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From Tambouras to Bouzouki

The History and Evolution of the Bouzouki & Its First Recordings (1926-1932)
Book and CD by Stavros Kourousis

Orpheum Records ORPH-01.  ISBN: 978-618-80538-0-9

1. Manolis Karapiperis - Aidiniko Zeibekiko (alternate take);  2. Manolis Karapiperis - Aidiniko Zeibekiko;  3. Manolis Karapiperis - Fatime Zeibekiko (take 1, rej);  4. Manolis Karapiperis - Fatime Zeibekiko (take 2, rej);  5. Manolis Karapiperis - Aivaliotiko Zeibekiko;  6. Manolis Karapiperis - Aivaliotiko Zeibekiko (alternate take);  7. Manolis Karapiperis - Sokiani Zeibekiko (take 1, rej);  8. Manolis Karapiperis - Sokiani Zeibekiko (take 2, rej);  9. Giannakis Ioannidis & Manolis Karapiperis - Toutoi Oi Batsoi Pou 'rthan Tor;  10. Giannakis Ioannidis & Manolis Karapiperis - Apo Kato Apo Tis Domates;  11. Panagiotis Tsoros - Doudou;  12. Panagiotis Tsoros - Roditiko Zeibekiko (Unissued rej);  13. Panagiotis Tsoros - Kritiko Sino (Unissued rej);  14. Ioannis Sfondilias & Kostas Kokotis - Treis Ligeres- Sirtos;  15. Ioannis Sfondilias & Kostas Kokotis - O Skaltsodimos (Oi Tsekouraioi) - Tsamikos;  16. Yiorgos Deligeorgis - Limneiko Zeibekiko (alternate take);  17. Yiorgos Deligeorgis - Limneiko Zeibekiko;  18. Nouros Manetas & Livaditis - O Memetis (Chr. Marinos).
To start with I must tell the reader, in the interest of transparency, that I have been closely involved with this fascinating project for the last couple of years, that I have been responsible for some parts of the English translation, and that I have no economic stakes in it.

A further word of preface is in order.  The archives of the large record companies contain pristine archive copies of hundreds of thousands of recordings from the 78 rpm era, from at least 1898 onwards, many of which are extremely rare or simply unique.  These are in the form of either unplayed shellac discs or metal masters.  The economic and logistic hurdles imposed by the companies, which tend to obstruct access to such material for reissue by small independent labels, lead to many such recordings being reissued on the basis of transfers of used discs in varying states of wear, while perfect archive copies would theoretically be available and could have been used.  In fairness, there are of course huge quantities of recordings for which no sources other than used discs have survived.

From Tambouras to Bouzouki is really at least two things at once.  It is a CD which is unique in several aspects.  The musicians represented were born in the third or fourth quarters of the 19th century, and represent aspects of non-commercialised traditional bouzouki (and tenor banjo and accordion!) playing which were never captured on disc in any other contexts.  16 of the 18 tracks have been transcribed direct from metal masters and have intentionally not been subjected to any digital manipulation whatsoever.  All but six of the 18 recordings have never been reissued in any format whatsoever - in fact, ten of them are alternative and/or rejected takes that have never seen the light of day since they were recorded.  Two recordings (tracks 14-15) are taken from the first commercial recording of a bouzouki, for which one of the matrices is lost.  There is one known surviving copy of this disc, in miraculously good condition.  Faithful to his ambition however, Kourousis chose to transcribe the surviving original metal matrix, and to transcribe the other side from the 78 rpm shellac disc itself.  The observant listener will perhaps be able to discern differences in the character of the surface noise of these two pieces.  This might sound nerdish to the point of idiocy - but what this CD in fact offers the listener, apart from the music itself, is the experience of hearing the information contained in 78 rpm recordings before they were reproduced in shellac.

From Tambouras to Bouzouki is also a book which aims to trace, from ancient times to the early decades of the 20th century, the origins and vicissitudes of the bouzouki, and its close relative the somewhat more difficult to define tambouras.  This involves dipping into several areas of study - ancient history, classical archaeology, Byzantine studies, iconography, relevant Greek and Western European writings from the 17th century to the early 20th century, organology, and discography.  This is probably not an exhaustive list.

Stavros Kourousis, classical guitar teacher by profession, inveterate researcher of Greek musical tradition by vocation, has been passionately involved with Greek music from the 78 rpm era, since he began collecting 78s in his very early teens over 20 years ago.  He has also collected instruments from the same period, mainly bouzoukis.  He has realised that the dominant discourse on the bouzouki, with its focus on the commonly available recorded corpus of the genre usually called rebetika, has had certain blind spots simply because the scanty items of recorded and documentary evidence which point in somewhat different directions are easily overlooked.  Indeed, much has been hitherto virtually inaccessible to those interested. 

Kourousis' interest developed to the point where he decided that it would be worth the time, the effort, and not least the money involved to reissue some of the relevant recorded material (both heard and unheard) from company archives, in pristine audio quality,.  The painstaking business of establishing contact with the large company, of finding the right people with whom to communicate in order to ascertain what material is actually still accessible, and then of arranging for high quality transcriptions, and acquiring the licence to reissue them, has occupied him for more than a decade. 

The result is the very first reissue in the history of Greek discography which includes all available alternate takes, and even takes of songs of which no takes were deemed suitable for issue, reproduced in the best possible audio condition from un-doctored transfers from metal parts.  The accompanying book is published in separate Greek and English language editions.  I review the English version here.

The CD

I will give a brief background for readers unfamiliar with this music and the instruments in question.  The bouzouki and the tambouras were wire-strung long-necked lutes, normally with three pairs of strings, until 1956 when the modern form of the bouzouki with four pairs of strings made its first appearance in the studio.  The new form soon conquered the limelight, and tended to oust the three-course instrument, particularly in newer popular music.  However, of older Greek players who had grown up with the three-course instrument, most stayed with it, while some changed to the four-course instrument, which is tuned like the four highest strings of a guitar, albeit a whole tone lower.

It may interest those familiar with the development of Irish folk music since the late 1960s, that when Johnny Moynihan, Donal Lunny, Alec Finn and others began, truly innovatively, to integrate the bouzouki into Irish music, the two former used four-string instruments, tuned for their own purposes and differently from the standard Greek pattern, while Alec Finn of De Danann chose the three-course instrument tuned in the usual Greek manner.

During the largest part of its recorded history the three-string instrument had a "standard" tuning - Dd-aa-dd, with the bass pair consisting of an octave pair and the other two pairs tuned in unison.  The word "standard" is the crux of the matter here - this tuning probably did not become standard until after the first decade or two of the 20th century.  We know little of tunings prior to the era of recordings.  The earliest notated information stems from the writings of the West European traveller Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815).  On this matter Kourousis is uniquely exhaustive in his literary references, illustrations, and tables of tunings.

This is also why it is so fascinating to hear the bouzouki player Karapiperis on this CD.  He did not use the Dd-aa-dd tuning at al, but various tunings clearly designed to be used in the absence of Western harmonic accompaniment.  In the language of the folk revival of the British Isles such tunings would probably be called modal tunings.

All tracks of the CD but the very last were recorded in the United States between 1926 and 1929, by musicians who had left Greece during the first decades of the century, some at a mature age, some hardly teenagers.  That the bouzouki entered the studios in Greece itself somewhat later is a sociological theme which merits far more text than is feasible here and now.  Suffice it to say that the instrument was stigmatised as was jazz among certain social milieux at about the same time.

The first ten tracks feature Manolis Karapiperis, bouzouki player and singer.  Within the field of blues scholarship researchers have occasionally hit the jackpot while searching for information about musicians.  Although something is always better than nothing, the jackpot in Karapiperis' case is a meagre one.  The little we know of him at all is largely to the efforts of Stavros Kourousis, Nikos Dionysopoulos and the Dutch researcher Hugo Strötbaum, and stems largely from the Ellis Island immigration records and his several applications for citizenship.  Karapiperis life can thus be laconically summarised as follows: he was born on the island of Samos in 1884, while the island was still tributary to the Ottoman Empire, and emigrated from the island of his birth to the United States at the age of 27, leaving his wife of two years behind him, and apparently never seeing her again.  No trace of her presence in America has been found; by the time he applied for citizenship in 1938 he was a childless widower, working as a barrow-man.  No date of his death has been found.  Two photos of him have surfaced, both reproduced in the book - one from a 1929 Victor catalogue, and one from his last application for US citizenship in 1938.  Not a single person has been found who knew him, or even knew of him, during his lifetime.  Karapiperis only really emerges from the shadows through his two forays into the recording studios in late 1928 and April 1929, which yielded twelve takes of a total of six different songs, two sung by his compatriot, the revue singer Ioannis Ioannidis, in 1928, four sung by Karapiperis himself in 1929.  Of these twelve takes, two have disappeared and only four were ever issued.

The CD thus offers four examples of songs recorded twice by Karapiperis, all takes recorded on the same day.  The pristine matrices of the Sony archives allow us to hear the slightest nuances in the sound of instrument and voice.

Kourousis would like to use the differences between these takes as proof of Albert Lord's dictum that "An oral poem is not composed for but in performance".  I'm not sure I agree with this conclusion, even if the improvisatory component of these performances is undeniable.  Although Karapiperis probably had all this music in him when he arrived in America 17 years previously, there is a refreshing unsureness, which to me at least conveys a distinct impression that our musician was a trifle nervous in the studio, and perhaps unaccustomed to professional performance contexts.  His tempo varies, different verses are sung on different takes, one can observe varying degrees of relaxation or hurriedness.  The very first take of the 1929 session seems to betray his unsureness, as he apparently forgets part of the song, which he then sings in its complete form next time around.  The first take of the second song, where he has tuned the bass strings down a semitone to the tuning called arapien by Greeks, finds him starting out on the right fret but the wrong string.  His bouzouki playing is truly unlike anything else on record, with his single string melodic playing occasionally punctuated by a temporary drone on the adjacent string, whether the middle or the bass string pair at a given moment.  His nervously ornamented playing is certainly not virtuosic; it is probably more fumbled than if he had been playing for hours in good company.  But it has an immediacy, a salutary lack of any sense of pretension or projection, as though he were primarily playing for himself, at most for one or two friends.  His singing voice is apparently pressed into a high register and occasionally breaks, more out of nervousness than dramatic intention.

Two songs unissued, four songs issued, and then forgotten for half a century, until they were reissued on LP in 1977 and 1984 during the "rebetiko revival".  It was to take a further decade or two for their significance to begin to be appreciated.  Stavros Kourousis is clearly driven by his fascination over what he and some others including myself hear as an echo of what bouzouki playing may have sounded like during the latter years of the 19th century.  He hears echoes of playing traditions which have today vanished completely, and which hardly made it into the studios during the infancy and childhood of the recording industry.  Five years ago I gave a lecture on just this.  Having listened countless times to tiny details, with as yet no access to the pristine transfers heard on the present CD, I had come to the conclusion that Karapiperis both strung and tuned his bouzouki in various ways never recorded by other bouzouki players.  These tuning patterns could in some cases be recognised from the documentation of Turkish folk music, not least Laurence Picken's monumental study Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey published in 1975.  Picken's travels all over Turkey enabled him to catalogue the variety of traditional ways of stringing and tuning the various kinds of saz, the Turkish long-necked lute which is closely related to the bouzouki and the tambouras.  One of the tunings however, to be heard on track 9, is still extraordinarily baffling, as it has to our present knowledge no known equivalent in Greece or Turkey.  So strange is it, that Stavros and I had many (digitally) heated discussions until I humbly realised that what I thought to be unthinkable turned out to be the only tenable hypothesis.  I won't repeat the musical details as all this is included in the book, which strives enthusiastically to offer the reader every possible crumb of knowledge on the subjects at hand, occasionally at the cost of clarity and linguistic accuracy.

The laconic information we have about Karapiperis' life, and the fascinating historical and ethnomusicological evidence offered by his bouzouki playing, can perhaps be given more flesh, blood and humanity, perhaps tragedy, when we listen to his voice and understand his lyrics, all of which are presented in translation in the English version, unfortunately without the original Greek, which would perhaps even be of value to some who choose to buy the English version.  On one of the unissued songs, Fatime Zeibekiko he sings in his tortured, passionate voice:

A final comment here - in terms of lyrics, the two songs on which Karapiperis accompanied the singing of Ioannidis are true rebetiko songs, which as Kourousis points out can reasonably be dated to the later 19th century.

After Karapiperis we are treated to three banjo (!) pieces by Panagiotis Tsoros from the island of Chios.  Tsoros only recorded five sides, of which four were in his own name but two were rejected.  On one issued song he accompanied the itinerant minstrel Gust Dussas, of whom I have written in my review of Bed of Pain on this website.  The banjo is rare in recorded Greek music, and even rarer as a solo instrument, although it isn't as rare as one would expect in photos; even greats of the period such as Tsitsanis, Peristeris and Papazoglou have been depicted playing banjos.  One wonders whether Tsoros' choice of instrument was influenced by living on Wylie Street, which as Kourousis points out was a centre of jazz in a black-dominated area of Pittsburgh; I am even tempted to wonder whether Tsoros led another musical life outside his Greekness!

An interesting phenomenon which Kourousis fails to mention is Tsoros' use of a banjo with a damper mechanism.  The Silver Bell model offered by banjo makers Bacon and Day in the late 1920s was occasionally furnished with a lever placed along the lower side of the resonator, so that the player could, by simply tipping the instrument towards the left while playing, cause a damper to press against the inside surface of the parchment head.  The alternation between open and damped notes for different sections of the pieces can almost tempt one to believe that there are two different instruments present.1  Dou dou.

An example of Kourousis' tendency to "emic" thinking - i.e. thinking anthropologically from within rather than from without (etic) one's cultural box - is his assertion that Tsoros tuned his banjo like the Greek laouto, i.e. C-G-D-A.  This is, however, the standard tuning of the tenor banjo!  That the Greek laouto also happens to be tuned in fifths with double courses and two octave pairs, albeit in a re-entrant tuning (i.e. with the lowest pair tuned up an octave), is perhaps a serendipitous coincidence.  Certainly Tsoros' nervous melodic style is hardly to my mind reminiscent of Greek laouto players, nor of bouzouki players.  By the time he recorded he had clearly found his own voice on the instrument.

After Karapiperis and Tsoros we are treated to what was for me a revelation when I first heard clips of it a couple of years ago.  The very first commercial recording including a bouzouki, recorded in Chicago in 1926.  (For the very first recording ever of a bouzouki, see Rod Stradling's review of Greek Rhapsody).  We hear Ioannis Sfondilias playing a kind of accordion with which most readers are probably unfamiliar, positioned lying down, with the keyboard in front of the player just like a piano, in this case played with a simple drone and a single-line melody bagpipe style.  I can't help wondering whether there was a mechanical solution for holding down the drone note(s), as two hands would be needed to play the melody and operate the bellows, as in the case of the Indian harmonium.  The stringed instrument employed here, called both mandolin and bouzouki in the original Victor company files, is really neither - it is in all probability nearer to the tambouras, played melodically with a fluttering plectrum style and simultaneous droning on its lower strings, in a style I have only heard echoes of in Turkish saz playing.2  The sound of this combination of instruments, and the style and modal structure of these two traditional Peloponnese melodies, remind me of the sonorities which musicians of the so-called Early Music Revival strove to obtain when re-creating impressions of medieval music.  O Skaltsodimos.

Kourousis has managed to unearth biographical details, and even a portrait photo, of the player Kostas Kokotis, but unfortunately no picture of his instrument.  But the book does show that the New York luthiers Karambas and Stathopoulos offered their customers both bouzoukis and tambourades.  This is revolutionary information in this context, as the tambouras was simply never mentioned in Greek contexts during the recording era3 and thus has hitherto been almost invisible in the "rebetiko discourse".  To be fair, the instrument has recently been resuscitated by the Greek nationalist folk music revival which grew up a decade or two after the rebetika revival had established itself, but until the publication of this CD hardly anyone had the opportunity to hear a Greek playing a tambouras in traditional style!

Following these two marvellous glimpses into a 19th century sonority, we are treated to both takes of a piece which features the virtuoso yodelling whistler George Deligeorge accompanied by bouzouki, laouto and castanets, on a rollicking zeibekiko dance tune from his native island of Lemnos, well known from many other versions within rebetiko contexts.  Unfortunately, as is too often the case, Victor deemed it unnecessary to note down the names of the accompanying musicians in their files.

We will presumably remain entirely ignorant of how much different bouzouki playing was to be heard among Greek immigrants in New York during the first decades of the 20th century.  The Greek luthiers active in America at the time presumably had enough customers to whom to sell their bouzoukis and tambourades.  The four different bouzouki musicians recorded in America and heard on this CD, plus the records of Ioannis Halikias made in 1932-33, (see for example Mortika and Greek Rhapsody) show five completely different styles of playing, with very little in common.  There might well have been many more.

The final track is the only recording which was actually made in Greece, in 1932.  It is one of the only three known sides recorded by Thanasis Manetas (c.1870 - c.1943), the earliest recorded bouzouki player of whom we know that he already had a professional reputation by the end of the 19th century, and whom Markos Vamvakaris mentioned with veneration in his autobiography.  Sadly, there is only one known copy of this disc, and it is badly damaged, although not untowardly worn.  Here is a case of the internecine strife which can poison the world of record collectors.  Although the disc is damaged, there are apparently no missing fragments.  It could conceivably be used in its broken form to yield a complete transfer, in the hands of an experienced craftsman.  The dear departed English nestor of 78 rpm management, John R T Davies, described how he would repair discs by carefully removing portions of shellac from the broken surfaces before gluing, so that glue would not rise into the record grooves.  But - the present owner of the disc, a very famous collector whose name I will not mention, has over the years obstinately refused all requests from aficionados, enthusiasts and CD compilers to let such an attempt be made.  Sadly, the version available for this CD is thus manifestly both marred by skips, and truncated.

All in all, this CD, while perhaps primarily addressing itself to specialists, is a brightly shining star in the world of 78 rpm reissues, offering hitherto unheard glimpses into a lost world of Greek tradition and sonorities, in the best possible audio state with the final exception just mentioned.

The book

Broadly speaking the book can be divided into those parts which treat of matters prior to, respectively contemporary with, the audio material offered on the CD.

Here follows a concise edited version of the contents.  I will not attempt to address Kourousis' treatment of the material under every heading.

For the novice, or the somewhat less initiated, I would like to clarify that the terms bouzouki and tambouras have not always been understood to refer to different instruments.  It is part of Kourousis' thesis that they are however sufficiently distinct entities to warrant being treated as such.  This does not necessarily imply the assertion that they have co-existed for centuries, but Kourousis does suggest that they have existed in distinct milieux, and that they show certain characteristic differences in proportion and construction.

Kourousis' ambition has thus been to trace the history of the instruments heard on the CD, from archaic times up to and including the 1930s.  In truth this is an enormous task, rather large for a 124-page book.  In spite of the occasionally chaotic presentation, in which chronological sequence is sometimes disturbed, and in spite of its lack of academic discipline and restraint, the book represents the very first serious attempt to achieve just this aim.  On the one hand I would say that it is successful in its ability both to capture interest and inform.  On the other hand I find it sometimes infuriating in its provocative assertions, many of which I would dispute.  It must also be said that the English version suffers to a degree from a lack of proofreading and editing which does not mar the Greek language version as far as I can discern.

Through the scholarly works quoted, the iconography, the research which has uncovered fascinating references to our instruments sporadically throughout the various historical periods in question, both in manuscript, published books and newspaper articles, and the beautifully reproduced illustrations, Kourousis offers the reader a truly rich and unique material on his subject.

Having presented the instruments' history, including a specific, and to me surprisingly new and fascinating account of the available evidence of their Peloponnesian aspects, Kourousis surprisingly devotes a significant section of the book to a study of a particular musician, his instruments and his recorded output, although he is not represented on the CD.

Iovan Eitsiridis, aka Giovan Tsaous (1893 - 1942), was a musician legendary in his time, well spoken of for his sophisticated musical knowledge and virtuosity by the many contemporaries who knew him.  Born on the Turkish Black Sea coast, the area known to Greeks as the Pontus, he arrived in mainland Greece in 1922.  Tsaous was unique for at least two reasons.  He used custom-built instruments with microtonal fretting, with 16 frets to the octave, instruments which Kourousis interprets as variants of the tambouras, and his melodies are quite unlike any of those of his contemporaries.  Uninterested in "success" and unwilling to play on stage "for whores" he recorded just fifteen songs with three different singers over the three-year period of 1936-39, with lyrics often written by his wife.  By trade originally a tailor, he later ran an ouzo bar for a living.  Tragically, in 1942 he and his wife died from food poisoning after eating bread made from spoiled flour salvaged from a wreck in Piraeus harbour during the starving years of WWII.  This was told to me by his nephew 36 years ago when I was able to visit him in Athens and examine the two surviving instruments.  Now, Stavros Kourousis, in the company of an Athens luthier, has made the same pilgrimage and published his results in this book.  This section includes photos of the instruments, and a detailed description of their construction and measurements, written by luthier Michalis Moundakis, including a perhaps over-ambitious interpretation of the mathematical basis of the fretting.  This is followed by a full discography, and an attempt to interpret the instrumentation of each song.

One might wonder why all this is accorded such a large place in the work at hand.  Tsaous has acquired legendary status among rebetika aficionados both for his instruments and his music, and I would reason that although all of his recordings have already been reissued together on one CD, serious documentation of his truly unique instruments has never been published, and neither have his songs been accorded a published musicianly analysis.  In the best of worlds this section would have been suitable for publication in a scholarly journal, but then perhaps it wouldn't be the best of worlds, as it would be less accessible ...

A very informative section on the bouzouki and rebetiko follows, quite suitably, and among other things offers, for the first time, a really convincing early reference for the etymology of the word rebetis (errant, blind, etc) which Kourousis has traced to a dictionary published in Leyden in 1614!

Kourousis then addresses the subject of bouzouki tunings, known in Greek as douzenia.  Using Picken's work as his main basis for terminology, he analyses not only the music on the CD, and the douzenia reported by older musicians of the rebetiko era, but offers an especially illuminating account of the tunings employed in the recordings of the baglamas-playing, clown-like figure, George Batis.

Kourousis refers furthermore to some hitherto unnoticed examples of variant tunings in the recorded repertoire.  Here the naming of tunings in the book becomes somewhat confusing for two reasons - contrary to convention Kourousis always writes from treble to bass instead of from bass to treble (we are used to write standard guitar tuning as EADGBE, and not as EBGDAE), and when referring to specific cases he may give the tuning on the basis of the treble string being in D even if it does not sound in D in the recording in question.  Many of the assertions may thus astonish for both wrong and right reasons, and I initially contested a couple in the first version of this review, but must now recant and offer my apologies and congratulations to Kourousis for his sharpness of hearing.  To my partial defence I was confused because they were both given in reverse, and in one case in the wrong pitch.  I will describe these two examples as they are both fascinating demonstrations of an apparently much freer relation to tuning than is customary among 'revivalist' bouzouki players of today, who tend to regard the DAD tuning of the three-course "trihordo" bouzouki as sacred, and to see it as 'pure and original' compared to the guitar-based tuning of the four-course bouzouki, introduced by Manolis Hiotis as late as 1956.

The two recordings in question are reasonably familiar to rebetiko aficionados.  Tsitsanis' instrumental Serviko in A minor from 1939 was to my ears and my playing experience quite straightforward (I don't mean easy!) to play in standard tuning.  When Kourousis clarified his interpretation of the tuning used, (EAC - i.e. an A minor chord in first inversion) I tried it out on my bouzouki and found to my surprise that it not only sounded better, and captured the mysterious sonorities of the original recording, but was in fact much easier to play!  Hatzihristos, in his song Paliopedo from 1940, uses a variant of Karadouzeni - AGC#.  All the strings have been tuned down: the bass octave pair a fourth, the middle course a whole tone, and the treble course a semitone.  Here all the melodic material is played on the middle string, with the A on the second fret of this string, and/or the octave bass pair, as tonic.  The apparently bizarre tuning of the first string to C# gives a resonance or drone, or both, on the third degree of the mode.

When it comes to tunings of the tambouras, I would take issue with Kourousis' somewhat arrogant, or at least youthfully over-enthusiastic, arrogation of the world of saz tunings, including their completely Turkish language nomenclature, and claiming them as tambouras tunings.  In this part of the book I would have liked him to learn how to kill his darlings.

The section on the artists on the CD, as I have implied, is particularly valuable for its compilation of biographical information on these relatively unknown, and for most people extremely obscure figures.  The notes to the CD tracks are generous and informative, giving a fully adequate background to the various tunes and their lyrics, and complete translations of the latter.

Summa summarum - the virtues of this combined CD and book make it an indispensable item for anyone interested in traditional Greek music from the early 20th century as played on plucked string instruments.  It should also be of value, and give great pleasure, to anyone with a broad interest in traditional music-making from the early 20th century.  English readers will admittedly have to put up with a fair amount of textual sloppiness, but I firmly believe that it will be found worth while.  To make a topical comment, it is also nothing short of a miracle in today's Greece, tortured by economic, social and political crises, that such an ambitious and costly independent effort should have reached the light of day.  Stavros Kourousis and his associate Kostas Kopanitsanos are truly to be congratulated.

Tony Klein - 27.6.13

[ Sound Clip 1 ]   [ Sound Clip 2 ]   [ Sound Clip 3 ]

As an afterthought, I suggest that you listen to the three sound clips above, which give the first 28 seconds of track 5, Manolis Karapiperis - Aivaliotiko Zeibekiko, from three different reissues.  I'll not say which is which, but I'll tell you that apart from an excerpt from the CD under review, one is an excerpt from the first ever reissue of any of Karapiperis' pieces on a CBS LP from 1977, transferred by myself using high-end equipment with no digital sound processing, and another is an excerpt from another ambitious Greek production focusing on music from 78 rpm discs related to the island of Samos.  I suspect that you will not have much difficulty in identifying which is which.  I wonder how many of you will be both astonished and horrified by the differences between these three examples.  Rather than repeating myself on the matter of the treatment of historical sound recordings, I take the liberty of referring you to a text of mine on this website to which Rod Stradling has linked in his recent review of the book and 2-CD set Greek Rhapsody.


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