Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Ceremony

Like an Orthodox Christian, in this society
I prepare myself, mangas* friend, for the ceremony.

I shop for tobacco ends and a piece of hashish,
And set out, mangas friend, for the village of Holy Mama.

I go into the church, into the round rooms,
And start puffing as if I were lighting candles.

And the archangel suddenly appears--
He's got high from all the smoke.

He says, "Listen Christian, it's not a sin
To come into the church for your little ceremony."

But suddenly a monk speaks to me, "Get out of here!
It's my turn to have a drag," he says.

Zeϊbekiko, Vassilis Tsitsanis, 1938?

(From Gail Holst's excellent pioneering book, Road to Rembetika: music of a Greek sub-culture, songs of love, sorrow & hashish, Denise Harvey & Company, Athens, 1975. From the same book: "The manges (singular mangas*--the pronunciation of the 'g' is hard in both plural and singular) were men who formed a sub-culture on the fringe of society. Many of them were actually in the underworld. The nearest equivalents in English are probably 'spivs', 'wide-boys' or 'hep-cats'.")

This is the classic rembetiko heard on the video of my previous post; one of the many rembetika that were banned for years, it was finally recorded by Tsitsanis in 1983!

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