My Love For Greek Rebetiko Music

Greek rebetico music

Do you like Greek music?  And do you remember which were the first Greek songs you really liked and where you heard them?
Unfortunately, we could not attend any live concerts anymore during those “corona times”, but fortunately it is still possible to listen to Greek music at home!

My love for Greek music started a long time ago. Strangely enough, I grew up with it, although I had never visited Greece till I was a university student, neither I have Greek parents.  As a child, I listened constantly to the Greek musical genre “rebetiko”, in my Belgian bedroom, although back then I had no idea this kind of music was called “rebetiko”! The harsh and rough voices, accompanied by the Greek rhythms and bouzouki instrument, blended perfectly together with my teenager rebelling years! I did not understand a word, but this was of no importance! It was cool 😊 .

I was happy to learn that the Greek rebetiko was added to the UNESCO’s 2017 representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Apparently, this musical genre was selected because it contains “invaluable references to the customs, practices, and traditions of a particular way of life.”
UNESCO recognized rebetiko’s “dynamic character” and its development as “a powerful reference point for the collective memory and identity of the Greeks.”

So how Greek music ended up in my Belgian bedroom, and why I liked it so much?

The most probable explanation is the one you will read below, although it is not scientifically proven 🙂

My father was a sculptor and art teacher, teaching also photography, long time ago, and before the “digital cameras and smartphones”. Many years ago he loved to take black-and-white photos of human expressions/emotions, sports events, concerts, real-life situations, which were used as examples to his students. In the sixties, there were many Greek cafes in the Antwerp harbor, where Greek seamen could connect, socialize, drink their wine, ouzo, or something stronger, as well as sing and dance. From time to time my parents would visit those cafes in Antwerp and my father would make artistic photographs of Greeks putting their heart and soul in every move while dancing.

My mother on the other hand always had a weak spot for ethnic and folk music, so by holding her micro and recorder, she happily taped all the music.
When my mother was pregnant with me, her 4th child, it was the first time she was granted a  3-month pregnancy leave from her teaching job. She used those months to reorganize all the recorded Greek music from small tapes to bigger tapes (for the younger readers, there were no computers, Spotify, internet,  …. in the sixties!).

So by doing this, we can presume that I have listened to Greek music, in my mother’s womb, for many months, and it seems it became my natural habit. Anyway, I can not find another explanation!

It was written in the stars!

Many years later, I realized that Greek music in general ( so also other genres than rebetiko) puts me in a very good mood. It feels like coming home.

It probably was also no surprise, that at age 17, I chose to write my final “graduation essay,” for my course in “Music History”, about “Greek bouzouki music”!
My teacher had no idea what to expect, but was open-minded enough to give me the green light! She will be never forgotten 🙂 Ευχαριστώ πολύ!
And even more years later,  I met my future Greek husband…in Denmark! I guess it was written in the stars.
It was the reason I started learning Greek, which also enabled me to sing along and understand the beautiful lyrics at last.
And when finally we chose to live in Athens, it was a treat to be able to listen to my favorite music nearly everywhere, so really feeling home.

Greek songs are not always so easy to understand, but even when you do not understand everything, remembering the refrain or some of the words will go a long way to helping you acquire more and more Greek.
Do you listen already to Greek music?
Then feel free to let me know in the comments below which song or composer are your favorites?
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PS. Interested in learning more about Rembetiko music?
You can start right now and discover more Rembetiko music while listening to some beautiful songs. Just
click on the button below and order your eBook

The eBook includes:
• a short overview of how Rembetiko music developed
• which instruments are used
• which composers have had an important influence on Rembetiko.
• short exercises to improve your Greek (including an answer key)
• links so that you can listen to the songs while reading the eBook

 

Below some seconds of a Rebetiko concert in Syros, an island known for its Rebetika Music.

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