Musicians from Skopelos have taken the island’s distinctive form of rebetiko, or rembetika, to Athens and around the world. Originally a controversial, rebel music, born in the slums of Athens and Thessaloniki and dubbed “the Greek blues” for the way it broke social conventions, it was given historic recognition by the great twentieth century composer Manos Hadjidakis. The word “rebetiko” in fact covers a wide range of music, such as the light ‘art song’ of entekhno, the ‘people’s song’ of laiko or the syrtos rhythm, which a certain Alexis Zorba made famous.

 

The music has a history that can be traced back to the spread of Greek culture across the eastern Mediterranean in recent centuries, and instruments invented in Mesopotamia five thousand years ago. You can hear many of its variants here in performances by living musicians such as Kostas Kalafatis and Apostolos Stavrakas, or in the recordings of Giorgos Xintaris and others.