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UB to Present Program On Greek Blues

Release Date: March 17, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Let the keening begin!

In celebration of Women's History Month, the University at Buffalo Department of Classics will present a program on March 26 about the fascinating relationship between "Rembetika" -- a Greek blues form -- and the ancient lamentations of women.

The misery will begin at 3 p.m. in the Screening Room (Room 112) in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus with the lecture "Women's Tears and The Politics of Grief" by Gail Holst-Warhaft, professor of classics at Cornell University and the author of a book on that subject, "Dangerous Voices" (London 1996).

To further soothe the savage beast, the lecture will be followed by a musical performance and a few trays of feta and grapes to lighten the load.

At 5 p.m., Holst-Warhaft will present a screening of "Rembetika: the Blues of Greece," her film documentary about the music that turned on the world to traditional Greek forms of music and dance. Holst-Warhaft, who finds the roots of Rembetika in millenniums-old, female grieving rituals, will offer a brief introduction to the film.

The movie is directed by Philippe de Montigny and narrated by Anthony Quinn. It is based on the book "Road to Rembetika" and features (among others) Sotiria Bellou, the late Rembetika singer; the Rembetiki Koumpania, a popular traditional performance group; Mikis Theodorakis, whose music is featured in "Zorba the Greek," and Greek singer Mariza Koch.

"Road to Rembetika" was shot principally on the island of Aegina, with scenes in Athens, Astoria (Queens), and Melbourne, Australia. It includes amazing historical footage of the catastrophe that took place in the Asia Minor city of Smyrna in the 1920s when the Turks defeated the Greek population and forced it out of the city to the sea.

The refugees, who lived in severely reduced conditions in coastal Greek towns, developed new musical forms that expressed their grief and loss. The most important was Rembetika

Although considered a low-class, outlaw music by the upscale mainland Greeks, Rembetika began to take root on the mainland and eventually came to represent traditional Greek music, not only to the non-Greek world, but to Greeks as well.

The program is co-sponsored by the Andrew V.V. Raymond Chair in Classics, the Department of Media Study and the Program in Modern Greek in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

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