Melancholy Moods: Rebetika Music

Culture Facts

Where: Greece
What’s it about: Asia Minor immigrants equivalent of the blues, songs of hardship, pain and politics
Experience: Heard in the cafes and clubs of Athens and Thessaloniki

History of Rebetika

Music as rich in content as the blues and based on real life, rebetika came alive in Greece during the 1920’s. It was after the destruction of the city of Smirna in Asia Minor by the Turks, and the huge influx of refugees into Greece.

Rebetika Style and Instruments

The lyrics talk of their hardship, pain, love, drugs, and politics, all of it illegal at that time but facts of real life for people who had lost their loved ones, their homes, their jobs and were violently thrown out form their homeland.

The music is highly influenced by eastern elements, and accompanied by traditional instrumentation from the bouzouki and baglama.

In the early years Rebetika was the characteristic music of the lower classes, and was banned because of its lyrics. Soon, though, it became very popular, and today one of the major markers of Greek culture can be heard in places called ‘Rebetadika‘, mostly in Athens and Thessalonikiwhere the first refugees settled.

Famous songwriters and performers of that period are Markos Vamvakaris, Papaioannou, Batis, Payoumtzis, Stelakis Perpiniadis and many more.

By Villy Ioannou

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