Hosted by our very own Martin Stokes and Robert Beaton of KCL, we played to a fantastic, dynamic audience in the Tutu Hall, overlooking the Thames.
The popular musics of Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the Levant shaped an affective underground across the region for much of the twentieth century, the popular styles of one country spilling over into the next thanks to radio, film and recordings. Post war migration made them a subterranean presence in London’s soundscape, too, from Green Lanes to the Edgware Road and beyond. What imbued these hybrid, cosmopolitan musical practices with such power, persuasion and resilience? What did the authorities, from place to place, from era to era, fear in them, exactly? How did the musical underground of one country become that of another? What cultural and political labor do these genres still perform? What charge do they still carry?
Roderick Beaton, Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies and Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine Language and Literature, and Martin Stokes, King Edward Professor of Music, gave two short, illustrated talks, exploring the idea and the allure of a musical underground, focusing on rebetika and broader Eastern Mediterranean soundscapes, respectively.
The performance element connected King’s College London research with some prominent voices in the Greek, Turkish and Arab communities of the city. Cigdem Aslan and Friends explore Smyrnaic and Piraeus rembetika, in both Greek and Turkish. Oxford Maqam represented the underground of the early Egyptian sound recording era, from Sheikh Salah Abd al-Hayy Hilmi to Sayyid Darwish, from Sami Shawwa to the famous Cairo dance orchestras of the era.
Many thanks to the wonderful Cigdem Aslan, Pavlos Melas and Pavlos Carvalho for their Rebetiko Songs of Prison. Captivating!