In 2016, The Rembetika Hipsters will be marking 20 years of bringing the traditional urban and rural music of Greece to Calgary and across Canada. “Rembetika” refers to the urban part – this is the name given to the music which emerged out of the poorer quarters of Athens, and other cities in Greece and in Asia Minor, between the first and second World Wars. Rembetika introduced the stringed instrument known as the bouzouki to the world, a sound which epitomizes Greek music to this day. The lyrics often portray the poverty and squalor of a people driven from their homes by war. But coupled with the swirling, Middle Eastern modes of the uplifting melodies, a Greek equivalent of “the blues” was created, which has transformed popular Greek music to the present day.
The Rembetika Hipsters started as a duo of Nick Diochnos on bouzouki and Allen Baekeland on guitar. They have grown into a seven-piece ensemble, that also features Jonathan Lewis on violin and baglama, Giorgos Iosifelis on bass, Lincoln Frey on clarinets, Jon May on percussion and Racheal Cogan on recorders. All the band members sing. Over the years the band has toured extensively and released three CDs, the most recent being “Kafeneion” from 2011. They have expanded their repertoire to incorporate rural folk music forms from all areas of Greece and have a strong catalogue of original compositions that reflect these styles. Next year’s 20th anniversary will be celebrated by the release of new recordings and a special concert performance.