Greek-Oriental Rebetica

Songs and Dances in the Asia Minor Style

The Golden Years: 1911-1937

(Arhoolie CD 7005)

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One of the most fascinating documents currently available of the old Smyrniac style and one with some of the best English liner notes to explain it all I have ever seen. A good Cyber friend of ours "across the pond ", once characterized this recording as "atmospheric". God Bless traditional British reserve along with their penchant and indisputable talent for profound understatement !  Because his one word description is right on the money. With musical content not exactly for the casual, conservative or the fainthearted this is about as "authentic" as authentic will ever get. If your ever feeling a bit courageous or just plain curious as to what the very early pre Rebetic Smyrniac sound was really like, look no further Papadopolous you just hit the Jackpot ! This is definitely not the recording one would purchase for the purpose of learning how to dance, while trying to break a plate or two.  No no Zorba, not this one. This one you place in the CD player, sit down, pour yourself a good stiff double shot of Seven Star Metaxa and just listen and wonder. hen you wonder some more. In fact I have been wondering about this recording ever since I first heard it. The psychological ambience projected by this document is so palatable, that at times it almost seems to act as a virtual time machine in it's capacity to transport the listener to an Era and a destination now long gone and forgotten. After the first few cuts I thought my living room had somehow mysteriously turned into a 1912 smoke filled Smyerniac Cabaret/Hash House, located somewhere on the Anatolia coast.  I don't know if these selections were put through a Digital retrieval process of sorts, or if they were just plain Vanilla Analog remastered 78's in pristine condition. But whatever was done in the way of disk transfer was done uncommonly well. You can actually listen "to it" as opposed to " through it ". Naturally you are going to hear some anomalies and imperfections as is to be expected with recordings of this vintage. Also expect the dynamic range to be somewhat limited and less then state of the art. However most of the time the voices are clear and the instrumental accompaniment is clean. While it's not exactly a Digital DTS Surround Sound 2000 Super disk, most of the cuts are unusually audible for this vintage and if you have the benefit of even a half way acceptable Digital Surround processor, the degree of realism that can be gently coaxed from these very old recordings can be surprising. Most of the major artist of the day are represented here, such as Eskenazi, Abatzi, Semsis, Dalgas, Papagika etc. The collection of compositions offered on this CD were selected by one Prof. Martin Schwartz (UC Berkley) and apparently originate from his personal collection. Schwartz is also responsible for the excellent liner notes provided with the CD. These are some of the best researched and most interesting you will find for this genre. The notes include a few photos of some of the artists documented on the disk as well. He also (thankfully) provides English translations for some of the compositions contained within. An effort that is very impressive considering many of the terms used in these lyrics, are often slang derivatives of a Demotic Greek dialect and do not easily lend themselves to translation. I would strongly recommend that one take a little extra time to examine the excellent notes Martin Schwartz has so graciously provided, before you sit down and pour yourself that first shot of Metaxa. They really are illuminating and once read, will give the listener a considerably more insightful perspective into not only the musical content, but also that rarely communicated psychological context we mentioned in the Introductory section on this site. To sum up, we give the good Professor an A+ for both the musical content and context of presentation. Now if we could only convince him to release a sequel.

 

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