What is Rebetiko?
I wrote a much better introduction than this, but I can't find it. Sorry!
You might notice that there are several different spellings of this word in use. For example, I have seen rebetika, rembetika, rembetiko, rempetika and quite a few others besides. This is because the word has been transliterated from the Greek word ρεμπέτικο, which is pronounced "rebetiko". The Greek letter that looks like a B sounds like a V, so the English B sound is represented with the Greek characters that say MP. Not only is this transliteration business a whole interesting topic in itself, it also plays havoc with any web searches you may wish to make. So, let us ignore the spelling, for a start. I shall continue to say Rebetiko, except in quotations from other sources. Of course, you could load a Greek keymap, and search on the Google Greek search page.
Some people oversimplify, and say that Rebetiko is "Greek Blues". It's an interesting analogy, the suggestion being that Rebetiko filled a niche in Greek culture that is the equivalent of the Blues in American culture. This would make it a member of a class that includes Rai, Fado and Flamenco. It's not a bad definition, but the problem words in the definition are "Greek" and "Blues". Why? Well, Rebetiko developed when a large influx of refugees with a somewhat different musical tradition amalgamated their music with the Greek music that was extant at that time, so it isn't just Greek. And not all of it is sad, some of it is extremely cheerful, so it's not really Blues either.
My own opinion is that it is the range of musical styles, that arose from the interaction and combining of the following ingredients:-
- the music played by the Greeks who were in Smyrna until 1922 (Smyrnaika)
- the songs called "Amanadhes"
- the music used for dancing by the Zeybeks
- the music that was being played in Greece up to the 1920s, that had developed from folk music
- any other influences I have forgotten or never heard of!
That may seem vague, but to be fair, the Rebetiko of any given time will contain a variety of styles from the above, and mixtures of them. And many people will say they prefer only "the old Rebetiko" or only "the Pireas style". I like some Rebetiko even more than the rest of it, and there are not many recordings of Rebetiko I actually dislike.
Here are some good sites to look at for other people's definitions of Rebetiko...
|The Rembetika Hipsters||Good summary by a rather good band.|
|Matt Barrett||A well researched and written part of the Greece Travel site.|
|Music traditions article||Yet another good introductory article...|
Here is an excellent place to discuss Rebetiko with other fans...
|Google Groups - Rebetiko|
These pages were made by Chris Blackmore, with a stylesheet by StrangeBanana. I also call myself Dr Dark and The Walrus, for reasons that are not important.