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The Greek (pop) music history of the twentieth century is formed by numerous dramatic social and political events. Word War I and II, Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), The Greek civil war (1946-49) and dictatorship of dictators Ioannis Metaxas (in the thirties) and Papadópoulos (in the sixties) had a huge impact on the music singers and songwriters would make.

At the basis of Greek popmusic are the Heptanesian cantatha, Athenian cantatha and rebetika. The catatha style was popular during the period 1870-1930 where the were performed on the in revues and operettas that dominated the Greek theatres. The cantatha culture has a similarity to the cantautore tradition in Italy. The serenades were operating by definition in an autonomous way, whereas the "Athenian" songs, despite their original connection to a total dramatic work, also achieved to become hits as independent songs.

Rebétiko (ρεμπέτικο) evolved from traditions of the urban poor. Refugees and drug-users, criminals and the itinerant, the earliest rembétika musicians were scorned by mainstream society. In 1923, many ethnic Greeks from the Asia Minor in Anatolia fled to Greece as a result of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). Many of these immigrants were highly educated, and included songwriter Vangelis Papazoglou and Panayiotis Toundas. The Rebétiko song is often gloomy and fatalistic in content and was always sung by a single voice. Its popularity increased until embraced by the majority of the working class, reaching its classical period in the years between 1940-1950. The principal instruments of Rebétiko were the bouzouki, baglama, and guitar. The classic Rebétiko songs were distinguished for their sincerity of passion and power of expression. Within the music style, one can detect the contributions and influence of folk song, Byzantine chant, and music of the East.

In the fifties the two dominant styles for Greek pop became clear. On one hand you had the Rembétika, a softer more western approach to Rebétiko. On the other you had Laïko music, which actually means popular music. The Rembétika (later mixed with éntekno) is more the Greek blues, Laïko more the up tempo songs.


  • Nicholas Zallas, Odyssey Orchestra - A brief history of Greek music
  • Holst-Warhaft Gail - Road to Rembétika: Music of a Greek sub-culture, songs of love, sorrow and hashish