Wednesday, September 6

Rembetiko of the Month

August came and went without a Rembetiko of the Month post, so this is the first of two posts for September.

July’s post was a pretty heart-wrenching αμανές (a-man-ESS) by Marika Kanaropoulou (aka Brousalia, Tourkalitsa). You’ll recall that I chose it because of the fighting in Lebanon. I suppose there will always be enough misery in the world for αμανέδες, and the Ussak αμανές I chose for this post conveys not only the pain of loss, but a particular type of loss, in this case a child’s loss of its parents. It reflects my own frustration with a world in which children are made orphans. Some of my posts in the coming weeks will shed some light on why I’m spending so much time thinking about these things.

Click here to listen.

Κοιμήσου γιατί χάσαμε, παιδί μου, τη μαμά σου.
Νά σέ φιλήσω, μάτια μου, νά δρόσει την καρδιά σου.

Νίνι, νάνι.

Άμαν, σε μιά στιγμή ορφάνεψες καί έχασες τη φολιά σου.
Μέρα καί νύχτα αγρυπνώ, παιδάκι μου, παιδάκι μου, κοντά σου.

Νίνι, νάνι.

Sleep, my child, for we have lost your mother.
Let me kiss you, sweetheart, to cool your burning heart.

Sleep, sleep.

Aman, in an instant you were orphaned and lost your nest.
Day and night, I will keep watch over you, my child, my child.

Sleep, sleep.
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGrigoris Asikis (1890 – 1967) was born in Constantinople and migrated to Greece in 1922 following the Asia Minor catastrophe and the ensuing population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Recognized as one of Greece’s best oud players, Asikis (pictured left ca. 1930) probably recorded this haunting melody in Athens in the early 1930s accompanied by Lambros Leondaridis on lyra. It is featured on The Rough Guide to Rebetika compilation.

The liner notes conclude that the song is a lullaby for an infant that has lost its mother in childbirth. That may very well be, but when I listen to the poignant lyrics, I am transported to the tragic scene that unfolded on the quais at Smyrna in late September 1922.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAs the city burned, tens of thousands of Greek and Armenian refugees fled to the waterfront to escape Atatürk’s army. Trapped between the flames and the sea, they cried out to the warships of the Great Powers anchored in the harbor who refused to grant them passage. Thousands perished. Mothers watched as their newborns starved or died of exposure. The elderly and infirmed soon met a similar fate.

The men were rounded up by the soldiers and either shot dead or sent to work on labor battalions in the Anatolian interior. Without the protection of their fathers and husbands, many of the women were raped and killed. Children watched in horror as their mothers and fathers were taken from them. It is these children that I think of when I hear this song. And it’s not just them. I think also of Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Darfur, and all the other places in the world where war has robbed children of their safety, their homes, their parents, and their innocence.

I feel as though I need to say a word or two in conclusion to my readers in Turkey, some of whom may be offended by what I have written here. It is not my desire to alienate you. However, in alluding to the horrific events that took place in Smyrna in 1922, I have told the story as I believe it happened and according to the firsthand accounts of eyewitnesses. If these things are difficult for us to hear, they were more difficult for those who experienced them. I have never denied, moreover, that during the fighting between the Greek army and Atatürk’s nationalist forces in Asia Minor in the years following the First World War, atrocities were committed on both sides.

Facing history takes courage. Anyone who reads this blog should have no difficulty recognizing that I myself am not the least bit romantic about America or her past (or Greece for that matter). I do not close my eyes to her blemishes and misdeeds when I learn of them, because to do otherwise is not only dishonest, but represents a perverse and distorted form of patriotism. That’s not for me. The truth matters, even when it’s harsh and unflattering.

I ask my Turkish friends to consider this: If I refuse to ignore my own country’s sins, how can I begin pretending for another country?

20 Comments:

Anonymous evangelia said...

yay! thank you sweetie..beautiful post as always.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous greg said...

This amane actually does relate to a child. The typical Ousak Nini was done that way. You should check out Haffouz Bourhan's version of this. It will make your hair stand on end.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always a treat reading your posts. You bringing something so alien to me so close. I'm Indian living in Singapore (4th generation) by ethnicity so I understand how you feel the need to constantly be reminded of your people, culture and history, living in a faraway land. Thank u!

1:58 AM  
Blogger Aethlos said...

wow, encyclopedic. LOVE IT!

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Mr drug rehab said...

Very good post Sandouri, keep up the good work!

4:51 PM  
Blogger castor said...

Thank you for this post! You express all that what I was feeling when I was a child, growing up in the debris of the ruins of bombed houses. Although I myself did not lose my parents - thank God! -I saw the sorrow of other children and their pain memorized deeply into my soul ... and this trauma will remain forever in my consciousness.

Great Rembetiko! Thanks, Dean!

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

I am so sorry to have to this so late. Firstly, to stick something so important as a sidenote under Rembetiko of the Month to me is cheap. Music should not be about politics of the sort that whores myths and legends out of our human past.

I am not Turkish. But I suggest people to read Arthur Marwick's "The nature of History" - to see when out human past becomes history that we interpret and add our own myths to.

This is not what really happened. It is a sad piece of history - unsubstatntiated, unverified and terribly one-sided.

The Greek army were not nationnalistic? Only Ataturk's army were nationalistic? It was not the case that the Greek army actually invaded those area that had hitherto been Otoman Turkish (on the instrıctions of the British) and began to ransack the remnants of a dying Empire?

How about Greece's human rights record for religious freedom?

How about teh Greek Orthodox religion only having survived the atrocities by the Romanizing of it by the Ottoman Empire's protection of it?

This was a terrible post - full of lies and onesided innuendoes. But it also goes to show, it doesn't matter how much one pretends - one always shows their true colours in the end.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

A viable definition of history, for those that study it, is the interpretation of our human past. The interpretation you gave of a certain episode in human history was, in my opinion, incorrect and hollow. Merely adding the addendum that "atrocities were committed on both sides" as though you have covered your back, and shown your objectivity is quite frankly only showing how you see Turkish casualty and loss of life as somehow less important or not on par.

Ataturk's forces were far from nationalistic. The Ottoman Empire had no notion of nationalism - whereas the Greeks and the megaloidea "The Great Idea" of reunited the old Ancient Greek Empire was alive and well - and still is. Ataturk had a very difficult time achieving his goal of trying to keep together as much of the Ottoman Empire as he could for the Turks - with the help of Kurds and other Turks that had been thrown out of Eastern Europe. Forcible evictions with great losses of life - yes of the rapes and the killings of Turkish babes as you so mention.

Turkish nationalism was forced upon them because of the Allied powers that came to carve up the old Ottoman Estate - there was little choice. Whereas teh Greek idea of nationalism and orthodoxy is so strong and fanatical - even religious freedom has been severely restricted in Greece. It has the most cases against it in the European court of Human Rights on this matter - though since 2002 it is getting better.

You should be more responsible and think before you write the type of brainwashing myths that I have myself firsthand witness in state schools in Greece. For far too long Turks have been dehumanised and made out to be people that are in denial.

Take some of your own advice. Face your own history. Do some independent research - or just stick to what you know - music.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Sotoris said...

Οι Έλληνες το κάνουν καλύτερα?

I just got the nod from my friend Matt on this post. I am a Greek living in the UK and I thought for what it's worth I'd add my tuppence.

Living with my family, I've been brought up on such Greek posturing and Hellene ideals like I've read here with my mum's breast milk.

I was taught that all Turks are Barbarians, there is no such race anyway, just a few that came from somewhere on horseback and why don't they have Greek atrefacts and antiquities like we do? I was brought up on these "firsthand accounts" of torture, too.

Then I grew up and decided to ask questions. I actually visted Turkey and spoke to Turkish people. I actually found out my own grandmother had been Turkish, but she had been raped by my grandfather and forced to change her religion (Greek Orthodox church has little conditions like that) and kept her origins a secret - until I found relations of hers in Izmir that had supposedly been "killed-tortured". Then I went to the Royal Academy of Arts that gave an exhibition entitled "Turks: A journey of a thousand years" and found out that they were infact a race - centuries old with artefacts all over the place.

And I learnt that for propaganda and re-writing history to suit our own agenda - Greeks are the best.

What I'm trying to say as before we as Greeks take up issue with Turks - we should look deeper into our own not so bright past. Or at least know what we're talking about.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

per Ataturk's nationalistic army comment: I like the way you amended the post after I made my complaints. Maybe instead of sticking to hearsay you should actually do your own research. You'd be amazed at what you'd find out.

And (in a private mail to me) trying to compare this to the dastardly events of the Holocaust is dispicable of Greeks and Armenians who are hijacking a true cause to further their own political motives. What can that be...why to sue a non existent Empire via a government they think should be vicariously liable and GET MONEY of course.

There are many differences between what happened to the Jewish minority in Hitler's Germany and all over Europe, and between the clashes of Greeks and Armenians with the Ottoman Empire and the Turks that fought for their independence and formed a republic. Also remember Jews had a very safe time in the Ottoman Empire, when the rest of Russia and Europe (not under Ottoman control) was lynching them in pogroms.

The Empire never killed due to race or creed. But for security of its borders and to quell uprisings. The same with Ataturk. He was fighting a war of independence from his view. Hitler was not fighting such a war. The comparisons (made to me in a private mail) are ludicrous, libelous and a horrible way to abuse real tragedy.

It also shows you don't really understand Rembetiko music, either. You have no sense of a time frame as you keep mixing up events in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century when you band Armenian and Greeks together.

Remebtiko music at its core is rememberance of home - using Ottoman motifs. Done as a way to remember home as the people Greece made fun of the way they spoke and food tastes - because they had become Turkicized throughout the years (there was a recent Greek film about this). You should distinguish that from the songs that the Greek war of independence sang.

...And How about all the Turkish casualties from that? Was that not a holocaust from their eyes?

You see - not everything is black and white.

Shame on you.

6:09 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

I will address Matthew's comments in an upcoming post. However, I think it should be pointed out that I made no revisions to this post based upon Matthew's comments. The post remains as originally uploaded prior to receiving comments.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

You are lying. I have made a copy of your old post and your new one now. YOU STATED THAT ATATURKS NATIONALISTIC ARMY and then removed the word. You can't make me out to be a lier.

I have proof.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Matt Weber said...

Firstly- I want to state I am hot-headed. I am passionate about things I believe in. But I don't lie. If I genuinely realise I'ce made a mistake I apologise. I do get hot-headed. I can't help it. When I see injustice like this - lies just spewd out like this for the sole purpose of dehumanising a race and written so blatantly in a fashion which is so WRONG - I get angry.

Firstly I made the accusation that my comments were not posted (in a private mail). But they were. For that mistake I apologise.

Secondly, I see the word nationalistic is still there. My mistake. However, I stand by what I said. Ataturk's army was filled with old the sons of the Old Empire, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, - and the Turks were bound not by any sense of "Turkish identity" yet - but by a sense of independence of keeping home rule for people from their province. Do your research.

There are many reasons why the events Armenian and Greek clashes with the Ottomans are different.

I list them:

The disputes were territorial not ideological or geneocidal. All the agreements and treaties signed after the Turkish war of Independence shows this. It was all about getting land back and/or sovereignty/independence from the Empire.

In over 400 years of Ottoman rule over Greeks- there were two times when the Empire troops attacked Greeks. 400 years=2 times note: in that period the Orthodox church which was nearly dying out from Roman rule thrived again. What about the other years? The Greeks were abused and hurt and assimilated far more under Roman rule, than Ottoman.

Two times being:

1. For the Greeks War of Independence - when the Greeks stopped paying taxes and again egged on by a British administration - rose up against their occupiers. It was like the Indian mutiny against the British rule in India. A movement that in effect pushed a wave of Turkish hatred through Europe - romanticisng these events as you have done. Byron even went and "fought" for the cause - though newly revealed papers show he died in constantinople from a disease he caught by having sexual relations with a Greek koçek dancer.

2. For the Turkish war of independence - after the Empire collapsed - again on the behest of the British administration - the Greeks this time entered Ottman soil to try and regain cities once in the Byzantium Empire that the Ottomans had effectively ended. It was during these clashes for the sovereignty of Izmir, Istanbul, Edirne and others that these casualties happened.

These were war atrocities on both sides - yes civillians got in the way sadly - but NOT geneocidal and cannot be compared with the situation of the Jews. The German Jews were Germans and did not want to take over Germany or put it up for sale and divide it as the spoils of war.

The real blame for these casualties (as with most disputes of this kind) lie with the polticans and rulers of the day - which Ataturk was also fighting against. He was fighting two wars - within and without.

Ataturk was a soldier and a statesman who was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by his Greek counterpart at that time. Embarassed twice by Ataturk - once at Galipoil and then at the Turkish War of Independence - even Churchill was big enough to give the man a moving eulogy - almost as moving as the one Ataturk gave to the Australian and British fallen at Galipoli. "Your children who have fallen so bravely are now our children, sleeping in the bosom of our soil." The Anzacs still quote Ataturk's letter at celebrations.

After Ataturk re-captured Izmir from the Greeks in the early twentieth century, the soldiers wanted to march over the Greek flag as the invading Greek troops had done over the Turkish islmaic symbols upon arriving. But Ataturk refused this, stating that the symobols of every free and democratic state must be respected.

There are two sides to every story.

And I can't wait to hear how you are going to bring up this argument. Go research - go ask - but here's the advice. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH TOO. I'm here I'll be ready to answer all the points you'll raise.

Not that it matters, but I am a German Jew and I get very hot-headed when I hear this type of "perverse nationalistic" writings because I believe that today people are trying to do to the Turks what they did to Jews in the 1940s. To stereotype them - "My turkish friends who read this" to dehumanise them, to attach to them things that were not their fault or out of their control - and to take things out of context.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous evangelia said...

matthew-
my initial impression upon reading this post was that the author was describing the specific events occuring in smyrna in late september of 1922. after reading your comments, i became confused as you made references to issues that were entirely out of the blog's scope, such as:
1. greece's human rights record for religious freedom,
2. the greek orthodox church's indebtedness to the ottoman empire, and
3. the nature of public education in greece.

just to make sure, i went back and reread the blog, but sure enough, the author made no allusions to any of these issues. he simply mourned the devastation of a great city, expressed empathy for the orphans of the world's conflicts, and called on the turkish government to acknowledge the events on september 1922.

you obviously feel the need to express vehement disagreement with the author. so, i ask you, with which of his statements do you disagree? That tremendous suffering was visited upon the greek civilians of smyrna in september 1922, or that the turkish government has failed to acknowledge this suffering? if you take issue with either of this simple statements, i suggest that you are as biased as you claim this blog's author is.

finally, as a descendant of ethnic greeks from asia minor whose property and land was forcibly taken from them, i take EXTREME offense at your allegation that greeks and armenians who strive to publicly recognize these personal experiences are out to "further their own political motives" ot "GET MONEY". how dare you? shame on YOU.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Matt Weber said...

Let me help you out in your confusion:

References to issues that were entirely out of the blog's scope, such as:
1. greece's human rights record for religious freedom,
2. the greek orthodox church's indebtedness to the ottoman empire, and
3. the nature of public education in greece.

Was not - it was to put things into context.

Secondly:

The "specific events" occuring in smyrna in late september of 1922. There was no devastation of a great city - the city is still there and is still great. There was a disapora of people due to territorial and polticial reasons - NOT genocidal. because in 1922 teh Greeks attacked a dying Empire trying to loot back land that hadn't been theirs for over 500 years or so. When Greece acknowledges its past then when there is two-sided acceptance can reconciliation begin.

I call on Greece and people like you to wake up, and to stop using your "grief" as a way to pothole Turkey and its people as something lower than yourself.

When I write greeks and armenians who strive to publicly recognize these personal experiences are out to "further their own political motives" ot "GET MONEY". how dare I? No shame on YOU. Because just look at teh recent AXA insurance claims cases for the Armenians - and how everytime Turkey's accession into the EU crops up these barriers are put forward - though these were hardly thrown at Greeks with their terrible human rights record when they entered...

you see - THAT was the whole point. To show double standards.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

Until I have time to compose a post addressing some of the issues raised by Matthew, I hope that my more rational, calmer, and less hot-tempered readers will see that in spite of what I have said about the atrocities committed by the Turkish army in September 1922, I have not at any time made sweeping generalizations that attempt to dehumanize or villify the Turkish people. Such generalizations are rightly condemned, but it should be clear that they are entirely absent from my blog, in spite of what Matthew wishes to project onto my writing.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous evangelia said...

matthew..
you didn't answer my question.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

I did answer your question.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the comments, especıally the ones by Matthew. He expresses his own opinion free of passions. Well done for him. However:
1-Being from the same family with Grigoris Asikis(brother of my grandpa) who wrote the song.
2-Having been born and lived in Istanbul, Turkey and
3-Knowing the history of the Ottoman Empire as I was thought at school.

I say to him that he speaks in haste as he does not have even the slightest picture of what happened at the area. In order to have a proper conversation with him, it would be much useful to know his background, his origin.
His major mistake is that he is unaware of the fact that the Milliyets during the Ottoman rule were 4. The Muslims, the Rums(all Orthodoxs), the Latins(Catholic Chsistians) and the Jews. Never in the Empire was the word Turk in use untill the foundation of the Neo-Turks, a subsidiary of a mighty and strong organisation whose name I do not wish to spell. Kemal himself was not a Mongol in his origin. He was what the Ottomans used to call -donme-, which means that his family was of Jewish origin and later converted to Muslims.
I invite Mathew to study the events of September 1959 which took place in Istanbul, which resulted to the hanging of Menderes. He can have a better picture of the so-called Turks of the 20th century.
Last but not least I will ask him the question, that if the so-called Turks are so gentle, civilised and loving, why the hell the Greeks that remained in Istanbul after the exchange of populations and numbered 200.000 at 1922 have declined to a number of 3000 only in 2008. One of the ones who left being me......
I am an Italian by father's side, Greek from mother's side, and my religion is philosophy, love of humans and freedom.
I hope dear friend Matthew will be so kind as to expose his race and religion to all of us, as well.
Best regards.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a huge catastrophy that happened in Smyrna on that mid September 1922. Not only the city but the whole hinterland providing the wealth to the once pearl of Agean city was destroyed preventing all hope of recovery of the city at short or middle term. The fact that it followed many atrocities committed in Asia Minor by Greek army does not change the fact that civilian Christian population of Smyrna suffered badly and finally had to leave their homeland forever. Most were simple Ottoman citizens, breadwinners who found themselves in the position of betrayers and persecuted even though they remained neutral in the conflict. This marked the real end of Ottoman Empire based on tolerance and solidarity between populations of different origins. British intelligence managed to ruin the foundations of Ottoman Empire and made a good practice for what would happen in India later. My sympathy goes to all those who perished on both sides. May them rest in peace.

4:43 PM  

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