Greece. Hardly any other pop genre in Europe has been influenced so deeply by it’s own musical history. No wonder if you take in consideration the numerous dramatic social and political events the country had to endure in the 20th century:
WW I and II, Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), The Greek Civil War (1946-49) and dictatorship of dictators Ioannis Metaxas (in the thirties) and Papadópoulos (in the sixties) had a huge impact on the music singers and songwriters.
Basically Greek popular music falls apart in two separate genres:
The Rembétiko / Éntekhno genre is the more traditional of the two, a sort of Greek blues with songs filled with drama, passion, romance, and bitterness.
On the other hand, the more up tempo (‘positive’) genre called Laïkó (later Laïká), it incorporates more international known music styles but they always seem to slip in a typical Greek instrument or arrangement. For a foreigner it sometimes is hard to distinguish whether a song is Rembétiko or Laïkó and you probably have to be Greek to hear the difference! ας πάει στην ιστορία μας?
The basis of Greek pop music are the Heptanesian Cantatha, Athenian Cantatha and (aforementioned) Rebetika. The cantatha style was common during the period 1870-1930 where they were performed on the revues and operettas that dominated the Greek theatres. The cantatha culture has a similarity to the cantautore tradition in Italy. These Athenian songs, despite their original connection to a total dramatic work, also achieved to become hits as independent demotic songs.
Rebétiko (ρεμπέτικο) evolved from traditions of the urban poor, such as refugees, drug-users, criminals and itinerants, the earliest musicians were scorned by mainstream society. In 1923, many ethnic Greeks from the Asia Minor in Anatolia fled to Greece as a result of the Greco-Turkish War, many of these immigrants were highly educated, and included songwriter Vangelis Papazoglou and Panayiotis Toundas.
Its popularity increased until embraced by the majority of the working class, reaching its classical period in the 40’s/50’s. The principal instruments of Rebétiko were the bouzouki, baglama and guitar. The classic songs were distinguished for their power of expression and passion. Within the music style, one can detect the contributions/influence of folk song, Byzantine chant, and Eastern music.
After the end of WWII and the Greek Civil War, Greece entered a period of relative economic prosperity and the middle class, which had suffered through extreme poverty during the 40’s, began living more comfortably, a fact that was bound to be reflected in its choice of entertainment. These social and economic improvements transformed the music: its themes, structure and visibility.
Along the 50’s two dominant styles for Greek pop became clear. On one hand you had the Rembétika, a softer more western approach to Rebétiko. On the other you had Laïkó music, that became the mainstream music of Greece during the coming decades, with love and relationships figuring prominently as key themes.
Let’s go to our artist:
Mimis Plessas was born on 12 October 1924 in Athens. He attended the Lycee Leonin, studied at the Physics Department of the University of Athens and then went to America to pursue his studies. At a young age he became the first solo piano in Greek Radio. In 1952, it won the first prize of music at the University of Minnesota. He then, began working with composition and since 1956 as a conductor and composer.
Its artistic and compositional activity covers the last 50 years, all areas of music: theater, cinema, radio and television, having to his credit 104 movies and 70 plays (!!). He has conducted numerous major orchestras around the world, such his offer in Paris in 1958, Edinburgh and the U.S. in 1964 and 1965 respectively.
The maestro was also the producer of the historic radio show ‘In 30 Seconds’ over the decades of 60’s/70’s. He equally participated in most international and Greek juries of music festivals, artistic events and such. Lastly, Plessas is a member of the Greek Society of Playwrights, Composers and Songwriters, as well as numerous honorifics awards. He is currently retired and lives in Athens.
Let’s go to our album:
In 1967 he released what is often mentioned as ‘the holy grail’ of Greek jazz music. This was a jazz fusion based on Greek traditional folk songs, the outcome was a fresh jazz, beat, psychedelic, funky, samba, bossa nova (!!) orchestration that re-introduced the old material, improvised and suggested a new and very interesting sound.
Originally recorded in 1966 for the needs of an advertising broadcast (‘Fix’ beer!), the 10 tracks of the album are masterfully treated in a modern way by Mimis Plessas and his band, the Orbiters. Playing ultra-loungy, with some fuzzy guitar overtones, they follow a jazzy direction without losing their folk originality!
The ‘IM’ Highlights are for: O Menoussis and Vassilikos. 一路顺风!
Tracks Include (polytonic, romanized and translated):
A1 Λεμονάκι, Lemonaki (Peloponesian Dance)
A2 Ο Μενούσης, O Menoussis (Dance of Thrace)
A3 Γυαλό Να Πας, Yalo Na Pas (Dance of Zante)
A4 Καραγκούνα, Karagouna (Thessalian Dance)
A5 Καράβι Απ’ Τη Χίο Karavi Ap’ Ti Hio (Dance of Chios)
B1 Τρία Παιδιά, Tria Pedia (Dance of Volos)
B2 Η Πέρδικα, I Perdika (Dance of Corfu)
B3 Βασσιλικός, Vassilikos (Dance of Epirus)
B4 Καλαματιανό, Kalamatiano (Dance of Kalamata)
B5 Κρητικός, Kritikos (Cretan Dance)
- Bass: Andreas Rodousakis
- Clarinet, Flute: Nikos Guinos
- Conductor, Arranged By, Liner Notes: Mimis Plessas
- Cover, Painting, Sleeve, Design: Vassilis Fotopoulos
- Drums, Percussion: Igor Raniets
- Electric Guitar: Titos Kaliris
- Flute, Electric Guitar: Andreas Ortega
- Orchestra: Orbiters, The
- Organ [Philicorda]: Mimis Plessas
- Recorded by: Yannis Smirneos
- Written by: Traditional
- Distributed: Music-box, Martin Th. Gesar S.A.
- Printed: Ο. Φωτιάδης & Α. Ιωαννίδης
Dedicated to Eleana and to the newborn Emmeleia.
The original sleeve artwork is by painter and stage designer Vassilis Fotopoulos (Academy Award winner for Art Direction of the film ‘Zorba’)
Pan-Vox (2) – X 33 PV 10101