Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is this blog nostalgic?

Nostalgy is like praying to a dead tissue. Nostalgy comes without asking for a permission. I´m talking about nostalgy for things lying in a distant past, not about the island we visited last summer or a sunset, two years ago. The brain has its own laws. Every tenth(?) year it changes wide-angle and gets a new position. It changes its way to see at things, it works up in a new way. While we keep on running after chimeras it changes directions without giving a warning. It needs different states of mind, it refuses to do the same mistakes. It is another story if we realize all that. If we do, we mostly regard changes as worrying and dangerous signs. We think we´re getting old. The same opinion have people around us. "He/she´s gone", "he/she withdraws", they whisper to each other and they keep on running, get out of breath, fall into the same traps.

Nostalgy takes you out of life´s boxing match. The question is: is real life taking place inside or outside the boxing ring?

Nostalgy can fasten you on something so that you can´t get rid of it. You can end up in its mud and, no matter how much you struggle, it drives you downwards into a humid darkness.
This blog has nothing to do with such a nostalgies. This blog is about a return to the real truth, the one we used to put aside because we did not have the time to work through. It is about creative and charp nostalgies. About revenging and flaming nostalgies who start digging in the subconscious mind instead of exhuming precious memories who have been covered by unimportant and stupid expectations or useless hopes.

I´m talking about revolting and anarchic nostalgies, about big refusals. In the middle of all that, if some liquids will be flowing, reminding of tears, there is nothing to worry about. Tears are relaxive...

Monday, April 21, 2008

A film about manges? (1)

En explanation from the very beginning:
My posts about rebetiko are not defending criminality, in general. A propos, criminality... WHO IS THE ONE WHO CAN GIVE THE REAL AND SINCERE DEFINITION OF THE WORD CRIMINALITY? Are different people leading the intenational economy and serving gigantic companies more, or less criminal than a poor street thief? I'm not defending street thieves either. I'M DEFENDING THE REBETIKO MUSIC, THE COMPOSERS, THE MUSICIANS, THE SINGERS, for the way they described what they saw around them. I'M ALSO DEFENDING THE REAL MANGES OF THAT TIME AND OF ANY TIME!

The film "Athens apaches" (ca. 1950)

The film was based on an operereta of Giannis Prineas and Nikos Hadjiapostolou. It was very appreciated at that time and is still played(...) by older actors in different parts of Greece The story was typical. A young man and a woman fall in love and their adventures leading to a happy end. The picturesque part of the film is two "manges" (read clowns) who are playing the main roles. Now it is 2008 and a lot of people, especially young ones, are looking for information and, if possible, live scenes from the past, focusing on manges. The "danger" to be led by the nose into the wrong paths is obvious. The disposable material of Greek films is just a ridiculing and superficial "sallad" made by very cheap ingredients...

Απάχης, ισσα (hood, ruffian - slang, hoodlum) is explained as following in one of the most serious (but conservative and typically reactionary) Greek dictionaries:
1. person with an ubnormal behaviour and irregular activities (synon. criminal) 2. mortis (synon. mangas)[french apache]

Α film about manges? (2)

What do you know about Greek films? Very little, I suppose. "Zorba", "Never on Sunday", "Stella" (buy and see the second and the third, they give a good picture about rebetiko, no matter what jealous people say), some Angelopoulos, perhaps. There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of films produced since 1914 (even earlier), both comedies and dramas. About ten of them are really good. The rest is produced "for the people". Τhe Greek TV-Channels send continuously old films and people (even small children) adore them. I don't want to extend this post writing about the Greek filmography, even because I'm not a specialist. My point is to connect it to rebetiko. The Greek producers and directors knew nothing and understood much less about rebetiko. They joked with it and they made it seem ridiculous, until Tsitsanis and Chiotis came to the stage. They were too good to be ignored... They outlined the type of mangas in the most foolish way, they made him a clown. In other words they presented him according to the majority's belief. On the other hand we have to accept that this parody of mangas existed even in reality. Angeliki Papazoglou, with her blind eyes, has described them in the marvellous book where her son Giorgos Papazoglou published everything she had told him about the past. Here you can join a short fragment where she retells something a musician had told her:

"... You, good fellow...(said one of them who seemed to be the leader). You... you look sad...

He was talking with a low voice, toughly and roughly, as koutsavakia used to talk.

- Νο, you're wrong. Why would i be sad? Everything is OK...

-Τhat's it... Here we have a hotel with many stars.

- You don´t say...Where are the stars?

- Well...over there...Move a see?...Staaaars... a hotel with a lot of stars. But, I see why you're not in good mood. You are "hungry" and in need of hasch...come on...Take a snuff to be pleased, to make your liver be shaked... "... "And they asked each other all the time: Do you feeeeel it? Did you get the feeeeeling of it? Has the stink reached you?

"Ι kept on playing all night for them and they were doing a douhou...douhou...douhou... which had nothing to do with the rythm and, the leader told me: When we say douhou...douhou...douhou... you will shut your mooooouth, fellooooow...

- All right...I said, but it has nothing to do with the song and that makes me loose the tempo, when you do it in the middle of the song...OK, I see. I will just play the accompaniment and you can say as many douhou, douhou you feel like. I'm sorry, it's not easy for me. What kan I do?

- Υοu will just shut your moooouth. We're following the accompaniment, don't weeee? What do you mean in the middle of the sooooong? We're just coughiiiing...

Finally, I got the meaning . They were doing that sound, that douhou douhou, instead of hiding the sound of their coughing. So that nobody could understand that they're smoking hasch. And they kept on with that douhou, douhou... The daybreak came over there... it was the longest night of my life. I thought it would never come to an end. But they didn't harm me and then I left them"...

(to be continued)

A film about manges? (3)

Τhe film manuscript is naive, as usual, superficial and misleading. The two -so called- manges are two poor people "pretending" in a childish way, as usual, to be tough. They pretend to be koutsavakia and they are cowards. In the beginning of the film you can see them sitting in a small taverna "playing" a song which is not rebetiko but a cheap serenade. The content of the verses is though interesting. You can find similar texts in rebetiko songs. It is about that typical, though natural, attitude towards money. In some words, "I'm stone broke, but I don't give a dumn. A cloudless life and retsina means everything to me..." (concerning this matter and attitude, I'm going to write a post, as soon as possible) . The film was produced during the beginning of the 50's and the echo of the refugee problem was still actual. When one of the two "manges" inherits a rich uncle from Konstantinopel, all his "indifference" towards money is changing radically, and his behaviour too. This is a typical superior, bourgeois capitalistic and propagandistic point of view meaning, money is everything no matter if you pretend the opposite (unfortunately, partly, right).
the main reason of this post was Grigorakis Asikis, L. Leondaridis and A. Savvaidis. Three big musicians who are "participating" in this bloody film. I don't mention Savvaidis dotter or wife(?) who sings a Turkish song dressed as a traditional Turkish woman, because I don't believe that it was insulting. The three musicians are used as comical figures in a ridiculous and cheap surrounding pretending to be a Paschas' reception hall. The typical effort to earn money by investing as little as possible (because the scenography is unimportand and nobody will observe it, as they believe and still do...) and the superior attitude Greeks have towards Turkey and its people, is obvious.

The three musicians are playing a Turkish song. We see them only by chance because the camera is focusing on a group of chicks, supposing to be a Turkish harem. The two main "actors" are sitting among the chicks, trying to improvise in a totally foolish way.
I really feel pitty about the
Greek "umbearable lightness of being" which is, unfortunately, always actual, missleading and self-destructive. Turkey with its conscious and stubborn foreign policy is a future country, a very big and promissing market. Greece proves every day that our future is ambiguous. It is not enough anymore with our seas, our islands, Greek food and Parthenon. Any different opinions?
All people say how much they love truth but, how many can bear it?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Life is a feast...

Life is a luminous feast between darkness and darkness...

Confessions and complains...

foto 1 - shadow theater figure

foto 2 - the dead friend

In a scene of the famous film "Matrix", the android agent Smith gives the following underestimating and disdained comment about human beings : "You are like goats. You establish yourselves in a place, you overexploit it, you destroy it, and then you move to a new place where you do exactly the same..."
Agent Smith was right.

Many years ago, I constructed a miniature of a swadow theater scene, made by cardboard. I decorated it and I painted an old street performer. I liked it very much and gave it as a present to a still beloved friend, who is a painter. He liked it too. What he did afterwards was that he copied it, in a way, and made an oil painting. When i saw it he confessed with a friendly smile: "I`ve alvays copied your things". I did not give any further comment, as I use to do... The other days, all of a sudden, this little picture came to my mind. I called him and asked if he still has it. " Oh", he said, "I gave it as a present to my brother-in law, but he´s dead now. His wife hated him and I´m sure she has destroyed it". I did not give him any further comment...

Some years ago, I did another painting. It was a boat with five manges on it, ( foto 2 - though you can the see four of them), playing and singing. One of them, (the first from the left and green one) is dead. The meaning is that the others invited him to leave the Other World for a while, and come to them so that they could play and sing. Two small and transparent angels are flying over the boat, offering the dead musician a small glass of retsina and a string of beads. I emailed the picture to where it still is. Somebody published the picture to Google Images rebetiko and an "intelligent" Greek (intelligent is, mainly, synonym to "cunning" in Greece)(...) copied it and used it as a cover to a CD with rebetiko songs. No comments...

A lot of years ago, I was "sculpturing" on cardboard, with a hummer and a special tool, a shadow theater figure (foto 1). This old fashioned tecnique takes a lot of time and is monotonous. (I`m publishing half of the foto because I don`t feel like giving a similar opportunity to another cunning person). I remember that while I was working, I felt like a pensioner who was trying to spend his time. I`m saying that because I often get the same feeling when I`m posting texts about details of rebetiko. This music is drawned - no matter what we believe - like "Phlebas the Phoenician" ( ) and there are only CD`s floating on the surface of the sea. At the same time I feel that the path I`m following is not nostalgic ( see 8 Januari 2008 - in Greek). I`m drawing parallels all the time between that time and our time and I`m trying to show out that we won`t find the real rebetiko masterpieces only in focusing to a couple of hundreds of them... I`m also trying to say that we are still inside the storm caused by throwing the Mikrasiatika into the darkness (1937). I insist that only there you can find the origins of manges, the real singers, the real composers, the warm heart of this music!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Like a greengrocer...

Feeling like a fruit and vegetable dealer who´s trying to sell his products in an open market, I´m in the pleasant position to inform you that the two very interesting posts about widows are completed! (I´ve added some more details even in the first post - "When the widows came to Greece... -). I´m saying that because it concerns a very important part of rebetiko and gives explanations about things you, perhaps, always wondered but you did not "dare" asking. Even if you had asked you would not get any answers, because the people who know all that, do not potter with rebetiko (unfortunately...)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

When the widows came to Greece... (1)

The following post is another one looking like a diving into the past. But this is not the case. It is a diving into the human soul, into its solitude, the conflicts and collisions against the tissue of adversities that make us suffer during our lifetime.

The meaning of the word widow is burdened in the older masculine Greek tradition. The image of a woman who goes to bed alone and wakes up alone, reflects eroticism. Both women and men had their eyes upon them. "What is she doing?", "what will she do?", "is she in secret together with somebody?", "will she get married again?", "if she does, how soon?". If she did it she would also be criticised. "She did not mourn enough" (how long is "enough"?), "she did not love her husband, she only thinks of her own needs"... It was mostly women who were protagonists on criticism and gossiping. Men listened tacitly, twisting their moustaches, having other thoughts in mind... All that stuff of grumbling and focusing of "what the others do".

No matter how today's Megacities (the precence and the future of the unfortunate human kind) are criticised, because of their anonymity, misery and loneliness, they seem to be better than the small societies. It seems to be better with a chosen loneliness, than be controlled by relatives and thousands of spying eyes watching on you. Anyway, both solutions are blind alleys. This is the destiny of human beings. To tear themselves and torment all the others, even through repressing love...


Besides all big problems that the "sudden" coming of so many refugees (1,5 milj.) caused Greece, there was another one which is not mentioned. The big number of women refugees without men. Their men had been either killed or held instead of working in forced labour. About 25% of the feminine refugee population were widows, 60,5% of them were between 20-24 years old(!). In the four biggest refugee districts of Athens, women composed 62% of adults (over 16 years old) and men only 38% . This factor of paucity of able-bodied men within refugee communities, must be seen in connection to the same paucity among the local Greek population, because of the wars. The refugee women besides the survival problems and the despair of finding a proper place to live in, they soon hade to solve another problem. They had to find a father for their children and
an emotional and sexual companion. It is significant to remind that about 40% of them came from bigger or smaller cities and a big number from the cosmopolitan Smyrna. Those who were not peasants and did not expected a piece of land, moved (more than half of them) to the three big centers, Athens, Salonika and Piraeus. The refugee population of Athens reached 40%, in Piraeus 25%, in Mytilene 10% and on he Aegean islands 48%. In the three big centers flourished rebetiko. The record companies were established there, the composers and most of musicians too...

(to be continued)

The widows - the "different "ethos... (2nd and last)

Let us come little closer to the matter of "different ethos" between Mikrasiates an local Greeks. The "sources" are different comments and judgments, here and there. The refugees were accused for "lower moral". In other words, that they were more liberal than the conservative and "West orientated" Greece. There is no reason to compare, I will just remind that principles, customs, codes and all other unnummerable "must" which we use to include in the meaning of "civilization" get a secondary importance and become weaker during critical periods like wars, starvation, poverty. Primal survival mechanisms respect no rules. Another important factor is the "voice of the flesh". Human body needs, as any other living creature, to get satisfaction. Christianity repulsed this need, beating in the air. This hate for human being´s need got established and turned into a reflex which exists even in (mostly there) secularised post-modern countries, as the one I live in...

The refugee women´s natural "hunt", in connection to men´s paucity was reflected in rebetiko songs. It is more than enough evidence to explain the obvious, or in an indirect way, sensualism in the biggest part of Mikrasiatika songs, as well as in next coming rebetika. We should also have under consideration that widows, especially the younger ones, were pressed from all sides, even from their own people. This psychological pressure was enforced by the fact that the settlement conditions were extremely difficult and the they lived in many years packed into each other, because of lack of space.
Before the refugees came, Athens in 1922 had no more population than 200.000 and a huge domestic problem (1 house for 10 people)

There has been an "admiration" concerning the "emancipated" women of the 30´s. What hapenned during that "hunting period" was not the result of a political or social awareness. It was not a feminine toughness, as many like to believe. It was, simply speaking, the practical needs together with some consciousness which caused by the fact that a lot of women were forced to leave the house and find a job. The "hunting" for a "protector"/husband/lover was something occassional. When the aim was achieved they "came back to their houses", and kept a silence, concerning the times when they were forced to go over their limits. Through this point of wiew we can better understand the "withdrawal" of many women singers of the 30´s. We also can understand the decline into more conservative formulas and man´s sovereignity, already during the 30´s.
It is funny that the establishment of bouzouki, as main instrument, pointed out this decline. The subversive verses, which were written by men, the ironical jokes about mangia etc., were also eliminated. The period of "jokes" (or a certain self-criticism) can be seen as a sincere, dared and, at the same time, cunning effort to write verses about what they saw hapenning out in life, in connection to the fact that this atittude was wellcomed by the consumers.
In many Mikrasiatika, "rebetika" and early suburban songs it´s easy to distinguish the arisen confusion because of the sex balance´s disorder.
"The 1st of March 1923, (one year after the Catastrophy in Asia Minor), the ratio of women to men was said to be 58:42 - but this figure (includes, of course, boys and old men) surely underestimates the desperate paucity of able-bodied males among the refugees" (TWICE A STRANGER, Granta Books, London, 2007, page 151) . According to that, one easily understands men´s advantageous position in choosing the most "suitable" bride. In the song "Ομολογίες" (= Οbligations), we have a tough example in the verse, "if your mother refuses to give what she has promissed, she can throw you in Falliron's sea". Μore cheerfull atittudes we can find in the songs "Ο μοντέρνος Χαραλάμπης"(The modernised Haralampos) sung by the fantastic Rita Abadzi (see ) and "Πάλι μου κάνουν προξενιά"

(They bring me about a marriage) 1938, G. Papaioannou /I. Konstantinidis(Makaronas) - you kan listen to this song in Rembetika, After Censorship 1937-1947, GREEK MUSIC FROM THE UNDERGROUND, CD D, song 11).
The verses of the first are as follows:
Haralampis, where are those old times when you did not want to listen about getting married? Now, within on year, you got married to one, two, three, and you're on the way to a forth./Don't pretend to be robust, my Haralampis merakli, you can't find a way out, my Lambi sevdali/and you will land up in Dafni*/You found a woman from Athens, now you wish even one from Smyrna/you like another one from Piraeus, but you're also fond of one from Mytilini/You've found a lot of women but you're still looking for more/you choose them like if they were sardines and you want to get married to all of them (...)

Dafni : Psychiatric Hospital of Attica
Τhe second one:
Τhey are doing a match-making to me, in Podoniftis*/a young brown-haired girl with a dowry and a house/And another one, brown-haired from Podarades*/owning a house, two stores and one hundred thousand */In Egina in a feast where i was, even there they introduced me to a young babe/In a sudden trip in Kavalla*, a new match-making, this time a young girl, fresh like the milk/I'm sitting and thinking whom to choose/I think I'll take the one from Egina

Podoniftis : district beside a river (now dry) in Athens suburb called New Ionia. A lot of refugees lived there.
Podarades : Νew Ionia's old name
one hundred thousand: meaning drachmas, Greece's old money which existed since the antiquity Kavalla : port town in Makedonia (Νοthern Greece) which was populated by Greek refugees from the Black Sea and Turkish muslims

One more example, a dramatic one. It is about the bitter realization that mangia's way of living, or the bohemic life is a blind alley for women...

Δεκαοχτώ χρονών κοπέλα (Eighteen years old girl) 1948, Ioanna Georgakopoulou
Eighteen years old girl, unmatured, I've experienced grieves and bitterness in the way of life I've choosed/The bohemic life cheated me/Ι thought it was like diamonds but it proved to be a glass ... /Eighteen years old girl, unhappy and already crashed, I'm in torment in life's crossroads...

I hope that my two posts helped you to understand why the word hira (widow) has been used so widely in Mikrasiatiko, "rebetiko" and the following suburban songs.
I`d be glad to try and give answers in further questions or get new proposals concerning other unclear sides of rebetiko, but not strictly music topics...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The same old story... - WHAT MEANS MANGAS? (1)

I would like to start using the words "mangas" and "mangia" in my blogs. Before doing that I consider my duty to give an extensive and analytic explanation of what this very word means.

One can get a lot of, more or less, likewise explanations here and there. Perhaps it is superficial to declare that, through this post you are going to get the most cool-headed and complete explanation of this word. First, I have to say that I am not interested about the word's etymology. I don΄t want to waste time with quarrels, different opinions etc. I am interested to "dive" into this word. Furthermore, to put words in what the old people (call them rebetes, if you like) meant but were not interested to articulate. I am not going to name well-known names, in order to certify that a was a real mangas though b was not. This is something you can do, if you like. What I want to do is to find the psychological fatigue and result of all that which has been said, in connection to my personal experiences. I believe that some of the most succeeded explanations have been given by a woman, Angeliki Kail, in the preface of her book about Markos Vamvakaris.The shortest and simplest explanation could be, "mangas" is a person who does not bother/harm anybody and dislikes to be bothered/harmed. I understand that this explanation is very vague and "empty". At the same time it is not. It gives a picture of a quiet person, serious and self-respecting one. Such a person respects, automatically, the others. I mean that, a real mangas is not a person who is looking for troubles. On the contrary, he avoids it. A troublemaking person was/is called for dais (bully), but in this case we have another missunderstanding and ignorance of dais very first meaning. We will talk about that another time.When English-speaking people are translating verses of "rebetiko" songs they use the slang word "dude" for mangas. In the glossary of the CD, Rembetica in PIRAEUS, volume II 1933-1937, Heritage HT CD 30, the explanation for the word mangas is: fine fellow, hash-smoking dude, smart operator on the fringes of society.

Let us see how the Cassell's dictionary of Slang, Jonathan Green, Cassell, 1998, explains the word dude 1. [1940.+]a man, a fellow.2.[late 19C+](orig. US)an overdressed, showy person, a fop or dandy...

The LONGMAN DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURE Longman 1998, explains the word fop = a man who takes too much interest in his clothes and personal appearance...

Neither of the two words, dude and fop have something to do with the pure meaning of the real mangas.

A simple definition for the word mangia is the following, written by Evangelos Papazahariou, Λεξικό της Πιάτσας ΑΡΓΚΟ, εκδ. ΚΑΚΤΟΣ, Αθήνα 1999: mangia, 1. the style, the gestures, the accent, the codes of the people who use the market's vocabulary. 2. bravery, the right male behaviour according to market's* code.

* The word market(πιάτσα ) is used as the ideal picture of the places where ordinary people meet and have different kinds of commercial exchanges. The antique equivalent was the agora.

During the continuous war which was fought from the so-called bourgeois against the unintegrated manges, the word got a negative content. The continuous war ended and the result is a folksy petit bourgeois ideology spread all over Greece... It is also supported that "manges do not exist anymore because the train has crushed them"...

If we see the word through a modern point of view we can simply say that, mangas is a good fellow. By using this rather "empty" word "good" I mean, generally speaking, a fellow who behaves well.

A real mangas is a person who has a simple philosophy about life´s relativity and tries, in proportion to its inner strength and certainty, to not be a victim for different Christian-bourgeois "must". He likes enjoyment (who does not?), he likes the "well being", no matter what. The real mangas has a low profile. He knows when it is proper to open his mouth and when it is not. He understands life, therefore he does not need to be pompous. He understands what the whole thing is about and that makes him a bit melancholic... He respects people and needs to be respected. He is not a coward. He is not afraid to say his opinion and takes the law in his own hands when there are no other choises, when his basic principles are offended. But, generally speaking, he avoids useless quarrels and slippery situations. Exactly what some very intelligent composers and musicians of rebetiko did. Those who were aware of their talent and felt an inner calling. Two good examples were, Markos Vamvakaris and Vasilis Tsitsanis.

A mangas does not need to be poor and a man of the people. He can, as well, be rich (αρχοντόμαγκας), taken for granted that he has lived among people belonging to lower classes. Another way to describe the word mangas is: a person who resists consciously to an established system of unjustice life values . He does not use to fight against them, but he withdraws to places where there are similar people like him. Those places can be the society's margine, the world of the outlaws, the world where mangia exists and rules. I don't believe that this "escape" is what he really wants. It is his defence, it is a reaction dictated by his social surrounding, his life "education" (i.e. experiences) and the way he has worked through them, his expectations concerning the future etc. I am talking about proceedures which every one of us goes through, in an early age, by having a silent dialogue with our heart. The point is which potentialities every human being can imagine, no matter if they are utopic.

The real mangas refuses to loose his identity and dignity, exchanging them with materialistic consuming goods. He carries inside him a serie of everlasting elementary rules which have always been adjusting the relations among human beings. This is his Achille´s heel. When the mangas is a man of the people, he has difficulties to understand that the world around him is changing in a rythm of a barrage. The result is that he comes to a conflict with his surrounding and himself. The consequences are unforseen. For the most, he "withdraws" and he can get into a kind of misanthropy. I am laying two examples of "withdrawal" taken from early rebetiko verses and another one from a Tsitsani´s song when he was tired and fed up:

1. "Is there anyone with a bitter heart so that we´ll be comrades, walk together in waste lands, not meeting people?" (houzam manes, 1930, sung by Kostas Nouros)

2. "I wish I could find an open sea, a rock to settle down, long away from the world, always alone, not seeing people anymore, forget my sorrows, being beaten by the wonds and the waves . Oh God, isn´t a pitty that I´m getting through this?" (Markos Vamvakaris verses)

3. "Even in Hell I´d like to be alone. I don´t either want to love or being loved" (from the song "Even in Hell" by Vasilis Tsitsanis).

One of a real mangas greatest peaks is the so-called self-wounding. It has been a long time since I saw a mangas hurting himself, instead of bursting out and beat somebody who offended him. Self-wounding means to hurt yourself with a knife, knockin the head on a wall or crushing wine glasses or window glasses with the palm of the hand. This magnificent deed reveals quite much of real mangas inner world.

There is not a chance to come to a widely accepted definition of the word mangas and there is no need to. We can, of course, give general definitions concerning what rebetes meant by using it. No matter how superficial it can sound, we, people of today, can define the word much better than those who lived within mangia. We have the necessary amounts of informations and the cool-mind to do it, if we are not "shadowed" by ignorance and an a priori negative attitude towards rebetiko's world. If I would try with one more description/definition of the word mangas it could be something like that: mangas is the person who is resisting an alteration of his personality and the allienation in every day life's "chopped meat machine". Such an attitude is "dangerous" and rejected by the System. The System cannot understand (in the same way Americans cannot understand why the Iraquis are refusing the Western democracy) and is conscious that those attitudes are threatening -even occasionally - especially when they are "epidemic". Ιf the manges of the 30's had reasons to go against the changes around them, those reasons are today magnified. A modern life in a well established and organised country (I am not including Greece, of course), demands a full levelling and a certain allienation from its citizens. If peope had the possibility to see clearly and understand what it is asked for them, they would rather refuse to join the whole procedure. But, through the used method of Mythridatism(see below) they still s join the game...

Through this point of view the meaning of the word mangas is everlasting. It may be that we cannot reproduce rebetiko, but the relations among human beings, no matter how they have changed, still go through the same adventures...

Mythridates = name of a dynasty of Parthian(Persian origin) kings and satraps who ruled in Pergamos and Pontus, between 303-63 B.C. According to a legend, king Mythridates used to eat some poison every day to become resistant, scaring that he would be poisoned.

Mythridatism, (metaforically) method of allienation by continuous, elegant and carefull brainwashing, for example through TV-channels all day and night broadcasting, or the evening newspapers lower level and banality. The brainwashing is much more effective when the human brain is tired and needs to escape...

About manges...

In this post I`m using the word mangas as follows:
mangas, mangissa = already explained (see "What is mangas" (1)
mangià = already explained (the same as above)
arkoudomangas (arkouda = bear) = tough, heavy, rigid and dangerous mangas
mangiki language (mangiki glossa) = the special language of manges
mangikos way(mangikos tropos) = the way a mangas behaves
mangika (or mortika) songs = typical songs which mangià considered to be songs of their own.
"clever"(exypnos) adj. used by manges when they wanted to express a proper, intelligent and right way to behave. "Clever songs" were those who had en interesting content, they were well played, had something unusual, unforseen and differnt from the usual. Vangelis Papazoglou songs, for example, were "clever" songs.

History, manners and fashion go in circles.

Mangia`s cloathing style, their way of talking, walking and acting was a kind of "fachion". I`m aware that I`m simplyfing. It was something much deeper and serious but, remember, it was a phenomenon among young men, during a difficult and complicated period, economically and socially. It was a kind of defying and an opposition against a "status quo" which seemed ridiculous in their eyes. But, at the same time, it was a reaction against a world, the "others" who did not allow the outsiders to get in. When we feel that it is very usual that we build an alternative world which we glorify , instead of being desparate...
Look at the photo. Isn't so that the young people wearing buggy jeans believe that their clothes are tough and provocative?...

About manges (3) -Women mangisses...

A typical missunderstanding is that we mix up koutsavakia and manges. Koutsavakia was an extreme, limited and short living phenomenon. It was judged to vanish into thin air, to be degenerated from its birth. Manges were their successors. They were not as provocative as the priors, they continued existing and still do, though as a deformated echo.

To get a little closer to
rebetiko language, I`m going to use some examples from composers, musicians and male and women singers, because they consist the only disposable material we have. Let us take some women first. Roza Eskenazy used to greet Tomboulis, her permanent collaborator with a rather neutral voice saying: "Yia sou Tombouli mou, m`ekapses!" ( = Cheer up my Tomboulis, you set fire on me with your playing". There are some other examples where she is greeting "psaradakia"( = fish sellers) and manges. In those cases one can notice that she prolongs the last letter or syllable. She says "na zisoun ta psaradakiaaa!" or "na zisoun oi mangeees". The prolonging of the last vocals was something typical in mangiko language.
Roza Eskenazy was, first of all, a sensual and experienced woman who played, in her way, with men and she was joining
mangia since very early times. She certainly was an ideal combination of a real woman and mangissa. By the way, during her last years when she gave different interviews, her voice was calm, tender, girlish. If we did not know, we could never believe that she was a legend of rebetiko.

Rita Abadzi, this extraordinary bird, was a complicated case. The belief that she was a mangissa is a common place among rebetiko lovers. I doubt it. Very few things are known about her personality, she is sporadically named by those who left parts of their rebetiko memories. The fact that she sung even "tough" songs cannot be seen as a proof. There are no signs in Rita`s songs, in her short greetings or comments while she sings, which allow us to draw a conclusion that she used the mangiko language. My personal opinion is that she was a very intelligent, sensible and carefull human being who was keeping a distance, though her rich discography (c.a. 310 records).

I named only Roza Eskenazy and Rita Abadzi because only those two have given us a wider opportunity to listen to their voices speaking besides their singing. Concerning
Daisy Stavropoulou, Sotiria Bellou and the latter women singers, things are more clear. But this post is about the older mangia, including Tsitsanis.

Concerning men, Vangelis Papazoglou speaks like a typical serious mangas in his short dialogue with Stellakis in "I foni tou Nargilé" (The water-pipe´s voice). I´m sure he was not exaggerating. One can easily understand that.

I believe that Dalgas was also a serious mangas, Zaharias Kasimatis, Kostas Karipis, Kostas Tzovenos, Markos, Keromytis, Stratos and many, many others. Sotiris Gavalas was also a typical mangas. When he says "Arpa tin" (get it! - ie. get the knife thrust) in the song "In the Bezesteni yard" ( CD Mortika) he is not acting, he is himself.

The most mangiko (tough) voice in rebetiko recordings is, unquestionably, the one of the so-called Kostas Bezos or Kostis. It is on purpose, but it is convincing. He had nothing to do with manges, as much as we know, he belonged to another world. But he was very clever and capable, both him and his musicians in their group called "The white birds". In his (?) really nice songs there is a gathering of expressions and mangiko words which we hardly meet in the rest of rebetiko recordings. It is obvious that they overloaded the song texts so that they would impress. When he says exactly the same ("άρπαχτη!"), as Sotiris Gavalas, in the song "Τούτο το καλοκαιράκι" (This nice summer), he plays to be a mangas, but nothing's wrong with that.

Vasilis Tsitsanis lived with one foot inside mangia and the other out of it. He knew very well all the roles and the rules but, he was not in need to be a mangas, in the known way. He was a very intelligent country boy and he remained in that up to the end.

Michalis Genitsaris was an αρκουδόμαγκας (tough and dangerous mangas)(αρκούδα=bear+mangas). Ηe was tough but "logical" having an original mangas way of thinking. He avoided troubles but had nothing against to take the law in his hands when it needed.

Dimitsis Gogos (Bayiaderas) was a real mangas, too. Today's "experts" have a snobbish way to see him and believe that he was some kind of a romantic serenader. It is funny because Bayaderas was in the whole thing of Piraeus rebetiko from the very beginning. He was brave and serious. I believe in everything he has said. His "romantic" songs were, simply, a clever choise he did after he was advised by a connoisseur named Faltaitz. His mangika songs were perfect, very rythmical and had a style of his own.

Giannis Papaioannou was also a real mangas. You can feel it in his voice. When he played live and the people were talking loudly, he used to say in a mangas way: "ησυχία, έχουμε άρρωστο!" (be quiet, there is somebody who is sick here!).

What I wrote was only comments coming from a very carefull listening of the records. Otherwise it seems to me foolish to judge who was mangas and who wasn't. Besides all that and in connection to the tendency to almost avoid going deeper in writing or discussing rebetiko, I consider that there is a superficial feeling that manges just talked about hasch, waterpipes, that they were only involved in quarrels, knifing each other and playing music. Like if they were the "Ηollow Men" without everyday problems... And it is worrying...

Manges (4)

As for the men,
Vangelis Papazoglou speaks like a serious mangas in his short dialogue with Stellakis Perpiniadis in the song "The voice of narghilè". I`m sure he was not exaggerating.

I believe that Dalgas was also a serious mangas, Zacharias Kasimatis, Kostas Karipis, K. Skarvelis (we listen to his voice in Vamvakaris song "Otan me vlepeis kai perno"- Rembetika in PIRAEUS, Volume II, 1933-1937, song 3) saying "Yià sou Marko dervisi me tis peniès sou tis èxypnes", K. Tzovenos, Markos, Keromytis, Stratos, Batis of course and so many others.

Sotiris Gavalas was also a typical mangas. When he says "Arpa tin, Memeti" in the song "In the Bezestèni Yard" (Στου Μπεζεστένη την αυλή") CD MORTIKA, song 17, he is not acting. He is himself.
When Kostis is saying "Arpa tin" (Get it! - meaning, get the stab(with a knife) in one of his songs, he's pretending. He did not belong to mangia. He was just a clever and capable musician, singer and guitar player (if it is him playing the guitar in all his songs) .

G. Papaioannou was an original mangas. He was not pretending to be. You can easily recognize it in his voice. When he played live and the customers were talking loudly, he used to say with a heavy mangiki voice: "Βe quiet! We have here somebody who's sick"(...)

Vasilis Tsitsanis lived (at least mentally) in the outer borders of mangia, though he knew perfectly all the roles and rules. He was not needed to play or be a mangas. He was just Vasilis Tsitsanis, a country boy and he continued like that up to his end.

Michalis Genitsaris was en "arkoudomangas". He was tough but logical with an original mangas "ideology". He did not like troubles, though he got involved in a lot and found no reasons not to take the law in his hands, when needed. The way he talked did not remind of manges though he really was.

Bayianderas was a real mangas! Today's "experts" have an arrogant attitude towards him considering that he mostly was a romantic serenader. It's funny and tragic. Bayianderas joined the whole thing from the very beginning of Riraeus period. He was brave and serious. I totally trust everything he has said. His "romantic" songs were simply a clever choise he did after listening to Faltaitz's advices. His mangika songs are perfect, "clever" and have a fantastic rythm, different from all the others...

Finishing with manges...

A dais(bully) from Istanbul -drawing by Panos Nikoli Tzelepi

OK with all that. Some more words...
There is a tendency to almost avoid going any deeper in writing or discussing rebetiko, more than exchanging details and glorifying facts. I think there is a superficial feeling about manges, saying that they just talked about hasch, water pipes, played music, drunk wine and ouzo, made jokes, were teasing or knifing each other... Like if they were a kind of Hollow men without everyday problems, without private troubles. And that is both sorrowfull and very annoying...

To be contradictory I`m publishing the verses of a very sweet and nostalgic rebetiko which has exactly this content that today`s young people believe about manga`s life. But a commercial song`s purpose is to help somebody to dream, to escape. Reality is something else..

ΑΕΙΝΤΕ ΡΕ ΜΟΡΤΗ, ΠΕΙΡΑΙΩΤΗ (1931) Pathe Γαλλίας X-80154, Γιώργος Αραπάκης/Μ. Σκουλούδης

(there is one more version with NOUROS)

First, the greek text:

Άειντε ρε μόρτη(*1), ρε Πειραιώτη, με τ΄άσπρο ζουναράκι(*2) σου και με τον κόφτη(*3),/μ΄αυτή την τόση τη λεβεντιά σου, ποτέ δε λείπει γκόμενα(*4) από κοντά σου./Όλο ουζάκια στα κουτουκάκια και τσάρκα ύστερα σ΄όλα τα στεναδάκια/κι όποια μπανίσεις και την τσατίσεις, δε σου γλυτώνει, βλάμη, θα την ξεμυαλίσεις/...

Όλο με φέρσιμο γκιουλέκικο(*5) χορεύεις, βλάμη, το ζεϊμπέκικο/και γιά να σβήσεις το μεράκι σου, τραβάς τον κόφτη από το ζουναράκι σου/

Χόρεψε λιγάκι, βρε Πειραιωτάκι, ένα χαβαδάκι(*6) μερακλίδικο/τώρα θα σου παίξει και το σαντουράκι ένα ζεϊμπεκάκι σεβνταλίδικο/Γειά χαρά σου, βρε λεβέντη, γειά σου βρε ντερβίση μου,/χορό, μεθύσι, γκόμενες και ζάρι, έτσι θα περνώ τη ζήση μου.

in English

Cheer up Piraeus morti, with your white girdle and your knife/you are so chivalrous so that you always have a chick besides you/drinking ouzo in small tavernas and then promenades in narrow streets/any woman you see and make her angry, she can΄t slip away, you make her loose her mind/...

You dance, my lad, zeibekiko, in a gioulekiko way and instead of forgetting your meraki, you pick up the knife from your girdle/

Dance, you Piraeotaki, a havadaki meraklidiko, the sanduri will play, for your shake, a passionated zeibekaki./Cheer up, my chivalrus guy, cheer up my dervisi/Only with dance, drunkeness, chicks and dices, that's the way I spend my life...

Comments/Unknown words

I have used red letters for the words you probably do not know their meanings. Some further explanations:

1. μόρτης ο, μόρτισσα η, (mortis, mortisa) : almost impossible to translate and explain the word, even in greek. Be satisfied if I'm saying that it means a clever mangas with a right behaviour, loved by all...

2. ζουνάρι, ζωνάρι, ζουναράκι το, (zounari, zonari, zonarnaki) Ι've used the word girdle which is an underwear for women, worn round the wathat sist and hips, that supports and shapes the stomach, hips and bottom. Ιt is ecactly what I mean. Men used it -and still do, mostly oldies - in Balcan countries. You can see it clearly in the picture above.

3. κόφτης ο, (koftis) from the verb κόβω(kovo= cut) knife

4. γκόμενα (gomena) slang. The word has existed only in feminine form and meant a woman we are fond of, a woman with which we have a relation. Many women in Greece, mostly middle-aged, dislike it. The young girls don't bother at all and they use the word even in a male form (gomenos) .

5. γκιουλέκικο το, (derives from the name of an Albanian rebell called Gion Lekka) - I'm behaving as a gioulekas = terrify, pretend to be a bully.

6. χαβαδάκι(havadaki) dimun.(Τurkish. hava) tune, melody of a song

Me tis ygeies sas...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

1. The syndrome of Markos Vamvakaris adornment and the prolonged puberty of rebetiko lovers...

The following posts are refering to the glorification of certain figures and details in rebetiko. A glorification which causes damage and stagnates a deeper understanding of this music.

Markos Vamvakaris is a flaming star. He is widely accepted and recognized as the main deputy and successor of the "struggled" Mikrasiates (refugee music). To talk or write critically about Markos is equivalent to offend the divine.
I have loved myself Markos and still love him. Not only because of his songs, but even for his bravery to speak open about himself, about his turbulent life. Markos had something that the others did not. He could observe his life both from the inner and the outer side. He was an observer of himself, at least when he got old (as usual). But he dared! On the other hand, everything has a beginning and en end, and in the beginning is the end included... This is something that the majority of human beings cannot accept. We behave like if we were immortals. Markos could not understand that either. He ended hil life quite bitter because he had not get the "permission" to visit the US, because he considered that he was forgotten even that different people showed unthankfulness towards him . He was right, in some way. Unthankfulness is something very usual in Greece, almost a rule...

2. Reaching the limits...

I will never forget a scene from an indifferent Greek movie where one could see a typical bouzouki orchestra, after rebetiko´s "death". On the back stage one could see two old musicians playing, Stratos Payioumitzis and Markos Vamvakaris. Stratos seemed to be glad, perhaps because he was invited, though Markos looks bitter and wondering. He looks around himself with a suspicious glance in his eyes and he does not seem to understand where he is (why would he do it?). The atmosphere is foolish, artificial and superficial...

As I said, I´ve loved Markos but as the years went by I felt that I reached my limits. I felt that the devotedness to him and the fascinating "Piraeus school" isolated me to a quite narrow point of view. I felt the need to "investigate", more seriously than before, the musical tradition which influenced (directly or indirectly) Markos. By saying that I mean, especially, the refugee music tradition . I do not regret it. I got deeper to a multifarious music with continuous searching for new experiments in playing the instruments and orchestration, something missing i "Piraeus school´s" simplicity. Markos music and the Piraeotic mangia was, generally speaking, a fascinating but conservative manoeuvre to put things in their "right" place, after the "confusion" caused by the invasion of Mikrasiates, both musically and "morally".
Some craracteristcs of the "change" were: (1) women´s role was eliminated, (2) joy, which characterised the biggest part of Mikrasiatika, turned into grumbling and murmur (we are talking about songs composed before 1938), (3 the joyful greetings among musicians and towards the singers, during the songs, almost dissapeared, (4) the erotic flirt and sensualism in the simple verses of Mikrasiatika was also eliminated and (5) the verses became more male orientated...

3. Markos as a market value...

If we see Markos through a modern marketing concept we can say that he fulfils all necessary demands. He is, first of all, very simple. His melodies are easy to learn, the verses easy to put in mind and, it is simple for a beginner to play his songs. On another level there is much more than that. He is sincere, he mostly narrates his turbulent life and that mobilizes feelings of sympathy and compassion. Markos is a proper idol for the young people who are angry against the establishment, in a general meaning. He is a typical male, he loved women, he described what they did to him, he smoked hash. He was beloved when he played his bouzouki and sung about typical love troubles with women. Another important factor is his rough voice. It is quite easy and a signal of toughness from a young man´s side to imitate his voice. To imitate Markos voice you do not need any wide vocal capacity. In other words, Markos songs have everything needed instead of saling well.

Markos and Tsitsanis were two important composers who, by working out the prior Mikrasiatiko musical tradition and filtrating it through their strong personality, gave something new.

Ending this post I would like to point out something which, I believe, is quite important. The "recycling" of the same and same details, the TV and Radio -programmes who present exactly the same topics, always seen from the same angle, cause damage to rebetiko´s reputation. The "others", those who know nothing or just a little about this magic music, are getting bored and get furthermore reservations and bloody fool negative atittudes. Am I wrong?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hi, anonymous...

I think you are the second person who reacts in my new blog "Rebetiko (in English)" and I thank you for that! Instead of answering with an email I thought it would be better to write a new post since your questions are interesting even for other people.
Your comment was: How would you define the male manga person and the female, if there is such a difference? Or do you think of it as a male personality? Does this have to do with masculinity to you? To me it sounds like human dignity, but I might not understand...

I was glad to see that you mentioned the female version of the word mangas (mangissa). It is one of my beloved topics and I have written quite a lot about the sensible differences in the use of nouns in my dictionary of rebetiko which is going to be published during the autumn 2008.

My purpose with the post "The same old story - WHAT MEANS MANGAS?" was not to start discussions about this very word. I´m terribly bored when I see people arguing and rearguing about the same things on rebetiko forums. My purpose was to give some comments and start using the words "mangas" and "mangia", knowing that I have already explained what I have in mind. I don´t want to define, I only want to describe. I am not a methodologist, an intellectual researcher who cut rebetiko into pieces, wearing white gloves and examines it with a magnifying glass. I am aware that I use a "different" language in approaching it. My language is the one of heart and thorax. I let my heart speak, filtrating my experiences from the last people of rebetiko. I even use my mind instead of not allowing myself get into fanatism and enroll this music in a mythological veil. I am aware too of the continuous struggle between "ego" and "it"...

Now, I will answer your questions.
Is there such a difference between male and female mangas?
Yes, if you agree that a man and a woman are completely different. Women´s attitudes have always been different and cannot be changed within some seconds, as we(they) need to believe. Women, according to my opinion, do not need to drive big trucks, even for the simple reason that transport by trucks must be forbidden... And, women do not need to be mine-workers, even for the simple reason that we have to find alternative energy sources. Women are stronger organisms than men and they have not needed to be tough, in the same way as men. When they were forced to, they have showed that they can be much tougher than us. When the German police was hunting Baader- Meinhof the orders coming from the Police Department were clear: "Shoot the female members first".
Though I have glorified the character of the real mangas, I know that there is something self-destructive in his identity. Women, if you allow me to generalize, are not self-destructive as men. They are not programmed to. In case they fall into such an attitude,it usually last too long.
I believe in women who behold their sensuality, even when they are getting involved into men´s world. I believe that one of the most stupid things a woman can do is, to imitate male behaviours instead of being accepted by them. Mangisses, according to my opinion, were, Roza Eskenazy, Rita Abadzi, Angelitsa Papazoglou, Sofia Karivali, Daisy Stavropoulou, Poly Panou. The idol Sotiria Bellou was something else.

Is the attribute of being a mangas a proof for masculinity?
No, not at all. It is big mistake to mix up attitudes from older times with modern points of view. A big missunderstanding, with reasonable explanations, among young people of today is that mangia considers to be a proof of masculinity. According to common sense, if one feels sure of what he/she is does not need to emphasize it...

I suppose I have answered your interesting questions.

Complementary to Anonymous... (2)

Your answer to "Hi Anonymous!" (see below) was...

"...And of course I agree, man and woman are different from each other, thank God. I also wonder about something else you talk about. You say that mangas don´t want to harm anybody and hold a low profile. Self-respect, self-control. And then you talk about the self-wounding as an magnificent attitude (not so normal among the women). I understand we are talking about a historical type of personality here, but the admiration of this concept may still be a reality. To me self-wounding is hurting your next, it is an act of violence that hurts the other, even though he himself is not beaten. How does this go together? Is it some sort of stoic thinking in the bottom? Or does it have to do with pride and desperation? Within the mangas culture it seems to be an accepted way of resolving conflicts and contradictions with the outside and the inside.

My answer

Completely missunderstood! By saying self-wounding (is it wrong in English?) I mean that somebody hurts himself instead of harming somebody else. That is why I call it magnificent. It declares distance from violence towards another person, it declares dignity and self-respect. At the same time it reveals a certain incapacity to controll the black waters of anger coming within oneself. Women do not do it. It does not have to do with their tradition. Am I clear?