Repertories and identities of a musician from Crete (Magrini)

3. USA: Pan-Hellenic pop musician for Greek diaspora

In 1959, Papadakis emigrated to the U.S. He lived in Chicago, where he tried to get a job as a violin player in Greek clubs. But the Greek-Americans clubs of Chicago were not interested in violin music. The violin was generally found throughout Greece, in particular in the islands. Why did these Greek-American clubs reject it? This incident suggests some considerations about the behavior of immigrants as regards their "traditions".
Re-invented tradition
It may be useful to think of what Paul Gilroy and James Clifford write about the role of processes of identification and reinvention of their traditions in diasporic communities. "Tradition can now become a way of conceptualizing the fragile communicative relationships across time and space that are the basis not of diaspora identities but of diaspora identifications" (Gilroy 1993: 276). According to Clifford, what is at stake concerns "identifications, not identities, acts of relationship rather than pre-given forms: this tradition is a network of partially connected histories, a persistently displaced and reinvented time/space of crossings" (Clifford 1994: 321). Thus, it should be assumed that Greek diasporic communities were available to acknowledge as their own musical language, and as symbol of their relationship with the homeland, something which was more complex than just any music coming from Greece. In these terms, the musical language of diasporas seems a language which is chosen and re-built on the basis of specific needs and circumstances.
Pan-Hellenic pop music

audio icon
Papadakis plays Ballos with an instrumental group including violin, laouto, guitar, bouzouki, and percussion

The story of Papadakis is significant in this respect. After being rejected in America as a violin player, he succeeded later in resuming his activity as a musician. He started again playing the bouzouki, founded a musical group including instruments like the accordion and harmonium which do not belong to Greek folk music, began playing for radio and television and became a full-time professional. His agent got contracts for him to perform for the scattered Greek communities throughout the world. He toured the United States, Japan, Philippines, Alaska, New Caledonia, India. Kostas had attained his goal: he had succeeded in recycling himself once more and becoming a musician who interpreted the musical needs of Greek diasporic communities, by playing any sort of Greek dance arranged for his group.
Diasporic networks
In the U.S. Papadakis was no more tied to a single community as before, but to a network of communities. "Such diasporic networks are very distinctive and have a complex internal structure. While they may make a point-to-point connection with a homeland population and style, they might also conjure new networks abroad" (Slobin 1993: 64-65). Even when the country of origin is the same, as in this case, musical language does not serve to reconnect single Greeks to their own place of origin, each having a different music, but rather to create means of relationship and solidarity among the members of the diasporic network sharing a common re-imagined homeland (3). This suggests that diasporic communities join an ideal bond of union and affection with a lost homeland, which consists of longing, memories and identification, to the creation of a transversal, Panhellenic, musical language, sometimes influenced by local commercial music. Diasporic networks may even involve musicians and communities coming from different countries of a wider "region" of the world, and sharing "common historical experiences of dispossession, displacement, adaptation and so forth" (Clifford 1994: 309), in a sort of transnational alliance which overcomes ethnic and linguistic boundaries.

Other articles in this issue of Ethnomusicology Online stress this point. Philip Bohlman writes that in diasporic cultures "new forms of border-crossing developed. Music was one of the most powerful ways of representing such border-crossing and of physically making it possible. Music translated the histories of different diaspora communities into shared experiences". (Bohlman article)

The case of Emin Gündüz, a Turkish player of the kanun plucked zither, dealt with by Karl Signell in his article, is emblematic in this regard:

Although he performed for Turkish associations as far afield as Montreal, Gündüz earned his bread and butter singing and playing in the John Tatasopoulos ensemble at the Astor, a Greek belly-dance club in Washington, D.C. Alongside Greek and Armenian musicians, Gündüz learned to play in the pan-Middle Eastern style prevalant in such clubs in America. Gündüz told me he sang in Greek, Arabic, Armenian, or Turkish, by request" (Signell article).

The case of Gündüz suggests again that the musics of diasporic communities may consist of reinvented repertories, characterized by processes such as syncretism, transculturation, modernization, that is, dynamic processes involving change (see Nettl 1996). And, above all, the creation of these repertories involves the re-interpretation of the single pieces of music in view of their new function as a whole, namely, to provide displaced communities with the means to reconstitute new forms of identity and relationship while maintaining an ideal bond with a more or less enlarged idea of "mother country".

Back | Home | Next | Comments