February 11th, 2009
I just got into the Greek music known as Rebetika. I first read it about it in Eugenides’ Middlesex, and not long after, my friend Anthony by good chance happened to get a Rough Guide Rebetika compilation. I devoured it, loved all of it.
But one song consistently on that record consistently leaves me breathless. I don’t understand what’s being sung and I don’t need to:
The gasping, arcing vocal, the shivery vibrato, the fits of melisma. The sighs at 2:47 and onward, death sighs, lust-sighs, grief-sighs. The recessed commentary right after. What is this? Where do you go from this? I think Pavement came on right after on my Itunes and the disconnect was so profound I had to stop the track cold.
This music, this haunted and alien music so anxious to be known, like old Dust Bowl pictures and the families in them squinting into the camera.
I hear it and I know the heart can — almost perversely — suckle pain and dread like freshly bitten strawberries.
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2009