by Roderick Conway Morris

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Hashish smokers and musicians arrested by the Greek Police (c. 1930)
Far left: baglamas; second right: tzoura

Greek Cafe Music

By Roderick Conway Morris
July 1981


I The Origins of Greek Café Music

During the second half of the nineteenth century there emerged in the sea ports of Western Asia Minor and the Aegean a distinctive form of Greek urban popular music. It was the product of the lower levels of Greek speaking society and flourished in the haunts of the criminal underworld - hashish and gambling dens, cheap wine shops, brothels and low class musical cafés - and amongst the humblest participants in commercial life: sailors, fishermen, workers in the meat, vegetable and fish markets, stevedores, small café owners and traders. The musical institutions where this music could be heard ranged from makeshift hashish dens to somewhat better appointed but, in terms of clientele, hardly more socially elevated oriental café-chantants.

Musical entertainment and displays of dancing were already well established features of the taverns and cafés of the Ottoman Empire by the seventeenth century. The entertainers themselves were usually Greeks, Armenian, Jews or Gypsies rather than Turks; the Turkish traveller and writer, Evliya çelebi, in his Seyahatname gives an exhaustive account of these popular musicians and dancers as they appeared in the great procession of the trade guilds of Istanbul held for Sultan Murad IV in 1638. The dancing boys alone are numbered at 5,705 [1]. Foreign travellers and residents in the Near East provide many descriptions of the music and dancing boys in the taverns and cafés of Asia Minor and Istanbul, and often draw attention to the dominant role played by Greek performers. As Pouqueville, for example, writes:

'In the taverns, of which there are an infinite number in the capital of the true believers, there are commonly a sort of dancers called yamakis. They are Greeks from the islands of the Archipelago, elegantly dressed, with bracelets and necklaces of precious stones, and with very rich shawls. They have long flowing hair, are perfumed with essences, and highly rouged. The indolent Turks are extremely fond of these dancers: they encourage them by large presents of money: and each fixing upon a favourite, they will often finish even by fighting to maintain the superiority of such and such a yamaki. The guard then interposes, and separates the combatants by rolling the empty barrels in among them; for the barrels and the drinkers are pell-mell together in the same place. After this the tavern is shut up, and the master cannot obtain permission to open again without paying some piastres.' [2]

Indeed the frequent rioting resulting from the inflamed passions and rivalries among the spectators at the displays of the dancing boys in public places often necessitated the intervention of the authorities and even the Sultan himself [3], and finally led to a decree banning their performances altogether [4].

During the nineteenth century, dancing girls (Turkish; cengi) who, in keeping with the Muslim practice of restricting the appearance of women in public, had for the most part previously performed at private gatherings, began to perform more openly, although once again the dancers were usually Greeks or Armenians. Along with other general changes in social conditions another factor which rendered it acceptable for women to appear in public in this manner was their inclusion in the tulâat (improvised popular theatre acted on a small stage) and in a kind of musical interlude, called kanto, in which female singers performed songs, dancing and enacting the words with appropriate gestures. This new form of popular theatre which began to displace the traditional ortaoyunu, (improvised folk theatre in the round) seems itself to have elements derived from the French and Italian café-chantants which were occasionally set up in Turkey by visiting European troupes of entertainers in the late nineteenth century.

Therefore, we can see that by the 1870s the old style of café and tavern performance, with dancing boys in the centre of the floor and musicians among them or to one side, has given way to women dancing and singing (often on a small raised platform called a palko) at one end of the room, with the musicians behind them.

The music in these establishments was, like the music which accompanied the dancing boys, ala turka: that is, music based on the makam system of Turkish classical music (as opposed to ala franka, European or European style music). Equally, the repertoire consisted of Turkish songs and dances, although when these cafés were established in the midst of an almost exclusively Greek population, there was a tendency to introduce Greek lyrics into the Turkish songs, without, however, altering the ala turka nature of the music and to include a number of Greek island and mainland 'demotic' pieces.

In Greece itself these cafés acquired the name café-aman, probably because of the frequent occurrence of the word aman (alas! mercy!) in the Turkish songs which were their distinctive hallmark, but possibly, as Vikelas suggests, in order to distinguish them from the café-chantants where Western style music was played: 'on voit sur la scène une troupe de caféaman, comme on dit pour le distinguer du caféchantant. C'est un concert de musique turque, entremêlé de ballets egalement turque.' [5] Vikelas witnessed this touring café-aman company in Pirgos during the 1880s, but there appears to have been a permanent café-aman in Athens at least as early as 1874 [6]. These musical establishments became very numerous in Greece after the defeat of the Greek invasion of Turkey of 1919 and the subsequent exchange of populations after 1922 when some 1.5 million Asia Minor Greek refugees came to Greece. Indeed, with some notable exceptions, Asia Minor Greek musicians proceeded to dominate the urban popular musical scene in mainland Greece for the following two decades.

Although the café-aman was a favourite resort of prostitutes and ruffians and was frequented by the lower strata of society generally, there were a number of more strictly cabalistic criminal venues which fostered their own branch of Greek urban music and song. This music - usually referred to nowadays as rebetika - drew upon and contributed to the the café-aman, but retained a number of distinctive features. This type of musical expression was especially the product of the hashish dens (tekke) and the prisons: the connection between the two institutions being very effectively kept alive by the fact of the habitués of the former frequently becoming inmates of the latter.

In both Greece and Turkey smoking hashish was an established communal urban low-life activity usually accompanied by music, played on a baglamas or bouzouki, and song, often consisting of a series of improvised or semi-improvised couplets. The baglamas or the bouzouki could also provide diverting interludes of instrumental improvisation (taximi), or offer musical accompaniment for dance. Similarly music and hashish smoking were a regular feature of prison life encouraged by the enforced idleness, communal life style and lack of supervision of the inmates. The nexus between hashish music and prison music is attested not least by the blending of hashish and prison motifs in many of these low-life songs.

II The Music

The principle of composition and performance in Greek café music was the Turkish makam which itself derives substantially from the Arabo-Persian musical system. In outline, the makam (p1. makamlar) provides the musician with a melodic framework for both improvisation in free time and rhythmic composition, and consists of a prescribed starting note, an ascending and descending scale with certain distinctive melodic contours and particular notes which should be emphasized. The makam, sometimes called the dromos (literally: road, way) by Greek musicians, finds its closest Western counterpart in the concept of mode in early European music. Whereas a number of café-aman musicians received some training in classical Turkish music which gave them a familiarity with a wide range of makamlar, most bouzouki players worked with a more restricted number.

The normal practice in performance, as in Turkish classical music, was to play a series of songs or instrumental pieces of the same makam in succession without intervals, usually prefaced by a passage of solo instrumental improvisation. When a new set of songs in another makam were introduced, they were once again preceded by a taximi in that makam. All the musicians would play the same melody in unison, but would add their own embellishments and individual ornamentation within the limits set by the melodic and rhythmic modes, so creating a heterophonous effect. Except in the case of the taximi – in free time – the rhythmic structure was provided by a rhythmic mode (usûl). Most of these consist of combinations of twos and threes, the nine rhythm, divided into various permutations, being particularly favoured. [7]

The vast majority of café musicians were completely unversed in Western musical notation and even when sheet music very occasionally exists from the period [8] it represents music composed in a makam transcribed into Western notation, rather than music composed according to European canons. Indeed, the entire concept of 'composition' in the context of café music is problematic. Firstly, the most prized form of purely instrumental creation was the taximi, in which the player would improvise within the melodic parameters set by the makam; here the act of improvisation constituted composition. Secondly, musicians drew upon a large stock of traditional melodies from tavern and musical café songs, folk tunes, Dervish and Turkish classical music. Naturally enough, the absence of fixed notation and the practice of extensive ornamentation during the performance encouraged variations and developments of the received material which formed the basis for 'new' compositions. Thus, before the advent of recorded sound, musical virtuosity and creativity in performance, especially in improvisation, were more highly esteemed than the claim to a particular composition.

With the beginning of commercial recording, however, the appearance of an author's or composer's name on a label of a disc became the source of previously unavailable financial and personal rewards. In fact the earlier recordings (c. 1905-1920) seldom bear a claim to composition of the music, but subsequently such a claim is more usual, although often it is unclear whether it refers to the music and/or the lyrics. Therefore, claims to the origination of music should be treated with some caution and scepticism.

Panayotis Toundas, for example, who was one of the most energetic promoters of Greek café music and a prodigious discoverer of musical talent, is frequently cited as the composer on the labels of discs recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. However, in many cases, where it has been possible to trace particular melodies to an earlier period, these turn out to be traditional Greek or Turkish tunes, hence revealing Toundas, in Western musical terms, as more an arranger than a composer. Moreover, a number of surviving musicians of the period bear witness to Toundas' practice of searching out traditional pieces and his dexterity at arranging them for the purpose of recording.

This brings us to the final obstacle in establishing the composer of any given piece preserved on disc. Whereas surviving musicians are a valuable source of information on the music, songs, personalities, and life style of the period, even allowing for the length of time which has elapsed, they frequently manifest distressing inability to be consistent or truthful. This derives from a number of motives – self-aggrandisement, partisanship and jealousy – and has caused a considerable amount of confusion and disagreement. It is not uncommon for two or three musicians to claim musical authorship for themselves or their friends for a single piece. In conclusion, bearing in mind the essentially traditional quality of the music and the practice of variation and improvisation in performance, even in those cases where it is possible to establish some responsibility for a composition, it still may not be an entirely individual composition in the Western sense.

L'Abbé Toderini, who resided in Istanbul in the late eighteenth century and took a scholarly and informed interest in the indigenous music both classical and popular, observed:

'La musique cultivée par les Grecs d'aujourd'hui à Constantinople, excepté la musique d'église et la romeque qui ne vaut pas grande chose, est de la musique toute turque.' [9] ('La romeque' refers to the syrtos/kalamatianos circle dance.) Similarly, a manuscript dating from the early nineteenth century recently discovered at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul records a number of popular songs in Greek, and above each is given the Turkish makam and usûl. So too the music of the late nineteenth century café-aman, with the exception of the Greek demotic pieces which found their way into the repertoire, still falls within the tradition of Turkish popular music.

However, as early as the beginning of the present century certain Western musical influences can be detected: as, for example, in the popularity of the Italian mandolin, the guitar and the accordion, which, being unable to reproduce microtones, are unsuitable for a proper rendering of certain makamlar. Nonetheless, this influence could be described as superficial and did not become radical until the third decade of the twentieth century when the creation of music based on the Turkish makamlar declined and with it the ability to improvise. An index of this process can be found in the rise to fame, as a popular urban musician and bouzouki player, of Vasilis Tsitsanis who was born in Trikala, a provincial town in central Greece, completed a high- school education, learnt to play Western music and European notation, had no links with low-life activities and was wholly ignorant of the makam system. Indeed, Tsitsanis has remarked that there are only two modes: major and minor.

III The Instruments

The instruments employed in the café-aman were those of the classical and popular urban Turkish ensembles. Collectively these were sometimes referred to in Turkish as incesaz or 'fine orchestra', denoting sophisticated chamber instruments as opposed to kabasa or 'crude orchestra', describing the rougher rural ensemble, usually consisting of davul and zurna. Greek musicians commonly referred to the former type of ensemble as the kombania, although the label of one of the discs in the BIRS [10] collection, Markos Melkon's Sakramento-Boston-Nea Yorki (BALKAN 822 A), describes the ensemble as psila organa, a literal translation of the Turkish incesaz. The primary instruments of the kombania were: the outi Turkish: ud), a short necked, unfretted plucked lute with five pairs of strings (and sometimes an additional single string); the kanonakj (Turkish: kanun), a board zither resembling a psaltery with some 26 courses of strings in sets of three, which is rested on the player's knees and plucked with two plectrums attached to the index fingers by rings; the sandouri (Turkish: santur), a trapezoidal-shaped dulcimer with some 24 courses of strings in sets of four, which is suspended from the player's neck and shoulders by a leather strap or rested on a table, and struck with two light wooden hammers tipped with cotton pads; the lyra (sometimes called by its Turkish name kemençe), a short-necked bowed lute with three strings which are stopped by placing the finger nails against the strings, rather than pressing them down onto the fingerboard as with the violin; the defi (Turkish: def), a circular frame drum with metal jingles, very similar to the tambourine; and the zilia (Turkish: zil), pairs of metal finger-cymbals attached to the thumbs and index fingers of each hand and struck together.

The lyra was very commonly replaced by the Western violin, and the outi was sometimes replaced by the cümbüs, which is strung and played in exactly the same way but has a metal, instead of wooden, resonator with a goat skin sound table and a longer neck than an outi. The kanonaki and the sandouri were never played in the same kombania. The two main percussion instruments - the defi and the zilia – were played exclusively by women, and the zilia particularly while dancing. The zilia were sometimes replaced by pairs of wooden spoons – koutalia – played like castanets. It is worthy of note that all the stringed instruments were capable of rendering makamlar with the correct microtones, either by virtue of the absence of frets on the fingerboard or the possession of a large number of strings which could be tuned to the given makam and plucked or struck open.

The characteristic instruments of the hashish dens and prisons were the bouzouki and its smaller relations: the tzoura (Turkish: cura), and the baglamas (like the Turkish baglama in form, but much smaller). The bouzouki is a long-necked lute with three pairs of strings played with a plectrum. At the beginning of this century it was still indistinguishable from the Turkish buzuk, with a carved wood or gourd bowl, moveable gut frets and wooden tuning pegs. However, latterly, the bouzouki's body has been carvel-built like a laouto or mandolin, and it has aquired fixed metal frets and metal machine tuning-heads. The tzoura has a very small carved wooden bowl, but a neck equal, or nearly equal, in length to that of a bouzouki, and the baglamas is a miniature version of the bouzouki.

These instruments were particularly favoured by hashish smokers and prisoners, not least because they are relatively cheap and simple to construct and repair; they can be played quietly in order to avoid attracting attention from outsiders; and they can easily be concealed. The periodic need for concealment arose from the strong associations which the bouzouki, tzoura and baglamas had with hashish smoking and the criminal underworld. This association led to the instruments themselves becoming a focus for police persecution in the 1930s and particularly during the Metaxas dictatorship after 1936. Greek police files of the period contain photographs of seized hookahs used by hashish smokers and confiscated musical instruments, side by side.' [11]

IV The Dances

Dance played an indispensable and integral role in Greek café music and, as the travellers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries observed, the Greeks stood out as being keen dancers, even in the Near East where it was so generally popular as a pastime. The dance which characterized the performances of both the dancing girls and the female singers in the café-aman was the tsiftetelli: this is a form of the belly dance found all over the Middle East. The term tsiftetelli derives from the Turkish term çiftetelli ('with double strings') since it was common for the lyra or violin player to tune two strings of his instrument together in order to enhance the undulating and wailing effect of the music to complement and encourage the erotic movements of the dancer.' [12]

The single most popular male dance, both in the café-aman and in the more exclusively criminal haunts, was the zeibekiko. This was originally a male martial dance, versions of which were performed throughout Western Asia Minor, but it was particularly identified with the irregular troops and brigands of the mountains of the Aydin-Izmir region – the Zeybeks. It was introduced to the Greeks through the large Greek population in Western Anatolia, especially in Izmir (Smyrna) and its environs, and its popularity in other Turkish cities with Greek communities outside the Anatolian region where it originated. The steps of the dance are for the most part improvised on a basic circling pattern, punctuated by the dancer's leaping, crouching, spinning and kneeling, and his striking the ground with the palms of his hands. As in the original martial version, it offers a fine opportunity for the dancer to display his physical prowess and agility; in addition, its loose, spontaneous form allows for highly idiosyncratic styles of performance and stimulates self-projection and expression. The zeibekiko was commonly danced in confined spaces – between the tables in small cafés and taverns, in hashish dens, in prison cells and, by sailors, on board ship – and, perhaps as a consequence, even when more space is available the dancer tends to move within a very restricted area of the floor. In its urban setting it became the dance par excellence of the mangas, the habitué of the criminal underworld and the self-conscious profligate who lived in defiance of the moral code of his society.

Whereas the zeibekiko was a solo dance – indeed, to step onto the floor while another man was dancing constituted a challenge to a fight - the second most popular male dance, the chasapiko, was danced by two or three men linked together with their arms over one another's shoulders. The chasapiko (Turkish: kasap - 'butcher') is reputed to have been the dance of the old butchers' trade guild in Istanbul and in its present form is clearly related to certain country dances still found in Northern Greece and Serbia. A number of Greek demotic dances were also sometimes performed in the café-aman, including dances where the couple face each other - the karsilamas and the ballos - and the pan-hellenic circular chain dances: the syrtos and the kalamatianos. However, these dances did not develop distinctive urban versions, as did the zeibekiko, chasapiko and tsiftetelli, and were of secondary importance in these non-rural milieux.

V The Songs

The songs of the Greek musical cafés embrace a wide range of subjects and occasions. The café-aman offered songs in praise of the mangas, alluring love songs spiced with sexual innuendo and, perhaps most common of all, complaints about the perversity of fate, faithless lovers, exile, poverty, drunkeness, drug addiction and the general injustice of life. Hashish and prison songs narrate events dramatic and inconsequential in the life of the underworld and sometimes consist of a string of tenuously connected or even totally unrelated couplets encapsulating protests, threats, banalities, jokes and whimsical flights of fancy. Others relate to activities such as the preparation of the hookah, lighting it and passing it round, drinking, the throwing of gambling dice, the playing of music and dancing. Others again derive from the provocative and mocking verses which used to be exchanged between pugilists and bravoes as a prelude to brawling.

The question of authorship of lyrics presents very much the same problems encountered in the attribution of particular pieces to a single composer. Performers drew upon a reservoir of traditional song material, poetic formulae and emotional clichés. It should also be remembered that it was the practice in performance to run one song into another without pause and that the singers, like the instrumentalists, did not subscribe to the notion of a fixed text. On the contrary, rather than attempting to give identical renderings of a particular song, they would deliberately change words and introduce whole verses from other songs for the sake of variety.

Nevertheless, the emergence of commercial sound-recording provided both the incentive for performers to claim authorship of existing traditional songs and to create variations of them and new songs based on their central themes to satisfy the demands of the recording companies. Consequently, as is the case with the music, claims to authorship have to be treated with care, and disputes between individuals and factions are even more common and vituperative than disagreements over melodic compositions.

Apart from the songs played to the different dance rhythms, one type of song in particular which was extremely popular in Turkish musical cafés and later introduced into the Greek repertoire is worthy of mention. Usually known among the Greeks as the amanes, this kind of song is the vocal equivalent of the instrumental taximi, consisting of virtuoso vocal improvisation in a particular makam. It is normally introduced by a short instrumental improvisation establishing the outline of the makam. Then one or more couplets are sung in free time beginning with, and extended and embroidered by frequent interpolations of, the word aman (alas! mercy!) and sometimes other Turkish words of similar import, such as meded (mercy! aid!) and yara (sorrow!). In most cases the singer pauses during the song and the leading musician plays a refrain or a passage of improvisation. The couplets cover many subjects, but usually they concern disappointed love or make generalized pessimistic statements on the impermanence of things and the helplessness of man in the face of destiny.

The Turkish word for this kind of song is gazel or manî. The Greek word amanes (an 'aman song') clearly derives from the frequent occurrence of the word aman in the song, but also has associations with the Turkish manî: indeed, the earlier gramophone record labels often describe such a song as a 'Greek Mane'.

VI The Commercial Recording of Greek Café Music

The fragmentary nature of the material documenting the commercial recording of Greek urban popular music makes it very difficult to date individual discs accurately. However, a certain amount of information can be extracted from sales catalogues, artists' recording sheets, advertisements and contemporary accounts; these, in conjunction with a number of key events in phonographic history, such as the replacement of the picture of the angel by the famous dog on the labels of the Gramophone Company discs in 1909 and the introduction of electric recording in 1925, provide an overall, if general, dating framework.

The first commercial recordings of Greek café music appear to have been made in Istanbul and Izmir during the early years of this century. Master copies were recorded locally by visiting engineers, the discs manufactured in England and Germany and then exported to the Near and Middle East. The prominent companies of this pioneer period were the Gramophone Company, Zonophone, Odeon and Orfeon, and their labels frequently bore the name of the recording locality. Recording of Greek music also commenced in the USA around this time, probably c. 1910. Victor produced separate catalogues of Greek discs from at least as early as 1913 and Columbia (USA) from at least as early as 1915. Recording in Greece itself did not commence until c. 1920. The recordings were still made in temporary studios including a room in the hotel 'Tourist' and 'The German Club' in Athens and the masters sent to Europe for manufacture. Purpose-built studios and a factory were finally set up in 1930 at Rizoupolis on the outskirts of Athens. Although constructed by Columbia, they were used by all the companies recording in Greece, including Odeon, HMV, Parlophone and Decca.

Meanwhile, the 1920s and 1930s were a period of great activity in the recording of Greek popular music in the USA. Established companies continued to add Greek discs to their lists in increasing quantities. New labels such as Kaliphon, Kaliphone, Metropolitan and Orthophonic (Victor) appeared specifically for Greek and Turkish music; even some personal labels emerged: for example, Gadinis for Kostas Gadinis and his ensemble, and Virginia for Virginia Mangidou. Whereas the lyrics on discs recorded in America never appear to have been subject to any kind of official control, in Greece itself Metaxas introduced strict censorship in 1936. References to hashish and low-life activities, and sexual innuendo were banned. Equally, Turkish songs and ala turka music generally were discouraged as undesirable alien imports. Thus, both the café-aman musicians and the bouzouki players suffered severe restrictions which affected not only their personal fortunes but also the ultimate survival of the genre.

VII The Collection at the BIRS

Despite its modest size the BIRS collection of 78 rpm recordings of Greek café music gives a remarkably balanced picture of the range of discs made from the earliest days of the commercial recording of Greek café music at the beginning of the present century up until the years following the Second World War when the tradition lost its vitality. Fortunately, most of the discs are in good condition.

The music of the café-aman is very well represented. There are fifteen songs by the most celebrated female singer of the l920s and 1930s in Greece, Roza Eskenazi, including her first disc Liii i skandaijara. Roza Eskenazi began her career as a dancing girl in the café-aman, where she was discovered by the musician and entrepreneur Panayotis Toundas. Second only to Roza Eskenazi in the period was another Toundas protegée, Rita Abatzi. There are eleven pieces sung by her in the collection, including two of her best-known recordings, one on the theme of reluctant emigration, Mi me stelnis mana stin Ameriki, the other a hashish song, Ta chanoumakia. Most of the important male café-aman vocalists also appear: Andonis Diamandidis, G. Kavouras, Spyros Peristeris, Stellakis Perpiniadis, Kostas Roukounas and, along with Roza Eskenazi on O Mylonas, Kostas Marselos. These discs also bear witness to the virtuosity and inventiveness of the café-aman instrumentalists; notably, the outi player Agapios Tomboulis, the lyra player Lambros Leondaridis and the most renowned Greek ala turka violinist, Dimitrios Semsis, who is also represented by four classic purely instrumental pieces. In addition, there are some fine examples of the amanes by Roza Eskenazi, Marika Papagika, Lefteris Menemenlis and Tsanakas.

Perhaps the most interesting single feature of the collection is the extensive number of discs made in America by Greek emigrants from Asia Minor and Greece. These include the female vocalists Viktoria Chazan, Virginia Mangidou, Amalia Matsa and the supremely gifted and much recorded Marika Papagika. As for male vocalists and instrumentalists, we have the Armenian outi player Markos Melkon (who, like some of the other performers, recorded songs in both Greek and Turkish), the Kostas Gadinis ensemble, the Cretan lyra player Charilaos Piperakis and the guitar player and singer Georgios Katsaros. Unfortunately, with the exception of Charilaos Piperakis, no reliable biographical information has yet come to light regarding any of these musicians.

Georgios Katsaros exercises a peculiar fascination over scholars of Greek urban music, not only because of his highly idiosyncratic and engaging vocal and instrumental style but also the breadth of his repertoire, which embraces hashish songs – Chthes to vradi stou Karipi, Dervisaki, Mes' tou Manthou ton tekke and Pou pas Memeti – and Italian-style kantades, such as Ean den isouna kakia and Mana moji eimai fthisikos. The collection contains a substantial proportion of the known Katsaros recordings, most of which are in virtually mint condition. Finally, there are a number of interesting discs of the bouzouki as played by the most famous 'Piraeus-style' musician, Markos Vamvakaris - Mi me peismatoneis and O Yannis o koumbaros - and by the post Second World War popular rebetiko exponents, Vasilis Tsitsanis (accompanying loanna Georgakopoulou) and Nikos Pourpourakis.


1 Evliya Efendi Narrative of Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa trans. Joseph von Hammer London 1846 pp 240-241

2 Pouqueville, MD Travels in the Morea, Albania and other parts of the Ottoman Empire London 1813 p 290

3 Tott, Baron de Memoires of Baron de Tott vol II London 1785 p 132

4 And, Metin Turkish Dancing Ankara 1976

5 Vikelas, D De Nikopolis a Olympie. Lettres a un ami Paris 1885 p 247

6 Stasinopoulos, K 1 Athina tou perasmenou aiona Athens 1963 p 117

7 In the Greek repertoire for example: vari zeibekiko (2 + 2 + 2 + 3), aptaliko zeibekiko (3 + 2 + 2 + 2) and karsilamas (2 + 3 + 2 + 2)

8 There are some examples in the Ilias Petropoulos archive in the Gennadeion Library, Athens; eg mss 1400-A, 1400-B, 1401-A, 1401-B

9 Toderini, L'Abbé De la litterature des Turcs Paris 1789 p 224

10 British Institute of Recorded Sound, since 1983 part of the British Library Sound Archive

11 Stringaris, MG Hasis Athens 1964 Plate III

12 Mazaraki, Despoina To Laiko Kiarino stin Ellada Athens 1959 p49

Glossary of Terms and Instruments

ala turkaPopular urban music based on the makam system of Turkish classical music
amanesA piece of vocal improvisation adorned and extended by the word aman (see V)
AkorndeonWestern accordion
AndikrystoAnother name for karsilamas dance
baglamasLong-necked plucked lute (see III)
ballosFacing couple dance in duple time; particularly popular in the Aegean islands
bouzoukiLong-necked plucked lute (see III)
café-amanCafé offering ala turka musical entertainment
chasapikoMale line dance in duple time
DaouliLarge double headed cylindrical drum
DarabukaSee toumbeleki
defiCircular wooden frame drum with metal jingles (very similar to Western tambourine)
DromosGreek term for makam (Lit 'road', 'way')
GazelOriginally a love poem, but also used as a synonym for amanes, especially when the lyrics are in Turkish
kalamatianosCircular chain dance for men and women in 7 time
KanonakiPlucked board zither (see III)
karsilamasFacing couple dance in 7 or 9 time
koutaliaWooden or metal spoons struck together in pairs
LaoutoLong-necked fretted lute, with 4 pairs of strings, plucked with a goose feather plectrum. Although widespread in rural areas, it rarely appears in urban ensembles
lyraShort-necked, bowed lute with 3 strings (see III)
makam(See II)
MandolaLarge mandolin
ManesSee amanes
mangasAn urban ruffian, spiv, habitué of the criminal underworld
MinoreAn amanes where the Western minor scale is employed as a base for vocal improvisation
outiShort-necked plucked lute (see III)
rebetikaThe type of music and song favoured by the rebetis
RebetisAn urban ruffian (or man gas)
sandouriBoard zither struck with small hammers (see III)
SazTurkish term denoting any plucked stringed instrument, but particularly with reference to the family of long-necked Turkish lutes
SoustaFacing couple dance in duple time; particularly popular in the Aegean islands
syrtosCircular chain dance for men and women in duple time; danced in various forms throughout the Greek speaking world
taximi (Turkish: taksim) Instrumental solo in free time improvised within the framework of a specific makam
ToumbelekiHourglass drum made of brass or clay with goatskin stretched across one end
TsamikoMale chain dance in 6 time
tsiftetelliBelly dance (see IV)
UdSee outi
VioliWestern violin
zeibekikoMale dance in 9 time (see IV)
ziliaFinger cymbals (see III)


I should like to thank Dr Stathis Gauntlett of the University of Melbourne, Dr Hector Catling of the British School of Athens, Markos Dragoumis of the Institute at Asia Minor Studies, Mr Theodore Petrides and Mr Yannis Soulis of Athens, Professor V L Ménage and Dr Margaret Bainbridge of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, for their generous help and encouragement.

First published in Recorded Sound, July 1981

First published: Recorded Sound

© Roderick Conway Morris 1975-2023