May 30, 2005


Rembetiko is a style of Greek music with a quite difficult rhythm, also termed "the Balkan Blues". It is often attributed to being typical music of bachelors: an antisocial type of music often dealing with subjects such as sex, drugs and crime.

The Rebetes were the unconventional people living oustide the social order, first appearing after the Greek War of Independence of 1821. As reflected by the term "Balkan Blues", the melancholic songs (known as Rembetika) are often compared to genres such as American blues and in the topics they deal with, are full of grief, passion, romance and bitterness, relating the misfortunes of simple, ordinary men.

If you think you've not heard any Rembetika before, you'll be interested to know that the Pulp Fiction theme evolved from a Rembetiko song: Misirlou or "The Egyptian Girl". More recently than Tarantino's 1994 film, the song was labelled as one of the most influential Greek songs of all time by the Athens 2004 Organising Committee and was heard on venues and the closing ceremony. Another impact that Rembetiko has had on modern pop culture is the influence it has had on Mr Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand who is a Greek Scot and takes influence from Rembetiko

Here is the translation from the Greek, of the Misirlou lyrics:

My Misirlou (Egyptian girl), your sweet stare
Has lit a fire in my heart
Ah, yahabibi, Ah, yahaleli, ah
(Arabic: Oh, my love, Oh, my night)
Your two lips dripping honey, ah

Ah, Misirlou, magical, exotic beauty
I'll go crazy, I can't take any more
Ah, I'll take you away from the Arab land

My black-eyed, wild Misirlou
My life changes with a kiss
Ah, yahabibi a little kiss, ah
From your sweet lips, ah

Thanks primarily go to BBC4 for part 2 of their 6 part series on Greece and also to wikipedia , the online encyclopedia. See also a film about Rembetiko made by Costas Ferris

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