UNIVERSITY OF MALTA Conference

Saturday 24 January 2015

UNIVERSITY OF MALTA Conference 'Thalassic Imageries: the Mediterranean Sea in Language, Art and Other forms of representations' | 23-24 January 2015.
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nikos ordoulidis paper title: 
‘Every port a sorrow’’: The bonds between sea and misery in Greek songs

Greece is surrounded by the sea. It is, therefore, inevitable that the music of Greece will include the theme of the seas in its music. However, there are a notable number of sea-songs which express almost every sad emotion, that is, sorrow, misery, misfortune, tragedy, lamentation, mourning and so forth. The fact that not only rural folk songs belong to this category, but also more modern, urban popular songs can also be found in commercial recordings, is particularly interesting. Many Greeks used to become sailors during times of financial hardship, in order to earn extra money. They would be away from home for many months, sometimes even years; these times are long gone now. However, even though these times were such a long time ago, we question now why young people sing these songs today? How are they even aware of these songs, since they have no connections with people of the sea? Why can one watch somebody who was born and lived his life in a mountainous area, sing the songs of the sea with such great emotional expression? Furthermore (and most importantly), why are sea-songs still created today, encapsulating the same sad feelings?

This paper initially demonstrates some examples from the aforementioned repertoire. By journeying through time, it uses sound examples in order to formulate a general background, which is important for the analysis that will follow. This paper investigates the musical similarities and differences between rural and urban sea-songs, and how this song category has been passed down from the unknown composer (traditional repertoire) to the popular composers of Greek rebetiko and laiko musical styles. Why does the Ionian Islands musical style completely differ from that of the Aegean Islands? This analysis is built upon a socio-historical frame which raises  some key points – important for understanding the Greek sea-songs story. Finally, by mentioning and analyzing some important musicological characteristics of these songs, this paper presents the strong musical connections amongst traditions of the Mediterranean, signifying how the sea can become a means of transportation between civilizations.

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