1900 - 1949
1950 - 2000
Click Tape for Video
W hile the sound of the "Classic" period is generally the one most people usually associate with Rebetika, it is the "Smyrniac" sound, that has as of late acquired a fascination factor all it's own. The primary reason for this probably is more related to the progress made in the area of Digital Data Retrieval from the old Lacquered Direct to Disk 78 rpm recordings, as well as to the sophistication of the Compact Disc. The CD and the associated equipment used for it's reproduction have given us a much more realistic approximation of what the early Smyrniac artists really must have sounded like while they were alive and in their prime. For some of us who have been fans of Rebetiko music for quite awhile, this technology has been something of a "Magical Mystery Tour". Particularly for those of us who were second or third generation American born descendents of the old Diaspora and who as children in the 1950's, had their first memory of "that kind of music" blaring from their Grandparents AM band kitchen radio tuned in to one of the "Greek Hour" programs on a Sunday afternoon. This type of "Ethnic" programming usually gave voice to a D J, who sounded as if he spoke in some obscure variation of an Ancient Laconian dialect spoken so fast, that even our poor Grandparents could scarcely understand a single word he said. All this while spinning an old Rita Abatzi tune from an antiquated 78, that we were absolutely certain had been engineered by the likes of an Aristophanes and reproduced with an Earth shattering half watt of power fed to a one inch paper cone speaker. Most of us would immediately jump up and run from the room screaming "Please turn it off, turn it off" while simultaneously sticking our fingers in our ears and giving silent thanks to the Almighty, that the Old Timers actually had enough sense to immigrate to the New World, lest we have to listen to "that stuff" for the rest of our miserable lives. My oh my, how things have changed. Welcome to Rebetiko 2000!
The CD's shown above, have been selected for anyone who might be interested in further exploring the Rebetiko genre. Most have been chosen for their authenticity of content as well as their sonic characteristics for reproductive playback. While there are probably at least a thousand recordings I have never heard, I believe any of these shown above might make a good start for building a collection. Most of them (as far as I know) are still in print but may require a bit of a search to track down. Rebetiko aficionados (a very testy group) all have their own favorites so I fully expect to be the recipient of no little email regarding this subject, which means there will inevitably be additional recommendations in the future. Double click on the individual CD for a short review and audio clip of each. Incidentally, if you have a few favorites of your own and would like to share them with the rest of the Rebetiko world, or your already familiar with some of the CD's listed herein and would like to add your own perspective on the disk, just write your own review(s) send it in and I'll be happy to publish it.
A brief word concerning availability. While most of the materiel reviewed here is generally available either in various music stores or even online. Some of it (particularly the Videos) are very much a "catch if catch can" affair. Rebetiko music has generally not been marketed to a younger audience which traditionally has always been the prime target for the music industry. In fact Rebetiko has rarely ever been marketed at all ! Consequently it's availability has usually been a sporadic occurrence at best. However this situation finally does seem to be changing somewhat. The primary difficulty seems to be more or less concentrated in the distribution channel then in any other area. Possibly the Internet will play a significant role in helping to alleviate some of these difficulties. A few of the labels that are responsible for the distribution of these CD's, now have their own Web Sites online. How responsive they are to individual queries, probably varies from site to site. The Videos however are another matter entirely. They seem to be the most difficult to locate and there is a thriving "Gray Market" regarding "Bootlegged" copies for many of them. How and why that should be the case is a complex issue and considerably beyond our ability to examine here. However that too seems to be more related to the inefficiency of the distribution channels along with the lack of effective research efforts on the part of distributors. What all this means to the consumer is that the old adage of "Caveat Emptor" is very much the order of the day. Especially when considering anything on Video. Quality varies a great deal from tape to tape and for this reason alone (if at all possible and availability permits) the consumer is always better off purchasing these items from a reliable, reputable and legitimate source. Enough said, happy listening !