U.S. athletes could groove to rembetika

Greek radio has world pop, and native sounds, too

For the Record

August 22, 2004|By Eric R. Danton | Eric R. Danton,Hartford Courant

Maybe it hit you in the middle of the night, and you sat up in bed, drenched in sweat and terrified by a horrifying thought:

American athletes in Greece for the Olympics are far removed from the clutches of Clear Channel radio and MTV, so what on earth are they listening to?

Their iPods, of course.

But should our finest physical specimens drain the batteries of their personal listening devices, fear not, America. There is more to Greek music than Yanni and Eleni Karaindrou. You know, the film composer? Ulysses' Gaze? Eternity and a Day?

Sigh. Philistines.

Anyway, our athletes don't have to do without the sounds of home. The most recent Top 20 airplay chart for Radio One (radio1.gr), based in Rhodes, includes tunes by Kelis, Anastacia, Usher and Ludacris, Maroon 5, Madonna, Evanescence, Angie Stone and Mario Winans and P. Diddy. (Sorry, Greece.)

The more adventurous among our athletic competitors might choose to investigate rembetika (spellings differ), a traditional musical form that has evolved over the years into popular Greek music. Rembetika originated among ethnic Greeks repatriated from Asia Minor to Greece as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the 1920s, according to an overview of the music by Matt Barrett on athensguide. com / nightlife. Rembetika introduced the bouzouki, an eight-stringed instrument that has become an important part of Irish music.

Believe it or not, the bouzouki also played a role in the rise of American surf music -- guitarist Dick Dale's frenetic staccato picking style was inspired by the instrument. So music that originated in Greek hash dens is essentially a direct link to American surf guitar.

Rembetika, or "urban blues," spawned an offshoot known as laika, or "urban folk." Laika combines the influence of rembetika and other regional Greek music forms. One of the most popular laika musicians is George Dalaras, who is known as the Greek Bruce Springsteen, according to the All Music Guide.

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