Rebetiko Worlds

Rebetiko Worlds invites the reader to share the experience of rebetiko music-making in the city of Thessaloniki today. It aims at representing an ethnographic world made of diverse realities united by the melancholic sounds of rebetiko songs. Rather than a musicological account on rebetiko music, this ethnography is about the human encounters happening in certain rebetiko venues of the Ano Poli area in Thessaloniki. How do people perceive, practice, feel and imagine rebetiko song—a music tradition coming from the beginning of the 20th century—today? What are the worldviews embodied and inspired in the context of the ongoing rebetiko performances? And, how may the exploration of rebetiko revivalist culture convey understandings of broader music-cultural orientations defining contemporary Greek society?

This ethnography is primarily interested in knowing contemporary rebetiko culture as a ‘lived experience’. It captures instances of the life-worlds of the people involved in the rebetiko revival, which unravel the ways local traditions are re-defined in the context of the nostalgic re-invention of ‘ethnic’ music in postcolonial times. On this level, the representation of the discourses and aesthetics associated with rebetiko performances today instigate further interpretations of local cultural trends, the visions of ‘our’ future triggered by the mythicized representations of ‘our’ past.

Beyond a window to the rebetiko worlds of today, this book recounts the story of an ethnographer engaged in fieldwork ‘at home’. It aims at communicating the dynamics of reflexivity shaping the ethnographic self by proposing an understanding of the fieldwork experience as a ‘special ontology’. In this way, it reveals the various dilemmas, moments of enthusiasm and moments of despair lived in the process of research in an attempt to illuminate the poetics of the subjective cultural knowledge. Rebetiko Worlds incites the reader to share the poetics of ethnographic ‘fiction’ and interpretation and, through this, the gradual ‘making’ of the ethnomusicologist in the field.

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