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Iconic rebetiko musicians flock to Melbourne for March showcase

Melbourne is getting its very own festival dedicated to showcasing the best of the Greek blues

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Pliri Ntaxei. Photo: Supplied

21 February 2018

Musician Con Kalamaras rediscovered rebetiko music 10 years ago, and since then says he has "never turned back".

An urban improvised music, it was created over 100 years ago by Greek refugees from Asia Minor, now modern day Turkey. As masses of Asia Minor Greek, Armenian, and Jewish refugees fled the 1913 Balkan War and later the 1920s Greco Turkish War, rebetiko – known as the Greek blues – found true form in the crowded city ports and inner city ghettos of Greece, New York, Chicago, and later in Melbourne.

Now, Kalamaras is taking his passion for the Greek blues one step further by putting together a one-day Rebetiko Festival in March that will take over the Melbourne Recital Centre.

The festival's artistic director and his team has pulled together a festival of exile, redemption, and love, featuring two extraordinary ensembles direct from Greece: Pliri Ntaxei and Chrysoula K & Purpura, and a collection of Greek Australian musicians and dancers.

"Our festival team of rebetiko aficionados cannot wait to share this festival with Melbourne and experience the visiting iconic Greek rebetiko musicians," Kalamaras said.

"Pliri Ntaxei will bring a raw edgy authenticity of old style gritty rebetika. While the all-female ensemble of Chrysoula K & Purpura are ethereal, otherworldly and will combine traditional instruments with contemporary music."

Over the years, rebetiko has developed and evolved to blend even more musical influences, including Italian, Balkan, Latin, Arabic, African, jazz, rock, and hip hop. To showcase these aspects, plenty of local talent will be taking part including Israeli, Lebanese, Turkish performers, and Greek Zourouna, the renowned Melbourne Rebetiko Ensemble, and Philhellenes.

Dean Georgalas will be leading the huge Melbourne Bouzouki Orchestra made up of young students, and Manasis School of Greek Dance and Culture will showcase their fancy footwork.

As part of the festival, club nights will also be hosted at the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture and at select Jewish and Muslim venues.

The Rebetiko Festival is taking place on Saturday 10 March from 3.00 pm at Melbourne Recital Centre (31 Sturt St, Southbank, VIC). Festival passes are $55–$69 (plus booking fee). To book, call (03) 9699 3333 or visit melbournerecital.com.au

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