Thursday, February 21, 2013

Intermezzo: Two Manges in Jail

Βρε μάγκες δυο στη φυλακή
τα 'βαλαν με tον διαυθυντή,
Τον αέρα να του πάρουν
Κι οτι θέλουν για να κάνουν.

Βάρα, μάγκα, το μπουζούκι
κι ασε το μαστουρουλούκι,
Θέλω η πενιά να κλαίει
και τα ντέρτια μου να λέει.

Κι απ' τα σίδερα σαν βγω,
μάγκα, Θα σου ξηγηθώ
Θε να ψήσω τη μικρούλα
να σ' τα κουβαλάει ούλα.

Θα σου στείλω και μαυρακι
μέσ' απ' το Καραϊσκάκη.
Πρόσεξε μη την τσιμπήσουν
και στη Σήμανση την κλείσουν.

Θα σου στείλω στ' όνομά σου
τέλια για τον μπαγλαμά σου.
Μη μιλάς και κάνε μόκο,
Θα σου ξηγηΘώ μπαγιόκο.

(Vazambams unchained translation)

Two manges in prison
Had a run-in with the warden,
To call his bluff and do
Whatever they wanted to.

Strum the bouzouki, manga,
And lay off getting stoned,
I want the strumming to cry
And tell me of my woes.

And when I’m outta this joint,
Manga, I'll do right by you,
I'll get that little chick
To haul everything to you.

I’ll send you black hash, too
All the way from Kara
Watch out they don't pinch her
And throw her in the slammer.

I'll send you baglama* strings
Special delivery just for you,
Play it cool, mum’s the word,
I'll stuff your craw with moola, too.

[Music and lyrics by Kostas Tzovenos, first recorded in 1934 by Rita Abatzi, video clip recorded in Filia, Messinias, January 2013. Greek-speaking denizens of rembetika will most certainly notice the mangling of stanzas 3, 4 and 5 into one, a truncation brought on by the debilitating effects on the brain of that virulent virus known as Bacchus debauchus.]

NB: “Mangas” is one of those Greek words that defy translation. Gail Holst in her ground-breaking English introduction to rembetika music, Road to Rembetika (Denise Harvey & Company, Limni-Athens, 1975), takes this now somewhat outdated stab as to what it might come close to being in English:

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’.

Given the present time frame and keeping in mind Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski  (and without Holst’s reference to the underworld), I would most certainly prefer ‘dude’, man.


  1. Just woken up - a day of respectable employment ahead. Can't tell you the pleasure this poem gave me.

    The clip: looks like a damn good night in!

  2. Dude, you don't know how good this made me feel.


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