Repertories and identities of a musician from Crete (Magrini)


  The tabachaniotika (sing., tabachaniotiko) songs are a Cretan urban musical repertory which belongs to the wide family of musics, like the rebetika and music of the Café-aman, that merge Greek and Turkish elements. This genre represents an outcome of the Greek-Turkish cultural syncretism in Crete during the period of Ottoman domination. According to Chaniá musicians, the tabachaniotika probably arose in Crete in the towns of Chaniá and Rethymnon around the middle of nineteenth century. It was then the typical musical repertory of the so-called turkokritikoí, Muslim Cretans. It developed mainly after the immigration of Smyrna's refugees in 1922, as did the more widespread rebetika.

Various conjectures are advanced to explain the meaning and origin of the term "tabachaniotika." Kostas Papadakis believes that it comes from tabakaniotikes, which may mean places where hashish was smoked and music performed, as in the tekédes of Piraeus. But a quarter named Tabahana existed in Smyrna and the name had a Turkish root (Trk., tabak: tanner; tabakhane: tannery). In Chaniá too, there was a quarter with the same name, where refugees from Smyrna lived after the 1922 diaspora. Tabachaniotiko was also the name of a song of the amané genre, which was popular in Smyrna in the period before 1922, together with some other songs called Minoré, Bournovalio, Galata, and Tzivaeri (Kounadis 1993: 23). Compare the Greek-Turkish ballos performed by a Greek ensemble in New York City in 1928, included in the article by Karl Signell.

This detail might be critical for the history of Cretan tabachaniotika, since Cretans frequently had contacts with the people and music of Smyrna during the nineteenth century. Cretan musicians believe that the further development of Cretan tabachaniotika took place mainly after 1922, as a consequence of the refugees' resettlement. The genre was popular until the 1950s.

Commonalities between the tabachaniotika and the rebetika Music

Dromoi, modal types designated by Turkish names, like rasti, houzam, hijaz, ousak, niaventi, sabak, etc.

Instrumental introduction before the song (taximi, pl., taximia), where the player explores the dromo

Tsifteteli rhythm, as in the Turkish "belly-dance" music example heard in Signell's article.

Musical instruments like bouzouki, boulgarí (the Cretan version of the Turkish saz, similar to the earliest forms of the bouzouki), and baglamás

Poetic text

The rebetika and tabachaniotika often share the political verse, that is, fifteen syllable lines divided into two hemistichs (8+7), generally realized as couplets. In Crete such couplets are called mandinades, as are extemporary texts sung to the music of dances, mainly the syrtós, and kondilyés.

They focus mainly on the themes of existential grief and lost love, also common to the rebetika. Songs making fun of Turks, narrative songs, and other songs in dialogue form also belong to this repertory.

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Stelios "Phoustalieris" Phoustalierakis
Unlike the rebetika, the tabachaniotika did not typify the underground and was only sung, not danced, according to Nikolaos Sarimanolis, the last living performer of this repertory in Chaniá. Only a few musicians played the tabachaniotika, the most famous being the boulgarí player Stelios Phoustalierakis "Phoustalieris" (1911-1992) from Rethymnon.
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Phoustalieris sings and plays his famous song Ta vasana mou chairomai
Phoustalieris bought his first boulgarí in 1924. In 1979, he said that in Rethymnon the boulgarí was widespread in the 1920s: in every tavern one could find a boulgarí, and people played and sang love songs. He said the boulgarí was then also the main accompanying instrument of the lyra, together with the mandola. The laouto began spreading in Rethymnon not before the 1930s.

Phoustalieris played for years as accompanist of the lyrist Antonis Kareklás in feasts and weddings and performed any kind of repertory (syrtós, pendozalia, pidichtá kastriná, taximia, kathistiká--lit., "sitting-down music," i.e., music for listening, not for dancing--and even rebetika). Later, he began playing the boulgarí, also as a melodic instrument, with the accompaniment of guitar or mandolin. He played also in a group with musicians refugees from Asia Minor, who played the outi and sandouri. Phoustalieris composed also many songs and recorded them in Rethymnon. In the period 1933-1937 he lived in Piraeus and played together with famous rebetes, like Markos Vamvarakis. He may be considered a musician who merged the musics of Crete, Asia Minor, and Piraeus (see Liavas 1988).

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Sarimanolis playing bouzouki

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Sarimanolis plays and sings Staphidianós

Notwithstanding the dearth of performers, tabachaniotika songs were widespread and could also be performed at domestic gatherings, according to bouzouki player Nikolaos Sarimanolis (born in Nea Ephesos, Asia Minor, in 1919). Sarimanolis also took part in the group founded by Papadakis in Chaniá in 1945 (see Papadakis interview).

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