Sunday, April 13, 2008

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...

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