Yorgos Margaritis & 667 / Greece
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Yorgos Margaritis & 667
Ola tha ta Diagrapso (I'll Erase the Whole Lot)
Minos-EMI 7243 5 36479 2 6

This record is the equivalent of the Rick Rubin-produced "American" recordings for Johnny Cash. Yorgos Margaritis is a well-known laiko (meaning something between popular and populist) singer, with about ten records under his belt. 667 are the very bourgeois and Western-oriented members of Mode Plagal, plus assorted guests. The clash of civilizations that followed, was a true event in Greece this past year and it was because they topped a recent chart that I gathered the courage to go and buy it.

Laiko is music that is beyond bourgeois demographics and in that sense, it's the true heir to rembetika: it's the music of wholesale food markets early in the morning, Army barricades late in the afternoon, truck drivers all through the day. "By the people and for the people," you might say. Lately, the genre has been hit by the death of important singers: Stratos Dionisiou, Stelios Kazantzidis and many more have passed away. The ones that are left are desperately trying to adapt to new musical possibilities in Greece, where laiko-pop has taken over, with its "ready-to-wear" aural experience. Some of the most famous voices of the genre have got into the game: Angela Dimitriou, Zaphiris Melas, Antypas have all adapted electronic instruments in order to freshen up their sound.

Ola tha ta Diagrapso doesn't do that. It doesn't apologize for being a laiko record: it simply is. It is produced with great care, features great players and a true original voice. From the cover photo, all the way to lyrics like "You stand in front of your mirror, and you touch yourself," it's true to the spirit and the codes of the genre: this is no crossover record, although it ended up being the crossover event of the year. Equally importantly, 667 (aka Mode Plagal) didn't come to teach Margaritis how to do his job: they came to support him. Their presence is felt all over the record, but it never drowns it. There are at least three or four songs on it that will be heard in the Food Market early in the morning and the barricades late in the afternoon, and others that could have been featured on a Mode Plagal CD. You feel history being made, the division between laiko and entechno finally disappearing.

In the musical landscape of Greece, this is of "Fall of the Berlin Wall" dimensions. If you are interested in exploring the rough underside of the Greek musical scene and getting a hint of the music that forms at least half of the bloodline of Greece, than this is a good introduction, even if it's not for the faint-hearted. - Nondas Kitsos

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