Greek Cabaret

For three millennia, Asia Minor (Turkey) was home to several million Greeks, part of a vibrant culture that was shattered when conflicts led to the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe: the destruction of Smyrna, the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, and an exchange of populations which saw the expulsion of 2 million Greeks from Anatolia. This exodus of Asia Minor Hellenes resulted in the dissolution of communities, the dispersion of traditions, and a new societal caste, the Anatolian refugee. Fortunately, highly skilled musicians from Smyrna and Constantinople managed to keep alive and further develop their urban musical traditions by bringing their cosmopolitan talents to the Greek mainland. Arrangers and composers as well as performers, they became the predominant influence in the expanding Greek record industry of the 1930's and 40's, popularizing an Anatolian-influenced blend of old and new traditions. Two of the most prominent styles which flourished during this golden age of Greek song were Smyrneika and Rebetika, urban cafe songs which enjoyed great popularity in Greece during that time. This repertoire is once again enjoying renewed appreciation, fueled by re-issues of the original recordings and performances by present-day artists.
Photo of Greek musicians
Dimitris Semsis, Andonis Dalgas, Leivaditis, ca. 1933

Photo of recording session
A recording session from the period

Nationally recognized Greek vocalist Sophia Bilides , a second-generation Greek-Italian American, brings to life the songs of her Anatolian Greek heritage in concerts of Smyrneika and Rebetika. Accompanying herself on santouri (hammered dulcimer), and zilia (finger cymbals), she is joined by Mal Barsamian on outi (oud) and kythara (guitar), and Mike Gregian on doumbeleki (drum). Songs are translated on stage, with the goal of transporting audiences to the convivial and intimate atmosphere of an Anatolian Greek tavern, the cafe-aman. Bilides has performed at concert halls, universities, clubs, and festivals throughout North America, including New York's Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. She was featured in a National Endowment For The Arts Singing Traditions Tour, and is a three-time Finalist for the Traditional Artist Fellowship (2010, 2008, 2006) of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. In her critically acclaimed CD, Greek Legacy, "her superb voice is heard to excellent effect in this fascinating singing style that straddles the cultural divide between East and West." (Folk Roots).

The foremost practitioner of the Greek singing style known as Smyrneika.
(Boston Globe)

A thrilling experience! She is a master of her instrument.
(Hellenic Chronicle)

A spirited performer making Greek folk music a significant force,
she brings to life a musical heritage that still speaks from and to the heart.

(International Greek Folklore Society)

What could a second generation, New World born descendent of the old Diaspora
possibly possess in the way of authentic Old World substance & exotic charm? Plenty!
(Rebetiko Row)