9. The old dialogical ghlendi as a modern monological performance: the ghlendi as show


Dialogical singing was widely practiced in Lesbos until the early 1960s [23]. And so was the dialogical ghlendi, the performative whole to which dialogical singing belonged as a distinct yet indispensable part.


May Day with the ‘guild of drivers;’ Karini near Aghiassos (Lesbos), 1938. (Dionysopoulos ibid: 31)

Musical entertainment for the men of Ayia Paraskevi in Michailaros’ café.
Most of those in the front row are emigrants from the village (to Sudan or America),
home for their summer holidays; Ayia Paraskevi (Lesbos), August 1934.
(Dionysopoulos ibid: 18


Another case in point is the dialogical ghlendi that was performed at the kouitoukia of Aghiassos, a big village to the north of Plomari. The kouitoukia were small coffee-places that were scattered all over the village area. These were rough outdoor structures which operated usually on Sundays and feast days.r and, at the same time, as a timely and accurate expression of social experience.


Dancing in front of the church; Boros (Lesbos), 1953. (Dionysopoulos ibid: 69)

The kouitoukia were very popular sites for socializing, as they were fully integrated with the everyday culture and social life of the village. The dialogical singing that was performed in front of these rough structures was greatly appreciated by all the inhabitants of Aghiassos, especially the young male revelers of the ghlendi and the young girls to whom most of the songs were addressed. The dialogical ghlendi at the kouitoukia was a symbolic domain that enabled the young people of the village to express themselves in public and negotiate the boundaries of some real or imaginary personal concerns.  In its space, the male singers and the girls who lived in the neighborhood where the ghlendi was held were allowed to get together and communicate their feelings of sympathy and love for each other without violating the social norms of their culture regarding gender relations.

Dialogical singing is a constitutive element of the dialogical ghlendi. Such a form of singing is constituted by the experience of the dialogical reality of the ghlendi whole and is, at the same time, a constituting modality that is conducive to the performative realization of the dialogical principle as such. If the idea of the dialogic is not reduced to the act of conversation, but is understood literally as a juxtaposition of various logics, it might then be contrasted to the idea of the monologic,
connoting a unitary and fixed logic.  When used to qualify performance, the idea of the monologic suggests that performance unfolds systematically on the basis of some predominant and usually preconceived logic. If the unitary and the fixed are the main qualities of the monologic, the contingent and the emergent are the distinguishing modalities of the dialogic. A monological tradition of singing and playing music in Lesbos can be traced out in the Interwar period and most notably since the 1950s [24].

A post-War musical band; Kapi (Lesbos), 1957. (Dionysopoulos ibid:  37)

Its coexistence with the longstanding tradition of the dialogical ghlendi prepared the ground for various fusions of the monologic and dialogic elements on the level of both music and culture. A case in point is the effect that brass wind bands had on the dynamics of the dialogical ghlendi experience. With their overwhelming sound, these bands made non-amplified singing impossible, helping thus to solidify specialization in musical performance.

The Feast of the Archangels; Parakila (Lesbos), early Fifties. (Dionysopoulos ibid: 123)

The brass wind bands played a significant role in helping to establish a structural distance between the performer and his audience as maker of music and listener. Such performances were conducive to a gradual monologization of the dialogical component of the ghlendi both in music and culture.

The ghlendi of Lesbos acquired a monological quality which gradually became the defining element of its social performance. This was the case up until the mid 1990s, when a new expression of the monologic in association with the performance of

the ghlendi appeared on the island. A dramaturgical representation of the dialogical ghlendi was staged by the members of a local cultural association in the courtyard of a school in the summertime to entertain local people and tourists [25]. For ethical reasons, I shall not disclose the identity neither of the association nor of the village and school where the activity took place. I shall refer to the village by the pseudonym Skala, which in the local dialect means port, and to the people of Skala, as well as the members of the association who were responsible for staging the ghlendi as Skaliotes. What is important to note about this staging practice is the hybrid strategy employed by the Skaliotes who aimed at fusing the monologic as a modality of representation with the dialogic as a modality of actually lived experience. The ghlendi eventually took up the form of a show. The show-qua-ghlendi presentation was, of course, a monological performance, whereby the monological poetics of its realization were strategically coupled with a dialogical rhetoric. The actually lived experience of the dialogical ghlendi was invoked by the Skaliotes to empower and, eventually, legitimize its representation on stage. The monological performance of the dialogical ghlendi was rendered as a play of associations, an endless drifting between past experience and present practice. A play of associations organized as a juxtaposition of various logics under the guidance of a predominant perspective: the staged authenticity of the Skaliotes.

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