Book & CD: Road To Rembetika

From new Roots & Rhythm email (
ROAD TO REMBETIKA by Gail Holst Traditional Crossroads 6006 $19.98 Book/ CD combination – Book: Paper, 190 pages; CD – 17 tracks, 57 mins; Essential
What a fantastic new release. “Road To Rembetika” was originally published in 1975 but still remains the definitive work on the music in English. Holst is an Australian writer and musician who fell in love with the music and travelled to Greece in 1965 to study and play the music and in the process met many of the still living legendary figures in the music. The first half the book discusses the historical, political and sociological origins of the music, its musical characteristics and instrumentation. In addition it recounts Holst’s adventures in tracking down the music and its practitioners and provides an eminently readable account of this great music which has many parallels with American blues. The second half the book is a selection of rembetika songs transcribed in Greek and English and the text includes period photos, musical examples and original manuscripts of songs. This is the fourth edition from 2006 which features the same basic text with corrections, new introduction and revised bibliography and discography. And now the book comes with a soundtrack including a CD with 17 tracks – all but one of them referenced in the text, featuring classic performances by Rosa Eskenazi, Stelakis Perpinades, Stratos Payioumdzis, Yorgos Batis, Kosatas Roukanis, Sotiria Bellou (described by Holst as “the Bessie Smith of rembetika”),  Vassilis Tsitsanis and others reproduced with superb sound. If you have any interest at all in rembetika this is absolutely indispensible and if you don’t, you will once you read this book and listen to the music. (FS)

The Road To Rembetika – Music of a Greek Sub-culture – Book & CD

Music of a Greek Sub-culture, songs of Love, Sorrow and Hashish by Gail Holst This 190-page book by Cornell Mediterranean Studies Scholar, Gail Holst, is the first and most thorough account of the music known as Rembetica. Songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smyrna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late 19th century and became the popular bouzouki repertoire of the 19302 – 1950’s have been described as analogous of with American Blues. Like the Blues, Rembetica was the music of the outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetica is the first book in English to attempt a general survey of the world of the “rembetes” who smoked hashish and danced the passionate, introspective “zebebekiko” to release their emotions. Includes the words and translations to over 80 classic sngs. And 40 photos taken on site of composers, performers and some examples of actual music notes written by the composer’s onw hands. The companion CD includes 17 tracks by the Legends of Rembetika, including performances by Sortira Bellou, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Kostas Roukounas, Rosa Eskenazi, Markos Vamvakaris, Stratos Payioumdzis, Yorgos Batis, Markos, Kalfopoulos and others. Digitally remastered from the original 78 records. 1. Down in Lemonadiko (The Pick-pockets) by Vangelis Papazoglu, performed by Rosa Eskenazi 2. Hariklaki by Panayiotis Toundas, performed by Rosa Eskenazi 3. The Voice of the Hookah, by Vangelis Papazoglu, performed by Stelakis Perpiniades 4. Make it Stravros, written and performed by Markos Vamvakaris, 5. Secretly in a Boat (Zeimbekano Spaniola) written and performed by Stratos Payioumdzis, 6. Frankosyrian Girl, written and performed by Markos Vamvakaris, 7. The Stoker, written and performed by Yorgos Batis, 8. The Dew, by Vassilis Tsitsanis, performed by Tsitsanis & Stratos Payioumdzis. 9. The Bomb, written and performed by Kostas Roukounas, 10. Night Without Moon, by Apostolos Kaldaras, performed by Stella Haskil, 11. Some Mother Sighs, by Vassilis Tsitsanis, performed by Stella Haskil, 12. Cloudy Sunday, written and performed by Vassilis Tsitsanis, 13. The Carriage Goes Past, by Vassilis Tsitsanis, performed by Markos, Kalfopoulos, Tsitsanis, 14. Make Up a Bed, written and performed by Vassilis Tsitsanis with R. Dalia, singer, 15. When I Die on the Boat, by Babis Bakalis, performed by Sotiria Bellou, 16. When you Drink in the Taverna, written by Vassilis Tsitsanis, performed by Sotiria Bellou, 17. Captain Andreas Zeppos, by Yannis Papaioannou, performed by Sotiria Bellou, “…an excellent and very sympathetic study about as aspect of Greek culture of which we knew virtually nothing. Quite obviously the music is, in meaning and purpose if not in sound, very close to blues.” Paul Oliver, Blues Historian and scholar

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