Friday, 27 February 2009
Stelios Foustalieris: Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι
In Radio Akritas, I’ve made available some old recordings of Cretan songs by Stelios Foustalieris, Yiannis Baxevanis and Manolis Lagos. Foustalieris is a particularly interesting character and musician and the best-known exponent of Cretan rembetika, or tabachaniotika. Tabachaniotika reflects the strong relations on all levels that existed between Crete and Smyrna in the 19th century and the influence of the Asia Minor refugees who settled in Crete after 1922. Foustalieris was also unusual in that he didn’t play the Cretan lute or lyra, but the boulgari, a long-necked instrument related to the saz. After Foustalieris, boulgari playing virtually died out in Crete, though recently there has been a revival, as the two videos above indicate; the first one is Stelios Laidakis playing boulgari and singing Foustalieris’ Τα Δάκρυα, and the second is Karolos Kouklakis and Irene Derembei performing Συρτός ‘Χαραυγή’.
The songs in Radio Akritas are:
1. Όσο βαρούν τα σίδερα;
2. Κλαίω κρυφά τον πόνο μου;
3. Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι;
4. Την μάννα μου την αγαπώ; and
5. Κρυφά γιά σένα θα πονώ.
The first three songs are Foustalieris’ while the other two are from Baxevanis and Lagos. The female vocalist is Lavrentia Bernidaki.
The lyrics to Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι (I welcome my troubles) are interesting not only because they reflect Crete’s renowned defiance and darkness of spirit, but also because, more prosaically, for the final refrain:
Γυαλένιος είσαι μαστραπάς,
κι όποιον κι αν δεις τον αγαπάς.
You’re like a glass jug
Whoever you see, you fall in love with.
(That is, you’re as hollow and fragile/fickle as a glass jug…)
The refrain doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the song and is probably just padding; although the same refrain exists in a classic Yiannis Papaioannou song, Πώς θα περάσει η βραδιά (How is this night going to pass?), which has been most notably recorded by Sotiria Bellou and also by Anna Chrysafi – except that both versions omit the refrain and only in more modern interpretations of the Papaioannou song does it appear again, as in the version sung by Yiota Nenga in the video below. Papaioannou, it should be stressed, was from Ayvali in Asia Minor and it may be that the refrain originated in songs from that region before making its way to Crete along with other influences that shaped tabachaniotika.
Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι
Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι, τις πίκρες μου γλεντίζω
Κι αν περιμένω εγώ χαρές, θαρρώ δεν τσι γνωρίζω
Τα βάσανα με τρέφουνε, και οι καημοί με ζούνε
Μα εγώ ζωή δεν καρτερώ, στον κίνδυνο (α)που (ει)μαι
Γυαλένιος είσαι μαστραπάς, κι όποιον κι αν δεις τον αγαπάς.
I welcome my troubles, my bitterness I celebrate
And if joys do come to me, I don’t think I’d recognise them
My troubles nourish me, my sadness gives me life
I’m not waiting for a life, not in the danger I’m in
You’re like a glass jug, whoever you see you fall in love with.