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Road to Rembetika: Music of a Greek Sub-Culture, Songs of Love, Sorrow and Hashish

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The rembetika, songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smyrna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late nineteenth century, and became the popular bouzouki music of the 1930s to 1950s, have many parallels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembetika were the music of outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetik The rembetika, songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smyrna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late nineteenth century, and became the popular bouzouki music of the 1930s to 1950s, have many parallels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembetika were the music of outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetika was the first book in English to attempt a general survey of the world of the 'rembetes' who smoked hashish and danced the passionate introspective zebekiko to release their emotions. The author Gail Holst, an Australian musician and writer who first came to Greece in 1965 and who has continued to perform and write about Greek music ever since, describes her own initiation into the rembetika, outlines its historical and sociological background, its musical characteristics and instrumentation. The second part of the book is a collection of rembetika songs in Greek with the English translation en face. The text is illustrated with photographs of the period, musical examples and original manuscripts of the songs. Although Road to Rembetika was first published many years ago, this revised edition of this now classic book still remains the most vibrant portrayal of this musical genre.


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The rembetika, songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smyrna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late nineteenth century, and became the popular bouzouki music of the 1930s to 1950s, have many parallels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembetika were the music of outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetik The rembetika, songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smyrna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late nineteenth century, and became the popular bouzouki music of the 1930s to 1950s, have many parallels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembetika were the music of outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetika was the first book in English to attempt a general survey of the world of the 'rembetes' who smoked hashish and danced the passionate introspective zebekiko to release their emotions. The author Gail Holst, an Australian musician and writer who first came to Greece in 1965 and who has continued to perform and write about Greek music ever since, describes her own initiation into the rembetika, outlines its historical and sociological background, its musical characteristics and instrumentation. The second part of the book is a collection of rembetika songs in Greek with the English translation en face. The text is illustrated with photographs of the period, musical examples and original manuscripts of the songs. Although Road to Rembetika was first published many years ago, this revised edition of this now classic book still remains the most vibrant portrayal of this musical genre.

30 review for Road to Rembetika: Music of a Greek Sub-Culture, Songs of Love, Sorrow and Hashish

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christoffer Gertz Bech

    A well-written and entertaining book about the musical tradition that lies beneath most of today's popular Greek music. Rembetika is the rough, edgy, lower class forerunner of today's more slick bouzouki hits, with songs of love (of course), drugs and being beaten up by the police. Gail Holst's book is not a thorough, theoretical piece of musical science, but a personal account from someone who discovered some music that touched her and was lucky enough to meet and learn from some of the old guys A well-written and entertaining book about the musical tradition that lies beneath most of today's popular Greek music. Rembetika is the rough, edgy, lower class forerunner of today's more slick bouzouki hits, with songs of love (of course), drugs and being beaten up by the police. Gail Holst's book is not a thorough, theoretical piece of musical science, but a personal account from someone who discovered some music that touched her and was lucky enough to meet and learn from some of the old guys who remembered what it was like in the old days. Indispensable reading for anyone interested in the sounds of Greece.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas

    I bought the book from Amazon Germany while I was staying in Greece and it's more than I expected it to be. It’s a perfect beginners book about Rembetika, a starting point, not too overwhelming but rather whetting the appetite for more. The author, Gail Holst writes, “ . . . it’s always more interesting to get to know one man a little than to be presented with a lot of names to which there is not enough space to attach faces." Originally, I’d bought this book because of the 60+ pages at the end w I bought the book from Amazon Germany while I was staying in Greece and it's more than I expected it to be. It’s a perfect beginners book about Rembetika, a starting point, not too overwhelming but rather whetting the appetite for more. The author, Gail Holst writes, “ . . . it’s always more interesting to get to know one man a little than to be presented with a lot of names to which there is not enough space to attach faces." Originally, I’d bought this book because of the 60+ pages at the end with lyrics and translation of the songs. I’d had a somewhat authentic taste of Rembetika recently, or maybe it was more of an historic reenactment at a Greek tavern in Epirus, Greece: https://truestorythenifi.blogspot.com... While there, a friend had recommended using Rembetika as another tool for learning the Greek language. But as one begins to understand the lyrics, it’s hard not to wonder about the people who wrote them and the time period. This book offers a bit of information on both but it is also somewhat of a memoir as the author also describes her time in the 1960s in Greece. This book was recommended by author, Jim Potts, who was also kind enough to lend his opinion to the cover of THE NIFI, (https://www.amazon.com/Nifi-Linda-Fag...) so naturally I trusted his judgment. I also wholeheartedly recommend it, not only to fellow Rembetika lovers but also to my fellow Greek-language-learners!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Konstantinos Kokologiannis

    Υπέροχη δουλειά! Ταξίδι με μόρτες, αργιλέδες και 9/8

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeroni Carandell Saladich

    Unfortunately, too short. Half of the book consists of a collection of lyrics and their translations which although useful and revealing, leave very little space to the actual analysis of Rembetika. I would have wished for a more thorough analysis (especially from a musician such as Gail Holst) with explanations of the different "roads", styles of dance, particular influences from different styles of music, etc. I'm giving this book 5 stars, however, because, regarding the subject, few (at least Unfortunately, too short. Half of the book consists of a collection of lyrics and their translations which although useful and revealing, leave very little space to the actual analysis of Rembetika. I would have wished for a more thorough analysis (especially from a musician such as Gail Holst) with explanations of the different "roads", styles of dance, particular influences from different styles of music, etc. I'm giving this book 5 stars, however, because, regarding the subject, few (at least non-greek books) have made an attempt to describe rembetika. I really would love an expanded version.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Luby

  6. 4 out of 5

    Olli Sallinen

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nail Savaş

  9. 4 out of 5

    Neal Carey

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rob Woodard

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caterinay

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lazyproduction

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vickie Ster

  17. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  19. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Cooper

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maria

  21. 5 out of 5

    Balaphone

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sia Karamalegos

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom Galvin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Raffaele

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Evans

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marios Shekeris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bankbintje

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ioanna

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