Arts Desk

Not Everybody Loves ‘Smyrneiko Minore’

As we told you on Saturday, longtime CP reporter Jason Cherkis profiled Baltimore vinyl purveyor Ian Nagoski in this week's Washington Post Magazine. I'll admit that I stopped reading the story for a few minutes to check out "Smyrneiko Minore," the song by Greek singer Marika Papagika that changed Nagoski's life. My initial reaction? It's spare and strange, yet beautiful. But if you look at the comments on the YouTube page for the video above, you see some positives ("Such piercing, haunting simplicity and directness") and comments like this:

I too am sorely disappointed. Yes, Papagika's voice has a lot of pain and emotion in it, but she does sound like an irritating peasant vendor on this track; and the lack of melody does little to help with her vocals. Talk about anti-climatic.

and this:

Apparently Ian Nagoski described it as tear- stained" but this didn't bring a tear to my eyes in the slightest. What a let- down...

and this:

I just don't get it. ... was expecting something more lyrical, operatic. Maybe it was the hollowness of those primitive recordings, but she sounds like some fishwife wailing in a market bazaar...

What, exactly, were people expecting? Caruso?

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  • Katrina

    The article makes it seem as if Marika is some lost unheard of musician. She is anything but. I am Greek, just got back to DC from Athens. If you walk into any music store in Greece you will find several box set compilations of her music. In fact, they made a documentary based on her life in a film called Rembetiko only a few years ago. You can order the soundtrack online its amazing. So no, she is anything but lost to Greeks. To say it took some guy in a small American town to "discover" her is insulting to Greeks. If you buy any compilation of Rembetiko music you find at least (at least) one of her songs. If I go through my ipod right now I am sure I have about 100. My next point, the article mentions nothing about the STYLE of music, Rembetiko. Google it is all I can say, there is too much to say. If you go to Greece you will find thousands of bars with live musicians playing Rembetiko music, and on any given night you will hear a few of her songs. Next point, they don't even mention the subject matter of the song, which is what happened in Smyrna in 1922. It was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. Google it. I think it is great that someone who knows nothing about Greek culture or music can find appreciation in one of our artists, but to claim to have discovered it is a great INSULT.

  • niyazi

    Katrina, I can't understand. are you aggressive to Rembetiko art or to Marika Papagika!?. Did she insult Greece because she lived in USA?

  • dignifiedandold

    katrina,you seem to be confusing marikas.the film rembetiko is a fictional account based on the life of marika ninou.that said,i agree that there are many greek compilations of american rembetika available.i have several on vinyl.but it's good that ian is popularising the genre and bringing it to a wider would be nice if more people in greece appreciated the music.thousands of bars would be a stretch.judging from the dire state of greek popular music and the prevasiveness of american idol/x-factor type 'talent' shows (i use the term loosely) it looks like someone should be doing work like ian in the homeland.