3. The Asia Minor Style in the United States

To the Greek refugees of Asia Minor, many of whom eventually settled in the United States, the tragic history of Greece during the 1940s must have been viewed as a second catastrophe that mirrored, in many ways, the period of the 1920s. During the war and civil war, communication with Greece was greatly reduced and the refugees felt twice displaced. As Dino Pappas, son of refugees and a collector of Asia Minor music, wrote: "We Greeks from Asia Minor , displaced after 1922 and later, no longer had a place to think of as home... for us kseniteia (living in a foreign land) with an extra dose of bitterness" (1994: 10). It is not surprising to find that there appears to have been a brief revival of the Asia Minor music during this period. Although it is impossible to make any definitive statements about the reasons for the revival, it is tempting to surmise that the increase in the number of recordings of songs during the 1940s in the United States, in particular of amanedhes recorded by women singers, reflects a mood of despair and nostalgia in the refugee communities. 

This revival needs to be placed in context. Asia Minor refugees had been recording in the United States since the early part of the twentieth century. A notable feature of the recordings of the teens and twenties is their stylistic innovations. A recording made in 1919 (Columbia 85358) of a Manes in Fa Matzore by Marika Papagika, for example, could almost be music for a silent movie. Like many of the early recordings she made with her cymbalum player husband Gus, it shows signs of having been 'modernized'. The Greek musician, Tetos Demetriades, who became head of the Victor company's Greek-Turkish label Orthophonic, influenced the musicians of his generation to adapt their music to the new culture. He himself made recordings of American songs with Greek words and westernized backing during the 1920s and 30s. At the same time, as the person responsible for selecting material for the large Greek record-buying public, Demetriades did not hesitate to choose many recordings on the Turkish Sahibinin Sesi label for his re-issues (Pappas 1995: 12). As Smith (1995: 129-131) notes, Greek musicians may have adapted their music to their new environment, but they did not, on the whole venture beyond their community into the American musical scene. What Smith ignores, however, is that Greek musicians had a much broader audience than the members of their own community. Frangos (1994: 43-63) argues that the live audience for Asia Minor music performed by Greek singers was made up of Armenians, Egyptians, Syrians, Jews, Bulgarians and a few Turks. What this audience had in common was an appreciation of a musical tradition that had developed during the late Ottoman period. Whatever their attitude towards Turkey, they appreciated the artistry of singers and musicians skilled in that tradition. The most successful of the Greek emigre musicians, Marika Papagika, began recording Asia Minor music and Greek folk songs in New York in 1918, and continued to record a mixture of the two styles for most of her career. Born on the island of Cos, just off the Turkish coast, she also recorded songs in Turkish (10). Significantly, in the year of the Smyrna disaster (1922), she recorded both a group of patriotic Greek songs and two songs in Turkish (Spottswood 1990). 

It has been noted by various observers that the Asia Minor style songs were popular not only with audiences in New York, but in the Greek émigré communities all over the United States. Most of the Greek communities were not made up of refugees from Asia Minor, but all were comprised largely of younger men without families: "The loss of home that the Asia Minor Greeks sang of so eloquently must have struck a chord in those young men who also lived far from where they were born" (Frangos 1994: 46) 

Nostalgia for the lost Greek, Armenian or Turkish homeland was probably the strongest shared emotion among immigrants to the United States, and the music of the cafe aman, particularly the amanes, was perfectly suited to express it. Moreover the absence of women family members undoubtedly made the associations of amanedhes with women's musical forms still more poignant. 

Despite their occasional experiments with modern sounds or lyrics, most of the Greek recording artists either remained conservative or reverted to a more conservative style. By the end of the 1920s the two leading female vocalists of the Asia Minor style, Papagika and Coula Antonopoulos (Kyria Koula), had stopped recording, but among Papagika's last recordings were songs in the Asia Minor style which showed little trace of American influence. During the 1930s recordings made in Greece became, for the next decade at least, more popular than local recordings, and the market for American Greek recordings of this type seemed to have been exhausted. During the 1940s, however, there was a brief revival of locally produced Asia Minor music, including a number of amanedhes recorded by women artists. 

The establishment of three new recording companies in the United States devoted largely to producing Asia Minor music seems to indicate a revival of interest in the genre. In 1942 the Metropolitan label began producing recordings of singers resident in the United States. Soon after came the Balkan and Kalliphon companies, established immediately after the war. Virginia Magidou, Katina Karras, Amalia Baka (a Greek Jew from Ioannina) and Victoria Hazan (also a Sephardic Jew who recorded in Greek, Turkish and Ladino) all sang splendid amanedhes on the Metropolitan label during those years. 

What is interesting about the 1940s recordings is that despite their late date, they seem to be performed in a style that pays no lip service to its American environment. Magidou's recording of the amanes Pascho na vro mia kardhia ("I Struggle to Find a Heart") with oud-player Marko Melkon, violinist Nick Doneff and either Garbis or Theo Karras playing kanonaki (Metropolitan 166) (11), Amalia Baka's recording of Smyneikos Ballos (Metropolitan 160), her daughter, Diamanto Baka's recording of a Smyrneiko Matzore (Balkan 808), and Victoria Hazan's Huzam-Gazel (Metropolitan 2001-A) give some idea of the recordings of amanedhes made during the years that corresponded to the German Occupation of Greece and the Civil War. It is surely significant that Greek Jews and Armenians were leading perfomers of a genre that was the product of a hybrid, heterogeneous society. 

Pascho na vro mia kardhia ("I Try to Find a Heart"). (mp3 file, 205 kb, 3.26 min)

Amanes recorded in 1945-6 by Virginia Magidou with Markos Melkon, outi; Nick Doneff, violin; Theo Karras (?), kanonaki. Recorded in the United States on the Metropolitan label. Original recording from the collection of Dino Pappas. Metropolitan 166 B.

Kanonaki. Anoyanakis 1991: 254 (n.117)

The quantity and quality of this last flowering of the Asia-Minor music performed by Greeks and non-Greeks for a largely Greek audience in the United States suggests there was a renewed demand for traditional Asia Minor music, particularly for amanedhes. It is tempting to see this increase in demand as a response to the events of the times. For the displaced Greeks, many of them twice removed from their homeland in Asia Minor, the 1940s was a period in which laments were appropriate. For while the gazel may have been a showpiece for the vocalist in Ottoman music, and for cultural reasons one more often performed by men than women (12), its associations in Greek were affected by different cultural attitudes, musical traditions and political events. The association of amanes with moiroloi and with what was perceived to be the non-western, deeply emotional side of the Greek personality, as I have pointed out, caused the genre to be at once popular and suspect. In some ways, like most immigrant communities, the Greeks of Chicago, Ohio, or New York were more conservative than their compatriots at home. They preserved many of the customs that were dying out in the urban centers of Greece, including the traditional laments for the dead. 

The voices of women singers performing amanedhes reminded Greeks of their maternal and oriental heritage, the 'universal bitterness' that was, at the same time, 'a great treasure' from which they were cut off. Revivals of the amanes coincided with tragic events in Greek history, particularly with the loss of what was popularly referred to as 'Smyrna-Mana' (Mother Smyrna). Of the repertoire of Asia Minor songs, it was the gazel-amanes that demanded the greatest musical skill from the singer. By the 1960s, most of the generation of musicians born in the centers of eclectic Ottoman music who were skilled in improvisation had died or were no longer performing. As a new generation of Greek performers takes an interest in the music of Asia Minor, it remains to be seen whether the musical 'treasure' of the tradition will regain its prominence, and if so, how it will be perceived by an audience far removed from the events that made the amanes speak so eloquently to the Greek soul.

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