Report on the 2003 Conference










A report on the third international conference

"Researching Rebetika: Present Projects and Future Prospects"

held on the Island of Hydra, 16-19 October 2003



By tradition I offer a report on the activities of the last year's Hydra Rebetiko Gathering. Partly for those who were unable to be with us this year. Partly for our sponsors. And partly for people who might like to join us next year.


PLEASE NOTE: Our next conference will be held in Hydra on 13-17 October 2004. Its theme will be "MODES AND ROADS, TAXIMIA AND MAQAMS". Since this will be of interest to people outside the field of Greek music, I would ask you to circulate this mailing to others who may be interested.


If you wish to present a paper at the 2004 conference, please send your proposal to





The Hydra Rebetiko Gathering is now a consolidated annual event – a major event in the social calendar of Hydra, and a focal point for people with an interest in Greek music. This year we had 65 registered participants, and over 450 for the Saturday night performance at the Douskos Restaurant. We have not yet reached the point where we have to limit the number of participants in order to keep the Gathering intimate, but that time will soon come.


The conference is held in the third week of October, on the Island of Hydra, with the support of the Mayor and Municipality of the island. It is attended by people from all over the world – Greeks and non-Greeks alike. This year we had people from 22 different countries. We combine academic research, performance and workshop sessions related to Greek music and Rebetiko in particular. Each year we choose a sub-theme, and this year it was "Women and Rebetiko – and the Rebetiko Women".


The Conference has several aims:


(a) To create and develop international academic collaboration in researching Rebetiko music. To this end we invite leading academics in the field to come and contribute papers.


(b) To make that research available in the English language. This is important, because it means that non-Greeks – and also the many Greeks in the diaspora who do not read or speak Greek – can have access to these materials. Where possible, Greek papers are translated into English.


(c) To publish materials from our Conference in printed book form. Together with Yannis Zaimakis I have begun editing a book of rebetiko research materials, and we have set about seeking a publisher.


(d) To place our Rebetiko-related research materials on a dedicated Internet website so that they can be accessed from around the world. Our website, located at, has proved to be a useful mobilising tool.


(e) To create a RebetikoForum discussion list, where conference members can exchange opinions and generally keep in touch. This list has now been established at, and can be accessed through our website.


(f) To use the "new technologies" (Internet, e-mail, MP3, digital video etc) to build a horizontal network of communication between rebetiko researchers, musicians, singers, film-makers and music-lovers. The participants at the conference have again exchanged e-mail addresses, and once again new creative projects are arising out of the fruitful encounter that we had.


(g) To create a publicly-accessible archive of articles, journals, sound-recordings, film etc, which can be used by researchers. In a very exciting development, the British Library at St Pancras has agreed to provide facilities to house the archives of the Institute of Rebetology. This year’s paper by Krini Kafiris on creating a filmography of rebetiko should also produce interesting results in the future.


(h) To locate Rebetiko within the broader musics of the Mediterranean as a whole. To this end every year we bring musicians and singers from both Greece and Turkey as a way of highlighting the Asia Minor roots of rebetiko music. This year we had an interesting representation from Spain, which will be developed next year, and a major contribution from the Italian musical group Calicanto (see below).


(i) To invite the islanders of Hydra to share the experience of our Conference. For this purpose we organise open-access film shows and concerts, and we organise one big free concert – our "Saturday Night Rebetiko Supper" – where we bring some of Greece's best musicians. We also involve the children of the island of Hydra in our activities, through music and theatre workshops.


The Free University of Hydra


The Rebetiko conference is part of a wider initiative known as “The Free University of Hydra”, which will develop cultural and intellectual activities during the coming years. See details at the end of this Report


The success of this year's conference:


Let me say at the start something which might sound stupid but is true. The strongest aspect of this conference is love. Not only love of the music and its songs, but also love and respect between the participants. In not many other conferences will you find both the speaker and the chairman and various members of the audience crying with the beauty and emotional content of what is happening… We have created a fine and beautiful thing here. Respect to our rebetis Nikos from South London and the archi-rebetissa Zaharoula from California. Heartfelt stuff!


To continue: After the death in Paris in September 2003 of the man widely viewed as the father of Rebetiko studies, Elias Petropoulos, an “anti-homage” was presented by Ed Emery. Not so much fine words, more a project to continue rebetiko research in keeping with the spirit that characterised that fine man.   


By common consent, this year’s Saturday Night Rebetiko Supper at the Douskos Restaurant was the best yet. This year we had the finest violinist in Greece, Kyriakos Gouventas, as our director of music. He brought together what was for us a new style of orchestra, which began with a thrilling set of songs from Smyrna. The other musicians were Yannis Alexandris (outi, baglama, singer); Lazaros Koulaksizis (accordeon and singer); Elena Filippa (santouri); Antigone Bouna (guitar, baglama, singer); and Grigoris Vasilas (bouzouki).


Also present were our guests from Turkey: Ivi Dermanci (singer); Ali Fuat Aydin and Cenk Guray (baglamadhes); Mustafa Cengiz Onural (politiki lyra)


and guests from Hydra: Irene Daskalaki, Sophia Kabadaï and Paschalia Latra.


As promised last year, Ivi conducted a women-only singing workshop on “The Women’s Voice in Rebetiko”, which culminated in a public performance accompanied by Cathie Whitesides from Seattle (violin). Madelyn Taylor from Los Angeles conducted two dance workshops, and also presented a paper, on the theme of the zeibekiko.


Again we chose the “To Steki” Restaurant as our venue for the Thursday and Friday evenings, where we had two amazing musical sessions, which were particularly special because of the participation of the poly-instrumentalist Maria Kotsiri from Athens (politiko laouto) and the lads from Drama – Vangelis Tsikouridis, Lefteris Tsikouridis, Kyriakos Sfoungouris and Panayiotis Christodoulou. Watch these boys – they’re dangerous!


On Thursday Ruth Margraff and Nikos Brisco from New York gave an exciting opening talk about the Greek music inspiration in their working-class operas Judges 19: Black Lung Exhaling and Café Andartes.


From Padova, Italy, we had Roberto Tombesi and Francesco Ganassin, of the group Calicanto, who presented an illustrated lecture on the musical relations between Greece and Venice, and in a Friday evening concert Markos Dragoumis of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies in Athens played his piano arrangements of rebetiko songs. Both these events took place in the fine surroundings of the Bratsera Hotel, by permission of the management, to whom we would like to extend our thanks. Hank Bradley of Seattle gave a talk on “The Violin in Rebetiko”, which then led into a joint violin workshop with Kyriakos Gouventas. What to say…? I faint with delight even at the thought of it… This was filmed, and will be available for study.


This year we had husband-and-wife team Anna Melissinos and Jason Melissinos performing Karaghiozis for us. They performed shows at both the Bratsera and the Douskos Restaurant, and Jason gave us an accompanying talk about the women in the shadow theatre tradition. Their performance was accompanied by various of our assembled musicians, from both Greece and Turkey. Jason also did a shadow-theatre workshop for local children in the town's museum, organised with the help of Hydra resident Lily Marcopoulos.


For many musicians, the most important part of Hydra is the informal "jam sessions" that take place in hidden corners around the island during the conference. Once again Pavlos and Nadia from Moosootoo led the way, with a through-till-morning session on the stone steps of the Merchant Marine School. By now this has become something of a tradition, and it is one of the most beautiful moments of music-making that you will find anywhere in the world.


The concert was recorded on 8-track digital sound by the indefatigable Nikos Dionysopoulos (by the way, a noted ethnomusicologist in his own right, who may present a paper next year), and was filmed by our director of photography Emilio della Chiesa. We are slowly moving ahead with our plan to produce a CD of the musics of the Hydra Gathering.


As one result of this recording activity, we have now produced a 50-minute film of “The Hydra Rebetiko Gathering – 2001-2002”, which will shortly be available for sale. The film was shown in a working version at the Amalour Bar, and on the Thursday we were able to show Luc Bongrand’s film “On a Moonless Night” in its newly-dubbed English-language version, which is now available for sale.



Our speakers for the October 2003 Conference were:

[in alphabetical order]


ALI FUAT AYDIN with CENK GURAY of Ankara: a paper on "The Role of the Female Voice in the Smyrneika”

IVI DERMANCI of Istanbul: a singing workshop on “The Women’s Voice in Rebetiko

MARK DRAGOUMIS of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies, Athens: "The Politissa of Markos Vamvakaris"

ED EMERY of the Institute of Rebetology, London: "In Memoriam Elias Petropoulos: Les Juifs de Salonique

KRINI KAFIRIS of Athens: “Towards a Filmography of Rebetiko

DIMITRA LASPIA of Edinburgh: a paper on "Dancing the 'Zeibekiko': Men in Performances of Vulnerability and Hegemony".

RUTH MARGRAFF and NIKOS BRISCO from New York: a performance and talk about the Greek music inspiration in their working-class operas Judges 19: Black Lung Exhaling and Café Andartes.

PAVLOS MELAS of "Rebetiko in Today's World – Mapping a Musical Movement"

JASON MELISSINOS of Athens: A Karaghiozis shadow puppet performance.  

NADIA MINTILOGLITI of London: "Rembetisses and non-rembetisses: the image of the rembetissa now and then"

MADELYN TAYLOR of California: a dance workshop on “Zeibekika: Up Close and Personal

YANNIS ZAIMAKIS of the University of Thrace: "The world of the tekke in pre-war Heracleion: Symbolisms and rituals".




Once again we had difficulties in finding funding for the conference. Again this year we had no money from the Ministry of Culture or from the local provincial government (Nomarchia). On the other hand a number of individuals have given generously from their own pockets, and that has been a great help. They know who they are, and on behalf of the Gathering I extend heartfelt thanks to them.


It has once again been clear that many Greek academics in the "rebetology" community will not attend such a conference unless their expenses are paid. In my opinion this is pitiful behaviour, and contrasts with the generous attitude of our non-Greek participants, who generally pay all their own expenses (air fares, ferries and hotels) and also pay registration fees.




Many people helped to make the Hydra Rebetiko Gathering a success. We would like to thank the Mayor of Hydra Constantinos Anastopoulos and the Municipality for their support. [Waiting outside his office for seven hours on Tuesday was not exacly an enjoyable experience, but in the end it appears that he is keen to support our activities.] And once again we thank Anna Rousi of the Hydra Development Office and her colleagues. Without Anna’s help this conference would never have happened.


For travel arrangements once again we thank Olympic Airways, and in particular Kostas Konstantinidis (London) and Vassilis Gougoulidis (Istanbul) who were wonderfully helpful. On Hydra I should mention Lakis Christidis for allowing me to unburden problems during our evening swims from the rocks at Spilia. And in Athens thanks are due to Sophia Arsenidou of the Museum of Folk Instruments for willingly assisting where necessary.


This year the organiser of our musicians, Andreas Tsekouras, was not able to attend, but in the run-up to the conference he assisted greatly with his usual imagination and creativity. Thanks are again due to our cinematographer Emilio della Chiesa, who has laboured long and hard in shooting and editing the film of the Gathering. And last but not least, thanks again to the Modern Greek Section of the University of Cambridge and David Holton who provided the original seed sponsorship.




¶ Our next conference will be held in Hydra on 13-17 October 2004. Its theme will be "MODES AND ROADS, TAXIMIA AND MAQAMS". We shall be looking at the theories and techniques of Arabic, Ottoman and Anatolian music, and the ways in which they are represented in Greek music and in Rebetiko in particular. This promises to be a most stimulating and challenging project. We welcome contributions from all persons wishing to contribute to the conference. If you wish to attend the 2004 Gathering, please send your contact details to the conference organiser, and a Registration Form will be sent by return.


Full details of the Hydra Gathering are on our website at


To register for the conference, please send your details


by e-mail to


by mail to:


Ed Emery

[Hydra Rebetiko Gathering]


Cambridge CB2 1RD



or by fax to: 0044 [0] 870 133 0145


You can also contact us by phone and SMS at 0044 [0] 795 755 6352




The Hydra Rebetiko Gathering is part of a wider initiative entitled THE FREE UNIVERSITY OF HYDRA. This organisation is dedicated to the study and research of all matters concerning the culture, economics, history and social life of all the countries which border the Mediterranean.


For October 2005 we are planning a conference, to be held on Hydra, on “THE ROLE OF THE DONKEY IN THE CULTURE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN”. Contact details as above.


For October 2006, we are planning a major event, also to be held on Hydra – a “PAN-MEDITERRANEAN FIDDLERS’ CONVENTION”. The programme is currently in preparation, and details will be circulated to you.


You may also be interested in the second of the REBETIKO SUMMER SCHOOLS, to be held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, on the first weekend of August 2004.


Francesco Martinelli’s report on the Hydra Gathering is at


STOP PRESS: A late item of news. The Mayor’s Office has notified me that in 2004 the Municipality will support the Hydra Rebetiko Conference financially. A suitably uplifting note on which to end this Newsletter…



With rebetological greetings,


Ed Emery

Hydra,  20 October 2003



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