Tuesday, February 19, 2013


MARIKA PAPAGIKA is rightly heralded as one of Greece's primary exponents of a pre-WWII sound and recording culture who indelibly stamped her era's Greek culture and music in time, while recording most of her material in the United States, where she immigrated in 1915. Depending on how you use the term, she wasn't a "rembetika" artist, as her music is mournful, hazy and drawn out. You're not gonna be cutting a rug to it anytime soon, but once you get a handle on her voice and the soaring strings of the instruments behind her, it's easy to lose yourself in her mystical world. 

To get started doing so, I recommend putting your big boy pants on and settling in with 2010's compilation, "The Further The Flame, The Worse It Burns Me". This came out via a collaboration between Mississippi Records and Canary Records, with all original 78s coming from the collection of Ian Nagoski. As I understand it, the warbling and wailing Ms. Papagika, who often sounds like she's cinematically descending into a pit of flames or possibly into a vat of her own tears, was usually accompanied by cymbalon, cello, violin and clarinet. Clarinet is very present in these recordings - it hovers a wavers and snakes in and out of the strings in a dark and almost menacing way. I'm not entirely sure what a cymbalon is, so I looked it up, and the only references to it on the interweb are in reference to this collection - which means someone spelled something incorrectly. I believe it's called a "cimbalom". 

It would also appear - and this is where I show my ignorance - that Marika Papagika's lonesome mystic style was more in a musical genre called "mortika", and that she was captured on a various-artists compilation by that name by Mississippi a few years before this one. If anyone wants to give me the lowdown on that comp, I'd love it; I am a huge fan of the later, more jaunty and bouzouki-driven rembetika, and would love to learn more about "mortika" - if my heart can stand it. Heavy and deep outsider ethnic folk music here. I think you might like it.