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Homage to Markos Vamvakaris
London, June 2005

You are invited to attend

A one-day conference to be held at the School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS], Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG (Nearest tube Russell Square). Khalili Lecture Theatre - Thursday 23 June 2005 10.00am - 5.00pm Website:
Registration: Send your contact details to: and a confirmation will be sent by return. Free conference, open to the public. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Markos Vamvakaris (1905-72), one of the founding fathers of Greek popular music, this year's Rebetiko Summer School at SOAS will include a one-day conference dedicated to the life and times of this remarkable composer, instrumentalist and singer. The name of Vamvakaris is synonymous with the musical genre of Rebetiko, an extraordinary moment of cultural encounter in which Eastern monophony meets Western harmony, and the maqam scales of the Arab and Ottoman world interface with the well-tempered scales of the West. Born in Ano Chora on the Greek island of Syros on 10th May 1905, Markos died in 1972. He came from a very poor family of Catholics (his famous song "Frankosyriani" refers to the Catholics of Syros). Having done all kinds of odd-jobs around the island, in 1917 he jumped a boat for the port city of Piraeus in the hopes of making a better life. He worked in all kinds of manual jobs - shoe-shine, newsboy, grocer's errand boy, and, eventually, slaughterman in the abbatoirs of Piraeus and Athens - where he served upwards of 13 years. He first started to play the bouzouki as a soldier, during his military service, in 1925. As soon as he was discharged from the army, he joined the big family of marginal wandering musicians in Piraeus, and started hanging around the hashish dens and coffee houses of the port. In the mid 1930s the big break came, with the "Famous Quartet of Piraeus", and he started making his first recordings. The rest is history... and that history is what we shall be examining at our conference. A panel of speakers will address various aspects of the life and times of Vamvakaris, as well as examining musicological issues arising from the composer's prolific output. Attention will be given to analysis of individual songs, their modal treatments within the tradition of maqam, and their location within the broader musical culture of the Mediterranean. SPEAKERS WILL INCLUDE: STELIOS VAMVAKARIS [Athens]: Presenting his book of Memoirs about his father The Holy Mangas [pub. Kaktos 2004] MARTIN SCHWARTZ [University of California]: A discussion of Markos's lyrics and melodies, utilising 78s from Prof. Schwartz's archive NIKOS POLITIS [Athens]: "Censorship of both text and music in Rebetiko from 1937 onwards, and a specific case involving Tsitsanis and Vamvakaris" HARIS SARRIS [Music Department, University of Athens]: "The 'Aegean Sound' of Markos Vamvakaris" ED EMERY [Institute of Rebetology]: Presentation of materials from the English translation of the Autobiography of Markos Vamvakaris We shall also feature an evening Concert of Greek music and Rebetiko song. This will be preceded by the UK première of the film about Rebetiko Music: "REBETIKO: A SONG OF TWO CITIES", made in 2004 by US-based Turkish director NEFIN DINC. This conference is part of the "REBETIKO SUMMER SCHOOL" [SOAS World Music Programme] taking place on 22-25 June 2005, with presentations of papers, a violin masterclass with KYRIAKOS GOUVENTAS, a dance workshop on zeibekiko with LOULA KAILAS, and workshop sessions on the main instruments of Rebetiko. Admission to the "Homage to Vamvakaris" Conference is free, but donations are invited. PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU WISH TO ATTEND, PLACES MUST BE RESERVED IN ADVANCE. Please send your contact details to: E-mail: Conference organised in partnership with Greece in Britain, a nationwide series of events presented by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture to illustrate the wealth and diversity of contemporary Greek culture. For further information, email Back to Index of Conferences Back to Index of Past Conferences, 2005