Greek music will be hosted for the first time at Melbourne’s renowned jazz venue, Bird’s Basement, through the unique sounds of rebetika, played by the Greek band “Tsiftes”, on Friday 28 April.

Even though the venue has traditionally been associated with jazz sounds, it’s recently branched out to different genres.

The cultural phenomenon of ‘rebetika’, embodied the lower class Greek urban life between the 1920s and 1950s, mirroring the pain of war, love and loss that marked those eras, and represented the Greek culture on a general scale.

“Tsiftes” is a music band that plays rebetika and hopes to raise awareness about the history and culture of this tradition, through their music. They also hope to keep this “dying tradition” in Melbourne, alive.

“We play in venues with the aim of bringing more awareness to the crowd. We absolutely love rebetika and we want to introduce it to more people”, the band’s singer and guitarist, Alexander Petropoulos, tells Neos Kosmos.

The cultural significance and the “heavy” sound that characterizes this genre drew 22-year-old Alexander, who has been more seriously involved in rebetika, for about a year now.

“I had an aunt who was into rebetika” he recalls.

“I really liked the ‘heavy’ but also ‘raw’ quality of the sound as well as the meaning behind the lyrics of the music”.

Alexander’s interest didn’t go unnoticed. His aunt then referred him to Con Calamaras, who is considered by many a “veteran” of rebetika in Melbourne.

“It all started from this venue called ‘Triakosia’, a Greek joint in Fitzroy” Alexander says.

“That’s where I got introduced to Con Calamaras. He would jam with other musicians there every week”.

“After I went and saw these jam nights, I got my guitar one day and went back”.

“Con welcomed me in an extremely friendly manner”.

These music nights became a meeting point, for Alexander Petropoulos, Stav Thomopoulos, Nikos Kapralos and Jenny Dixon who together with Con Calamaras, ended up forming the Greek band “Tsiftes”.

Jenny plays the violin, and even though she is the only non-Greek member of the band, she developed a particular interest towards this genre of Greek music.

In fact, according to Alexander, ‘rebetiko’ seems to have an appeal to a wider audience, other than Greeks.

“There’s a big market for non-Greeks too” he comments.

“I think people appreciate the ‘heavy’ sound as well as the ‘raw’ meaning behind the lyrics of the songs” he adds.

“That creates a contrast, to the music released nowadays” he explains, a fact possibly revealing the reasons for such an appeal.

Even though ‘rebetiko’ music carries a cultural significance for Greece, the 22-year-old, sadly admits that “it has become more and more difficult to go out and find places where they play rebetika, even in Greece”.

“A lot of us will go to Greece in July. We hope to play with many great Greek musicians”, shared the young musician, with an evident enthusiasm in his voice.

The “pulse” of this tradition is kept alive by young musicians such as Stav and Alexander, who are both in their early twenties, and hope to revive rebetika, by inspiring other young Greeks to “pick up their instruments” and get involved in this type of music.

“There are five or six people in the audience, who are 18 years old and in their 20s that are into this music, and even some eight and 10-year-olds”.

“I’m really excited seeing young people being interested in rebetika”.

“This is what gives us hope. That this type of music is not going to die”.