From the end of the 19th century, the geographical area of Macedonia, whose demographic composition consists of a mosaic of ethnicities, races, languages and religions, has been the subject of heated dispute in the struggle for national integration of the Balkan states claiming the territories of the Ottoman Empire, as well as a field of armed conflicts which culminated on the Greek and Bulgarian sides with the Macedonian Struggle (1904-1908). Battles, incidents and protagonists were the source of inspiration for mainly folk-like creations, that is, the songs of the Macedonian Struggle, some of which were recorded in 78 rpm discography.
Songs: Pavlos Melas, O kapetan Vardas, Xenos eimai ki iltha tora
"Xenos eimai ki iltha tora"
The victories during the Balkan Wars created new conditions and upset the existing social and political balances. Wanting to politically manage the victory, the King put in friction his relations with the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. The connection of the King and of his court with the Germans defined the conflict with Eleftherios Venizelos' pro-British and pro-French policy. With the main stake being the exit of Greece on the side of the Anglo-French, the great conflict of the National Schism began. It was a conflict that consisted of whether the country would participate or not in the First World War; in essence, though, it was associated with a deeper conflict between conservatism and modernity. The civil conflict pervaded all social classes and was often expressed through art and especially through popular music and the revue. Prosecution of artists was common in cases where police authorities were linked to one of the two factions.
Songs: Ena karavi, O gios tou aetou, O gios tou Psiloreiti, To drama tis Lamias
"O gios tou aetou"
The Greek-Italian war was the first opportunity to form an aggregation,
which, since then, would essentially constitute the post-war Greek society, where natives and refugees began to function as a national whole. Thus, the declaration of war by fascist Italy and its victorious confrontation by the Greek army in Albania mobilized the forces of Greek music. From October 1940 to April 1941, the creators of Greek songs of all genres recorded the events in new songs or adapted lyrics with similar themes to older hits.
Songs: Akou Duce mou ta nea, Koroido Mousolini, Vazei o Duce ti stoli tou, De me foviz' o polemos
Asia Minor Catastrophe & Exile
In August 1922, the ideology of Greek irredentism was permanently shut down. The uprooting of 1,200,000 Greeks in Asia Minor and Pontus from their homes was the essential destruction of Greece in the 20th century. Since then, nothing would be the same as before. The hostility experienced by the refugees upon their arrival in Greece was the basic expression of the end of an ideology which was theoretically formed to redeem them. Their presence in the rural and urban fabric introduced modern Greece, in a decisive manner, to tastes, sounds and an everyday life that constituted a synthesis of cultures and history. Despite the resounding economic, political and social upheaval, the event itself of the Asia Minor Catastrophe does not seem to have affected Greek music. Perhaps the large number of amanedes recorded in Greece after 1924 expressed the general climate of despair about the destruction and the mental state of the refugees and of a large part of the Greeks of Old Greece.
Songs: Ti se melei esenane, Prosfygopoula, O stenagmos tis Smyrnis
"Ti se melei esenane"
The phenomenon of the Greek Diaspora, long-standing, complex and multidimensional, is interwoven with the course of modern Hellenism. The first mass expatriations date back to the period of Ottoman rule, around the middle of the 15th century (with the fall of Constantinople [Istanbul] and the flight of Greek scholars mainly to Western Europe); by the beginning of the 18th century, important Greek centers were created in northern Balkan countries, in urban centers of central Europe and in ports of the central and western Mediterranean. In the period since the establishment of the Greek state until today, there are two periods of mass immigration.
The first large flow of immigrants of the modern period was recorded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was part of the massive European immigration wave caused by the crisis of rural societies in Europe, combined with the rapid pace of industrialization and the development of a global labor market. Between 1890 and 1924, about 500,000 people, Greek nationals as well as Greeks from other countries, settled in the United States, seeking a way out of the intractable economic and social problems that had accumulated, especially after the raisin crisis (1893).
After the Second World War, the damage that the country had suffered in infrastructure and people, but also the consequences of the Civil War, the political persecutions, economic misery and the changes in the social and spatial character of Greece shaped the conditions for the appearance of the second immigration flow. In the period 1945-1977, 1,300,000 Greeks traveled mainly to the American continent, Western Europe and Australia, and a part of the political refugees sought refuge in the countries that were under the Soviet sphere of influence.
Today, a few decades after the transformation of Greece from a country of outflow (until then) into a host country, a third immigration flow that concerns young professionals and scientists is underway. This concerns a loss of hundreds of thousands of workers trained for quality work, who are forced to emigrate due to the economic crisis, high unemployment, limited investment and lack of meritocracy in the selection of staff. This type of immigration, also known as brain drain, is a global phenomenon, especially in countries suffering from the effects of the international economic crisis.
Apart from the theoretical approaches, the phenomenon of immigration, with its emotional charge and intensely experiential connotations, both for the immigrants and their relatives whom they left behind, but also because of the timeless importance in shaping the life of the Greeks, could not have remained unrecorded by Greek music. The older tradition of dimotiko (folk) songs about exile was carried on by urban songs, and the most recent immigration flows constituted a source of inspiration for the newer musical idioms.
Songs: Kai giati de mas to les, Chelme mou
"Stories with prostitutes abound throughout Greek music and highlight very vividly the evolution of morals: In the pre-war elafro (light style) and rebetiko, the 'sinners' were themselves responsible for their fate. They were later acquitted: society was guilty – or, at least, some ruthless procurer. Finally, in modern music, prostitutes are presented almost as 'saints'. Men have confessed their guilt."
Songs: I parastratimeni
“In the interwar period, new processes sought expression in the cultural field, with the active feminist movement predominating among them. The League for Women's Rights was at that time associated with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and became the main body for granting women the right to vote.
Innovations in appearance, especially of the urban female population, and the introduction of new forms of entertainment and spectacle, provoked strong, even violent reactions. On the other hand, the entry of a large percentage of the female population in the field of paid work made it necessary to form a new institutional framework covering the demands of women. In the articles of the time, through newspapers and magazines, one can see an intense concern about the elements that shook the 'traditional household', a fact which was often experienced as an 'outside' threat intended to distort the morals of Greek society.”
Foundation of the Hellenic World
In several songs of rebetiko and of the revue, the changes that were launched in the Greek and the world community and that concerned the position and the rights of women in society, along with the demand for gender equality, were often recorded indirectly. In the songs Nea gynaika, To sigareto, Lili i skandaliara, Ego eimai i bolsevika, Ginomai andras, Alaniara chasiklou, etc. , the trend of the time is reflected, with women being gradually liberated from social oppression and claiming the same rights as the “strong” sex in all areas.
“Mag(k)issa matsaragkissa ”
Songs about substances
In the context of free cultivation, distribution and use of cannabis in Greece and Asia Minor, from the middle of the 19th century to 1920, the first songs of rebetiko were created with references to addictive substances, mainly hashish. During the period of "semi-illegality", that is, from 1920 with the enactment of the prohibition law 2107 until its implementation in 1936, the tragic situation of thousands of Greeks after the Asia Minor Catastrophe resulted in the spread of the use of psychotropic substances that developed into a very serious social issue. Composers of rebetiko, of elafro (light style) and of the revue recorded the phenomenon (usually by criticizing it) in a series of songs, which together with those referring to alcohol (mainly wine and nicotine), are now considered important elements of urban folklore.
Songs: Giati foumaro kokaini, Chasis, Mi me rotate, Ferte preza na prezaro, Den fernei lithi to krasi
"Giati foumaro kokaini"
Songs about substances
“Incompatible” love affairs
The relationship between the two sexes and especially the love impulse has been, and still is, the main theme of the vast majority of songs in both the global and domestic music scene. A special place in this huge anthology of songs (in Greek 78 rpm discography as well) hold the love affairs that transcended or bridged religious, racial, class, linguistic, educational or any other differences.
Songs: I Elli, Evraiopoula, Tourkopoula
"Incompatible" love affairs
”The composers and lyricists of that time often used food with a sense of humor or even sarcasm, by using them instead of words and expressions that they could not say due to censorship. Sometimes, they just wanted to emphasize the beauty of a woman by flattering her culinary skills. On other occasions, they recorded in the lyrics their daily life or their favorite delicacies that delighted them in the taverns along with wine, ouzo and tsipouro.”
Songs: Aman Katerina, Barmpa-Giannakakis
The obscene ones
”Profanity and obscenity constitute an aspect of our popular culture that has been poorly researched and studied, an aspect that 'for decades, perhaps centuries - as Professor M. Meraklis observes - the hypocritically flat bourgeois ethics' and modesty of intellectual collectors silenced and ignored it, falsifying the truth of certain cultural phenomena.”
Songs: To gerontaki, Tsoum trialara
"Tsoum trialara "
The obscene ones
Politics, politicians & satire
The political situation of the country, its protagonists, borrowing, the works and days of governments, the deaths of prime ministers but also the developments in the international political scene have been a source of inspiration and sometimes the object of commentary and satire not only of the cartoonists of the time but also of the Greek music industry and especially the revue. The catastrophic effects of the Great Depression of 1929, with the disintegration of the international economic system and the economic downturn of the 1930s, were catalytic for both the developed and the developing world. Giorgos Katsaros with bitter humor conveyed the climate of the crisis in the USA in his song "Me tis tsepes adeianes", where he attributed responsibilities to the then American president Herbert Hoover.
Politics, politicians & satire
The crisis of 1929
The catastrophic effects of the Great Depression of 1929, with the disintegration of the international economic system and the economic downturn of the 1930s, were catalytic for both the developed and the developing world. Giorgos Katsaros with bitter humor conveyed the climate of the crisis in the USA in his song “Me tis tsepes adeianes“, where he attributed responsibilities to the then American president Herbert Hoover.
Songs: Me tis tsepes adeianes
"Me tis tsepes adeianes"
The crisis of 1929
Poverty and social injustice
The socio-economic phenomenon of unequal distribution of wealth and consequently of social injustice that led to poverty and the impoverishment of large sections of the Greek people, along with the consequences it had on human relations, was reflected, either directly or indirectly, in several songs of the 78 rpm discography, especially in rebetiko.
Songs: I ftocheia tou boem, Karmaniola, Ftocheia ti mas kaneis
"I ftocheia tou boem"
Poverty and social injustice
Cinema and Hollywood
The brilliance of world cinema, which was the main way of entertaining of broad popular strata in the years the interwar period and later, naturally enchanted the local authors, who recorded the phenomenon in songs and revue acts.
Hollywood was dominant, but so were the stars of European cinema, whose lives, passions and love affairs, and of course their films, occupied the columns of the daily press and especially of popular magazines.
Songs: Kyriakos asteras
Cinema and Hollywood
Heterolingual and minority
musical and dance traditions
”Ever since the founding of the first post-revolutionary state that barely extended to Thessaly, the mosaic of the groups that were its inhabitants was intensely diverse: Greek-speaking Greek Orthodox, (Greek-speaking or Turkish-speaking) Arvanites Christians or Muslims, Greek-speaking Greek Catholics, Greek-speaking Turks, Greek-speaking Jews, Greek-speaking or Romani-speaking Roma, Vlachs, Greek-speaking Sarakatsani. During the gradual and continuous integration of new regions for almost a hundred years after its establishment, but also with the arrival of refugees from Turkey after the forced Population Exchange, the original mosaic was significantly enriched but also gradually homogenized to a large extent, creating what is today recognized as the modern Greek nation-state.
[…] despite the consolidation of the Greek language hegemony, many individual cultural elements and local peculiarities were preserved, eventually enriching and significantly diversifying the national body, even though they unfortunately did not always have the positive sign of pluralism and multiculturalism […].”
Miranda Terzopoulou-Leonidas Empeirikos
A part of this rich and colorful mosaic of the musical tradition of the minorities and of the partially or completely non-Greek ethnolinguistic-religious groups of the wider Greek area was imprinted in Greek 78 rpm discography, in a series of recordings that include songs in languages and dialects such as Ladino, Arvanitic, Vlach (Aromanian language), Pontic Greek, Turkish.
Songs: Si nome amaras, Vlachiko Dessoura, Tre pampor
Heterolingual and minority musical and dance traditions
Aspects and events of social, political and cultural life that were captured in discography
The struggles of the people of the Heptanese (Ionian Islands) in order to unite with Greece
The union of the Heptanese (Ionian Islands) with Greece, with the treaty of the 17th/29th of March 1864 between the Triple Entente (England, France and Russia), constituted the first expansion of the borders of the newly formed Greek state. The contribution of the people of the Heptanese was, as the philologist and Doctor of History Petros Petratos points out, multileveled: ”After the Union of the Heptanese with Greece (1864), the contribution of the Ionian proxies within the Greek Parliament was decisive: During the debate on the articles of the Constitution of 1864, they contributed to the democratic formation of the constitutional text, and, in subsequent parliamentary terms, their presence and contribution was considered fruitful for a more progressive change in the procedures of the Greek Parliament. The liberal and radical principles and ideas of the European Enlightenment were transmitted to the Greek state by politicians from the Heptanese despite the fact that the distorted Greek socio-economic and political structures always resisted any social and political regenerative effort. However, a substantial contact with the democratic and societal-socialist circles of Athens and Greece in general was restored by successors of the Ionian radicalism (Panagiotis Panas, Rokkos Choidas).
The contribution of creators from the Heptanese to the events of the Greek state in the scientific, literary, theatrical, visual and the musical sector, after the Union, is also considered important. They contributed to the literary and artistic renewal, introduce pioneering ideas in theater and music, while promoting research and healing various branches of science, many of which excelled internationally.”
With the Treaty of Constantinople (1881), according to which Thessaly (except Elassona) and the region of Arta were ceded to the Greek state, for the first time the newly formed Greek state acquired peacefully Turkish-occupied provinces, increasing its area by 13,300 square kilometers and its population of approximately 285,000 inhabitants. The bloodless annexation was probably the reason for the absence of relevant recordings in 78 rpm discography, in which, however, were recorded a series of emblematic songs from the Thessalian repertoire, such as the renowned ”Karagouna”.
The annexation of Thessaly and Arta
The struggle of the Cretans for the overthrow of the Ottoman rule had already manifested itself in the 18th century and culminated during the 19th century with the demand for the union of the island with Greece. It was a large series of successive revolutionary mobilizations, mainly those of the years 1770, 1821, 1833, 1841, 1858, 1866-1869, 1878, 1889 that were unsuccessful. Despite the Greek defeat in the Greek-Turkish war in 1897, Crete acquired the status of a semi-autonomous province from the Ottoman Empire. The victorious outcome of the Balkan Wars was needed to positively resolve the Cretan issue with the proclamation of its union with the Greek state, which took place with all formality on December 1, 1913, with the hoisting of the Greek flag at the Firkas fortress in Chania.
The struggles of Crete for its liberation from the Ottomans
The two Balkan Wars (1912-1913), were the first attempt of the Greek state to synchronize with the allies in order to claim organized territories from the Ottoman Empire and ended with the Treaty of Bucharest (10.8.1913). The mobilization was widespread: Greeks inside and outside the country but also immigrants from America rushed by the thousands to participate as volunteers in the struggle for the liberation of Macedonia and Epirus. Greece doubled in size and population, annexing the southern part of Macedonia with Thessaloniki and Kavala to the mouth of the Nestos River, the southern part of Epirus, as well as Crete and the islands of the Eastern Aegean. With irredentism as its main vehicle, which was successfully combined with the pragmatism of Eleftherios Venizelos, the Balkan Wars were the first case where Greek society transformed, by fighting, its national fantasy into a new territorial reality. The achievements of the evzones (several historical elite light infantry and mountain units of the Greek Army) of the Balkan Wars passed into the realm of legend and were recorded in popular spectacles, such as the revue, and songs. One of the most popular revue acts was the "Evzonaki gorgo" from the revue "Polemika Panathinaia" of 1913.
Songs: O evzonas, Ta evzonakia polemoun
"”Olonyktia tis Kritis”"
Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922
Greece's participation in the camp of the victors of the First World War gave the country the opportunity to undertake, on behalf of the victors, the restoration of order in the territories of Asia Minor and in the area of Smyrna (Izmir). Thus, on May 2, 1919, the Greek army landed in Smyrna. The fate of the region would be decided after a few years through a referendum. In parallel with the international conditions, the presence of the Greek army in the region of Ionia constituted the culmination of irredentism and of the Megali Idea (literally "Great Idea"), that is, the ideology that prevailed in the Greek state since the middle of the 19th century. The electoral defeat of Venizelos in the 1920 elections, the change of international conditions and the emergence of the most powerful Turkish national movement created conditions which could not be managed by the pro-royal governments in the period 1920-22. The Turkish attack of August 1922 by the new leader Mustafa Kemal led to the defeat of the Greek army and the uprooting of Hellenism of Asia Minor and Pontus.
The union of the Dodecanese
The union of the Dodecanese with the national backbone was the only territorial benefit of the country after its participation in the camp of the winners.
"The narration of beautiful, wonderful and heroic deeds of the past has always been, for all peoples, the thread that led and wove the future.
Folklorists […] characterized the songs that talk about 'events' as 'Historical'. And these events were usually wars, achievements of renowned people (and usually their heroic deaths), battles, sieges and falls of cities. The 'Kleftika' songs also belong to the large category of historical songs, with the difference that they refer to persons and situations of a specific historical era and of a specific area, that is, to the struggle of the irregular groups of the kleftes (highwaymen turned self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk who lived in the countryside) and the armatoloi (Christian Greek irregular soldiers, or militia, commissioned by the Ottomans to enforce the Sultan's authority) in mainland Greece during the Ottoman rule.
[…] such songs contain only a few, vague, inaccurate or even no historical elements; they are rather an entanglement of myth with history. However, through their local and occasional 'hearings', adaptations and interpretations, these songs were charged with specific ideological tasks, cultivated collective memory, contributed to the formation of national consciousness and identity as well as to the sense of local uniqueness like no other kind of folk artistic creation. We could say that they acquired their true historical dimension through their use."
Songs: Katsantonis, Oi Kolokotronaioi, T' Androutsou i mana
Dimotiko (Folk) songs about the struggles of the kleftes and the armatoloi during the Ottoman rule
Paths alongside history
The official history but also the short, human stories, personal events, as well as everything that moved or shocked the public opinion and had an impact and an influence on the psyche of the people and inspired the creators, were directly or indirectly part of the themes of Greek music.
In parallel with the developments and changes that take place in society, Greek music, as a social mirror but also as a field of symbolic recording and projection of the fierce controversies that express the deeper social demands of each era, records, and sometimes comments not only the important political, military and social events that have determined the course of Hellenism, but also almost all aspects of private life, hoarding the collective memory and capturing the paths of formation of national identity.
του Κλεάνθη Τριανταφύλλου
Από το τσαμπί σου κρέμεται, γλυκειά μου μαυρομμάτα
το Εθνος… Σένα θρέφομε μονάκριβη ελπίδα,
χλωρή, όσο ξεραίνεσαι, συ κάνεις την Πατρίδα,
είν’ από σένα τάλλαρο τ’ αλώνια μας γεμάτα,
μικρή, γλυκομελάχροινη, κοπέλλα μου σταφίδα!
Ω! Σε δοξάζει ο Ρωμιός, εγγλέζικο στομάχι,
που δίχως κουρεντί δε ζεις… πλαμ πούδιγκ σε δοξάζει,
μ’ αλί στο Εθνος που μετρά, μετρά και λογαριάζει
πως έξοδα και φόρους και λούσο του θε νάχει
από τσαμπί που το νερό σαν το γατί τρομάζει!..
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