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Márkos Vamvakáris
Bouzouki Pioneer
Rounder (

Hashish, dark nights in the bars and smokehouses, men and women and song... Here is the world of this musician raised on the Greek island of Syros, self taught after being so beguiled by the instrument that he swore he would cut off his hand if he didn't learn how to play in six months. He did, and his music, while never making him rich or famous, made him a much loved character and brings him now to our attention some 60 years later on this collection of remastered recordings from 1932 to 1940. These were heady times in Greece, full of promise, change and danger, portrayed best in the music called rembetika. These pieces feature Vamvakáris on voice and bouzouki, usually accompanied by guitar and drum, occasionally with another bouzouki, an accordion or baglama (a variant of the bouzouki). There's a priceless duet with Bulgarian singer Elly Petridhou that features this fuller band, and tells a tale of "six cool chicks" who make a habit of seeking out guys who are "hot for it" and taking their money. It's played with a humorous twist, and is a great example of the spirit of rembetika in particular Márkos Vamvakáris personal brand of it. - CF

Available at cdRoots

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