Made in Greece Studies in Popular Music

PDF Made in Greece Studies in Popular Music Copyright Year 2019

Book author
  1. Dafni Tragaki

Made in Greece: Studies in Popular Music serves as a comprehensive and thorough introduction to the history, sociology, and musicology of contemporary Greek popular music. Each essay covers the major figures, styles, and social contexts of pop music in Greece, first presenting a general description of the history and background of popular music in Greece, followed by essays, written by leading scholars of Greek music, that are organized into thematic sections: Hugely Popular, Art-song Trajectories, Greekness beyond Greekness, Counter Stories, and Present Musical Pasts.


Popular music studies have progressed from the initial focus on methodologies to exploring a variety of genres, scenes, works and performers. British and North American musics have been privileged and studied first, not only for their geographic and generational proximity to scholars, but also for their tremendous impact. Everything else has been often relegated to the dubious “world music” category, with a “folk” (or “roots,” or “authentic”) label attached.

However, world popular music is no less popular than rock ‘n’ roll, r&b, disco, rap, singersongwriters, punk, grunge, brit-pop or nu-gaze. It is no less full of history and passion, no less danceable, socially relevant and commercialized. Argentinian tango, Brazilian bossa nova, Mexican reggaeton, Cuban son and timba, Spanish and Latin American cantautores, French auteurscompositeurs-interprètes, Italian cantautori and electronic dance music, J-pop, German cosmic music and Schlager, Neapolitan Song, Greek entechno, Algerian raï, Ghanaian highlife, Portuguese fado, Nigerian jùjú, Egyptian and Lebanese Arabic pop, Israeli mizrahit, and Indian filmi are just a few examples of locally and transnationally successful genres that, with millions of records sold, are an immensely precious key to understanding different cultures, societies and economies.

More than in the past there is now a widespread awareness of the “other” popular music; however, we still lack access to the original sources, or to texts upon which to rely. The Routledge Global Popular Music Series has been devised to offer to scholars, teachers, students and general readers worldwide direct access to scenes, works and performers that have been mostly not much or at all considered in the current literature, and at the same time to provide a better understanding of the different approaches in the field of non-Anglophone scholarship. Uncovering the wealth of studies flourishing in so many countries, inaccessible to those who do not speak the local language, is by now no less urgent than considering the music itself.

The series website ( includes hundreds of audio-visual examples which complement the volumes. The interaction with the website is intended to give a wellinformed introduction to the world’s popular music from entirely new perspectives, and at the same time to provide updated resources for academic teaching.

The Routledge Global Popular Music Series aims ultimately to establish a truly international arena for a democratic musicology through authoritative and accessible books. We hope that our work will help the creation of a different polyphony of critical approaches, and that you will enjoy listening to and being part of it.


The location is a suburban mansion with a spacious, grassy garden and a swimming pool, the fortress-home of the mysterious family featured in the widely discussed film Dogtooth (directed by Yiorgos Lanthimos, 2009). The scene describes what appears to be a family ritual at a gathering in the living room where the father asks the teenage children: “Would you like to hear your grandfather singing?” The answer in disciplined unison is “Yes!” In a humorous turn of the plot the father plays a vinyl recording of Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon”.1 The children believe that this is the voice of their grandfather. Besides, they have been deliberately raised in total isolation; they have no experience, no contact with the world outside their suburban home, nor of Sinatra. As the family listens to the song, the father translates the lyrics for the children. His translation, however, is deliberately wrong. It is a lie. It is shockingly true, though, for the family, a powerful truth fabricated by the patriarchal father figure. Instead of translating, he actually invents new, rather childish and naive lyrics, transforming the famous US jazz standard into a song for the love of family and home:

Dad loves us
Mom loves us
Do we love them?
Yes, we love them
I love my brothers and sisters
because they love me too
Spring fills my house
Spring floods my little heart
My parents are proud of me
because I do my best
But I’m always trying to do better
My house, you’re beautiful and I love you
and I will never leave you.

Towards the end of the song the children dance with their mother (the father remaining removed and solemn), performing rather clumsy movements, almost following the rhythm. Their bodies manifest their ignorant lack of socialization with the outside world, their absolute detachment from any dancing habitus. They are intimating a sort of hectic alienation and subjugation, or a self materialized within the surreal codes set by the sadistically overprotective family; a family that is mastering strategies of discipline, confinement, and the suppression of desire. Such techniques of the body are intended to produce a twisted ontology for the children next to the invention of a twisted family language, where Sinatra is identified as the voice of the grandfather, for instance, yellow flowers are “zombies”, or “sea” means “chair”. The family fest becomes a dark experiment in subjectification.

Dogtooth represents what has been termed the “third wave” or “weird wave” in Greek independent cinema, and was awarded the “Un Certain Regard” prize at the Cannes Film Festival. A well-received film in Greece and abroad, it signaled, among other films, a radical break with long-standing clichés of the Greek self, such as those mediated and crystallized through the everlasting success of the by-now classics Zorba the Greek and Never on Sunday, or by subsequent generations of Greek cinematography. In contrast to the global popularity of the bouzouki sound worlds of the 1960s films of Greekness, the music in Dogtooth is sparingly present. Although the interpretation of such aesthetics of filmic ambiance is outside the scope of this Introduction, drawing our attention to the question of “what happened to music” in this case is apparently associated with the question of “what happened to Zorba”.

The 1960s’ clichés of the Greek musical self widely circulated on the big screen have of course been variously undermined in Greek cultural production ever since their materialization as clichés.2 Yet, we could perhaps reflect upon the scene from Dogtooth as one gaining a life at a historical moment when the banalities of Zorba – this filmic archetype of the Greek soul – are apparently remediated within recent neocolonial (or cryptocolonial) discourses of “the Greek” and popular mediations of the “Greek experience”. If the 1960s’ filmic Greek self is proudly dancing away its misfortunes with arms outstretched as a way to deal with life’s adventures on a Cretan seashore, the Dogtooth scene is a choreography of an urban nightmare unraveling in the caged family setting somewhere on the metropolitan wealthy outskirts. Indeed, the family feast ritual also involves one of the most discussed scenes of the film, one centered around the teenage girls’ awkward dancing to the minor tune of the étude op. 60 no.7 for solo classical guitar by the romantic composer Matteo Carcassi played by their brother.3 The evident death of the Mediterranean stereotype in such mediations of Greek musicking – either conforming to . . . parody – challenges us to reconsider its fate within the precarious everydayness of the crisis and its narrations, as in the case of Dogtooth. Apparently, Zorba is in trouble.

At the same time, as the scene of translational parody and its perverted setting suggests, Sinatra is, perhaps, also in trouble. If his vocal, “crooning” aesthetics echo a capitalist sentimentality of metropolitan optimism satisfying the desire for American 1960s intimacies, then the cynical remediation of “Fly Me to the Moon” in Dogtooth challenges the song’s cosmopolitan nostalgia at least in the Greek context. As a gesture deregulating the “Sinatra feeling” and all it possibly stands for – a crisis in itself – it provides a point for critique against a certain middle-class cosmopolitan Greek ontology that embodies (and is becoming in) Sinatra’s affective economies and its imaginative affinities – as Sinatra ironically becomes the voice of the grandfather. The frozen, sovereign body of the high-ranked executive – the monstrous father of the Dogtooth family – liquidates any remaining collective memory of Zorba’s naturalized, fleshed musicality mediating a disconcerted Greekness paralyzed by history in the early twentyfirst century. Sinatra’s nostalgia is a parody of nostalgia, its agencies and cultural milieus.

How remote and irrelevant is the 1960s Mediterranean cliché of the Greek musical self today? The everlasting success of films like Zorba the Greek and Never on Sunday invested commonplaces and/or banalities of Greekness branding the country as an escapist place and a tourist destination. Such strategies of marketing-via-othering Greece nurtured the fantasy, both locally and abroad, of the careless Greek, reveling and unconditionally immersing oneself in pleasure and passion, drinking and dancing, despite and against life’s hardships and misfortunes. Composed by Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, the two most acclaimed composers in Greece respectively, both soundtracks contributed to the sculpturing of cliché notions of Greek popular music. More importantly, they both forged sites of musical memory, where the Greek self was materialized and naturalized in the sounds of the bouzouki. Such musical normalizations also conditioned hegemonic sensibilities of disciplining the ambivalent Greek Europeanness, while investing contested self-definitions and normalizing discourses within. Bouzouki aesthetics were popularized as the sonic substantiation of the Greek ontology, understood ever since as an almost atavist feature defining what it means to be Greek. Both songs subjectified the untamed subaltern represented as an authenticity of the European periphery; the infantilized native who, however, is the agent of indigenous lore challenging the rationalized, refined, educated, and civilized Western man, who, at the same time, is enchanted by this amusing noble savage knowing how to lead “a good life” – a time-worn colonial story. Those postwar mediations of the “Greek” negotiated the indeterminacy of its familiar otherness, regulating, at the same time, sensibilities of the Western self, who in both cases was represented as its hegemonic interlocutor. Song in both cases became the performative milieu where the Greek difference/sameness and its provisional civility emerged where bodies and senses became apart yet remained attached to the interplay of their suspended symbiosis. Song intimated the at once stray and submissive European alterity, while constituting the subjectivities surrendered to its “dream-work” in and out of the country within the historical moment of its cultural production and logic, as well as in the context of the song’s remediated temporalities (Gourgouris 1996). As a filmic song/bodily performance it constituted an engaging authenticity, available to the colonizing gaze, mediating by then established truisms and dualisms legitimated within capitalist imaginaries of the world emerging inside and outside of Greece.​
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