These were some of the Creators of Rebetika. Each of the men pictured was responsible for having either created or cultivated, some aspect of the genre to the high level of artistic excellence we hear in many of their recordings and compositions today. Each made their own individual contribution to this sound we immediately recognize as "Ta Rebetika". Most are gone now along with the period they so well represented. But while they were with us, they conceived and shaped a musical Art form, that accurately reflected the lives of so many alienated and disenfranchised individuals from that period. By having done so, they have unwittingly served something of a secondary and possibly even more important function. That of the unofficial chroniclers for the Era.
Today we may consider them luminaries, but for a good portion of their lives, most were considered "Persona non Grata" by the Mainstream society at large. During the years of persecution, their compositions were usually written and performed in cryptic places hidden away from public view. This in order to avoid the various authorities who could and often did make their lives miserable when given the slightest opportunity. Many were forced to keep a very low profile, lest they end up behind bars for some indiscriminate accusation or some superfluous provocation (such as playing a Bouzouke ). However in the end it was they who persevered and prevailed.
When we hear their recordings, we often listen to them with a somewhat Romanticized predisposition. Considering the exotic nature of some of their compositions, this tendency is understandable and probably unavoidable. However the actual day by day reality of their lives, was anything but Romantic. An excessive Romanticist perspective might be comparable to a Spyglass equipped with a Rose tinged revisionist lens. This tendency can obscure details of a less palatable nature and effect our perception as well as our judgment, depriving us of a genuine and realistic appreciation for the period. One that would take into account the various trials & tribulations imposed on many of those who were obligated by time & tide to live it. We occasionally need to be reminded, that the "Art" in the "Art of Rebetiko" was not only the tangible content of their music, but also a more intangible and rarely recognized ability. The ability to overcome an imposed Sociology, that systematically victimized, stigmatized was exclusionary and repressive, resulting in an " nderground " society with all vicissitudes the term implies.
The legacy the Rebetic composers left behind have opened a door for not only the exploration and discovery of a specific type of music, but also for the rediscovery of a forgotten ambience during a point in time . A time that in some ways can still mirror elements of our own. To a degree , all Artists from the past have inherently played the role of a "Guardian of the Gate ". This is the gate that separates their Era from our ours. The better they were able to express and represent something resembling a distilled significance from their own time , the better we might be able to pass through that gate and possibly have a quick look around. Maybe even drawing one or two conclusions regarding our own Era, from this very privileged opportunity to scrutinize theirs. An opportunity given to us by these Composers from another time and during another world, far away.