Greek Rhapsody

Instrumental Music from Greece 1905-1956

Dust-to-Digital DTD-27
152-page hardcover book with two CDs

Disc A: 1. G Gretsis & S Stamos - Greek Rhapsody;   2. George Deligeorge - Lemneiko-Zeibekiko;   3. Instrumental Trio - Vlachico Sirto;   4. Spyros Peristeris - To Mistirio;   5. Markos Vamvakaris - Taxim Serf;   6. Solo Laterna - Kazapiko;   7. Spyros Peristeris - Tatavliano Hasapiko;   8. A. Kostis - Dertlidikos Horos;   9. Spyros Peristeris - Soultani Zeibekiko;   10. Spyros Peristeris - Guzel-Zeibekiko;   11. Spyros Peristeris - Hasapiko Laternas;   12. Andonis Amiralis “Papatzis” - Hasapiko Politiko Argo;   13. Spyros Peristeris - O Meraklis;   14. M Hiotis/D Gongos ’Bagianderas’ - To Perasma;   15. Kyria Koula - Zeibekikos Horos;   16. Spyros Peristeris - Taxim Minore;   17. Frangiskos Zouridakis - Syriano Hasapiko;   18. Ierotheos Skizas Mandolinata - Karotsieris Hasapiko;   19. Spyros Peristeris - Pireotiko Taximi;   20. Spyros Peristeris - Romvia (Tatavliano Hasapiko);   21. Giannis Stamatiou & P Vasileiou - Glykies Pennies.
Disc B: 1. Spyros Peristeris - Beykos Hasapiko;   2. Spyros Peristeris - Keflidiko Minore;   3. Spyros Peristeris - Boutzalio;   4. Ag. Tombouli - Raftaki;   5. Havagies Bezou-Stipa - Kardia Ap’agapi Orfani;   6. Solo Laterna - Zeibekiko;   7. Apostolos Papadiamandis & Konstandinos Kalamaras - I Hira;   8. Spyros Peristeris - Sevdali;   9. Diodia Kyriakati - Karsilamas Mytilineikos;   10. Spyros Peristeris - Dertilidiko;   11. Lambros Leondaridis - Karsilamas;   12. Ioannis Papaioannou - Serviko Hasapiko;   13. Spyros Peristeris - Minore Tou Teke;   14. Ierotheos Skizas Mandolinata - Vlahiko Hasapiko;   15. Markos Vamvakaris - Taxim Zeibekiko;   16. D Arapakis - Memetis;   17. Manolis Hiotis - Giouzel Taxim;   18. Alexis Zoumbas - Arvanitiko;   19. Lukianos Cavadias - Hasapiko Kavvadia;   20. Spyros Peristeris - Mistirio Zeibekiko;   21. Ioannis Halikias - Minore Tou Teke.
This 152-page hardcover book with two CDs features 42 Greek instrumental recordings made between 1905 and 1956.  This compilation offers, for the first time, a unique panorama of the instruments and styles of the Greek music from the first half of the 20th century.

Tony Klein is a British musician, researcher, and writer, based in Sweden.  He has played and researched Greek music for 40 years, and studied with, among others, the veteran Stelios Keromitis.  In 2005, in collaboration with collector Charles Howard, he produced and annotated the CD Mortika – Rare Vintage Recordings from a Greek Underworld, reviewed in these pages.  This latter hard-cover book and CD, having proved rather difficult to find, is being offered as a special package together with Greek Rhapsody by Dust-to-Digital on their website at:

Greek Rhapsody is a rather unusual piece of work.  It aims to 'present as comprehensive a selection as possible of the instruments current in Greek popular music of the time ... Most of the original discs represented here are, more-or-less, rarities.'  The extent to which Tony Klein has succeeded needs to be judged by someone with far more knowledge of the subject than me, but the range of instruments heard is indeed wide - from the bouzouki to the laterna mechanical street-piano, and pretty much everything in between.  Regarding the rarity of the discs; disc B, track 7, I Hira, is the earliest known recording of a bouzouki (1917), of which only one original exists!  And this is not the only recording here of which there is only one known copy.

While it is described on the Dust-to-Digital website as: 'a 152-page hardcover book with two CDs', I prefer to think of it as a double CD with an extensive book(let).  This book is beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated, and contains, along with the expected Introduction, and Notes on the tunes and their performers, sections on Historical Sound Recordings, on Caring For 78rpm Recordings, and Notes on Transliteration and Orthography.  In short, it really is very detailed.  The Notes range from a short paragraph for one or two tracks, to 14 pages for the above mentioned disc B, track 7, I Hira.

(British readers may have seen a BBC programme of two or three years ago, which described a WW1 German recording programme carried out in numerous POW camps, to make gramophone recordings of speech, songs and music, of as many different nationalities as possible.  It was a massive project, aiming at a comprehensive documentation of human cultures - although its core ambitions may have been more towards a 'scientific' proof of the superiority of the German version.  The BBC programme necessarily concentrated on British POWs, but the Germans were equally interested in all nationalities - Disc B, track 7, I Hira was one of just a handful of songs with instrumental accompaniment amongst 72 discs and 70 cylinders recorded from Greek POWs in the Görlitz camp on the German/Polish border, in 1917.)

This project is clearly the work of a scholar and enthusiast.  This seems to be borne out in the selections - whilst adhering to the above-mentioned 'comprehensive' and 'rare' criteria, Tony has allowed his enthusiasm to induce him to include some favourite and completist selections.  A few examples being: Jack Halikias' Minore Tou Tike, 'the most influential bouzouki side ever cut.  It is still the most beautiful of all bouzouki recordings'; all the available Spyros Peristeris instrumental sides; and, on disc A, track 1, Greek Rhapsody, by George Gretsis (violin) and Spyros Stamos (cimbalom).  He admits that this track 'would hardly be identified as Greek, even by knowledgeable listeners.  It is rather an example of typical professional Romanian "gypsy" violin playing.'  Exactly why this track should have been included (since there are two other violin tracks here) is not explained.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm no expert on Greek music, so much of the copious information given in the book is a little over my head - but there's some extremely interesting stuff in 14 pages, printed on pale blue paper rather than white, towards the end of the book (the colour change is not explained either).  These are the 'On Historical Sound Recordings' and 'On Caring For 78rpm Recordings' sections.  Since I think these two sections will be of considerable interest to almost all MT readers, I am providing a link to them here.  (As these are part of this newly published work, they are presented as a PDF document with both Copy and Print functions disabled, to protect the publishers' copyright.)  They deal with the concepts of how we listen to 100-year-old 78rpm records, and their re-publication and manipulation in a digital age.  They are absolutely fascinating, and right at the front of our musical awareness, since so much of the music which interests and excites us has been digitally manipulated between its original recording and its encoding onto the CDs which we listen to.  The sentence which best encapsulates the ideas expressed reads: Regarding all extraneous noise as disturbing artefact, and using digital processing to try and extirpate every single trace of snap, crackle, pop and hiss, the result may become a distant, dead, shrunken, autoclaved shadow of something that once was a potent communicative record of the audible actions of living breathing human beings.

Given such a wide-ranging project as this, it will be impossible to give you any representative idea of the music on offer with just a few sound clips.  Moreover, enthusiasts for this music will have realised from the track listings what is particularly interesting or rare, and I might very well miss out something of great import.  So you'll have to put up with a selection of my own 'favourites' here, chosen purely for their ability to catch my attention.  We'll start, not with Jack Halikias' Minore Tou Tike, but with the 'cover version' played by Spyros Peristeris on guitar.  I display my ignorance of the genre by preferring this over the 'original'.  Now let's have something really strange - a mechanical recording of mechanical music.  This is a laterna mechanical street-piano playing Kazapiko, back in 1913 - wonderful!  Sticking with the 'unusual', here are Havagies Bezou-Stipa and (probably) Konstandinos Bezos on Hawaiian guitars, playing Kardia Ap’agapi Orfani.  It is very unusual in that it's played in rhapsodic style, without a prominent pulse - quite unlike most Hawaiian guitar recordings.  Finally - I can't leave you without a bit of accordion music - here is Andonis Amiralis “Papatzis” playing Hasapiko Politiko Argo, which translates as Slow Butcher's Dance, and probably originates in Smyrna or Istanbul ... although it sounds more like Jewish or Roma music.

As well as everything else I've mentioned, there is a 'Dramatis Personae' section giving details of the 31 performers, and a fascinating 31-page 'Dramatis Organa' section devoted to all the 17 different instruments heard on the discs, and their place in Greek popular music.  I really can't think of what else might have been included in this splendid production.

Rod Stradling - 25.6.13

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