Rebetika of Sotiria Bellou

From: Eva
Category: Music
Date: 20 May 2005


Her deep no-nonsense voice...

One of the queens of the genre she died only eight years ago, born in 1921. Rebetika is popular Greek music, often compared to blues at that point when it was raw and coming from people at the lowest rung, singing about drug use, smuggling, gambling, hard life, prison, repression, persecution and later heartache. Merging Greek and Turkish elements the "classic" form emerged from Piraeus during the 1930s.

When I play Rebetika to English people they generally find it rather jolly sounding and jump around impersonating Zorba. This is really irritating, if they bothered to learn Greek they'd realise that these songs are about people going down to the river to drown themselves (I especially like the line in "I'll Die on the Boat" that goes "let the dark night sea swallow me and the little fishes eat my flesh", not so jolly when you listen).

Sotiria Bellou was gay and I think she spent some time in prison for killing her girlfriend's husband. When she sings lines about love, loss and death it makes it stranger and stronger to think that this voice inspires emerged from a woman who had known all the things she sings about well. It seems strange that she is dead but her voice is in my living room.