This Corona stuff really sucks ey! Since we might all be bound by borders for a while, we’d like to come together and share some happiness in the shape of a playlist or mix!
In the next days and weeks, check out Safe & Sounds, where we will figuratively introduce you to and put you in touch with music whizzes, featuring their selections, collections and picks from all around the globe.
Be “Safe & Sounds” and wash your hands!
For Greece, the Interwar period (Mesopolemos 1922-1940) starts with the dramatic consequences of the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922) which caused one of the most massive migrant resettlements in the Mediterranean to date and saw the onset of Great Depression. The years that followed continue to be turbulent amid coups and short-lived dictatorships (Pangalos 1925-26, Metaxas 1936-1941) , WWII, Nazi occupation and a deadly civil war (1946-1949).
While the country was going through these undoubtedly interesting times, the social life of Interwar Athens was allegedly quite lively. Newly imported habits were landing from both East and West, the dipole where most fights concerning Greek cultural identity were fought, with the popular song often being the battleground. At the time that the poor suburbs of Piraeus, which housed the newly arrived refugees from Asia Minor, were reinventing the Smyrneika music tradition into the urban blues of Rebetiko, the upper classes of Athens would indulge in a massive wave of western influence through radio, cinema, varieté theatre and operetta and of course the phonograph. Big bands would adopt foxtrot, one step, mambo, rumba and tango and appropriate new instruments like Hawaiian steel guitars, yukeleles, accordions and marimbas in order to entertain and distract the exhausted, by successive crises and economic downturn, urban population.
Elafra (light) songs appeared right on time and in synch with the escapist entertainment that thrived during the Great Depression worldwide, aimed at beautifying or even concealing harsh realities and the absence of a future. In contrast to Rebetiko’s social realism, these songs were rarely politicized, contained silly, often satyrical lyrics and offered a much-needed lightening up of mood to a depressed population. Quite often they would feature the theme of escape and exotic travel. Although travel could only be a privilege of the few, the desire of the less privileged to mentally flee from despair and poverty to faraway exotic lands to find love, riches or simply peace of mind, found expression through these songs. The escape destinations would usually be heavily exoticized (and politically incorrect by today’s standards) renditions of known geographies (Hawaii, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Trinidad), metropolises of the West (Paris, London, New York) as well as fictional places (Tougo Tougo). Prominent figures of the Elafra were the composers Attik, Sougioul, Menestrel and -the recently re-discovered Kostas Bezos and his steel guitar band the White Birds, as well as talented singers like Nikos Gounaris, Danae, Sofia Vembo, Kakia Mendri and Fotis Polymeris. Although very popular at the time, Elafra did not leave a distinctive mark in the country’s cultural heritage as Rebetiko did, yet they did lend a hand in the evolution of the Greek song and its many transformations in the post-war years.
Ironically this escapism, as expressed in Elafra, perhaps proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in the 50s through the 60s, when millions of Greeks were forced to leave the country as immigrants to less exotic destinations like Belgium and Germany, Australia and the USA. As a listen, almost 80 years later, these songs of incredible goofiness and naivety, are not only enjoyable and charming, but also still relevant, as the human desire to (at least mentally) escape to some faraway utopia where the future is brighter, is apparently timeless.
This mixtape was commissioned by Movement.Radio Athens
– Smaroula Yiouli & Trio Kitara: Vira tis agkires (Off We Go) (1949)
– Νikos Gounaris: Mikri Arabella (1939)
– Kostas Bezos & The White Birds: Havana (1937)
– Adelfes Kalouta (Samba/ Kalouta Sisters): Sudan (1952)
– Tonis Maroudas & Trio Kitara: Sto Tougo Tougo (1949)
– Danae: Argentina (1931)
– Danae: Amapola (1933)
– Kostas Bezos & The White Birds: Paraguay (1935)
– Fotis Polymeris, Yorgos Mouzakis, Kostas Nikolaidis : Mexico (1951)
– Trio Kitara: Otan pas Kamia fora sto Mexico (If you once go to Mexico) (1951)
– Trio Kitara: To cowboiko systima (The cowboy system) (1953)
– Nitsa Molly: Cowboy ine o dikos mou (My boyfriend is a cowboy) | (1949)
– Nondas Sgouros: Ah Baby! (1930)
– Nanouka Frangia, Yorgos Tsokopoulos : Ameriki (America) (1934)
– Trio Melody: Glikia mou sti Hawaii (To Hawaaii, my sweetheart) (1950)
– Trio Kitara :Se magika nisia (to magic islands) (1951)
– I Boheme tou Vella: Trelles sti Hawaii (Follies in Hawaii) (1938)
– Georges Guetary: Sti Honolulu (1935)
– Kostas Bezos & the White Birds: Dipi Dipi Dop (1934)
– Adelfes Kalouta (Kalouta Sisters) : Yo Yo Yo (1950)
– Danae: Londra, Parisi, New York (1946)
– Tetos Dimitriadis: Hinky dinky parlez vous (1929)
– Mary Lo : Kalamazoo (1942)
– Nikos Gounaris: Xenomania (1936)
– Nitsa Molly: Zumba (1939)
– Kakia Mendri: Rumba (1935)
– Kakia Mendri: Glikia Marata (1940)
– Fotis Polimeris: Tico Tico (1946
– Nini Zacha: Hi Lily, Hi Lo (1954)
– Petros Epitropakis: Tiritomba (1934)
– Danae: Mini apo to Trinidad (Mini from Trinidad) (1946)
– Trio Kitara: Zito to Vem Vem (Vem Vem, hurray) (1948)
– Danae : Tis fantasias to karavi (Fantasy boat) (1958)
– Ioanna Makri: Morocco (1958)
– Sophia Vembo: Konta sto Nilo (By the Nile) (1939)
– Nikos Gounaris : Cairo (1946)
– Duo Harma: I Barbaria (1948)
– Stella Greca: Pame sto Agnosto (Let’s Travel to the Unknown) (1946)
Agent Mo is the DJ moniker of Marina Gioti, a visual artist and filmmaker based in Athens, Greece. She has been dj-ing regularly in Athens for the past twenty years and has also performed in cities like Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, London, Cairo and Beirut. More of a selector than a dj, she mixes overlooked findings from around the world through a cross-genre approach, defying strict musical classifications and time. She is a resident at Movement.Radio, Athens.