Australia is a multi-cultural country, where over 100 languages are regularly spoken at home, although English is the national language. One of the largest of the many post-1945 immigrant groups in Australia is Greek, and Greek music is well-recognised and well-liked in Australia. Rebetika is one particularly interesting form of Greek music in Australia.
Rebetika music is generally considered to have originated in Greece in the 1920s, in circumstances of poverty and dispossession, following the expulsion of more than one million Greek residents from Turkey. Rebetika's themes of melancholy and longing fit well with an immigrant population undergoing the many difficulties of settling into a new society in Australia.
Rebetika music in Melbourne is played in restaurants, tavernas and hotels, and also at festivals. In the 1980s a group of students from Melbourne University formed the band "Apodimi Compania," assisted by their lecturer Dr. Stathis Gauntlett, who is now Professor of Hellenic Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Professor Gauntlett has written extensively on Rebetika music, in both English and Greek.
For a number of years Rebetika music was either disapproved or banned in Greece, as it was associated with "oriental" hashish culture and rebellious ideas. However, it experienced a resurgence of both respectability and popularity in the 1970s under Papandreou's PASOK government which replaced the military dictatorship. This popularity quickly spread to Australia.
It is of particular interest that some Greek-Australian musicians such as the late Thymios Stathoulopoulos began to write Rebetika songs about their Australian experiences such as his song "The Bouzouki in Melbourne":
In Melbourne's lovely evenings now
In clubs and taverns the bouzouki plays.
And people dance and live it up
In the purely Greek way,
Getting merry on Aussie wine
And breaking all the plates.
Beautiful Greek girls, full of grace
Proudly dance zeibekiko
And so do fine blonde Aussie girls,
They dance away their passions.
DAVEY, G and SEAL, G
1993 The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore.
Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Some commercial recordings, e.g. Rebetika Songs featuring Apodimi Compania, Brunswick Recordings, 1987.
Field recordings held at National Library of Australia, Canberra.
no information at present
Centre for Hellenic Studies, La Trobe University, Melbourne.
National Library of Australia, Oral History Section.
Dr. Gwenda Davey AM
Honorary Research Associate
National Centre for Australian Studies
Monash University, Melbourne
Address: Clayton, Victoria, 3168, Melbourne, Australia