The Grexits - Δε Γκρέξιτς
THE GREXITS ON THE HIGHWAY TO HELLAS by Christos Davidopoulos (w/ Franz Dobler) The name of this band, surrounding singer-songwriter and guitarist Nikos Papadopoulos, is a portmanteau word of Greece and Exit. Nowadays, a common political mesh! I have known Nikos since 1987, when he came into our record store and outed himself as a Greek. He was on the lookout for old blues, Nick Cave and Gun Club records. Shortly after, he told me he had started playing Bouzouki and Baglamas, and was interested in "rebetika" – Greece's folk music from the (mainly harbor) cities and the music of hobos and crooks, which famously flourished in the 1920s and 30s. The songs deal with daily life: Poverty, drugs, unhappy love, jail and sickness. Rebetiko is for Greece, what blues is for the South of the US. Not long after, Nikos founded the traditional rebetiko group "Mourmourakia", which acquired recognition through the film "Bach & Bouzouki" and who are now very sought after. Nikos founded The Grexits in the summer of 2015, together with Josip Pavlov, Daniel "Murena" Tanqueray and Albert Pöschl (who recorded the album and will release it on his label Echokammer, together with Gutfeeling). Despite the band's obvious surf-punk-psychedelic influenced pop, there are obvious references to rebetiko (whose original topicality they choose not to tone down, as is so often the case when these gangster songs are translated into modern times). BIR ALLAH is a traditional best known in its version by Stella Haskil. The Grexits keep very close to the original, even though traditional instruments remain absent. The singer tells the story of meeting his bygone love during the song of a muezzin: "My chest bleeds and my heart breaks, when I hear the muezzin sing Bir Allah (The God) at sunset..." SE MIA MIKROULA is, amusingly, the instrumental version of the rebetiko traditional:"For a little girl", which is a song about an unhappy love of Giovan Tsaous (who is also probably the best bouzouki player of all times). Only eight existing recordings of him exist, because of his refusal to censor his songs during the Metaxas dictatorship (1936-41). M´ ENAN KAFETZI BLEGMENI is a song by legendary Giorgos Katsaros, who is almost an urban rebetiko myth in the US. In the 1920s, he was a protagonist in two Hollywood films, with many admirers including Chaplin, Bogart, Al Capone, as well as Andre Segovia. The singer is very angry in this song, because his girlfriend got drunk and made out with the barman. He swears to take revenge to be sure she never forgets him and so as not to lose the respect of his fellow rebetics: "So, Meri, come to your senses, make sure no harm is done to you!" CARMELA also sounds like a rebetico traditional, but is in actual fact a hit by his Italian neighbor Sergio Bruni, known as "The Voice of Naples". It is a Neapolitan song and was introduced to The Grexits by the Italian-speaking member of the band: Daniel Tanqueray. Alongside two modern covers (Beatles and Misfits) and Pöschl's SURFER SONG, Papadopoulos' own compositions nicely round off this album: AGONIA ("Give me the agony and take away my dreams / take the power and give me apathy / leave me be, leave me as I always was / I am afraid to be torn from all and catapulted forward"), POLI KATHARI ("We live in a clean city / safety, order and peace / no one bothers me here / no one bothers you here / if you are a good dog / you get a new prescription / and they stick you in a new uniform / you get pumped up with pills into the morning / my good, handsome dog"), DE SE THELO PIA ("I sit in a dark cell / I do not want you anymore / I cower in the cold corner / I sit on a hot stone"). I hope you can believe a Greek man, when I assure you that The Grexits are the most convincing hybrid example of rebetiko, surf-punk and even a dose of post-rock and experimental, that I ever have heard –check it out! Christos Davidopoulos is DJ, Optimal Records store owner and compiler of "Rembetika – Songs of the Greek Underground“ released on Trikont. Franz Dobler is DJ and author.