2006 CD collection.
The origins of the music we now know as Rembetica lie in the obscurity of the mid-nineteenth century, or even earlier. It can be roughly divided into two schools: The first was that created by the Greek population of Ottoman cities such as Constantinople (Istanbul) and Smyrna (Izmir). in the main, this was played in public places of entertainment by highly skilled professional musicians, using, chiefly, Violin, lyra, Sandouri, guitar and mandolin.
However, the fact that there also existed a rougher, more underground, form is evidenced by the "brothel" recordings made by Yiangos Psamathianos in Constantinople in around 1912. Meanwhile, chiefly in the underworld of homeland Greece, there developed another form of Rembetica, played in enclosed places such as "Teethes" (hash-dens) and prisons. This was more a music of non-professional musicians performing on guitar, baglamas and bouzouki.
Thanks to the crazy music fans at JSP in England comes this packed four-disc overview of rembetika, the true music of Greece's underworld. Rembetika has an interesting history. Its origins are not exactly known, and are traced back in various labyrinthine ways to the mid-19th century. In 1911, the word "rembetico" appeared on a record label, and the word was defined as being of "mildly erotic," bohemian content; it was used to describe such records through the mid-'20s. Beginning around 1925, the music's name changed and became associated most specifically with the underworld -- primarily because of music played in brothels, hash dens, prisons, and other generally criminal surroundings. It was raw, immediate, sometimes harsh and bawdy, other times noir-ish and seductive in a sinister way. The music listeners now consider true rembetika came into view after the Greco-Turkish war. It flourished between 1925 and 1937 when it was officially censored as immoral by the Metaxas government. The music lived, however, and went deeply underground; it surfaced again briefly around 1946 before it was once again censored. The instrument rembetika brought to Greece's popular consciousness was the bouzouki, though violins, ouds, hand percussion, and singing were all part of the rembetika experience.
Thom Jurek ~ AllMusicGuide
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