meta.gif (106175 bytes)

red_banner.gif (6342 bytes)

Like the ancient Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times", the 1930's was indeed an " interesting " time for Greece in general and for Rebetiko in particular.  For a while it seemed as if Rebetiko music and the Bouzouke were gaining some small modicum of recognition, as a valid and " legitimate" form of expression.  Furthermore, many recordings of the old Smyrna "Cafe' Aman" style, were now beginning to be widely recorded and documented. It certainly seemed as if things were opening up for the harried practitioners of the Rebetic Gospel. However as another passage from Antiquity so wisely tried to point out,  "Nothing is as it seems, all is deception "!  It was true in another age and it was about to become true for Rebetiko in this one.  Once again for the sake of a greater historical context, we need to take another quick little detour.  For the entire last half of the 19th century (as well as a good portion of the first half of the 20th),  Greece had been having a very difficult time trying to ascertain just what it was and what it was, it wanted to be.  In other words the old Classic Identity Crisis.  However primarily because of the incredibly long documented history of this land and it's immeasurable contribution to the intellectual evolution of the Western world along with the implications of those contributions, it was a crises of incredible psychological complexity. The Greeks were asking themselves some very profound and " interesting " questions.  Such as should we be a "modern" European Monarchy, or are we better off as a modern day  Republic ?  Are we part of the East or are we part of the West ?  How do we reconcile these Antithetic legacies of the Christian Romaios with that of the old Pagan Hellenism of Antiquity ? And by the way, just what the Hell are we going to do about this " language question " thing anyhow ?  All this and much more while simultaneously trying to make a living in a country where a "living " was very much a relative term and for the vast majority of it's citizens, any notion of such a concept as "upward mobility", was inconcievable.  Then there was always the prospect of immigration.  In the 1930's Right wing Military Dictatorships were becoming all the rage in Europe.  Franco in Spain, Hitler in Germany , Mussolini in Italy and a guy named Ioannis Metaxas in Greece.  Metaxas (photo above) had been a retired Army General when in 1936 the "On again off again" this time King if Greece, decided to place him in charge of the Royalist Government. It's always been a bit difficult to get a realistic handle on Metaxas.  He was essentially a "dictator" with a small d.  While he tried his best to imitate the other Fascists in Europe, he never really quite got the hang of it, because he wasn't much of a racist and he had always remained very Pro British.  His mostly Paternalistic Ideology (if one could even call it that), went by the title of "The Third Hellenic Civilization". Today that may sound more like the title of a  "B" rated propaganda movie. The first Civilization being that of the Greece of Antiquity the second was that of the "Byzantine" period and of course it was his new regime, that took the number three spot on this Revisionist Hellenic Hit Parade.  This "third civilization" was supposed to combine the essentially contradictory values of the other two.  It didn't !  Someone obviously neglected to inform the good Royalist Prime Minister, that these things just don't quite work that way for reasons that should have been obvious.  However it probably would not have made much of a difference if someone had.  Totalitarian oriented Dictators, either to the Right or from the Left, have rarely been known to "sweat the details" and in his zeal to awaken this " 3rd Hellenic Civilization ", one of the things he did, was to outlaw and try to purge anything in Greece, that had some type of cultural or historical association with the " East "( i.e.  Turkey).  That included Rebetiko music as well as anyone or anything associated with it. No Bouzouke, no Cafe Aman, no Rebetis no Rebetissis, no Rebetika !  He also began vigorously enforcing the laws, that made illicit, the traditional "recreational pharmacology" of Rebetiko lore.  So the prisons (for a variety of reasons) began filling up once again.  No " Good time Charley-opolus " this !  However it turned out, he wasn't much of a " loyal to the Axis Powers "Dictator either.  Primarily because he is best known today, for having opposed an Emissary of Benito Mussolini,  who actually had the temerity to wake him in the middle of the night in order to present the Greek Government with an ultimatum from "El Duce".  His "eloquent" answer to the Italian emissary, has now been perpetually ingrained and emblazoned into the minds of every Greek kid ever born, anywhere on the face of the planet since that infamous night.  His answer to the Italian diplomat was a plain and very simple  OXI ( NO) !  A few days thereafter Greece was at war with Fascist Italy and eventually Nazi Germany. To this day "OXI Day" is celebrated as an official National holiday in the current Hellenic Republic.  So he certainly did have his strong points.  Unfortunately a well balanced and more Egalitarian domestic policy was not one of them.  It has always been very difficult to give an " in a Nutshell " assessment on a personality such as Metaxas. To assess his overall administration solely on the basis of the effect it had on something as obscure as Rebetiko music, would obviously be a bit sophomoric, disingenuous and really  not very credible. Opinions by various historians have always been divided in their evaluation of his overall capability as a political leader. However the consequences his social policies had on a large segment of the population, are in large measure a fairly accurate reflection of a political mind set, that most represented a Class oriented society, which in many respects was fundamentally exclusionary in nature.  Some of that 1930's Era divisiveness which originated from those exclusionary policies, can occasionally still be seen today in the internal politics of the contemporary Greek state.  Metaxas represented one side of an equation the Greeks had called the "National Schism ". This issue was essentially concerned with the pros and cons of Greece being governed by either a monarchy or a more democratically inspired modern Republic.  Metaxas of course, typified the "Royalist" position. To the conservative and relatively well healed of the time he understandably represented stability.  To many of those who were not exactly born of the proverbial " Silver Spoon ", he represented anything but.  In any case his leadership was short lived.  He died in 1940 just as things were really starting to get " interesting ".  However during the time he was in power, his restrictive and rather Draconian "Paternalistic" policies, made life for the Rebetiko crowd (as well as a few others) very difficult. These individuals were an easy target for someone of Metaxas political persuasion. Most of them were apolitical and had few outside or " inside " connections that could be of any benefit to them.  So into the " Slam"  they often went.  Since he had closed many of the Cafe's and restricted the use of the recording studios, many Composers and musicians found themselves out of work, out of money and as we say in Chicago, " SOL" (Shit out of luck) !

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)