Two versions of Haidari: A Lost Original resurfaces

I find this fascinating.

You may not find this fascinating. It involves Greek music of the 40s.

I’ve been listening to Dalaras’ 1980 recording of wartime rebetika. I realised that one of the songs, Haidari, I had already heard before, and loved it. It’s a chilling song about someone about to be executed, in the Haidari concentration camp in Athens. Its lyrics and its music both have an astonishing urgency, with the music careening between panic and sorrow.

You could argue Dalaras’ 1980 recording is overproduced, too smooth. But it’s also oracular the way Dalaras manages. And it’s the version I’ve known and loved. Chaidari

Run mother, fast as you can,
run and save me,
and free me, mother,
from Haidari.

For I am about to die
and I am condemned.
A seventeen year old boy
locked up in irons.

They take me from Sekeris St
[where the Sicherheitsdienst HQ was]
to Haidari
and hour by hour I wait
for Death to take me.

Now, it’s a miracle that the Wartime Rebetiko songs were recorded at all. They were not recorded during the war. With many of them pro-communist and most of them suspect, they were not recorded after the war. And that extended to this song, too, which was written in 1943 by the Master of Rebetiko, the Great Markos Vamvakaris.

And with the songs not recorded during the war, or after the war, an inconvenient truth surfaced about Haidari. Noone in 1980 was sure what the tune was. There were multiple tunes in circulation, and what Markos himself had set it to was unknown; Markos himself had died in 1972. All anyone knew was the characteristically curt description in Markos’ autobiography:

[Blog article]

Then [after the war] I went back to perform at Amphissa nightclub. We’d play all my pre-war songs there. I’d written a few new songs in the meantime. One that went quite well was Haidari. A zeibekikos in the niavendi (Nahawand) scale. I didn’t record it. I sang it in parks [clubs].

According to Markos’ son Stelios, Markos himself barely remembered the song, and the recording went ahead with music that Stelios wrote.

It’s an amazing tune, like I said. But it’s no zeibekikos; the article above describes it as a tsifteteli. It’s not in Nahawand scale. And if you think about it (and know the styles), there’s nothing ’40s about it: it’s a setting that wouldn’t make sense before 1960.

What happens if you find Bach’s completion to his last fugue? Or Schubert’s completion of his Unfinished Symphony? Or a Requiem that Mozart finished all on his own, without Süssmayr? Would it be what you expected? Would you want to risk disappointment?

And how much more of a risk would it be, if it was like this song, where the music wasn’t even the original?

Well, I found out today that Markos had remembered the original tune just fine, and a recording surfaced a couple of years ago from 1966.

That blog article was: Το αυθεντικό ‘Χαιδάρι’ του Μάρκου Βαμβακάρη από χαμένη ηχογράφηση του 1966

The audio is abominable, and Markos was never a great singer, but…

… The striking thing about the original Haidari: it’s exactly what you’d expect from Markos in 1943. It follows the path he’d laid out in his 1930s Peiraeus style. It’s jaunty, not desperate (outside of the wavering of Markos’ out-of-tune tenor: the desperation is very subtle). It’s ordered, not impassioned, with all the familiar tropes and Mozartian symmetry of the 30s. It thumps along at a fast pace. It’s not as imaginative and soaring as his son’s setting: after all, his son had benefitted from 40 years of broadening of the bouzouki repertoire. And its tone, ultimately, is all fatalism and little panic.

And it has three more stanzas, one of which is heard in the recording (and all of which had been published in 1947):

You should see Death’s sword,
mother, how it changes things,
oh, and how it will take way
mother, everyone’s life.

And when you see me dead, mother,
tell the other mothers—
for they too have ached
with even greater sorrow—

That I have seen their children
bound in chains,
dressed in the uniform of the condemned,
and unjustly slain.

… I think the new version is greater, it dares more, it feels more. Yet the understated, ordered, fatalistic original, numbly wrapped up in the familiar old tropes and symmetries, is probably truer to how Markos felt, as he saw Jews and resistance fighters being dragged off to Haidari.

The Decalogue of Nick #5: I’m a middle-aged cishet man, recently married, no kids

For Tracey Bryan and Sam Murray.

This breaks up in three. This… goes places.


Before I even noticed, I’m 45.

I don’t want to feel the weight of snow on my temples. I just posted about how I refuse to pay Death any mind: Nick Nicholas’ answer to Do you consciously live your life as “Being-towards-death” (or any comparable idea)? How does it affect your daily life, if at all? I decline Age the same obsequiousness.

I act at times like a teenager (and there’s certainly more about that in Decalogue #6). I hang out with millennials here without compunction, and I feel unflustered camaraderie with them.

But I feel the difference, quite unexpectedly. My knees creak. My crows feet dig in. I’m likely closer to the end than the beginning by now. I go all avuncular here, despite myself. And I’m certainly more scarred and scared than I was two decades ago.

The millennials are my comrades, and I look up to them: Sam, McKayla, Jordan, Pegah, Amy, Zeibura, Lyonel. But on occasion I notice a disconnect (not with them! but with others). And time and again, it’s the middle-aged that I feel the most untrammelled understanding with: Michael, Dimitra, Mary, Jennifer, Tracey.

(I keep telling you Sam, this is not a competition! 🙂 And Jeremy, I don’t know where to place you! Which won’t be a surprise.)

But in some ways, I was always middle-aged. I was always more bookish, more cynical, more circumspect. And the old school song that’s intended to make 60-year olds tear up?

Forty Years On (song)

It makes me tear up now, and it made me tear up when I first learned it, at 15.

Cishet Man

I’m part of the entitled majority. I would have added “white”, but I’m not American, so we aren’t as race-conscious. (That in itself is an issue.)

I have no interest in apologising for being part of the entitled majority. I am who my chromosomes say I am, I have ended up where I have ended up. And apologies is not what those not so entitled need from me.

They do need from me not to be an arsehole about it. And in response to that, I try to listen. Including here.

I haven’t broadcast it here to date, just muttered it in comments; but you will find it if you go Googling at the right time-depth anyway. For about a year in my twenties, I identified as bi. It was pretty damn Gedanken and theoretical, and I certainly did not get any action out of it.

What I did get is the humbling experience of… getting it. Of getting how it felt to be in a minority.

And the even more humbling experience was a couple of years later, when I’d resumed identifying as het. And realising that I no longer “got it”.

I don’t get it, and I won’t get it. Those that do don’t need me to get it. They need me to let them speak, and not talk over them, and be an ally rather than a blocker. And I try.

Recently Married, No Kids

I’ve left it too late, perhaps. And I wasn’t really hanging out for it any more. But I’ve gotten there. Nick Nicholas’ answer to Where did you meet your spouse, what were your lives like when you met, and what were the key events and circumstances that led to you being together?

It’s been work. It’s been solace. It’s been highs, it’s been lows. It’s been what any relationship worth the name has been. It’s been worth the work.

No kids. I’ve definitely left that too late. That’s an enduring regret, though a recent one. I’d have liked to pass things on, I’d have liked to… how did my socialist aunt put it? “Prepare good citizens.” On the other hand, I fear for the world they’d inherit.

But as the Hungarian-via-Esperanto proverb says: Bedaŭroj estas hundaj pensoj. Regrets are a dog’s thoughts.

Not quite sure what that means. We do have a dog, at least. And the dog’s meant a few sleepless nights, herself…

Why would the Trump administration leak information about the unfriendly call he had with the Australian Prime Minister on Saturday?

My speculation is here:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Do Americans agree that the Prime Minister of Australia should have been treated the way he was by President Trump during their first phone call?

TL;DR: domestic consumption, as being America First and Tough On Muslim Refugees. Especially if he ends up honouring the deal Obama made after all.

When did Greeks as a people adopt surnames?

Corroborating Anestis Samourkasidis’ answer: Vote #1 Anestis Samourkasidis’ answer to When did Greeks as a people adopt surnames?.

If you peruse Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire part I, you will see sporadic surnames in the 7th and 8th century; e.g. I PBE: Ioannes 9 : Ἰωάννῃ σπαθαρίῳ, τὸ ἐπίκλην Στρούθῳ “John the spatharios [military office], nickname/surname Strouthos”. Surnames were still rare, and you’ll notice that PBE I doesn’t even use surnames in its index (hence 607 Johns in its database). Certainly by the 12th century, surnames were universal.