On a recent London trip I went home to Trehantiri in Haringey Green Lanes. Containing the largest selection of Greek music anywhere in the world, Trehantiri remains an amazing place for collectors of delightful vinyls and rare gems. When my good friend Lakis Pattalis let me loose on the vinyl vaults I didn’t know where to start or end. The shop is not the same after the passing of our dear brother and friend Akis ‘The Good Greek Guru’ Pattalis.
I somehow expected him to pop up from behind a stack of records with a witty comment with a rare pressing in hand. Rip Aki….
‘You can choose from any where except these boxes’ said Laki which contained the equivalent of the ark of the covenant and more. So I started with the seven inch singles….
O Xaros Sti Taverna – this one brings back some heavy memories from Greek weddings in the mid-1970’s. No one sang it as good as this but just the thought of setting down with broken hearted Xaros over some spirits and zebekika is enough to account for the weight of this tune. A Zebekiko that weighs like a juggernaught full of fresh water melons from the homeland. Only dance this one if you have drunk at least 1 bottle of zivania!
H Xira (ax h kakomira) – the infamous widow’s song set to an irresistible syrto beat. Vocals right up in your face, music way down, you can just about feel the bass, such a typical mix for music at that time out of Greece. I remember this on a college trip in 1978 to Brighton where Giorkos, a recent arrival from Cyprus with an aspiration to sing and tell jokes hogged the mic all the way there and back and whenever this came on he upped a gear dancing down the aisle as much as the coach intercom/radio mic permitted. There is a happy ending to the song, she , the widow, is re-united with her lost one.
O Kafes (Coffee) follows in a similar beat sounding almost like a military marching band bashing away. Prounelis outlines the toiling life of a coffee grinding maker in a very fine style.Mine’s a sketo by the way, no sugar, always was always will be. Flip side on this gem is ‘Psefitki Ein’ H Zoi’ (Life is a Life) featuring some dexterous bouzouki and amanes from Prounelis.
Mes Tis Polis To Hamam – Mixalopoulos needs very little introduction with its irresistible ‘Tiritaxtax’ chorus. Mixalopoulos remains one of the most original voices to ever come out of Greece. No one has ever sounded like him since. His voice has a weird kind of quality – you have to hear it to feel it. Lovely bouzouki solo from Prounelis. This was also covered in the late 80’s by Annabouboula, in a very different funky fresh style and pattern. As this was the last copy on seven inch I would strongly recommend the following Golden Hits Compilation.
Misirlou The Greek – is actually the b-side from The Sound Explosion released in 1995. Very in your face twist beat with wild guitar playing. Now I know where Tarantino got the idea from. Lovely loud. A-side imagine the sounds of Mank around the same time but coming out of Athens with more of a twist and garage punk feel. Worth seeking out more for the b-side in my humble opinion….
Ela Na Smixoume Ta Thkio (Let Us Mix The Two) Michalis Violaris – lovely to hear a song in the Cypriot dialect, which even back in the 1970’s was struggling to survive on vinyl. And what a delicious vinyl, multicoloured and all. Would love to hear some local punk rock band cover this just to remotely keep it alive for a next generation.
LP’s wise I found some great platters….
Ex Anatolin Pros Thismas – is a very unique recorded between 1960-62 with Stelios Kazantzithis singing traditional folk songs. There is however a twist to the tale which nationalists of different varieties may find nauseating. The A-side is in Greek and b-side in Turkish. I have never really understood this from a marketing point of view as any one who has attempted to do anything symbiotic (myself included) has been dubbed all kinds of things like traitor and sell out. Stelaras however being a man of the people and grounded internationalist makes a magical LP here and whilst most Greek’s recall ‘H Kybros Einai Elliniki’ ‘Cyprus Is Greek’ as testament to his patriotic roots very few people seem to recall this set of songs. A fine work, no matter what you think of politics, music is music…
Potatoes – Harry Klean (no relation to Glen). Harry is for me a satirical prophet and ‘Potatoes’ released just before Greece joined the EU is one of his finest sets. I had this on a cassette back then when I studied at Essex, which wore out from being over played so it’s great to have the vinyl. You have to hear this in one sitting from start to finish, but please sure to have a fat pack of tissues on hand – Hilarious!!!! Gia Thesimo – Harry Klean – For tying up – I was in a real Harry mood when making these selections. Again listen t be hugely entertained and I also lost this one to wow, flutter and worn out cassette tapes. ‘Charalambe – Koulllllla!
Lets Belly Dance – Gus Vali – ‘The ancient art of the Belly Dance dates back to Salome’s performances for Herod and perhaps to Eve in The Garden of Eden’ well I never!!! That snake and apple are the root of all belly dancers. Gus Vali was born in and raised in New York to Greek parents. He mastered the flute, sax and clarinet, and even played with Artie Shaw. His first LP was called ‘Belly Dance Navel Academy’ what a title! Must seek that one out. And what a master of the craft he is and it’s so good to know that this master is still blowing loud and clear in New York – check this video link:
O Hlios Ths Anatolis – The Sun of The East – is full on clarinet belly dance instrumental mayhem featuring some fine playing on the lead instrument from Safet Gundenyer. Love the virtuosity of the playing. This is much in the same vein as the aforementioned Stellaras release, symbiosis. I am sure you could play this to Greek and Turkish audiences today no one would be able to work out the difference.
Archangleos – Apostolos Nikolaidis – one of my favourite singers of all time is Nikolaidis. He played a crucial role in bridging the gap between the old skool rebetes and newer generation singers of the 1950’s and 60’s. These are classic songs with underground themes and concepts, often misrepresented by high society as music for lowly people. Whatever was said at the time these songs were hugely popular thanks to US based companies that carried on releasing them despite their banning in Greece for decades. Who after all can resist singing or dancing to ‘Boufetzis’?
40 Xronia – 40 Years – Rosa Exkenazy is a four decade collection released in memory of the 1st lady of Rebetika. Classic stuff taken from original recordings which seem to have been cleaned up a little in the mastering. ‘Sambax Amanes’ take you back to a hash den somewhere in the 30’s with powerful fearless ululations – powerful stuff!
Proi Proi Me Ti Drosoula – in the morning dawn – this is a part two from Nina Records out of New York as a follow up to the historic ‘Otan Kabnizi O Loulas’ (‘When Loulas is Smoking’) which featured Apotolos Nikolaidis and sold several million copies. This one was hugely popular as well with a variety of Rebetika songs re-versioned The Rebetes Orchestra feat Kalfopoulos & Dimipoulos and Nikos Papadatos and Litsa Janet on vocals. Like most follow ups, the success of the first release kind of overshadowed this one but it remains historic for the bridging role mentioned earlier, when songs were banned in Greece they flowed free in the Greek diaspora.
Many thanks to Laki for the vinyls…Now all I need is a Garrard 401 deck to match the heaviness. Most of these tunes and many more are available directly from Trehantiri Music.