Gail Holst

Road to Rembetika

music of a Greek sub-culture,
songs of love, sorrow and hashish

The rembetika, songs that were sung in the poor quarters of Smryna, Istanbul and the ports of Greece in the late nineteenth century, and became the popular bouzouki music of the 1930s to 1950s, have many parallels with American blues. Like the blues, the rembeika were the music of outsiders, who developed their own slang and their own forms of expression. Road to Rembetika was the first book in English to attempt a general survey of the world of the rembetes who smoked hashish and danced the passionate, introspective zembekiko to release their emotions. An enthusiastic introduction to the subject, it was written by an Australian musician and writer who first came to Greece in 1965 and who has continued to perform and write about Greek music ever since. Gail Holst describes her own initiation into the rembetika, outlines its historical and sociological background, its musical characteristics and instrumentation.

The second part of the book is a collection of rembetika songs in Greek with an English translation en face. The text is illustrated with photographs of the period, musical examples and some original manuscripts of the songs.

This fourth edition has been retypeset and amended, and has a new introduction and further song lyrics, and the bibliography and discography have been updated. It was reprinted in 2013

  • 190 pages, 20.0 x 13.5 cm, 2006
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