I was up in time for my hotel breakfast, and then wandered down to the sea front. Drinking coffees here and there, I found that at least six of the sea front bars and restaurants had visible WiFi connections, and two of them (Gogos' Bar and the Roloi Café) were unencrypted. This meant I could sit and have Greek coffee in the complete absence of (almost all) traffic noise, and use the Asus on the internet as well, which makes Hydra a very special place indeed.
I had a beer and some calamari at Tasos' Café, and then wandered along to the conference registration session at the Melina Mercouri hall, which was nominally set for one in the afternoon. Being greeted warmly by so many people I recognise is still a strange feeling to me, as I have spent a lot of my life being rather antisocial, but it was wonderful. Thanks folks!
The hall was filled with interesting paintings, as in previous years, and to my great delight, has obtained some comparatively comfortable chairs at last. Some of the old chairs they used to have would gradually bend in use until one could no longer sit on them.
Ed Emery's introduction to the conference was very interesting, but he did ask that it should not be recorded, so I didn't record it. I did take a few notes though.
Update 11/11/2008: I have temporarily removed my notes about Ed's introduction from this page at his request, and am waiting for him to get back to me with details of which parts of it were problematical. I hope that he will not forget to tell me.
And then we went on to the actual conference sessions, and I started recording again.
The first session was by Halvard Sivertsen, from Bergen in Norway, and was entitled "Rena Stamou: Last of the Rebetissas". An earlier conference, in 2005, had a session with Rena present, talking about her life. Halvard has made a discography of all of her work, every recording she participated in that can be found, an impressive achievement indeed. He played us three tracks, her first ever with Tsitsanis, one from 1951 with Papaioannou, and one with Stelios Xrisinis. As a bonus, Halvard has also gathered together a collection of all the tracks mentioned in the book "Songs of the Greek Underworld" by Elias Petropulos (translated by a certain Ed Emery).
The second session was contributed by Klearchos A Kyriakidis, of London, and was called "Metaxas, the Greek underworld and the censorship of music during the late 1930s: a politico-legal analysis". Klearchos spoke so entertainingly that I forgot to make anything in the way of notes. Fortunately, he handed out copies of his paper, so I can tell you that it "sheds additional light on the background to the music censorship laws which were introduced by the government of Greece during the late 1930s. More specifically, the paper highlights the clash of personalities between General Ioannis Metaxas, the Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until 1941 and the manges, the composers, lyricists and other musicians of the form of music known as rebetika." As soon as the paper appears online at Ed's site, I will link to it.
After a short break to rearrange the furniture, it was time for Paul Astin of California to talk about "The Groove in Markos Vamvakaris". Paul illustrated his talk with jazz piano versions of some Markos songs, and supplied a printed version of the paper, which makes very interesting reading. Again, I will link to it when possible. The session was somewhat heated at times, when there was discussion of whether the player in the recordings Paul played was actually Markos Vamvakaris or Spiros Peristeris, as well as whether the CDs Paul had listened to were actually "fading in", showing that the recording was started after a taximia had been played, or whether this had been done when the transfer to CD was done. Given the poor quality of the mastering on many Rebetiko CDs, it is hard to know how valid some of Paul's conclusions are. I certainly can't say one way or the other, and unless there are written descriptions of recording sessions available, perhaps this will remain obscure.
That was the end of the conference sessions for the day. I took the opportunity to rest for a while and charge up lots of batteries in preparation for the evening's entertainment. Later on, there was a fine meal and music session at To Steki Taverna. I'm happy to say that the food was good, as usual, although I am somewhat vague as to what I actually had.
My recordings of this music session have much less of the cutlery noises and conversation than previous years' recordings. I achieved this by throwing a long microphone cable over a branch of a tree, and suspending the powered microphone over the heads of the players. The music finished reasonably early, to give Argyris the chance to get some sleep, and after making backups of my recordings, and having an ouzo nightcap, I turned in.