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Architects of Narghile

Rembetika Hipsters

Socrates Pizza Records

SPR 001

Instead of my usual style of track list, I have ruthlessly stolen the following descriptions from the Rembetika Hipsters website. These are their descriptions of their music, and worth reading...

  1. Ela Hanoumaki Mou (My Little Harem Girl). Hanoumaki is the diminutive of the Turkish word for "lady", usually referring to the women who frequented the harems or hashish dens of the Ottoman Empire. Here, the singer is asking his loved one to recount those charged days and nights in Smyrna at their old haunt, and to try to rekindle them.
  2. Engaged Too Young. A "mangas" (hipster) bemoans the loss of his independence at a young age to an even younger bride. The singer is not so much down on marriage, rather his youth has ill prepared him for what is about to transpire.
  3. Mousakas Fraoula Gia Panta (Strawberry Moussaka Forever). Two protagonists, stranded on a desert island: a fervent Umm Kalthum and a reticent Sergio Leone. With one foot firmly planted in the west and the other ever so precariously in the east, the plot unfolds... to one the song is a fruit, to the other it is a casserole.
  4. To Haremi Sto Hamman. The sweet life of the privileged class, filled with narghil, Turkish hash and harem girls dancing the tsifteteli. Considering that composer Anestis Delias died at the young age of 32 both impoverished and a victim of drugs he isn't bitter about the life he has no chance of ever enjoying - rather he speaks of "la dolce vita" in an almost celebratory but sardonic way.
  5. Where Have All The Years Gone? A nostalgic travelogue of the old districts of Athens. Sadly, those places (along with the years) have come and gone and the manges have grown old.
  6. Nihtose Horis Fegari (Night Without Moon). A revolutionary song, seminal in the history of Rembetika music, written by a 21 year old Apostolos Kaldaras, and eventually banned in 1949. It captured the harsh conditions of the Greek civil war. Night descended without moon, the darkness is deep but a brave young man cannot sleep. The door opens and the door closes with a heavy sigh. If only I could guess the sorrow in his heart. What can he be waiting for from night until morning By his narrow cell window which is lit by a candle?"
  7. Melina Visits the Slums of Skopje. Rhythms of Macedonia, the eternally disputed crossroads of the Balkans. The thirteen apostles loose the reins of apocalypse, freeing the iconic image of Melina lifting her wings ever so heavenward towards Skopje. Translation: more or less a Bulgarian Ruchenitsa in 13/16, 27 bars in length and runs at just under 1:02 minutes.
  8. Mavra Matia (Dark Eyes). A song in 7/8 time about love gone wrong, and the existential reverberations felt by the protagonist. The eyes which once bewitched him are now silent though the night.
  9. Tsifteteli D Hijaz. This is a sensuous rhythm closely associated with the belly dance. The "D" in the title refers to the key of the song and "Hijaz" is the road (scale or mode) to be traveled. The song was written in the 70's by Leonardos Mbournelis - the "Jeff Beck" of the bouzouki, who possessed a phenomenal set of sideburns and an insatiable appetite for rocking tsiftetelia.
  10. Psaropoula (Captain A. Zeppo). The story of fisherman and apha-male Andreas Zeppo. While most fishing boats will cast their nets into the water yet catch nothing, Captain Zeppo is able to reel in a bountiful catch of squid.
  11. Mes tis Polis To Hammam (In the City's Bathhouses). This song is essentially track #4 put in a blender. The voice of the universal interlocutor speaks from Mt. Olympus, assuring us all is fine with the cosmos. The key is changed, the tempo punched up and the bouzouki flanged, but the road rocks all the way to the Parthenon.
  12. I Manges Then Iparhoun Pia (the hipsters have left the building). The song tells of a neighbourhood which was razed to make way for new development, forcing the manges to pack up and move on. A song about the negative effects of "progress" on the lives of individuals, through the loss of community, friendships and the disintegration of family. The manges don't exist anymore, The train line cleared them away, With bravado they've weighed anchor, And their narghile is extinguished. Though the lyrics may express a resignation to fate, in tempo and mood the song is anthem of the dispossessed.

I think this CD is wonderful. It's definitely Rebetiko to me, as well as being rather modern and rather fun to listen to. Track 11 is just outrageously brilliant. You can order the CD from the Rembetika Hipsters web site, should you feel so inclined.