Wednesday, September 13

Rembetiko of the Month

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Αμάν,
Κρυφή πληγή αδύνατόν νά λάβει σωτηρία
γιατί σ’αυτήν τήν συμφορά εσύ είσαι η αιτία.
Αμάν.

Aman.
A secret wound can never heal
because you are the cause of this calamity.
Aman.

The singer of this αμανές (a-man-ESS) set in Smyrnaïc Minor is Marika Frandzeskopoulou (1898 – ?), otherwise known as “Marika Politissa” (pictured right). The designation of “politissa” refers to a woman from Constantinople (Istanbul).

Lambros Leondaridis plays the lyra accompanied by an unknown oud or mandola. This recording was made by Polydor in Athens ca. 1931/2. Its sound and style are very characteristic of the Rembetika songs from Smyrna of which Frandzeskopoulou recorded many in Athens in the 1930s.

I chose this particular αμανές to accompany the attached photo-montage, which consists primarily of pictures taken during and after the burning of Smyrna in September 1922 because, to me, it is not bluesy (or sexy) like many other αμανέδες, but terrifying. It conveys not so much longing, as it does horror and distress. It is a lament, a dirge. It is heart-breaking and it’s one of my favorites.

It is as if Constantinople were crying for her sister Smyrna.

Recommended Listening:
Women of Rembetika

16 Comments:

Anonymous Matthew Weber said...

How interesting that people like to play with propaganda. Let me reply to the postcript:

AY: I stand by my statements about the massacre of Greek and Armenian civilians by Atatürk’s army (under the command of Nureddin Pasha) in September 1922. Others may dismiss these events as myths and lies, but I cannot and will not. In writing about them, moreover, my concern is not with their offensiveness, but with their veracity.

ME: If that was the case - you would report them within context and with some background knowledge of history. You keep calling it Ataturk's army - as though wanting to impress something. The choice of words is interesting - but it wasn't Ataturk's army. It was his war in that he was stirring up a movement to get independence from the marauding Greeks that came to loot the remnants of a dying Empire. But that army wasn't fighting in his name but in the name of their own sovereignty. They did not want to come under Greek rule - Ataturk was the catalyst for that. And as I say - he wasn't wanted by many. The religious fascists tried many times to assasinate him. There were many military pasas - to which Ataturk (and he got this name afterwards by the way - it isn't his real name- it is a title) or more correctly Mustafa Kemal Pasa belonged. That division wasn't under his control.

YL: I believe the accounts of atrocities committed by the Turkish army in Smyrna to be true. I assess their veracity using the same criteria used by historians in writing about any past event.

ME: Oh the guy has NOW become a historian. Let's see how he argues this one. And boy if true historians were like you - usuaing such romantic language and adding it to some unreleated song (as you yourself said) the history books would be sorely subjective. Mixing art and history is myth-making didn't you know that?

YL: Greek and Armenian eyewitnesses who survived the massacre along with American diplomats and missionaries and other foreign observers all attest to the murder of Greek and Armenian civilians in Smyrna, with news dispatches from the destroyed city estimating the number of dead at over 100,000.

ME: This number has been contested many times. And if I may say - from 100,000 to 30,000 is a big drop. Source and fact collection in those days, and the bias accounts (to dehumanise an dpaint Turks worse than they really are) was strife back then. I can and do NOT dismiss but treat with UTMOSt caution most of those accounts (as other histırians do) for bias.

You must realise Greeks (though not to generalise) are a fanatical race - when it comes to religion and hatred. They believe in angels that killed Turks, romanticising in myths and legends, and decades of bringing up children on lyllabyes that sing of growing up to kill Turks. It is inbred in them.

YL: It should be noted that these events, along with the larger persecution of the Ottoman Empire’s Greek and Armenian subjects that took place between 1914 and 1922, are contested by the Turkish government, but that is not a compelling reason for me to conclude that they did not take place.

ME: It was not racical perscution - though you wish to paint it that way. IT WAS TO PROTECT THEIR BORDERS and QUELL UPRISINGS. These people lived in the Ottoman Empire for 400 500 years - the years you mention are not even one third of one of teh longest running empires in world history. AND it was in a babaric time when such uprisings were crushed this way. Compare it with other world empires and then see. You keep trying to see it from a modern perspective - from a modern perspective capturing slaves and sticking them in arenas to be mauled by lions wasn't very nice - but we in teh West have romanticsed that. We see things blinded by racial and religious prejudice. Before others start saying I have gone off tangent - I am giving other examples to show a point.

Simply put: This wasn't geneocidal persecution or racial persecution. It was an Empire - and then in the early twentieth century - the remnants of that Empire trying to save and recapture what it was about to lose. For the Greeks - and waiting behind them the French, Italian and British, were waiting to divide up the spoils of war - had the Greeks been successful.

YL: Moreover, to justify these atrocities on the grounds that the Greek army had invaded and occupied the west coast of Asia Minor beginning in 1919 constitutes moral myopia.

ME: Shall I tell you what constitutes moral myopia? To say that in short that "oh yes of course Turks were massacred too but ours were much bigger - na-na-na" That is so childish and so ignorant. Death is death - the numbers do not make it any less the more tragic. But the difference between the massacres is this. The Smyrna incident was in retaliation (however Aman Yalan wants to play with history) to uprisings - Greek inhabitants brought up on years of whispered "Constatin lost constatinople and another one will get it back again" felt compelled to help the marauding Greek troops invading the Ottman lands. But the Turks masscred weree NOT uprising anything. THEY WERE SIMPLY KILLED IN RETALIATION AND FOR BEING TURKISH.

Get the difference? Safe to say the reason is more important than numbers.

YL: The tragic events that took place at Smyrna in September 1922 were but one episode in a series of violent acts committed against the Empire’s civilian populations (the Armenian genocide being part of this) between 1914 and 1922. In spite of the fact that these events are well documented, many Turkish politicians have demonstrated their unwillingness to acknowledge the deliberate killing of civilians by the Turkish armed forces during the Ottoman Empire’s final decades.

ME: You know we all know what a good Greek and Armenian lobby their is in Congress. I say again - take the complete span of the Ottoman Empire. Ask why in those years? It was an Empire protecting itself - like other empires have done before and since and even now (er hum America). Call it a blot on history - call it evil - to call it geneocide is ridiculous - because by its nature it wasn't. Had Armenians realised this - the events would have been recognised long ago - they trip up on this word.)

YL: I am not so easily pigeonholed.

ME: Hmmm.

YL: I think that Sotiris and Matthew also need to be reminded that not every Greek (or Greek American in my case) who talks about Smyrna and the atrocities committed by Atatürk’s army is a rabid Greek nationalist eager to defend Greece and dehumanize the Turkish people.

ME: Yes you talk teh talk - but as you blog shows - you don't walk the walk.

YL: However, one must be allowed—in fact, has a moral and ethical obligation—to condemn atrocities, both past and present, without being accused of racism or ethnocentrism, lest the world’s armies be granted the license to act with impunity against civilian populations. If atrocities disappear from our collective memory, we are more likely to repeat them.

ME: Absolutely- but neither is anyone an island or sexless or raceless. It is obvious that your viewpoint was created before study - and that you have been forced to think about it now an dtry and justify some of what you write.

Maybe you've learnt a valuable lesson.

Oh and by the way - I have at least twenty books - All British and American - actual historians of the Ottoman Era that I can send to you as a comparison and as an alternative to yours. None of them sponsorsed or printed by lobbyists and one-siders who wish to put their own version of history on us.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Sotos said...

I always thought it was ironic that Greeks who almost invented "nationalism" and "fascisim" have always been bent on portraying Turks as this - a race who only cottoned on to such a Western notion AFTER the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

The only hope this blogger has as I see it is to silently allow us to have our say, so as to look like the guy is is trying to portray. Because silencing us may just get people to start thinking.

As my name was mentioned I want to say a few more things.

Oh and before anyone says so what - I am just saying that there are always two sides to every story and not everything is black and white.

It was not just my family, it was the whole damn Greek community in London, and my whole village in Greece - in fact what I mention was the general consensus. It wasn't some exception as has tried to be made out here. I lived through it - I am still living it. I know.

As a gay Greek man and one who is seen as a "Turk lover" - a turkophile I was double damned in my parents eyes and that of the Othodox Church.

I was ostracised by my family and community for daring to speak out and "question" not only my sexuality but all the "lies" and "bedtime stories" I was told as a child to frighten me away from Turks.

You know what? I went with my Dutch bf to Athens and I was told by three different policemen to break holding hands. I went to Istanbul (Greeks still refuse to call it that even after 700 years) and no one blinked an eye. I went to the Cyprus Republic - I couldn't believe how backward they are with the homosexual issue. I went to the occupied North and no one gave a shit. There were gay bars out in the open and everyone doing their own thing. In the South there is only ONE and hidden away so you need about ten different maps to find it.

I am not and will refuse to be painted as some "exception". The only thing exceptional about me is that I speak out and tell the truth. There are hundreds of Greeks that think like me but can't break away from their conditioning (or give in to it) to say anything.

Here's an example: I have Greek Cypriot friends (these are Greeks x 1000 in attitude) who voted "yes" in the referendum and are now fearing persecution because they believe there is a list of who voted nai and who voted oxi. It probably just an urban legend - but such was the fear of most of the population - they couldn't get over their blind prejudices and this Turk thing to vote for peace.

We as Greeks need to get our rubbish, our hang ups, our problems sorted out before we start slinging the mud.

I used to read this blog as it was another Greek gay guy (like me I thought) who really saw things diffferently. I stopped for a bit - but once Matt notified me of this post - I won't read again.

This type of attitude just brings up too many bad memories for me - this type of mentality runs deep in my community and it is a disease. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Unless we can free ourselves of this - we can never study our past correctly.

11:09 AM  
Blogger castor said...

At the same time it's a great artistic document of the strong power of the Hellenic people to bear misery in distress but also in beauty and passion.
You have an old soul, Dean, your name should rather be Dimitrios, Damianos, or Dimos ...
A very emotive, staggering post!

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Steph Rothschild said...

What is Hellene? After interbreeding with Turks in control of Greece for 400 hundred years - makes Greeks such get their heads out of their asses and no that the biggest link bewteen them and the Ancients is a form of bastardry at the very best.

Thanks to the Ottoman Empire - Greeks and Eastern Europeans will one day have to face their common ancestry with the Turks - not doing so will only hold them back.

As I said before - but this blogger refuses to add my comments - Smyrna was ransacked by Greek soldiers who were pushed out of the city. Why would soldiers recapturing the city loot it?

And what about the Turkic people who were killed when the Greek troops invaded Izmir?

Of course no one cares about them?

What about the historical and factual innaccuracies in the post?

Of course we can pass those by...

Because you are a racist, elitist and arrogant person and so are probably 50% of yoru readers. It doesn't matter what the truth may be - people will always be blinded by their racial and religious preferences. Castor's remarks are proof of this.

But this post is also proof of the air of change - of the widening, ever widening gap between the Muslim and the Christian. With the Pope making such unfounded remarks against Islam recently, this is just another sign of these sorry times.

Of course "Hellenic" lives are far more worthy that Turkish ones...aren't they?

maybe you should re-evaluate your own country's violent past before you throw shit on other races.

5:57 PM  
Blogger gay super hero said...

Ok, let me jump in this debate here speaking as a non-nationalist, non-religious gay greek man living in Greece. While it is true that greeks are nationalist,non-critical when it comes to their national mythology and that sexual and religious minorities have a harder time here than in other EU nations (although that is relative if we consider the situation in new member countries like Poland and Latvia) to go completely overboard like Sotos and paint a picture of Turkey as a relative heaven of tolerance is just ridiculous. Greece's deficiencies when it comes to separating Church and State, xenophobia, chauvinism etc. are real and should be pointed out but the country still conforms, by and large, to the european norms when it comes to basic human rights and freedoms. Lamentably this is not the case in Turkey, where the army is universally venerated and politically all-powerful, there is a huge personality cult of Kemal Ataturk, honor killings of women and police torture are everyday incidents, conferences are cancelled because nationalists don't agree with their subject matter, writers put on trial because of the views expressed in their books, ethnic persecution of the Kurds is considered a national obligation...the list goes on and on. Let me also point out to dear Sotos that gay pride parades in Athens take place every year without incident, while the same event in Istanbul in 2003 was violently broken up by the police (as is the case with so many demonstrations in Turkey). This of course has nothing to do with vilifying the Turkish people which are, on average, friendlier and more hospitable than the Greeks - but equally nationalistic and even more religious in their world view.
As for the exhausting tirades of matthew they are nothing but fanaticism ad nauseam - fanaticism expressed in excruciating, often incomprehensible, english. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the injustices of the past - no matter the nationality of the victim- as Aman has done so touchingly. In fact it can be quite instructive. In the case of Greeks in Smyrna there was a massacre that may not constitute a genocide but that led nevertheless to the mass displacement of a whole people. Yes there were atrocities on the part of the greek army as well, but since when two wrongs make one right? You keep repeating that the turkish army only wanted to safeguard their country's integrity and quell uprisings, so it should not be blamed. On the other hand the greek army "only" wanted to bring areas inhabited by ethnic Greeks under Greek control. There was nothing ignoble about what either the Turks or the Greeks wanted at the time, they were both right in their point of view, it just so happened that their interests collided with tragic consequences. To paint a picture of the Greeks as a "fanatical race" (your words) and the Turks as innocent lambs to the slaughter or reach the point of denying the armenian genocide just proves that sobriety or any cool assessing of historical facts are just beyond you. You keep screaming about "lobbyists", "one-siders" and "bias" but that is only to deflect any one accusing you of the very same things.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous greg said...

Actually the pictures came out much clearer on this new service you've used.

Hope the trip was fruitful.

g

6:17 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

I figure it was only a matter of time before I got the equivalent of “I’m never reading this blog again” (in this case from Sotos). Such drama.

I’ve realized that all of these comments accusing me of saying things I have not actually said and calling me a racist and a Greek nationalist are a red herring. These readers feel that if they can discredit me by painting me as a racist who has condemned an entire race of people, then what I have said about the atrocities committed by the Turkish army in Smyrna can be dismissed. They are a not-so-clever distraction from the real issue, which is the veracity of what I have said, which can be easily (if not frightfully) demonstrated.

Part of the reason that I have posted their comments is that I am quite confident that my more sophisticated readers will realize that the criticisms leveled against me are unwarranted. I have acknowledged the Greek army’s atrocities in Asia Minor. I have also acknowledged Greece’s poor treatment of sexual minorities (though I hardly see its relevance to a discussion of Smyrna). What I have not done was to condemn the Turkish people or ever referred to them as barbarians.

That said, there are those who deserve the criticisms made by Matthew and Sotos. Were someone actually to say the things that they have accused me of saying, such criticisms would be warranted, though I would hope that they would be proffered with more skill and less shrill than has been demonstrated by either Matthew or Sotos in their comments here.

Moving on, I think that both Greece and Turkey have their own respective human rights issues to work out, and regarding sexual minorities, both have a pretty spotty record, though Gay Super Hero is right to point out some important differences. Moreover, I found it amusing that Sotos would have seen his experience with his boyfriend in northern Cyprus as representative of Turkey’s attitude toward and treatment of homosexuals. Perhaps the reason he and his boyfriend were left alone there is because Turkish men are accustomed to walking arm in arm and showing affection toward one another in public. In any event, recent events in Turkey have shown that the reality for GLBT people living there is not nearly as rosy as Sotos’ experience as a tourist in northern Cyprus.

Sotos was right about one thing, however. I am hopeless in the sense that there is not much hope that I will come to see the world as he does. However, he should know better than to think that calling me hopeless would have much of an effect. My own past experience with conservatives who have written me off as hopeless because I’m openly gay (or openly liberal) has made me immune to that kind of cheap personal attack. Clearly, he has adopted the methods of his own oppressors, and for that, I feel sorry for him.

Finally, in response to Stephanie’s comment, in which she asked why anyone capturing a city would want to loot it, I have to confess that I’m a bit dumbfounded. Everyone knows that in the entire history of the world, no army has ever engaged in looting after capturing a city… Right. Such a ridiculous statement makes me wonder if, well, she’s a bit slow perhaps. Frankly, I don’t know how she expects to be taken seriously.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

“You must realise Greeks (though not to generalise) are a fanatical race”

Interesting. Although Matthew has seemed very concerned about my nonexistent generalizations of the Turkish people, so far the only person to make a sweeping generalization condemning an entire race of people is he himself. Oh, but wait, that wasn’t really a generalization, because he said so in parenthesis. Good thing he added that little disclaimer. “I’m going to make a gross generalization but as long as I put in parentheses that it’s not a generalization, it’s OK.” I guess Matthew was too busy justifying the massacre of unarmed civilians to worry about how a statement condemning all Greeks as fanatics might sound.

Let’s just hope he never commands an army.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous g said...

You're all passionate about this, I'll give you that. However, where is discussion about the piece by Marika Politissa?

I would argue that Dean's comments are inaccurate about the piece. And here are my reasonings based on discography.

Marika Politissa had a very harsh voice. Take a listen to the song Sto Kafe Aman - both recorded by Marika Politissa and Roza Eskinazi. The same orchestration is used almost note for note yet the Roza version is far different because of her more refined voice. The same happens with Kammomatou, Tsakpina Smyrniopoula and Salvari tou Kiouroglou.

Now, in a discussion of amanedes - take the Tzivaeri Manes just for one, which was recorded by Dalgas (3 times), Nouros (3 times), Thomaidis, Karipis, Sofroniou, Arapakis, Roza (twice), Roukounas, Politissa, and I'm sure I've missed a few - I'm writing this without the benefit of my discography - and these are only this period of singers from 1926 through 1934. We're not even disucssing pre-1926 from the Smyrna recordings or the Virgina record from the late 1940's.

When you listen to all of these recordings, clearly the one that is having the most problems with the piece is Marika Politissa. You really have to be a student of the amane to catch it.

The women really were not famous for their amanedes simply because they were not recorded in great volume - again with the exception of Roza - for example, Rita Ambatzi, who recorded tons of songs, both rembetika and dimotika, only cut a handful of amanedes: Gazeli Neva Sambah, Sambah (the Columbia version), Galatiano, Garip Hetzaz, and the Ballos, which is certainly not Rita at her most comfortable - and I really can't think of any more that she did. Stavros Remoundos sings a similar version of that Ballos and you can absolutely hear the ease with which he sings it.

As for Marika Brousalou, really, there weren't that many amanedes that she cut - but there were quite a few songs.

While the pieces do sound "bluesy" or "sexy", you haven't even begun to touch the masterpieces in amanedes that were recorded........

So how about some comments on the piece for a change from all of you?

5:59 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

greg-
i'm not sure i follow you. while i don't contest your knowledge of rembetika, i do wonder what i've said that is inaccurate. the substance of your comment doesn't really address what i've said, which was quite brief actually.

my point that the sound and style of this amanes are very characteristic of the Rembetika songs from Smyrna is, generally speaking, a true statement. in the most general sense, it is representative of a particular style of singing that, to be sure, had many nuances and variations.

perhaps you meant it is inaccurate to say that marika politissa recorded "many" amanedes. i don't know the exact number, so perhaps i overstated the case. as for marika brousalia, i haven't even mentioned her in this post. neither did i discuss marika politissa’s technical skill in executing this particular amanes.

what you absolutely cannot contest, however, is a person's own very subjective reaction to this song. a person's response and perception of a particular work of art (in this case an amanes) is subjective. this song sounds less bluesy *to me*. it's not as sexy *to me* as other amanedes that i've heard. *to me*, it was terrifying. my observations were 100% accurate in that they described what i felt. on the contrary, it would be inaccurate to say that i was not terrified by this amanes or that i found it bluesy and sexy. i did not. i am by far the most qualified person to speak of what my personal reaction to this piece was. you are not. what you can speak accurately about is what *you* feel when *you* hear it.

that may not have been your reaction or your observation, but that doesn't make it wrong or inaccurate. there is simply not one correct way to respond to music. what arouses fear in one, might inspire joy in others. for example, germans celebrate wagner, while many jews loathe him.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. The aman is an extremely powerful example, regardless of the others that exist, and fitted the video like a glove.

2. The video was very well made, artistic, and accomplished its purpose - to depict the horror of human suffering. It doesn't matter which humans. If it were a Turkish or Iraqi or Vietnamese city suffering the same fate it would be equally disturbing to me. Anyone should be free to create a version from their history. It doesn't make a person who depicts the event a bigot or one-sided. The reasons for an event, and who is to blame for its causes don't change the event.

3. Under the Ottoman empire, Greece and the Balkans had an amazing wealth of folkculture and music; Slavs, Hellenes, Turks, Muslims, Albanians, Gypsies - all intermingled and enriched each other's music and culture. This whole region subsequently expelled populations, committed attrocities against populations, and lost diversity through nationalism and compartmentalisation; today, the existence of minorities in Greece is barely acknowledged and fraught with politics; the ideal is this homogenous Hellenic people. The culture becomes more monotone, just like a loss of biodiversity in an ecosystem.

4. At the end of the 19th century, Anatolia only had about 55% of its population strongly identifying as Turkish - obviously a big problem for the Empire. Drastic measures were required so that now, more than 80% of the population identifies as Turkish. The existence of minorities is politically charged. The result has been the same - greater cultural homogenisation for national stability.

5. In both Anatolia and Southern Europe, what folkculture wasn't lost by this homogenisation is now being destroyed wholesale by Westernisation. Unless you prefer a slice of McDonalds cheesecake to Kadayif we all have a common enemy! The light green frog with yellow spots and the light green frog with orange spots both boil at the same temperature in a pot of water on a fire thats getting hotter and hotter.... no matter how hard they fight each other.

So stop bickering!

... and enjoy the music from our common history which this man is bringing us. It may be sung in Greek but the scales are Ottoman, and originally Arabic.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

bravo, anonymous. i couldn't have said it better. thank you.

the population exchange deprived both greece and turkey of the diversity that had produced the rich and vibrant culture from which rembetika and so much else emerged. moreover, i firmly believe that diversity and mingling are natural. homogeneity is not.

i highly recommend crossing the aegean, a collection of essays exploring the origins and impact of the population exchange on both countries.

many of the essayists share a common viewpoint; namely, that the exchange was the only viable solution at the time, and yet its effects were devastating for both countries.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Cees said...

I agree with Anonymous. Nationalism caused the trouble in the Balkans and Turkey at the downfall of the Ottoman empire. Who brought nationalism to that part of the world with all its ethnic diversity? All the great powers of the western world. So who's to blame? Forget about it and enjoy the enormous richness of all the ethnic cultures of the Balkans and Turkey in music,dance and other art expressions of the people, regardless of religion, political directions, sexual behaviour or whatever. Be open-minded, experience, wonder and enjoy.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for example, germans celebrate wagner, while many jews loathe him."

Jews don't loathe wagner's music - they loathe his ideals - which were very similar to Greek/Hellene agnostics and that most of the world's troubles are based on today - nationalistic divisions between humans.

Even though, Wagner's operas have never been staged in the modern state of Israel, Theodore Herzl, a founder of modern Zionism, was an avid admirer of Wagner's work, and German orchestral conductor Hermann Levi, a practising Jew and son of a Rabbi, held Wagner in such adulation that he was asked to be a pallbearer at the composer's funeral.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

i said "many jews." i didn't say "[all] jews loathe him."

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're brilliant. You have songs on your blog that I would love to hear, and i'm a bit frustrated becuase your links don't work on my computer, but god those lyrics, I haven't cried this much in awhile. This is the epitemy of greek music, this is true pain god, thank you so much for this

12:03 AM  

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