'Rembetika' Opening Draws Record Crowd

by: Maria A. Karamitsos
The Greek Star

CHICAGO - The Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center (HMCC) was brimming with guests as they unveiled the newest exhibit, "The Road to Rembetika," on Friday June30. The opening night festivities included a live Rembetika band, Rembetoneiro (of Katerina's fame), mezedes, wine and ouzo.

Partygoers of all ages danced and sang during the two-hour reception. For some, it had been the first time that they had heard those songs in years. It wasn't just the older folks; the neolaia has really taken to this style of music.

"Rembetika," known as the Greek blues, evolved from the refugees of Asia Minor. The songs told of their plight: poverty, disposition from their homes, loss, pain, longing, even

Rembetoneiro entertained the crowd at the opening reception
for "Road to Rembetika"

the hash and alcohol they consumed to numb the pain. The exhibit is a history of Rembetika, taking one back to its origins; to the people who made it famous, from the early days, to the resurgence in the 50s as well as the 70s, and also, today. There are listening stations, instruments, video clips, profiles of singers then and now, who continue to keep this genre alive.

The conditions that led to the creation of this music are gone (we hope), and the music provides a glimpse into the very soul of the Rembetes (people who played led to the creation of this music are Rembetika). For many years, the music was outlawed. In fact it has been said that the baglama was made so tiny, so if necessary, it could easily be concealed inside a jacket.

Co-curated by noted musician James Stoynoff and HMCC's resident curator, Allison Heller, this exhibit is informative and fun. You'll even be able to compare and contrast Rembetika to other forms of American music. This exhibit is for any music lover and history buff. The exhibit will run through January 17, 2007.

There are many wonderful programs coming up in conjunction with the exhibit, including "Rembetika Under the Stars," on July 20. HMCC and Rembetoneiro will take to the roof of the Pegasus Restaurant, for a night of music, dancing and more. It's a great way to spend a summer night; More programs will follow throughout the exhibit.

For more information, call HMCC at 312.655.1234. HMCC is open Tuesday - Friday, lOam - 4 pm and Saturday, 11 am - 4 pm.

A young girl danced to
the Rembetika music

A group of partygoers dance the Zembekiko

(Posting date 3 August 2006)

The Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center's mission is to be the nation's foremost center of Hellenic history, culture, and the arts, where the public can explore the legacy of Greek immigrant experience in America and examine the influence of Hellenic culture and people from antiquity to the present. Since its opening on May 8, 1992, the museum has become such a presence in Chicago that it has been designated by Mayor Richard M. Daley as the anchor of the new Greektown redevelopment project which is transforming the Halsted Street area into a world-class ethnic neighborhood. For more information, contact the museum at 801 West Adams Street, 4th floor, Chicago, IL 60607, tel. 312.655.1234, fax 312.655.1221; Media Relations Mgr., Antonia Callas, at 312.655.1234 x27 or tcallas@hellenicmuseum.org.

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