Apopse Sto Thoma

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This CD is something of a complimentary disk to the remarkable TV Video Special of the same name produced & directed by Costas Ferris and reviewed in the Video section on this site. For specifics check out that Review. I had assumed the content on the CD was going to be a carbon copy of the material used for the Video.  It turns out it is and it isn't. Let me ask a question.  Are you always searching for Rebetiko music performed within the  "Classic" structural context we have all come to know and love?  If the answer is yes then look elsewhere. This is not the CD for you.  However if you're just a little adventurous and a bit curious as to what might be possible in the way of expanding that Classic Rebetic  context, to include some experimentation  (mostly in the way of Rhythmic fusion) then this is definitely the CD for you. There certainly is nothing unusual about composers, arrangers or performers wanting to break out of a mold and push the corner of the conceptual envelop so to speak. Although this has not been an activity we normally associate with traditional Rebetiko, that may be changing and this CD is an excellent example of how and maybe even why.  First of all, there are a few cuts that are performed in the traditional grand manner, which are all well done. However the remainder of the disk is more devoted to exploring the various forms of Rebetiko by using them more as a foundation for a different interpretation of Rebetiko music. One that combines the rudimentary elements of the Classical style Rebetiko, with various rhythmic elements ranging from Reggae to Jazz to western Pop and on one track (#7 ) even a beautifully rendered Byzantine - type Chant for the introduction.There is also one cut (#20 ) that is slightly reminiscent of a group , whose sound I used to go crazy over about 25 years ago. They were out of New Orleans and were called "The Meters". Everybody out there who remembers "The Meters" raise you hand !  Well never mind, Chicago PT just is showing his age. Anyway they had a VERY syncopated and "snappy" sound in their music, that STRONGLY emphasized Rhythmic elements and were simply outstanding. This is one example of just how unusual some of the content on this CD really is.  I would never have thought that ANY type of Greek music, would ever remind me of a group like "The Meters" but once again, welcome to Rebetiko 2000 ! 

W hat was surprising on this CD (for me anyway) was just how fertile the Rebetiko genre actually is for this kind of exploitation. It never occurred to me in all the time I have spent listening to Rebetiko, that some of it could lend itself so well to this type of structural manipulation. The tracks were Conducted & Orchestrated by Thesia Panayiotiou  (see gorgeous photo above), who also has a few other credits to her name. Featured  on the disk is Chryssoula Christopoulou, who again gives as fine an accounting of her talents as she did on the Rebetiko Today series. But on this CD she figures a bit more prominently, performing more as a solo vocalist as well as doing harmonies.  However it is Nikos Marangopoulos (also featured on the Aman Amin CD) with his "Oriental flavored"  vocal Pyrotechnics, who really steals the show. There is a number called "Kaixe" (burning) where he superimposes an old Amandes style vocal track, over a very percussive Conga-laden Caribbean Reggae rhythm, that is truly awesome.  I have never heard anything quite like it. It is very unusual and really gets you attention!  I could not have imagined that a fusion between these two very disparate types of "Vernacular" music, could actually work as well as they do here. However their not exactly all gems. There is one little "Ditty" titled "Skoyna", which reminded me of one of those early 1960's Italian films, where everyone is running around wearing "wrap-around" sunglasses uttering "Chow" and very busy trying to become recognized as one of those existential Continental Cafe in-crowd types for young & upbeat 1960's style European Hipsters!  Even the sweet Soprano voice of Chryssoula Christopoulou can't save it. Other then that every other track on the CD is well rendered, well recorded and can more then stand on it's own merits. However I'm not sure if that's because of the inherent nature of the arrangements or because the musicians involved with this project are all World Class. Whatever the reason (s) Thesia Panayiotiou's Rebetic "experiment" is more often successful then not. I know this because I keep playing it over again and again.  I think it's safe to assume "Apopse to Thoma" was never meant to replace the Classic style Rebetika. I seriously doubt that was ever the intention.  I believe what this music does do and very successfully I might add, is effectively illustrate just how rich and flexible the musical traditions of Rebetiko really are. Irrespective of how they might be interpreted, they usually seem to hold up remarkably well. It would seem that this experimental foray into the unexplored territory of the Rebetic Hinterlands, has clearly demonstrated there is still plenty of life left in the old girl yet. So if your in the mood for something a little different in the way of Rebetiko and can keep an open mind, do yourself a favor and pick up this very interesting and thoroughly engrossing CD. You might be intrigued !             

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