Syrto

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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 networks in which the Greek-speaking musics participate, constantly conversing with their co-tenants, are 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”.

This recording (a re-issue from Concert Record Gramophone 18122) concerns a tune which, as it emerges from discography, was popular in the Greek-speaking repertoire. It has been recorded many times since the beginning of the 20th century in locations where Greeks had a strong presence, such as Cairo, Constantinople (Istanbul), New York and Athens:

– “Syrtos Politikos”, Instrumental Quartet, Cairo, February 2, 1909 (Gramophone 12030b – 18200, AO 127 και Victor 63514-B)
– “Syrto”, Harmonica and guitar, Constantinople (Istanbul), March 20, 1909 (Gramophone 12576b – 18122, 0155 AO 126 και Victor 63512-Α, this recording). The sound engineers Fred Gaisberg and Hugh Murtagh were in charge of the recording.
– “Choros Politikos”, Georgios Makrygiannis or Nisyrios (violin), Vasileios Katsetos (lute), G. Klosteridis (santur), New York, October 31, 1917 (Victor Β 21218 - 69866-Α)
– “Choros Syrtos”, Folk Orchestra, Athens, February 1, 1922 (His Master’s Voice CS 236 – AP 3)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Clarinet, santur, cello, New York, June 1922 (Columbia USA 88670-2 - E-7717)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Dionysis Pongis (violin), Unknown (cimbalom), New York, January 1927 (Columbia USA W-205518 - 56057-F)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Salonikios [Dimitris Semsis] (violin), Dimitris Arapakis (santur), Kyriakidis (oud), Unknown (clarinet), Athens, 1927 (Columbia UK W 20024 – 8001)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Clarinet [Antonis Sakellariou], violin, lute, cimbalom, New York, March 5, 1928 (Victor CVE 43314 - 7-68992, Orthophonic S-641 and RCA Victor 38-3035)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Papatzis [Antonis Amiralis] (harmonica), Dimitris Tsakiris (guitar), Athens, between November 1928 – January, 24, 1929 (Columbia UK W 20467 – 8341 and Columbia USA W 294030 - 56164-F)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Popular Orchestra, Athens, 1929 (Pathé 70055 - X. 80058)
– “Choros Syrtos Politikos”, Folk Orchestra, Athens, 1930 (Polydor 117 BA - V 51059)
– “Syrto Politiko”, Popular Orchestra with harmonica, Athens, May 1931 (His Master’s Voice OW-101 – AO-1013)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Antonis Sakellariou Orchestra, USA, 1947 (Standard 10-438 – F-9019-B)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Kostas Gkantinis Orchestra, USA, 1948 (Balkan 802)

The tune, however, can also be found in the Jewish (klezmer/Yiddish) discography recorded in the USA. On May 10, 1923, the instrumental piece titled "טערקישׁער יעלה ויבוא טאנץ" (Turkische yalle vey uve-tanz, New York, Victor B-27892 – 73895-A) was recorded by Victor. The leading figure of this performance was Naftule Brandwein and his orchestra.

The tune can also be found in the Jewish (klezmer/Yiddish) discography recorded in Argentina. In the 1950s the clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and conductor Sam Liberman (Safed, Palestine, Ottoman Empire [now Israel], 1894 – Buenos Aires, 1975) with his orchestra and D. Picholis (Grivas) on the santouri recorded in Buenos Aires "Politicos" (Odeon Argentina C 21866 – 52131 B). The label on the record reads the title in the Greek language (Πολίτικος [From Constantinople]) and "Sirto (Folklore Griego)". Also, according to the same source, next to Liberman's name, Arapáki is written in brackets. Sam Liberman (Rubin, 2015: 129) settled sometime after World War I in Buenos Aires, where he led Argentinian Jazz bands as well as Jewish orchestras and became well-known from discography, recording with Brunswick, Odeon, RCA-Victor (see for example here).

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. As it becomes clear here through the case under examination, these "meetings" did not only take place in the USA, but in South America too.

Research and text: Leonardos Kounadis and Nikos Ordoulidis

Author (Composer):
Lyrics by:
Instrumental
Singer(s):
Instrumental
Orchestra-Performers:
Harmonica and guitar
Recording date:
20/03/1909
Recording location:
Constantinople (Istanbul)
Publisher:
Victor
Catalogue number:
63512-Α
Matrix number:
12576b
Duration:
3:13
Item location:
Kounadis Archive Record Library
Physical description:
10 in. (25 cm)
Source:
Kounadis Archive
ID:
Vi_63512_Syrto
Licensing:
cc
Reference link:
Kounadis Archive, "Syrto", 2019, https://vmrebetiko.gr/en/item-en?id=4366

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 networks in which the Greek-speaking musics participate, constantly conversing with their co-tenants, are 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”.

This recording (a re-issue from Concert Record Gramophone 18122) concerns a tune which, as it emerges from discography, was popular in the Greek-speaking repertoire. It has been recorded many times since the beginning of the 20th century in locations where Greeks had a strong presence, such as Cairo, Constantinople (Istanbul), New York and Athens:

– “Syrtos Politikos”, Instrumental Quartet, Cairo, February 2, 1909 (Gramophone 12030b – 18200, AO 127 και Victor 63514-B)
– “Syrto”, Harmonica and guitar, Constantinople (Istanbul), March 20, 1909 (Gramophone 12576b – 18122, 0155 AO 126 και Victor 63512-Α, this recording). The sound engineers Fred Gaisberg and Hugh Murtagh were in charge of the recording.
– “Choros Politikos”, Georgios Makrygiannis or Nisyrios (violin), Vasileios Katsetos (lute), G. Klosteridis (santur), New York, October 31, 1917 (Victor Β 21218 - 69866-Α)
– “Choros Syrtos”, Folk Orchestra, Athens, February 1, 1922 (His Master’s Voice CS 236 – AP 3)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Clarinet, santur, cello, New York, June 1922 (Columbia USA 88670-2 - E-7717)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Dionysis Pongis (violin), Unknown (cimbalom), New York, January 1927 (Columbia USA W-205518 - 56057-F)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Salonikios [Dimitris Semsis] (violin), Dimitris Arapakis (santur), Kyriakidis (oud), Unknown (clarinet), Athens, 1927 (Columbia UK W 20024 – 8001)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Clarinet [Antonis Sakellariou], violin, lute, cimbalom, New York, March 5, 1928 (Victor CVE 43314 - 7-68992, Orthophonic S-641 and RCA Victor 38-3035)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Papatzis [Antonis Amiralis] (harmonica), Dimitris Tsakiris (guitar), Athens, between November 1928 – January, 24, 1929 (Columbia UK W 20467 – 8341 and Columbia USA W 294030 - 56164-F)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Popular Orchestra, Athens, 1929 (Pathé 70055 - X. 80058)
– “Choros Syrtos Politikos”, Folk Orchestra, Athens, 1930 (Polydor 117 BA - V 51059)
– “Syrto Politiko”, Popular Orchestra with harmonica, Athens, May 1931 (His Master’s Voice OW-101 – AO-1013)
– “Politikos syrtos”, Antonis Sakellariou Orchestra, USA, 1947 (Standard 10-438 – F-9019-B)
– “Syrtos Politikos”, Kostas Gkantinis Orchestra, USA, 1948 (Balkan 802)

The tune, however, can also be found in the Jewish (klezmer/Yiddish) discography recorded in the USA. On May 10, 1923, the instrumental piece titled "טערקישׁער יעלה ויבוא טאנץ" (Turkische yalle vey uve-tanz, New York, Victor B-27892 – 73895-A) was recorded by Victor. The leading figure of this performance was Naftule Brandwein and his orchestra.

The tune can also be found in the Jewish (klezmer/Yiddish) discography recorded in Argentina. In the 1950s the clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and conductor Sam Liberman (Safed, Palestine, Ottoman Empire [now Israel], 1894 – Buenos Aires, 1975) with his orchestra and D. Picholis (Grivas) on the santouri recorded in Buenos Aires "Politicos" (Odeon Argentina C 21866 – 52131 B). The label on the record reads the title in the Greek language (Πολίτικος [From Constantinople]) and "Sirto (Folklore Griego)". Also, according to the same source, next to Liberman's name, Arapáki is written in brackets. Sam Liberman (Rubin, 2015: 129) settled sometime after World War I in Buenos Aires, where he led Argentinian Jazz bands as well as Jewish orchestras and became well-known from discography, recording with Brunswick, Odeon, RCA-Victor (see for example here).

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. As it becomes clear here through the case under examination, these "meetings" did not only take place in the USA, but in South America too.

Research and text: Leonardos Kounadis and Nikos Ordoulidis

Author (Composer):
Lyrics by:
Instrumental
Singer(s):
Instrumental
Orchestra-Performers:
Harmonica and guitar
Recording date:
20/03/1909
Recording location:
Constantinople (Istanbul)
Publisher:
Victor
Catalogue number:
63512-Α
Matrix number:
12576b
Duration:
3:13
Item location:
Kounadis Archive Record Library
Physical description:
10 in. (25 cm)
Source:
Kounadis Archive
ID:
Vi_63512_Syrto
Licensing:
cc
Reference link:
Kounadis Archive, "Syrto", 2019, https://vmrebetiko.gr/en/item-en?id=4366

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