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Rebetika Gathering - Hydra

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Diane and I recently spent a fascinating weekend studying rembetika in London at a seminar put on by the Institute of Rebetology. We discovered two things (apart from how to dance, make and play the bouzouki!)

a) A great film on rembetika called Nuit sans lune and

b ) that there will be a rembetika gathering, that sounds as if it will be great fun and very instructive, in Hydra from the 16 to the 19 October. Details of both in this link.

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Hello, Kate. That sounds great. The difference between living in a capital like London and a place where Greece only means Philosophy and Alexander the Great! :)

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....o God, in the best case.... :):(:)

(well, on the walls of our oldest grammar school here in Cracow, 1588, some gods and heroes are shown on the walls with their proper Greek names and the beginning of "Ilias" is quoted).

Diane? Any informations to complete Kate's info, if possible?

No rush, take your time.

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Pressure of work, plus a PC that is refusing to work most of the time, has meant that I cannot spend much time in the Forum these days - many thanks to Kate for doing what I have failed to do so far!

I have registered for the Hydra Gathering, and am looking forward to it very much. The theme this year is "Women in Rebetica", as you will see if you go to the link that Kate gave. The programme for the event is shown there.

The event in London was really interesting - although not being a musician, the discussion on modes left me a little confused!! I think I understood most of it in the end.

For me the best part of the whole weekend was the evening performance of rebetica songs. A lovely lady by the name of Rena Stamou sang for us - I had not heard of her before, but I'm sure many of you out there might have, as she was one of the original rebetica singers back in the old days.

I am trying to buy a copy of the film that Kate mentioned, without success so far. It will be shown again at the Hydra Gathering, but if I can find any further information I will post it as soon as I can - I think that most of the Forum members would find it fascinating. It was made by a French man, who's name escapes me at the moment, but the English version has just been released. I highly recommend it.

Maybe I will see some of you in Hydra??

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A lovely lady by the name of Rena Stamou sang for us - I had not heard of her before, but I'm sure many of you out there might have, as she was one of the original rebetica singers back in the old days.

Rena Stamou is indeed one of the still alive rebetika singers. I have her on many recordings in which she sings the second voice, very well indeed, just like Marinella with Kazantzidis (I am exaggerating a bit, of course). I once even mistook her for Bellou in a Xatzixristos song and was ready to ask members here if it was Bellou or Stamou... :razz:

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Francois, I thought you might have heard of Rena Stamou! :razz: I thought she was excellent.

I was a little surprised to hear her announce some of the songs as her own compositions (music and lyrics). Practically all of the composers I have learned about so far have been male, but I guess I will learn some more about the ladies' contribution to rebetica at the Hydra Gathering.

Francois, perhaps you could PM me with some suggestions of recordings that I can buy that feature Rena Stamou please? Kate and I called into Trehantiri after the Rebetica Weekend, and they had a quick look for CD's that featured her, without success.

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It has taken me some time, but here is my report from the recent Hydra Rebetiko Gathering:-

Approximately 40-50 people gathered together on the Island of Hydra for the third Annual Rebetiko Gathering. Many nationalities were represented USA (many from Seattle!), Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Israel, UK (there may have been more!)

There were sessions on a wide-ranging variety of subjects, some lighter than others, some extremely academic and a little difficult to follow for a non-musician like me. Nevertheless I felt I gained something from most of the talks. Of particular interest for me were:

Kyriakos Gouventas of Thessaloniki The Violin in Rebetiko. Kyriakos is a musician of exceptional ability, as we discovered both during his talk, when he played us excerpts from songs, and at the Saturday night concert. He studied the violin formally and plays with various orchestras and chamber music ensembles. He has also participated in some 60 recordings of both traditional and modern Greek music and works with many prominent people, notably Savina Yannatou.

Francesco Ganassin & Roberto Tombesi of the Italian musical group, Calicanto Musical Relations between Venice and Greece . Again, two remarkable musicians whose have researched folk music from the Italian/Balkan/Greek areas, using these influences to create some fantastic music. Chris was impressed enough to buy one of the CDs, and during a subsequent conversation with Roberto, was given another as a gift. Both are excellent. A real find.

Ed Emery In Memoriam, Elias Petropoulos: Les Juifs de Salonique. Ed met Petropoulos when he translated his Rebetiko book, and considered him to be a unique character, for whom he had the greatest admiration and respect. He discussed his legacy, together with the history of the deportation of Jews from Thessaloniki.

The most interesting fact I learned at the conference following Petropoulos death, Ed came across some pictures of a group of mourners gathered together on a street corner in Paris, and was puzzled as to what it could mean. Then he discovered the reason Petropoulos had stipulated in his will that his ashes were to be put down the Paris sewers!

Luc Bongrands film On a Moonless Night I had already seen this twice at the London Rebetiko seminar, but it was as fascinating the third time, and I still picked up facts that I had previously missed. Despite the fact that there was a very impressive looking projector suspended from the ceiling in the hall, and a rolled-up screen attached to the wall, it hasnt worked for three years, so we crowded around a television set, which was put on a box on top of the table! (As you will gather, this is NOT a professional sort of conference, and all the better for it!).

Markos F Dragoumis of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies, Athens. In the splendid setting of the Bratsera Hotel, Markos gave a mini-concert, on a grand piano, of his own arrangements of rebetiko songs. Despite the fact that he is an academic, not a proper musician, it was a delightful performance.

Zeibekiko Up Close and Personal by Madelyn Taylor (California).

A dance teacher who has studied dances from around the world, she discussed various theories regarding the history of zeibekiko, the way it has evolved and how it is performed today. She has interviewed zeibekiko dancers and gave us their insights into the unique flow of energy between musicians and performer.

Ruth Margraff and Nikos Brisco from New York, playwrights/singers/musicians, and composers of working class operas (Judges 19: Black Lung Exhaling and Cafe Andartes) inspired by Greek music and history. They sang and played excerpts from these maybe not the sort of thing I would usually listen to, but very interesting nonetheless and extremely well performed.

The concert on Saturday evening was a triumph! This took place, not on the harbourside, but in a taverna which opened out onto a small square in the middle of the town, into which approximately 400 people were crammed, to hear some fantastic rebetiko and laiko music. There were spontaneous outbreaks of dancing (including zeibekiko and some incredible tsifteteli dancing!) The music must have been audible across the whole of the town - in fact it felt like all the inhabitants of the town were there!

Kyriakos Gouventas was joined by an amazing accordion player. I only know his first name (Lazarus) and that he has been playing for over 50 years, but he really was remarkable, and surprised us by occasionally straying into classical and Neapolitan music.

The other musicians (again, all of the highest standard) were:

Yiannis Alexandris (outi, baglama, singer)

Antigone Bouna (guitar, baglama, singer)

Vaso Dimitriou (bouzouki)

Irene Lasithiotake (guitar)

The concert started at 9.30 pm, and we only had the stamina to stay up until 3.00 am, but I know it went on beyond that. A wonderful evening which Ill remember for a long time!

Overall, I have to say that the conference was worth the journey, both for the presentations and for the interesting people who attended. These included the couple who created the website (Luc and Marleen), and John Harrison of Yorkshire, who was a member of the 1960s English folk group the Watersons and who is now a bouzouki maker. (Kate do you remember Mike from Exeter who was at the London seminar? He remembered us, and asked where you were.) I will also remember sitting in "To Steki" taverna on the other evenings, listening to all the musicians and singers playing together until the early hours.

It is true this is not a professional conference, it is not slick and does not use the latest technology. I could be critical myself, on certain aspects. For example, some of the presentations could have been made more interactive, and some of the speakers were difficult to understand, in particular the talk by two Turkish musicians, Ali Fuat Aydin and Cenk Guray. No fault of theirs, as they were not speaking their native language*. But at the end of the talk, they picked up their instruments and played like a dream it was truly wonderful to hear them. We were hoping that they might be able to take part in the Saturday night concert, but sadly this was not to be.

(*Ed has requested that all talks be given in English, given the different nationalities that make up the audience, and also to assist in taking research into rebetiko music outside Greeces borders.)

But it is precisely for these reasons that I was pleased to have attended. I liked the informality, and the unpredictability of the programme wasnt a problem. It was wonderful to be sitting in such close proximity to people such as Kyriakos Gouventas, and have the opportunity to not just listen to them, but to ask questions afterwards.

We were talking to Ed just before we left Hydra, at a cafe on the harbourside. He told us that the people who give their time to present papers and workshops well respected, talented people from all around the world do so out of love. And that is the best reason of all for taking part.

Next years theme is Modes and Roads, Taximia and Maqams. A daunting subject, but I will return.

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I will be departing next week for the 2004 Rembetika Conference on the island of Hydra (13-17 October).

Among the many people scheduled to appear, I am looking forward to seeing and hearing Kyriakos Gouventas again. He appeared last year and amazed us all with his virtuosity on the violin. (Of course, since then we have all seen Kyriakos playing with Estoudiantina.)

Gail Holst, the author of Road to Rembetika: Music of the Greek Sub-Culture, is also provisionally scheduled to speak.

However, I am most thrilled to learn that Stelios Vamvakaris has offered to play, with his band, at the Saturday night concert. If this is so, it will indeed be a worthwhile trip. :mad::mad:

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Diane.....hope you have a wonderful time at the Remebetika gathering in Hydra. You'll have to tell us all about it when you come back!!! :mad:

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A little late I'm afraid, but here are my thoughts on the Hydra Rebetika Conference.

Our visit to the beautiful island of Hydra began with dull, overcast weather, reached a crescendo with a huge thunderstorm and torrential rain (and loss of electricity!), but finished in glorious sunshine.

The Hydra Rebetiko Conference itself, however, was consistently enjoyable from beginning to end. Better, I think, than last year. The conference theme Roads and Modes, Taximia and Maqams was aimed at the musicians in our group, and to get the maximum benefit of the information on offer it is necessary, I think, to be a musician or to at least read music. Nonetheless, I still found it absorbing (if a little perplexing at times) and the reward was the music! After the explanations came the musical demonstrations, on a variety of instruments. The quality of the musicians that Ed Emery persuades to take part is very impressive indeed.

Of the individual papers presented, the following were particularly interesting:-

Ed Emery Conference Organiser

Ed spoke about a man by the wonderful name of Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, a professor of the History of Music at the Paris Conservatoir. In the 1870s, he was requested by the Director of the French School in Athens to travel to Smyrna to research the music of the area. On his return, he collected his favourites together and published them under the title Trente Melodies Populaires de Grece et dOrient. Ed described the search itself, Bourgault-Ducoudrays thoughts on the strange Oriental rhythms he discovered, and how he altered some of the micro-tonal aspects of the music that did not please him, and finally his choices for his publication.

Kyriakos Gouventas violinist from Thessaloniki, member of Estoudiantina

Christos Tsiamoulis singer, instrumentalist, teacher at the Odeio Athinon Academy in Athens

A real treat a small concert recital, following on from Eds previous paper, playing songs from Bourgault-Ducoudrays 30 Melodies of Greece and the Orient. Fabulous! Beautiful melodies, complemented by Christos rich, mellow singing voice. He is also an accomplished oud player. And as for Kyriakos, I am already a great admirer of his, and one of the principle reasons for attending the Conference was to see/listen him again. I was not disappointed. (Luckily Chris captured all of this on video.)

Christos Tsiamoulis

This was a really technical presentation on modes and maqam in Greek music, from Ancient Greek, through Anatolian to rebetiko music. Christos explained by writing out for us the different modes and then played examples for us, following which I had a clearer understanding of these roads/modes and how they are used. This was followed by a workshop for those who had brought their instruments (but we had to go and find food at this point!).

Marc Dubin Marc has travelled regularly in Greece since 1978, working for various travel-guide companies

Marc has a great interest in rebetika and has just completed the CD compilation Rough Guide to Rebetika on behalf of the World Music Network. He described the rules imposed by WMN, the legal position regarding tracks on old 78 records and the problems of copyright and licensing. There were issues regarding the verification of information for the CD notes and the frequent conflict between the available sources of information. Then, of course, there was the problem of which songs to choose and the order in which they should be placed. Originally the songs were to be in chronological order from the 1920s onwards, but this was amended by the record company, who wanted the first 5 songs of the 22 out of date order. The reason? They are the catchiest tracks and might entice European radio DJs to actually play them and boost sales!

George Kyriakidis from Melbourne, Australia. VERY proud owner of a vintage Turconi Laterna

Originally planned as a teleconference presentation, but Ed had concerns that the technology would fail on the day. As George was unable to travel to Hydra, he turned this into a home video, and posted it from Australia!

George discovered on the Internet that a music museum in the USA was closing and auctioning its artefacts. He set his heart on buying their laterna, but bids could only be made by visiting the auction house (not over the telephone or Internet). He was unable to travel to America, so reluctantly admitted defeat. Several months later, a laterna came up for sale on the Internet and he pursued it doggedly and successfully, only to find out that it was the very machine that was sold at auction by the museum!

It was difficult to see and hear the laterna itself on a home video, due to the poor quality of the equipment in the Melina Mercuri Hall. George played some tunes for us, and caused much amusement when he warned us that it might sound a bit strange because one or two of the strings and some of the markings on the barrel were missing in the higher registers of the machine!!

George is neither a professional speaker nor film-maker, but to describe his video as amateurish would do him a great injustice. The efforts he made to tell us, unscripted, the story of his laterna were impressive. Yes, we smiled at his struggle to recollect names and places when his memory let him down, but we were all swept along by his enthusiasm. He is also now learning how to make laterna barrels himself admirable!

Karolos Tsakirian instrument maker from Athens

Karolos discussed his life as an instrument maker, following in his fathers footsteps. He described the changes in technique and materials over the years. It was interesting to hear that he has experimented with many alternative construction methods, but always returned to those used by his father (resulting in many wasted instruments!). One of our party had actually bought a baglama from Karolos and proudly showed us all it was a beautiful instrument (expensive, but beautifully made).

Gail Holst-Warhaft - Cornell University, USA, and author of Road to Rembetika

Gails presentation on ahmanedes and Aristotle was extremely interesting, but unfortunately I have since lost my notes on this and cannot give you any more detail! She is so knowledgeable on her subject, and is a very capable speaker. It was fascinating stuff.

Stelios Vamvakaris & his band:- Evelina Angelou vocals; Michalis Dimas baglamas; Simos Kokavesis acounstic guitar

An absolute triumph!!! Three hours of non-stop music, and we had the best seats in the square. A wonderful night the square was packed with people, including most of the population of Hydra. There was a great deal of audience participation, and spontaneous outbreaks of dancing in the only available space the area just outside the door of the taverna, which caused the waiters a few problems on their endless journeys back and forth with food.

Vamvakaris played many of his fathers songs, as you would expect, together with many, many others. He was in fine voice and I have enjoyed watching this performance subsequently (Chris was actually sitting at Stelios' feet for a good deal of the concert with his video recorder!) . Evelina had a lovely voice too, which got stronger as the evening progressed. I enjoyed it immensely.

This is just a brief summary of some of the events we attended, and I have to say that the trip was worthwhile, not just for the presentations, but for the social aspect. I met some extremely interesting and likeable people from all over the world (USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Scandinavia, Spain, etc, etc,) who had travelled great distances to learn more about this fascinating music, its origins and technical aspects. I loved listening to the impromptu jam sessions in the evenings, although I didnt have the stamina to stay up until 4.00 am each morning like some people. The speakers were excellent, and it was pleasing that most chose to stay with the group for the duration of the event. Although many of the presentations were extremely academic, I still felt that I understood and gained much from them.

Next years Conference will, I believe, concentrate on Markos Vamvakaris himself. I must book my flights!

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I forgot to mention something else we saw at the Conference (and it is a major omission!!)

George Zervas, director (who made the film about Markos Vamvakaris called "I like hearts like mine"), discussed his new film "They tell me not to love you: the songs of Smyrna and Constantinople". George wanted to make a film that provided an account of Smyrna and Constantinople in the early part of the last century, and how the music of the period provided a backdrop to the terrible events that occurred. He described his search for people who could give eye witness accounts of what happened in 1922 and the mass exchange of populations. Not just Greeks, but Turkish too - he was very keen to ensure that the film provided a balanced view of events. Obviously the people he needed to tell their story are very old now, so the search was not easy.

The talk was followed by the film itself. The elderly participants were amazing - it was clear that their recall of events had not been impaired by the passing of the years, and their narrative, linked with the music and film from this era, was very, very moving.

George brought with him a limited number of videos to sell. I did not manage to buy one at the time, but have made enquiries as to how I can get a copy now.

I have no idea how widely this film will be shown (it is Greek, with English subtitles), but if anyone gets a chance to see it, I would recommend them to do so.

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This is a copy of a notice that Ed Emery posted in Google Groups for this year's conferencing, running from

16 - 19 October 2008..

The 8th edition of the HYDRA REBETIKO CONFERENCE will take place on

the Island of Hydra from Thursday 16 October to Sunday 19 October


Interested parties are invited to present papers.

Our subject is the Rebetiko music of Greece. However we also study

many and varied aspects that have a bearing on that music.

This year we are particularly interested in musical interchanges and

commonalities between the musics of Greece and Turkey. Partly this

will be explored through examining the repertoires and histories of

two instruments, the bouzouki and baglama. Partly it will involve

looking at cross-over repertoires. This will include locations away

from mainland Greece - for instance diasporas in the United States.

If you are interested to present a paper, or to do an informal

presentation, please send contact details in the first instance to

Further details will be forwarded to you.

The conference is organised by the London-based Institute of


You may be interested to know that this year's conference takes place

as the end point of an international tour which will take the "Famous

SOAS Rebetiko Band" to both Istanbul and Athens for a series of

concerts and musical seminars. This band, with a joint Greco-Turkish

membership, has its origins in musical seminars held at the School of

Oriental and African Studies. The Istanbul and Athens events are open

to the general public.

More details can be found at

With best regards,

Ed Emery


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