Music Museums and Motivation

This week I managed to get to see some live music at last as I have been missing seeing any live performances since I’ve been here. In Paphos at the Technopolis 20 culture centre they have a full programme of events for June with some classical recitals as well as Jazz, the performance I went to see on Thursday evening however was rembetika the Greek blues. A group of musicians playing bass, bouzouki, guitar and fiddle entertained us for more than two hours in the garden under the stars, with a collection of nostalgic music. Many of the songs were well known to the audience who sang along and on occasions got up to dance. Some songs have a very compelling rhythm and you can’t help but want to get up and strut your stuff, I did manage to resist however as the fear of making a fool of myself was stronger than the compelling music. In true Greek style drinks and nibbles were available and the audience were seated at tables café style, often chatting throughout the performance some more loudly than others!

Unlike Sunday when I attended a Charity Garden Party arranged by Janet Robinson of Nitbats in her very own garden around the pool which had live music throughout the afternoon. Performed by a mixture of singers in different styles from rock to blues to pop this time I couldn’t resist, this was another kind of nostalgia as I was transported back to the seventies with the same footwork to match!! Janet was raising funds for a local Hospice for cancer patients as well as a cancer charity and did a terrific job organising a very entertaining event, as well as the music there was a fashion show, a raffle and several stalls selling this and that including me of course tucked away under the arch near the loos with my books. Elena of Orexi brought along some of her delicious food for sale which went in a flash and there was of course a bar. A very jolly time was had by all and so far she has managed to raise a goodly sum of 1300 euros.

I took advantage of my time over Paphos way as I stayed overnight with a friend and went to visit the church and Folk museum at Yerroskipou on Friday. I have just finished reading a book called ‘A Walk with Aphrodite written by Peter Breakwell describing a mammoth walk around the thirty seven villages of Paphos over very rough terrain, with the aim of raising money to buy a vital piece of equipment for the hospital in Paphos. He undertook this walk in the 1990’s and there have been many changes since that time but he records the churches he visited and historical landmarks nearby which made it a very interesting read as well as his encounters with the various Muktars and generous offers of a bed for the night. One of the churches he visited was the old church Ayia Paraskevi in Yerroskipou centre which has five domes. I didn’t remember ever having been inside although I probably have but took the opportunity to have another peep. Inside there are a few remains of some of the painted frescoes that once covered all the walls, evidence that they had been either plastered or painted over at some stage as there were signs of heavy chisel marks where the covering plaster had been removed. No photographs were allowed unfortunately and there was rather grumpy looking priest on guard so I couldn’t even sneak one in.

I had long wanted to visit the museum and was not disappointed. A very large house and a nice example of its kind. It was evident from the abundance of rooms and layout as well as architectural refinements that this was the house of a wealthy man. The British consul lived here from 1800 to 1864. The best part was a room where there were some very fine textile examples including a very lovely piece of Fythkiotika and a beautifully unusual runner which looked like chenille work, with vibrant colours. To top it all off I was invited to watch a short video on how olive oil was made using the huge hand press that was in an outbuilding.Very interesting and as I spoke to the attendant  in Greek when I first entered and established after enquiry that my Dad was from Cyprus I didn’t have to pay, bonus.

Saturday morning saw me take part in yet another different past time, helping a volunteer group  ACT to pick up rubbish on the beaches of the Akamas. Keith Watkins along with his wife Wendy, have so far organised 16 clean up excursions to the beaches of the Akamas over a few years, they occur every couple of months. The members number around 60 altogether. My friends took me in their truck, the roads being mostly unmade and often badly rutted so the journey itself is quite an adventure. Sitting in the back was reminiscent of a roller coaster ride, the scenery though is splendid with views of a rugged coastline. It is along this coast on one particular beach at Lara bay where the turtles come to lay their eggs every year and although it is supposed to be protected you still get ignorant people setting up their umbrellas and picnicking on these sensitive spots.

Keith organises these excursions with military precision, doing a recky beforehand taking many photos of the rubbish strewn about either by careless visitors or washed up from the sea. He divides the area into sections so that they work along the coast leaving each beach pristine…. until the next time. I was astounded at the amount of rubbish, between us, there were about 10 or 12 of us, we collected 65 large garden refuse bags as well as a large haul of larger items of plastic pipe, wire and large containers and cans. These are all deposited in one spot and the Forestry commission informed, always enormously grateful who then come along and dispose of it. I could have filled one sack alone with shoes of all kinds, flip-flops, sandals trainers all sizes, I even found a back pack half buried in the sand. The coast line has a lot of low-lying bushes and debris gets tangled in the branches and caught underneath, the road to the beach was particularly bad with bottles of glass as well as plastic. On the shore there were large piles where the rubbish washed in from the sea had all tangled together with seaweed, in these there were hundreds of bottle tops and disposable lighters, in one of the gullies I found a whole carton of cigarettes saturated with sea water, apparently this is a common sight, it is suspected it could be contraband discarded before the coastguard catches them.

Keith should be given a medal for his initiative and effort as he is at least saving some of this plastic from degrading even further and getting eaten by the fish as well as keeping the coastline clean. I would nominate him myself if there was such an award available in Cyprus. After a few hours we all sit down and enjoy a snack often provided by Wendy washed down with a beer supplied by Keith although each person brought their own, except me. It was a great way of seeing a part of the coast I otherwise don’t have access to and doing something worthwhile in the process.

I hope I will have the opportunity to participate again on another trip.

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Rebetiko in the Heart of Chichester

rebetiko (1)

Poster courtesy Federatzione L’Arca

Now it isn’t often I get to say that, Chichester and rebetiko on the surface are as different as South Down’s chalk and feta cheese but it is the time of the Festival of Chichester when we have many diverse musical and cultural events in town, hooray! I  look forward to this short span of time on the cultural calendar as you can guarantee there will be a few unusual world music concerts taking place. For a couple of years there was a barren space where this event should have been as the old Chichester Festivities ground to a halt and was buried under a mound of debt. But you can’t keep a good idea down for long and independently the various organisations that had taken part before regrouped and run the event on a much smaller scale and under their own steam without the large corporate sponsors of before.

Last night I visited St John’s Chapel where ‘Plastikes Karekles’ were performing. St John’s is a rare surviving example of a Georgian proprietary chapel  “Although a proprietary chapel was firmly part of the Church of England it was built and run as a commercial venture. The money to build and run it – including paying the minister’s salary – came from share issues and the sale and rent of pews; some of the original box pews in the gallery of St John’s still have paper labels offering them for rent.” to quote from the St.John’s own website The chapel is delightful and I have enjoyed visiting on the odd occasion and observing the stages of its restoration. The box pews I find particularly endearing. They chapel often host concerts, I had seen ‘Plastikes Karekles’ perform here a few years ago and remembered enjoying them so of course when I saw they were returning I booked my seat, not in a box pew sadly as they are in the gallery which isn’t open. I think this would make a fine viewpoint though at concerts, maybe I could rent one?


The group Plastikes Karekles ( plastic chairs) consists of  a variable number of young  musicians of both classical and folk backgrounds  ranging at any one time from 2 to 17 in number. Last night there were only six including :-Marina Deligianni performing some beautiful and evocative vocals in a true rebetiko style: Pavlos Carvalho playing bouzouki and giving us some history behind the music and instruments in the segues from one section of music to another: Stelios Katsatsidis on harmonic (bayan) accordion: Sarah Carvalho-Dubost on cello and guitar: Maria Tsirodimitri on guitar: Alexandros Koustason violin. The concert started with the haunting sound of the accordion playing out of sight heralding the arrival of the other musicians as they walked up the aisle singing what sounded like a lament. Much of Greek Rebetiko  has this flavour of longing and lament, it’s what reaches out and touches me, in the same vein as some Irish and Scottish folk songs do. On hearing the accordion I couldn’t quite place the instrument out of sight, it had the sound of a harmonium.

The first half contained many familiar rebetiko songs dating back to possibly 40’s and 50’s followed by the more recent Theodorakis numbers which were the result of a revival of Greek music by the composer in the 60’s. Mikis Theodorakis is probably the best known Greek composer of today, who is not familiar with his songs ‘Zorba the Greek’ or ‘Never on a Sunday’? He started his career though as a  classical composer and gained international acclaim, creating several works for ballet as well as symphonies and chamber music. He left all this behind in 1960 to answer the call from within to return to his roots in Greece and Greek music and contributed by so doing, to a cultural revolution in his homeland. He felt that the music of Greece had strayed from its authenticity and wanted to get it back to the roots. Many of the songs that sprang from this time are the ones that I remember first hearing when my dad started to buy Greek music albums. Just hearing the first few notes of bouzouki on a track conjures up blue, open skies, the smell of the sea and souvla and a sense of release and relaxation, as if I had been keeping myself locked up before.  I recognised and hummed along to the familiar tunes I recognised, I was sitting at the back well out of earshot.

Much early traditional Greek folk music from the islands, tells tales often in a repetitive dirge like manner reflecting the ecclesiastic chants of the Orthodox church. The true rebetiko is a more urban folk music, the Greek equivalent to blues music stemming from 1920’s and 30’s and originating in Smyrna but influenced by both Byzantine music as well as Turkish influences among many others, some 50’s Rebetika even has Latin and swing influences. This music has its roots in the expulsion of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from central Anatolia to Greece in the First World war. It was a time of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The music had the same associations in society that Tango music had in Argentina at its beginnings, with the same connections to slightly dark, underground, cafe/ bar society. These bars were places not of merriment  but where you went to forget your troubles by smoking a few pipefuls of hashish, the music was of melancholy and hardship. The music of these songs and the emotion in the voice of the singer conveys all the sorrows of the world very much like Portuguese Fado music which I also love.

One of the most interesting little snippets we were given during the concert was that Jimmy Hendrix was a great admirer of the composer and bazouki player Hiotis and thought he was the fastest player in the world, even faster than Hendrix himself.

I get a regular newsletter from a site called Eugreeka that has news of all events of interest to  Greek speaking people or lovers of all things Greek. A few weeks ago I read of a rembetiko carnival taking place in London featuring several rembetiko performances and I was wishing I lived nearer to see them. Instead they came to me because Plastikes Karekles were also performing at the carnival. At the end of the performance they got many of the audience to join in a Greek line dance a bit like the Greek version of the conga, and they danced around the ailes. A very enjoyable evening altogether and if they ever are playing in a town near you pop along and get an earful of rebetiko .

The Arts of Kouklia Part 2



When you approach Kouklia from the West, you turn off the main road and are directed to the village centre passing an intimidating fortress-like building elevated on a hill to the left. The directions take you away from the building which I was curious to investigate but as the village centre is where I also needed to be I, on this occasion, followed directions. The building turned out to be the walls of the manner house I later discovered.

Kouklia itself is a small village and the main square is full of coffee shops and tavernas which seemed to be very quiet and sleepy when I arrived at midday. The square comes alive in the evenings, particularly in the summer when the Pharos Music Festival is taking place, bringing many visitors to the area. In June the square is closed to traffic just for the evenings and the tables and chairs spill out into the road giving, I would imagine, a real relaxed party air for the guests and a safe area for children to play. At the weekends traditional dancing takes place to add to the entertainment. All the tavernas work together to make it as sociable as possible. All this I was told second-hand, I haven’t experienced it myself but it sounds a great idea and of benefit to all one would think? Of course there always has to be dissenters and someone has objected to the restricted access in the evenings and wants it lifted. As the square covers such a small area I can’t imagine that it is not possible to find alternative ways of access and surely a compromise could be reached? We have to wait the verdict from the authorities. Business will suffer and consequently people’s livelihoods.

The reason I eventually heard about Kouklia was not in fact because of its historical importance. I read a review of an art centre that had just opened on the square. Kouklia Arts is formed of two parts, the studio area where paintings are created and sold; this takes place in a lovingly restored old building that once was a coffee shop and local stores; the second part is a traditional house also restored just down the street. The house in now a shop selling every imaginable kind of gift and handicraft from candles to lace, made by local craftsmen, they even  sell some of my beloved traditional baskets.This has been the long held dream of  Angela Winstanley an artist herself, she paints, inspired by the surroundings, as she says she is “living the dream”. Here is a link to her site Amongst it all Angela has taken on board some of my books, Androula’s Kitchen to display for sale, if you are in the area why not go along and have a browse, there are plenty of relaxing places to eat and spend a few hours watching the world go by.

If you are looking for historical culture the museum and temple site as mentioned in part one of this post 2014/06/30/the-arts-of-kouklia/ will certainly satisfy. In my usual fashion I bought the guide book at the end of my visit and read on my return to England that there are still remaining ancient tunnels used in the fortifications of the town. Now that I would like to see and another visit is called for.


Music Music Music

A friend of mine posted on Facebook a video of Donna and Kebab today; a duo made up of Martha Dimitri Lewis and Eve Polycarpou two British Born Cypriots who joined in partnership in 1987 mixing singing and comedy. They have since evolved into Martha and Eve. Seeing the video reminded me of when I saw their act at a local festival. They certainly made me chuckle, sort of a mixture of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding “Humour and some lovely harmonic vocals.

Once I’d seen one video I wanted to see more of course and I found a great little piece of “rembetika”  or Greek soul music.

Rembetika  came into being in the early 20th century in Greece and was influenced  by the influx  of Greeks as a result of the diaspora from Asia Minor in 1922. Here is a very good site with more information and links to more music that you can listen to.

Love is all around

Happy Valentine’s day everyone and as it’s all about lurve I thought it appropriate to add a love song for you to check out. Greek of course… There is no one that does melancholy better than the Greeks and of course the word itself is Greek so what do we expect, they invented it!!! There is something in me that is very melancholic and Greek “soul” music or rembetica hits the spot. Rembetica started as the underground music of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor. About two million Greeks were uprooted from their homeland in Anatolia around 1922 and exiled to Greece, when the Ottoman Empire broke up and the Republic of Turkey was established. Please check out the Wikipedia link on the right for more information, if you re interested.

I remember when we first got a record player in our house, a good old Dansette and my dad went out and bought some Greek records. The music sounded very alien to me and I found a lot of it very jarring on the ear. But… there were some that resonated and it was those wailing long drawn out notes of the likes of Yiota Lydia that seemed to reach inside me and find those little dark broody places that responded. I still love her voice and I suppose it reminds me of my younger days and the early trips I made to Cyprus. The music conjures up for me a feeling of the  Middle East, the rhythms and sounds  redolent of Egyptian & Arabic music. When I took up Egyptian Dance classes some years ago I immediately felt at home.

There is a link on the right to a really interesting article on rembetika with a wealth of  information on various artists that you might like to check out if you’re interested.

A very popular modern Greek singer called George Dalaras has brought out a modern working of some of the old rembetika songs on an album called Ta Rembetika Tis Katohis Album. There are those familiar and well loved plinkety plink sounds of bazouki that just make you want to say oooopah!