6

red_banner.gif (6342 bytes)

The "Classic" period (1932-1942) begins with the Composer/performer Markos Vamvakaris. Vamvakaris is usually recognized as the Father of the Classic form of Rebetiko.  Until then it was mostly the Cafe Aman or Cafe Chantant type of sound, that dominated the Athenian night spots.  However before we get into this period, we need to digress a bit and say a few things concerning this instrument called the Bouzouke. This instrument has occasionally been another one of those issues, that has on occasion flamed the passions of speculation and conjecture in relation to the multi-cultural "Holy Wars" briefly alluded to earlier.  For example, just when did the Bouzouke become "The Bouzouke" and from what  instrument might it have been derived and just how and when did it evolve. These questions (along with a few others) are at the heart of an even greater issue, that tries to identify a specific ethnic lineage for the instrument as well as the music itself. We know the term Bozuk is Turkish and that the Bozuk was and still very much is, an instrument used in Classical Turkish music and that it bears a family resemblance to the contemporary Greek instrument in question.  So where did it come from?  We know the Byzantine Greeks who significantly predate the Turks also had such an instrument and that it's ancestry may be traced back to the Hellenic Panduras of Antiquity. There is in fact a wide variety of musical instruments, that resemble a Bouzouke but do not have the same spectral characteristics of the "Greek version". This is the case for several reasons. They include everything from the number of strings on the instrument to, the way those strings are tuned, to different performance values and especially to the individual instrument's Anatomical characteristics. There is in fact, an entire family of these Lute - like instruments used by practically every cultural or ethnic group from India to Ireland, as well as the Mid - East and elsewhere. These incarnations probably all evolved somewhat differently, thus endowing them with their unique physical and spectral characteristics at different times during their respective development cycle. However the Greeks were and still are, the only group who use the Bouzouke if not exclusively, then at least overwhelmingly and for more then just Rebetika music. They are the only ethnic group, that has utilized the present day incarnation of the instrument in practically every type of musical genre they create. This is inclusive of everything from Rebetiko to various interpretations of older "folk" as well as their contemporary "Pop" and even their more serious Endecma (crafted) music. Furthermore the Greeks have been the single most responsible group, in having carefully cultivated those very distinctive tonal characteristics we hear today that most immediately associate with the instrument. For anyone to propose, that this evolution of the contemporary incarnation of the modern day instrument with it's carefully cultivated sound, is anything but Greek in nature as well as nurture, conveniently casts a blind eye (and ear), to the contemporary instrument's unique sonic attributes and "conveniently" ignores an even greater historical context, beginning with the Panduras as well. Consequently when considering the instument in it's present form, along with it's overall sonic characteristics and particularly the singular "Spirit", with which those same spectral characteristics so effectively communicate, it would be very difficult to creditably associate the Bouzouke with any other cultural Heritage, but the one we have already come to associate it with. The process of association does not occur in a Cultural vacuum, nor in some esoteric Academic Ethnological Database. Particularly one that is interpreted with a multiplicity of speculative Multi-Cultural ambiguities, that often have been "molded" to support and/or reinforce some contemporary revisionist Political agenda.  Now back to the Ranch, Vamvakaris and the "Classic" period. 

Markos5.jpg (1449 bytes)

Born to a poverty stricken family on the island of Syros in the year 1905, he left home at the ripe old age of twelve to end up in the port city of Pirareus in Athens, where he first worked at odd jobs here and there in order to survive.  At some point during his adolescence, he began meeting musicians who played in some of the more "questionable" cafe's in the Piraeus area.  Apparently he had been predisposed to music and understandably gravitated toward others who were similarly inclined. At some point he was introduced to the sound of the Bouzouke and was immediately captivated by it. He set out to learn how to play the instrument and for the most part was more or less self taught.  He must have exhibited the kind of persistency that can only be the offspring of a divine obsession, so he learned how to play "that Damned Criminal instrument" and learned it well. Very well !  Interestingly enough, his talents were not only limited to musicianship.  It would seem he was also quite adroit at the fine art of persuasion, because he successfully convinced one of the record companies in Greece (approx. 1932), to actually let him record a few of his compositions that featured the Bouzouke upfront and personnel.  Up until that time record companies had avoided spotlighting the Bouzouke because of it's " underworld " reputation.  However shortly before Vamvarakis made his recording debut, a commercially successful recording by one Ioannis Haliklas (Jack Gregory) was made in New York City. The commercial success of that recording (coupled with Vamvakaris persistence), helped convince them to take a chance.  They did and by doing so, Markos Vamvakaris ushered in the "Classic" age of Rebetiko and never looked back. Up until that time the Bouzouke had never played such a prominent role in the performance of Greek music.  It was usually there more or less , but it's contribution had been more or less a secondary one at best.  This was primarily because the instrument had the reputation of being of  " ill repute ", in that it had been so strongly associated with the disreputable Cafe lifestyle of the criminal underclass element from even before the time of the population exchange. However that now began to change thanks to the talents of this young man who left his home at the age of twelve (?) to seek destiny, fortune and fame.  Vamvakaris found his destiny and the Bouzouke was set on a course that eventually would result in it's coming to represent the sound of the modern Hellenic soul.  But not exactly overnight.  There were still a few "detours" along the way.  However these were primarily political in nature and they were indicative of the kind of insanity that now began to divide Europe and one that would eventually tear her apart.                  

slbz.gif (38139 bytes)

NL.gif (3053 bytes)

Part 2 ] Part 3 ] Part 4 ] Part 5 ] Part 9 ] [ Part 6 ] Part 7 ] Part 8 ]

 

 aa PREV.gif (2897 bytes)       aaaHome.gif (2897 bytes)       aa Next.gif (2681 bytes)