to vote for Cassoulides and raising the spectre of an end to Cypriot Hellenism and Christianity if Christofias were elected, backfired since citizens resented the head of the Cyprus church attempting to define who is and who is not a good Greek and, indeed, who is and who is not a proper Christian. Chrysostomos' failed intervention proved the limits of church power in Cyprus and its long-term decline as a political force.

Third, how ironic that the Republic of Cyprus, which from its inception in 1960 had so many powerful and malicious enemies – the USA, the UK, Turkey, Turkish Cypriot terrorists, the Greek junta and its Greek Cypriot agents on the island – inclined to bring about the downfall of the republic and the partition of the island largely because of their fear of AKEL and the communist threat it allegedly posed and in their paranoia and malice brought so much suffering to Cypriots, now has a communist, AKEL president and that all these enemies, where they still exist, are now looking to that president to help them unravel the mess they created and reunite, in some form, the island.

Friday, 22 February 2008

It’s nearly over

The Cypriot presidential election campaign continued yesterday with supporters of conservative candidate Ioannis Cassoulides trying to win over voters from centrist DIKO – whose party leadership has come out in favour of communist Dimitris Christofias – by depicting Christofias as a godless anti-hellene and the Christofias team retorting that this anti-communist scaremongering is absurd and belongs to the past.

As well as a debate over whether Hellenism and communism are compatible, we also had a good exchange of views over the relative virtues and vices of socialist and market economies, the nature of the Soviet Socialist regimes, poverty, inequality and the capitalist system, religion, nationalism, totalitarianism, statism and so on. The discussions I heard were interesting and civilised, though listening to them did make me feel as if I were back in the 1970s, which, of course, Cyprus, in many ways, because of the Turkish invasion (1974) and subsequent and continuing occupation, is stuck.

The result on Sunday is going to be close and there have been no opinion polls allowed to give us an idea of how things are going, though I think it’s safe to say that if the conservative Cassoulides wins, this will constitute a significant upset.

Today is the last day of campaigning. It will culminate in a live TV debate between the two hopefuls. Last night, we had the final Nurembergesque rallies. Christofias’ rally in Limassol concluded with a concert given by Greek rock legend Vasillis Papaconstantinou, while Cassoulides’ event was in Nicosia and finished with entertainment from another Greek musical god, Dionysis Savvopoulos (pictured).

Personally, I don’t like Vasillis Papaconstantinou, not only because Greek rock doesn’t do it for me, but also because I once attended a free concert outside Athens University organised by the dreadful Melina Mercouri to highlight the so-called εθνικά θέματα/national issues – Cyprus, Macedonia, Northern Epirus – at which Papaconstantinou burst on stage to demented adulation from his loyal following of grunting black-clad teenage boys who knew more about Metallica than Macedonia and cared more about Black Sabbath than Cyprus, and declared: ‘Εκτός από τα εθνικά θέματα, υπάρχει και η μοναξιά’/Apart from the national issues, there is loneliness.

I was appalled. What Papaconstantinou should of said, of course, was ‘Apart from loneliness, there exist the national issues.’

Dionysis Savvopoulos is altogether a more serious individual and musician, even if I do find his ersatz Bob Dylan and Beatles stuff hard to listen to. Savvopoulos wasn’t at the Melina Mercouri nonsense, but I did see him perform a while later at a concert for Northern Epirus marking the 28 October national holiday, the defeat of the Italian invasion of Greece in 1940 and the liberation of Northern Epirus (southern Albania), though the concert was spoiled for me by a woman from Northern Epirus sitting behind me who kept asking me to sit lower in my seat because she couldn’t see Savvopoulos on stage. Eventually, I had to stand up and reveal to her that I am a tall person – six-one – and explain that if I sat any lower in my seat I would end up on the floor.

Anyway, I’ve made available three Savvopoulos songs in Radio Akritas:

1. Ας κρατήσουν οι χοροί
2. Για την Κύπρο
3. Τσάμικο

Here are some important lyrics from Τσάμικο:

Ζήτω η Ελλάδα
και καθετί μοναχικό
στον κόσμο αυτό
Ελασσώνα, Λειβαδιά, Μελβούρνη, Μόναχο,
Αλαμάνα και Γραβιά, Αμέρικα,
Βελεστίνο, 'Αγιοι Σαράντα, Εσκι Σεχήρ,
Κώστας, Κώστας, Μανώλης, Πέτρος, Γιάννης, Τάκης,
Πλατεία Ναυαρίνου, Διοικητηρίου κι Εξαρχείων,
Αλέκος, Βασίλης, 'Αγγελος,
Μπιζανίου κι Αναλήψεως, Αγίας Τριάδος κι Εικοστής Πέμπτης Mαρτίου
η Ελλάδα που αντιστέκεται
η Ελλάδα που επιμένει
κι όποιος δε καταλαβαίνει
δε ξέρει που πατά και που πηγαίνει.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

It's getting dirty

Following Tuesday night's decision by centrist DIKO to support the communist Dimitris Christofias and not the conservative Ioannis Cassoulides in this Sunday's run off in the Cypriot presidential elections, the campaign got dirty yesterday.

Specifically, the conservative party, DISY, bitterly denounced the DIKO/AKEL pact and appealed to DIKO voters to ignore the recommendations of its party leadership and did this by raising the spectre of a communist-led government bent on dismantling Hellenic national culture and education on the island.

Indeed, DISY’s line of attack won immediate support from the head of the Cyprus church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who warned that a Christofias administration would remove Greek Orthodox religious instruction from schools and urged his flock to unreservedly back the church-going Cassoulides, as did two EOKA veterans’ organisations – EOKA was the national liberation movement that fought the British colonial authorities for the union of Cyprus with Greece – and the boards of a number of prominent right-wing football clubs, including APOEL, Apollon Limassol, Anorthosis Famagusta, Olympiakos Nicosia, AEK Larnaca, Enosis Paralimni and Ethnikos Achnas.

Now, the exhortations of the Church, EOKA veterans and right-wing football clubs to back Cassoulides will put many DIKO supporters in a quandary since all these institutions are as much a part of a traditional DIKO supporter's identity and have as good a claim on his loyalty and way of thinking as his political party.

The problem for DISY, however – apart from the furious denials of AKEL that it is planning an assault on Greek education – is that this sudden rediscovery of its nationalist roots rings hollow, since not only did DISY back the Annan plan in 2004 – which would have been a disaster for Cypriot Hellenism – but also its leadership has spent the last five years engaged in a vitriolic campaign aimed at the now-ousted president, Tassos Papadopoulos – a DIKO man – and not for his alleged patriotic failings but for his alleged patriotic excesses.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

DIKO backs Christofias

It's been a confusing and exhausting couple of days in Cypriot politics, dominated by centrist DIKO's tortuous efforts to decide which candidate to support in Sunday's second round of presidential elections after their man, the incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos, was eliminated in the first round.

Having forced both remaining candidates – communist Dimitris Christofias and conservative Ioannis Cassoulides – to present in writing their positions on the national issue – Cassoulides' dissertation went to five pages, Christofias managed only two – and tried to squeeze out of the hopefuls as many ministries for DIKO as possible, the initial news was that DIKO's secretariat, comprising seven senior members, had overwhelmingly decided to recommend to the party's executive committee that DIKO should support the conservative candidate Ioannis Cassoulides.

However, at a subsequent marathon session of DIKO's executive committee, which ran till one this morning, 112 members of the committee voted to recommend to party supporters that they should back AKEL’s Christofias, while only 50 were in favour of DISY's Cassoulides.

It seems Papadopoulos' preference for his erstwhile ally, Christofias; Christofias' assurances on the Cyprus question; his promise to DIKO that it would get the speakership of parliament, the foreign ministry and that he would appoint a neutral, non-AKEL finance minister; and his pledge that he would stand down after one term and support a DIKO candidate in five years time, won over the majority who sit on DIKO’s supreme decision-making body.

This isn't the end of the matter, of course, and Christofias is by no means guaranteed the presidency, though it certainly makes him favourite. DIKO has clearly been split over who to back and there are obviously a lot of DIKO people who will find it hard to stomach voting for Christofias, not just because he is a communist but also because they blame him for breaking up last summer the AKEL/DIKO coalition government, which it now transpires precipitated Papadopoulos' downfall.

But will this anti-Christofias tendency in DIKO translate into support for Cassoulides, who backed the detested Annan plan, and whose DISY party spent the last five years bitterly opposing Papadopoulos and undermining his presidency at every turn? Unlikely, but not impossible. In 1993, enough DIKO people – disciplined, but not as disciplined as AKEL and DISY people – defied party instructions to vote for Giorgos Vassiliou to ensure DISY’s candidate, Glafkos Clerides, was narrowly elected – though Clerides did have the support of socialist EDEK, which Cassoulides will not have this time round.

However, I expect enough DIKO supporters will not put at risk the deal that has been struck with AKEL and will overcome their doubts and nausea and vote for Christofias, thus ensuring that the Soviet-educated refugee from Kyrenia will be Cyprus' next president.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Papadopoulos loses, prepare for Christofias

The joke in Cyprus is that Cypriots are incorrigibly conservative and that, in particular, there are three things they will never change:
1. Their kafenion (coffee shop);
2. Their wives; and
3. The political party they vote for.

And so, in today’s first round in the presidential elections on the island, it seems what made up voters' minds was not the Cyprus question or the state of the economy, but traditional loyalty to party – κομματικός πατριωτισμός/party patriotism.

Thus President Tassos Papadopoulos has failed to make it through to the second round, victim of the ability of the two largest parties on the island, right-wing DISY and communist AKEL, to mobilise their supporters and leave the parties supporting Papadopoulos – principally, centrist DIKO and socialist EDEK – not enough room to attract the waverers needed to prevent Papadopoulos being embarrassingly eliminated.

In the end, Ioannis Cassoulides, the DISY candidate, won the first round with 33.5% of the votes, AKEL’s Dimitris Christofias (pictured) obtained 33% and Papadopoulos 32%.

It now remains to be seen which candidate DIKO and EDEK will support in the second round. Socialist EDEK, which usually has the support of between 7-10% of the electorate, can be expected to support Christofias, while DIKO, commanding the loyalty of between 18-20% of Cypriots, is more doubtful; but in the end I expect the party leadership will come out in favour of Christofias too, which will ensure that next Sunday Cyprus will elect a communist president.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Put out the light, and then put out the light

It was during the Third Crusade (1191) that Cyprus was wrested from Byzantine control – from the reprehensible rebel governor of the island, Isaac Komnenos – initiating 300 years of Lusignan (French) rule, during which Cyprus – or the Kingdom of Cyprus, as it was known – became a Western base for continuing Crusader campaigns in the Holy Land, noted for the wealth and sybaritic living of the Latin royal court and ruling class, which imposed the Western feudal system on the unhappy Greek population and persecuted the Orthodox church in favour of the alien Roman Catholic dogma.

In 1489, the exhausted Lusignan dynasty sold Cyprus to the Venetians, who turned the island into a military bastion to protect Venetian interests in the Eastern Mediterranean against the Turks and Egyptians. The Venetians squandered the island’s reputation for prosperity and continued the repression of the island’s Greek population.

From the start of Venetian rule, Cyprus was the target of Ottoman raids – the Turks attacked the Karpasia peninsula in 1489, while in 1539 the Turkish fleet attacked and destroyed Limassol.

In 1570, a full-scale Ottoman invasion of the island was mounted. The capital, Nicosia, was captured, sacked, and 20,000 Greeks and Venetians massacred; but in the port city of Famagusta, 8,000 Greek and Venetian defenders, under the leadership of Marcantonio Bragadino, held out against the 60,000 besieging Turks for nine months, until August 1571, when Bragadino surrendered to the Turkish commander Mustafa Lala under terms that would leave the local population unmolested and allow the Venetian garrison safe-conduct to Crete; a meaningless agreement it transpired since as soon as the surrender was confirmed, Turkish troops went on the rampage in Famagusta and across the island and Lala had the heroic Bragadino seized, tortured, mutilated, flayed alive, his skin stuffed with straw then paraded on an ox in a mock procession in the streets of Famagusta, before the remains were sent to Constantinople as a gift for Sultan Selim II, otherwise known, because of his predilection for drunken debauchery, as Selim the Sot.

Outraged by the sadism and perfidy of the Turks and inspired by the tragic resistance at Famagusta, two months later Europe united to defeat the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto (Nafpaktos), one of the most significant engagements in world history, which ended Turkish expansion westwards.

The Turkish defeat at Lepanto came too late for Cyprus, and for 300 years – until the British took over in 1878 – the island suffered the usual depredations associated with Ottoman rule. Indeed, repression and decline were so acute in Cyprus that frequent rebellions and uprisings often involved both Christian and Muslim Cypriots.

Anyway, it is during these Ottoman-Venetian wars over Cyprus that the action of Shakespeare’s Othello (1603) takes place.

Othello is sent to Cyprus to command the Venetian forces against the threat of Turkish invasion, and though the Turkish fleet is destroyed by storms as it approaches the island, the Moor is overwhelmed and destroyed by a different sort of tempest, brought on by fear, paranoia, self-doubt, self-loathing and stupidity, as he is led to believe that his young bride, Desdemona – from the Greek, δυστυχισμένοι/distihismenoi/ill-fated one – has cuckolded him with his trusted lieutenant, Michael Cassio.

Orson Welles’ superb version of Othello can be seen here – though the picture quality is not great – while below is the most famous soliloquy from the play.

Othello approaches his wife’s bed with murder – or ‘sacrifice’, as the Moor says – in mind, preparing to inflict on her ‘a guiltless death,’ as Desdemona says, though I’m not convinced by her protestations of innocence:

‘It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul:
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!
It is the cause. Yet I'll not shed her blood,
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster:
Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me; but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume.’

Friday, 15 February 2008

Finally, a recipe

In her latest newsletter to Desperate Greek Housewives subscribers, Anasia Angeli informs her acolytes, once again, that we won’t have to wait much longer for her to get her site fully up and running and for her to regale us with recipes from Cyprus – which has the finest cuisine in the world, in my opinion.

In the meantime, Anasia has been good enough to provide her subscribers with detailed information on how to prepare artichokes – which she says is ‘one of my favourite vegetables this time of year… It has medicinal properties and detoxifies our bodies, especially the liver. It is full of calcium, magnesium, iron [and] B Vitamins’.

Anasia goes on to say that the artichoke can be served raw ‘in quarters or slices with lots of lemon juice as an aperitif or as a starter with a selection of olives and Greek bread’; or ‘cooked with a beaten egg or two and very small chunks of potato fried with a little olive oil’.

Now, I am aware of a Cypriot recipe that involves beaten eggs and asparagus, but not with artichoke and I wonder if Anasia has got her artichokes and asparagus mixed up. However, since Anasia is clearly a bright woman – she is a bank manager – I will give her the benefit of the doubt and accept that my knowledge of the artichoke in Cypriot cuisine is deficient and that it can be cooked in the way she describes.

I’d also like to point out that since I linked Anasia’s site, Desperate Greek Housewives, to this blog, my traffic has significantly increased – with dozens of searches for 'dirty Greek housewives' or 'sexy Greek housewives', and that those most interested in the erotic qualities of the Hellenic housewife are from Turkey and Germany.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Presidential elections in Cyprus

This year is a presidential election year. Cypriot presidential election year, that is, with the first round taking place this Sunday.

There are three major candidates: incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos – backed by his centrist party, DIKO, socialist EDEK, right-wing EVROKO and the ecologists; the communist Dimitris Christofias; and the conservative Ioannis Cassoulides.

So far, the polls have shown that no candidate will win outright in the first round, and that, indeed, the race is so close that it is impossible to be sure which two candidates will go forward to the run-off the following Sunday.

Nevertheless, a fair summary of the latest polls indicate that Papadopoulos will obtain some 34% of the vote, Christofias 32% and Cassoulides 30%, eliminating Cassoulides.

As for polls regarding a Papadopoulos-Christofias run-off, again these are too close to call – some indicate Christofias barely ahead, others indicate Papadopoulos with a marginal advantage – with much depending on who the leadership of conservative DISY will advise its supporters to vote for – their long-time ideological adversary, the communist Christofias, or Papadopoulos, whose policies on the Cyprus problem the conservatives have bitterly opposed for the last five years.

Indeed, given that there is a general consensus among the three candidates regarding Cyprus’ society and economy, both of which are relatively successful, what divides the three is their approach to the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and the threat of the island’s permanent partition.

The communist Christofias, despite his AKEL party having been part of Papadopoulos’ coalition government until last August, insists that Papadopoulos is an inflexible leader with poor judgement who has isolated Cyprus internationally and allowed the Greek Cypriots to go from being perceived as victims of invasion and occupation to perpetrators of their own downfall.

Christofias has also portrayed himself as having good relations with the Turkish Cypriot minority and its leadership and argued that this will prove decisive in creating the appropriate climate for reunifying the island.

Cassoulides and DISY, meanwhile, are even more adamant that Papadopoulos has mishandled the national issue and insist he has taken Cyprus to the brink of permanent partition, drawing attention to what they believe is the creeping recognition of Turkey’s puppet regime in occupied Cyprus – the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.

Cassoulides, an MEP whose party is an integral component of the European People’s Party, the alliance of conservative parties in the EU, has also said that he will use his links in Europe to restore Cyprus’ credibility and encourage the EU to play a more dynamic role in helping end the Turkish occupation of the island.

As for Papadopoulos, he rejects Christofias’ notion that the Cyprus problem is one of bad relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and asserts that it is not the Turkish Cypriots and their leaders who decide Turkish policy on Cyprus, but the government in Ankara and the Turkish military. Good relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, while desirable, Papadopoulos argues, are largely irrelevant.

Papadopoulos also denies that Cyprus has lost allies during his presidency and insists that he is the only one of the three candidates able to resist another Annan-type plan being forced on Greek Cypriots by foreign powers as a solution to the Cyprus problem – Cassoulides supported the discredited Annan plan in 2004, Christofias only just rejected it, while Papadopoulos led the campaign against it.

Whatever the final outcome of the elections on 24 February, it is clear that there will be increased activity this year aimed at resolving the Cyprus problem. This isn’t because the international community is bothered by the unfortunate fate of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and wishes to help construct a better future for them; but because in 2009 the EU is due to deliver a report on Turkey’s progress towards EU membership.

Turkey’s failure to normalise relations with the Republic of Cyprus – which Turkey doesn’t recognise – and extend the Customs Union it signed with the EU in 1995 to Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, will likely see Turkey’s EU candidature unravel to the point of collapse – something which Turkey’s most ardent Western supporters – the UK and the USA – are determined to avoid.

Not that Turkey is taking the looming crisis in its EU candidature as motivation to act reasonably and end its 34-year occupation of northern Cyprus. Rather, Ankara has been making it clear that its inclination in any rejuvenated peace process this year will be to collapse the talks.

Thus Turkey will insist on the revival of the 2004 Annan plan – which satisfied most of Turkey’s demands on Cyprus – in the knowledge that no Greek Cypriot leader will accept it – in a referendum Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan by 76% – which would then allow Turkey to claim there is not enough common ground among the parties to reunify Cyprus and other solutions must be found; solutions which recognise the facts on the ground, those created by Turkey’s invasion and occupation, two separate states, ethnically pure, one Greek, one Turkish, going their own ways, by agreement if possible – like the Czech Republic and Slovakia – or by the application of realpolitik – as in the case of Kosovo and Serbia. Either way, the outcome for Cyprus will be the same: partition.

As long as Turkey’s policy on Cyprus is – as it has been for the last 50 years – partition, then the winner of the presidential elections on the island this month is largely irrelevant. It is Turkey, the occupying power, which holds the key to reunifying the island, not the president of Cyprus.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Radio Akritas: Markos Vamvakaris



Above is a video featuring Markos Vamvakaris’ audacious song
Αν φύγουμε στον πόλεμο/If we go to war –

Αν φύγουμε στο πόλεμο μικρό μου Χαρικλάκι
Να κάνεις τον εισπράκτορα ή και το σωφεράκι
Αν φύγουμε στο πόλεμο μικρό μου Χαρικλάκι –

followed by three Markos’ tunes in Radio Akritas. These are:

1. Βαθιά στη θάλασσα/Deep in the sea

2. Μάνα με μαχαίρωσανε/Mother, they knifed me

3. Ψεύτικος ντουνιάς/Fake world

Βαθιά στη θάλασσα was not actually written by Markos, but by Giorgos Zambettas and originally recorded by Stelios Kazantzidis in 1954. However, Markos loved the song and played it so much, privately and as part of his public repertoire, that it was often assumed to be his song (see here for more details, in Greek). Anyway, the version in Radio Akritas is the legendary live recording made by Markos in 1961.

Here is a link to the first part of a good, three-part documentary on Markos recently shown on Greek TV; and here are the lyrics to Βαθιά στη θάλασσα to sing along to.

Βαθιά στη θάλασσα να πέσω, να με σκεπάσει το νερό
Τη δύστυχη ζωή που κάνω, να την αντέξω δεν μπορώ

Να ξεχαστώ από τους φίλους, να με ξεχάσουν συγγενείς
και να χαθώ σ' αυτά τα βάθη, που δε τα πάτησε κανείς

Βαθιά στη θάλασσα να πέσω, να με σκεπάσει το νερό
Τα κύματα να μ' αγκαλιάσουν, το φως να μη το ξαναδώ.

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).