Chora rousiki

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At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe is living in peace and prosperity. The “Belle Époque” is an outgrowth of previous important historical events and developments. The networks that are created and which evolve funnel both people and their products, tangible and intangible. It is within this multi-layered world that sound recording and sound reproduction is invented. Early record labels send mobile crews literally all over the world to record local musicians. The range of the repertoire is endless. Cosmopolitanism in large urban centers favors polystylisms and polymorphisms. Colonialism, revolutions, conflicts, refugee flows; the theater, cinema, radio, photography, orchestras’ tours, but also circulations in all kinds of commercial channels in a world that evolves dynamically and anisotropically, form a complex network of “centers” and “peripheries” in alternating roles setting musical idioms in motion, both literally and figuratively. The network in which the Greek-speaking urban popular song participates, constantly conversing with its co-tenants, is magnificent. Discography has already provided important tools in understanding the relationships that developed between “national” repertoires. The result of this ongoing research is “Cosmopolitanism in Greek Historical Discography”.

The Jewish and Greek diasporas are two longstanding and powerful communities, which culturally converse with each other. Undoubtedly, one of the most important places of their meeting was Odessa, where the Ashkenazi Jews and the Greek-speaking Orthodox developed remarkable relations, an important aspect of which was vividly reflected in historical discography. Many of these discographical cases have been highlighted in the past decades by collector Martin Schwartz (see 
here a previous lecture of his on the subject).

In 1913, in New York, the Russian-Jewish musician Abraham Elenkrig, who immigrated to America around 1906 due to the pogroms against the Jewish population, recorded the following instrumental work:

"
Die Mame iz gegangen in Mark" (מאמע איז געגאנגען אין מארק, Μom went to the market), Columbia 38763 – E 1395, Elenkrig’s Orchestra – Abraham Elenkrig, New York, April 4, 1913

However, one can find in 
Zonophone’s archives, in Europe, the following entry from about seven years earlier:

"Chora Roussiki", Zonophone r 1564 – X-108021, Compagnie Mitzos (harmonica, mandolin, guitar, Constantinople (Istanbul), 1906

The differences between the archival record and the imprinting of the information on the label released on the market reveal one of the most problematic issues concerning the research around historical discography.

"Chora Roussiki (Hora Roussika)" – Trio, Etaireia Mitsos, Harmonica, Mandolin and Guitar, Compagnie Mitzos

"Mitsos" recorded mainly for Zonophone, in Constantinople, in the early 1900s. So far, the research has not brought to light biographical information about him.

This chora seems to be one of the first recordings of Greek-speaking headliners with clear references to the klezmer/Yiddish repertoire, which reinforces our impression about the relations between the two ethnocultural groups. Moreover, the fact that in the Greek version the title chosen is "Chora rousiki" (Russian chora) clearly refers to the geographical area where the Greeks came in contact with this tune.

Syncretism, which is observed in the musical actualizations of the areas where Greeks lived and recorded, mainly in the area of folk-popular traditions, is monumental. It only takes one to listen to historical discography, which begins in New York, Smyrna (Izmir), Constantinople (Istanbul), Athens and Thessaloniki since 1900. An essential part of this syncretism concerns the Jews, who constitute one of the main conduits in the uniquely diverse cultural heritage of the Greek-speaking world. They borrow and lend, but they also carry more distant traditions from the places where they have previously lived and the places they have traveled to. They are the central interlocutors in the Greek and Ottoman ecumene, together with Turkish-speaking Muslims, Orthodox but also Catholic Greek-speaking and Armenians, Levantine Protestants, Europeans and Americans, and compose a rich musical mosaic which consists of heterogeneous but co-existent palimpsests: a reservoir to which everyone contributes but from which also everyone receives.

The sources show the timeless existence of a Jewish element, at least since the Hellenistic period, in areas that millennia later formed the modern Greek state. After the “Edict of Milan” in 313 AD and the gradual Christianization of the Eastern Empire, the Jewish element found itself in a difficult position. The Jewish populations that have since been established in these lands became known as Romaniote Jews (or “Romaniotes”’ Rome – Romios). Their historical geographical center of reference was the city of Ioannina, and they speak Greek with various linguistic mixtures. After 1492 and the “Alhambra Decree” by the joint Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, those Jews who did not accept to embrace Christianity were expelled from the Iberian peninsula. They became known as the Sepharadi Jews (or “Sepharadim”), one of the largest Jewish ethno-cultural categorizations (Sepharad in Jewish texts is referred to as the region of present-day Spain). Thessaloniki was one of the main destination points of this displacement, as the ties with the city were older and already close. Apart from the role played by the Greek Jews in the musical developments on the Greek peninsula, there were also important mutual influences between the Greek-speaking Orthodox and the Jews in various other areas where the two communities lived together. As, for example, in Odessa, with the Eastern Ashkenazi Jews, who mainly speak Yiddish, a sui generis Semitic-Slavic language (in Jewish texts, the Kingdom of Ashkenaz, a descendant of Noah, is connected with north-eastern European territories). Their orchestral repertoire is often called klezmer. In other words, apart from the geographical limits of the modern Greek state, the cultural conversations between the Greek Orthodox and the Jews also concern other parts of the world, both in Europe and America, where they met as immigrants.


Research and text: 
Nikos Ordoulidis

Author (Composer):
Lyrics by:
Instrumental
Singer(s):
Instrumental
Orchestra-Performers:
Mitsos Company (Harmonica, mandolin, guitar)
Recording date:
08-09/1906
Recording location:
Constantinople (Istanbul)
Publisher:
Zonophone
Catalogue number:
X 108021
Matrix number:
1563r
Duration:
2:54
Item location:
Kounadis Archive Record Library
Physical description:
10 in. (25 cm)
Source:
Kounadis Archive
ID:
Zono_X108021_ChoraRousiki
Licensing:
cc
Reference link:
Kounadis Archive, "Chora rousiki", 2019, https://vmrebetiko.gr/en/item-en?id=11089

At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe is living in peace and prosperity. The “Belle Époque” is an outgrowth of previous important historical events and developments. The networks that are created and which evolve funnel both people and their products, tangible and intangible. It is within this multi-layered world that sound recording and sound reproduction is invented. Early record labels send mobile crews literally all over the world to record local musicians. The range of the repertoire is endless. Cosmopolitanism in large urban centers favors polystylisms and polymorphisms. Colonialism, revolutions, conflicts, refugee flows; the theater, cinema, radio, photography, orchestras’ tours, but also circulations in all kinds of commercial channels in a world that evolves dynamically and anisotropically, form a complex network of “centers” and “peripheries” in alternating roles setting musical idioms in motion, both literally and figuratively. The network in which the Greek-speaking urban popular song participates, constantly conversing with its co-tenants, is magnificent. Discography has already provided important tools in understanding the relationships that developed between “national” repertoires. The result of this ongoing research is “Cosmopolitanism in Greek Historical Discography”.

The Jewish and Greek diasporas are two longstanding and powerful communities, which culturally converse with each other. Undoubtedly, one of the most important places of their meeting was Odessa, where the Ashkenazi Jews and the Greek-speaking Orthodox developed remarkable relations, an important aspect of which was vividly reflected in historical discography. Many of these discographical cases have been highlighted in the past decades by collector Martin Schwartz (see 
here a previous lecture of his on the subject).

In 1913, in New York, the Russian-Jewish musician Abraham Elenkrig, who immigrated to America around 1906 due to the pogroms against the Jewish population, recorded the following instrumental work:

"
Die Mame iz gegangen in Mark" (מאמע איז געגאנגען אין מארק, Μom went to the market), Columbia 38763 – E 1395, Elenkrig’s Orchestra – Abraham Elenkrig, New York, April 4, 1913

However, one can find in 
Zonophone’s archives, in Europe, the following entry from about seven years earlier:

"Chora Roussiki", Zonophone r 1564 – X-108021, Compagnie Mitzos (harmonica, mandolin, guitar, Constantinople (Istanbul), 1906

The differences between the archival record and the imprinting of the information on the label released on the market reveal one of the most problematic issues concerning the research around historical discography.

"Chora Roussiki (Hora Roussika)" – Trio, Etaireia Mitsos, Harmonica, Mandolin and Guitar, Compagnie Mitzos

"Mitsos" recorded mainly for Zonophone, in Constantinople, in the early 1900s. So far, the research has not brought to light biographical information about him.

This chora seems to be one of the first recordings of Greek-speaking headliners with clear references to the klezmer/Yiddish repertoire, which reinforces our impression about the relations between the two ethnocultural groups. Moreover, the fact that in the Greek version the title chosen is "Chora rousiki" (Russian chora) clearly refers to the geographical area where the Greeks came in contact with this tune.

Syncretism, which is observed in the musical actualizations of the areas where Greeks lived and recorded, mainly in the area of folk-popular traditions, is monumental. It only takes one to listen to historical discography, which begins in New York, Smyrna (Izmir), Constantinople (Istanbul), Athens and Thessaloniki since 1900. An essential part of this syncretism concerns the Jews, who constitute one of the main conduits in the uniquely diverse cultural heritage of the Greek-speaking world. They borrow and lend, but they also carry more distant traditions from the places where they have previously lived and the places they have traveled to. They are the central interlocutors in the Greek and Ottoman ecumene, together with Turkish-speaking Muslims, Orthodox but also Catholic Greek-speaking and Armenians, Levantine Protestants, Europeans and Americans, and compose a rich musical mosaic which consists of heterogeneous but co-existent palimpsests: a reservoir to which everyone contributes but from which also everyone receives.

The sources show the timeless existence of a Jewish element, at least since the Hellenistic period, in areas that millennia later formed the modern Greek state. After the “Edict of Milan” in 313 AD and the gradual Christianization of the Eastern Empire, the Jewish element found itself in a difficult position. The Jewish populations that have since been established in these lands became known as Romaniote Jews (or “Romaniotes”’ Rome – Romios). Their historical geographical center of reference was the city of Ioannina, and they speak Greek with various linguistic mixtures. After 1492 and the “Alhambra Decree” by the joint Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, those Jews who did not accept to embrace Christianity were expelled from the Iberian peninsula. They became known as the Sepharadi Jews (or “Sepharadim”), one of the largest Jewish ethno-cultural categorizations (Sepharad in Jewish texts is referred to as the region of present-day Spain). Thessaloniki was one of the main destination points of this displacement, as the ties with the city were older and already close. Apart from the role played by the Greek Jews in the musical developments on the Greek peninsula, there were also important mutual influences between the Greek-speaking Orthodox and the Jews in various other areas where the two communities lived together. As, for example, in Odessa, with the Eastern Ashkenazi Jews, who mainly speak Yiddish, a sui generis Semitic-Slavic language (in Jewish texts, the Kingdom of Ashkenaz, a descendant of Noah, is connected with north-eastern European territories). Their orchestral repertoire is often called klezmer. In other words, apart from the geographical limits of the modern Greek state, the cultural conversations between the Greek Orthodox and the Jews also concern other parts of the world, both in Europe and America, where they met as immigrants.


Research and text: 
Nikos Ordoulidis

Author (Composer):
Lyrics by:
Instrumental
Singer(s):
Instrumental
Orchestra-Performers:
Mitsos Company (Harmonica, mandolin, guitar)
Recording date:
08-09/1906
Recording location:
Constantinople (Istanbul)
Publisher:
Zonophone
Catalogue number:
X 108021
Matrix number:
1563r
Duration:
2:54
Item location:
Kounadis Archive Record Library
Physical description:
10 in. (25 cm)
Source:
Kounadis Archive
ID:
Zono_X108021_ChoraRousiki
Licensing:
cc
Reference link:
Kounadis Archive, "Chora rousiki", 2019, https://vmrebetiko.gr/en/item-en?id=11089

See also