rebetika (part two)

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sun Nov 11 2001 - 07:10:55 MST

I wrote something yesterday about "Life lives us". In particular,
about Greek dancing and music that is an expression of the most
important elements of life to the Greek culture. This note continues
the music discussion. I'm fascinated with its origin, so I'll talk
more about that.

Rebetika music emerged with a life of its own from the sorrows and
pains of people who had nothing after some religious and political
upheavals in 1921.

The Greeks were controlled and dominated for four hundred years by a
culture, the Turkish, who were as different from them as one can
imagine: different language, different personalities and so on. The
Greeks would have nearly lost their language and culture completely
(the Turks did their best to eliminate it), if it were not for the
strength that the Greek's orthodox Christian religion gave the
Greeks and the fact that the Christian monks ran "Secret Schools" at
night to teach the Greek children their Greek language and culture.
Finally, the Greeks gained their independence from the Turks (1829),
but their relations with the Turks after was not smooth, and some
Greeks from very early settlements still existed surrounded by
Turkish near Turkey.

The way that a Greek person felt (and still today) towards the
Turkish after those 400 years was not exactly hatred, it's more like
disgust. They saw the Turks as barbarians. For example, when the
Greek women were raped by the Turkish men, the women committed
suicide rather than carry the child, and you would find many stories
today about suicide taken rather than being "assimilated".
(BTW The Balts were similar to this in their feelings towards
the Soviets)

In 1921, the Greek army invaded Turkey, which was the greatest
disaster in modern Greek history. They were slaughtered. In an
absurd settlement, the League of Nations decreed an exchange of
populations between the countries. Nationality was to be based on
religion. All orthodox Christians were declared Greek and all
Moslems were declared Turkish. The result was that the Greek
population swelled from four million to five-and-a-half million.
Athens and its port of Piraeus received the majority of the
refugees, which included small amounts of 'Greeks' that had been
away from Greece and living in Asia Minor for perhaps 1000 or more
years (but they still had their language). One might consider these
Asia Minor Greeks as closest to the "original Greeks", but because
they had been away from mainland Greece for so long, they didn't
find enough commonalities with the other Greeks. These 'early Greek'
refugees were among the poorest in Piraeus. In their despair and
poverty and homeless feelings, they mixed with the 'Christian Smyrna
Turks' in the underground hashish dens, lamenting their sorrows, and
this was where the music was born. In time,the music evolved into a
national expression of every dream, hope, love, and fear that a
Greek carried. The music is still precious today to the Greeks.


Amara Graps, PhD email:
Computational Physics vita:
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Take time to consider. The smallest point may be the most essential."
Sherlock Holmes (The Adventure of the Red Circle)

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