Saturday, May 24, 2008
The etching you see is made by Takis Sideris and is one of those which decorated the first edition of Elias Petropoulos "Ρεμπέτικα τραγούδια" (Rebetiko songs), 1968. The painter has drawn an angel passing behind the musicians. Sideris was right. The Spanish talk about "duende", a demonic dark power which gets in the flamenco composers and singers and puts fire on them. A fire which imparts itself to the public. Myself, as a Greek, I see angels instead of duende. No matter if we believe or not in such creatures, I need something that can help me understand the demonic talent of the majority of rebetiko composers. I believe that they did not know how talented they were. I don't want to be misunderstood. I mean that Dimitris Atraidis, for example, was much greater as a composer and singer than what he possibly believed. I have the same opinion about Vasilis Tsitsanis, though he knew it since his youth. But he was much more talented than he believed.
I am talking about that power which forced some of them and turned them into life's onlookers. Something that took them away to other landscapes, tore at their bowels and gave them inspiration. Concerning angels, I am not talking about tender and dumpy small angels, like those on Renaissance paintings. I mean hard, stern Byzantine angels, like those who looked strictly at us from the decorated church walls when we were kids.
I am talking about creative angels who do not indulge and whom cannot cheat. Angels demanding your marrow instead of giving their grace.
I am talking about angels of different sorts, shapes and sizes. Small and frothy but even bulky and big as jet planes. Angels who can fly noiselessly through grass and others who can make the night look darker when they fly in front of the moon.
I am referring to dudes and tough angels with big mustaches, like those who held George Batis every time he came into the recording studio, trembling and "high" from smoking hash,
about angels carrying bellows instead of growing the fire which Markos Vamvakaris bore in his thorax,
about transparent angels blessing the voice of the moist and melancholic Stella Haskil, painting it with soft and smooth colours,
about crowds of angels and nightingales jostling one another inside Dalga's and Stratos Payoumidzis's throats,
about old aged angels, wet from sea water who stretched Marika Papagika's vocal cords so that original wax records get damaged,
about Asia Minor angels who blew in the voice of Vangelakis Sofroniou,
about the wooden figurhead angel who sunk in the waves of Dimitris Atraidis voice, when he sung Ousak Mane "How many enemies look like trustfy friends, with lips of sugar and a poisonous heart"...
about feminine, sensual angels who lifted on their wings Rita Abadzi's fragile voice and Roza Eskenazy's iron voice,
about twenty small angels sitting on the silver fingers of Stelios Chrysinis and Kostas Karipis ,
about two luminous angels living in Giannis Dragatsi's (Ogdontakis) and Dimitris Semsis's (Salonikios) violins,
about the ephemeral, sui generis and strict angel who was fluttering in Vangelis Papazoglou's proud heart, whispering "hurry upp, the chosen ones die faster",
about a Mount Athos angel who fought against Nouros's demonic duende,
about provincial angels who pushed Daisy Stavropoulou's masculine voice and Georgia Mittaki's weedy one,
about bronze angels who flew over and behind Stelios Keromytis motorbike which had a lot of small Greek flags,
about the colourful and demonic angel who held a semi-transparent veil between the world and the inaccessible Vasilis Tsitsanis plaguing and enlightening him and,
about so many other angels sitting on violins, ouds, cumbus, santouris, accordions, guitars, bouzoukis and the small baglamas.
Angels who burst out laughing at blockheaded dictators and other foolish human beings, angels who felt disgust when rebetiko started being false. At the end they could not carry on, they formed squadrons and flew away, expecting new and better times. They will come back to plague, turn on new lights and blow stormy winds of creation...