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date: 05 June 2020

Rebetika [Rembetika; Rempetika] (sing. Rebetiko) (Gk.)locked

  • Gail Holst-Warhaft


[Rembetika; Rempetika] (sing. Rebetiko) (Gk.)

The rebetika are Greek songs associated with an urban low-life milieu frequented by rebetes, or manges, streetwise characters of shady repute, many of whom smoked hashish. The genre occupies a similar place in Greek culture to that of the tango in Argentina or to flamenco in Spain. The origins of the term remain obscure. It first appears as a description of certain Greek popular songs recorded in the USA and Turkey in the early decades of the 20th century. Influenced by the popular music of the late Ottoman Empire the rebetika are considered to have reached their characteristic form after a massive influx of refugees following the exchange of populations at the end of the Turkish-Greek war of 1919–22.

The songs performed in the so-called café-aman of Athens from the 1890s to the 1920s were at first indistinguishable from the popular music of Istanbul or Izmir. Instruments used in the ensembles included the ...

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