Rembetika music is the music of the Greek Underground. It originated in the hashish dens of Pireaus and Thessaloniki around the turn of the 20th century and was influenced by oriental elements that came with the forced immigration of 2 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor. It gave way to Greek Popular Music ('Laika' in Greek) which used the same instruments in similar ways during the early 1950s. This page will give you a brief introduction to Rembetika music and hopefully inspire you to explore more deeply into it. If you are hearing music as you read this then you are in luck. This means you can click on the links to songs and hear them as well. The songs I have chosen are my favorites, some old rembetika, some new rembetika and some laika which is what rembetika metamorphosed into with influences from all other types of Greek music. I have used mostly later recordings of the songs because the sound quality is better and they are more likely to get you to go out and start your collection. If you have a high-speed connection you should be able to get these songs loaded pretty quickly. If you are on a dial-up don't bother. Just read the text.
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Rebetiko, plural rebetika, (Greekρεμπέτικο and ρεμπέτικα respectively), occasionally transliterated as Rembetiko, is the name for a type of Greek urban folk music. A roots music form of sorts, the sound of the genre reflects the combined influences of European and Middle Eastern music. Rebetiko music has sometimes been called the Greek blues, since like the blues, it grew out of a specific urban subculture and reflected the harsh realities of an oppressed subculture's lifestyle: poverty, alienation, crime, drink, drugs prostitution, and violence. But rebetiko's subject matter also extends to other subjects: romance and passion, social matters, people such as the mother, death, the difficulties of living in a foreign country, army life, war, trivial matters of everyday life, exotic places, poverty, labor, illnesses, and the minor sorrows of people. A major theme of Rebetiko is the pleasure of using drugs, especially hashish. Rebetiko songs of this kind are called Χασικλίδικα (hasiklidika).. Also like the blues, rebetiko progressed from being a music associated with the lower classes to becoming during the 1960s and later a revived musical form of wide popularity, especially among younger people. Rebetiko music was closely associated with the mangas Greek urban subculture. Finally, rebetiko songs usually display the same chord progressions found in songs from classic Mississippi delta bluesmen like Robert Johnson and others.
The word "rebetiko/rebetika" is generally assumed to be an adjectival form from "rebetes" (singular: rebetis), which is more or less a synonym for "mangas" (plural: manges), but the etymology of "rebetes" has been the subject of dispute. Both the leading scholar of rebetiko, Elias Petropoulos, and the respected modern Greek lexicographer G. Babiniotis, while offering various suggested derivations, consider the word's true origin uncertain.