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You are at: Home page Her Work Discography Carnival Songs
The most famous publication of the Domna Samiou Greek Folk Music Association. These Carnival songs with their ritual bawdiness – ‘sacred in the profane’ – disturbed the prudish devotees of tradition. The recordings (on CD and double LP) come with a detailed booklet analysing the pagan and ritualistic context in which these songs are performed; essentially connected to a specific season of the cosmic year, they are believed to have a sacred efficiency according to rural society’s popular perceptions.
1. Summons to the Carnival
2. It Is the Custom Every Year
3. Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit)
5. On the Last Days of Carnival (Explicit)
6. Here They Call the Fanny Yiota (Explicit)
7. Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit)
8. Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit)
9. Yannaros Expired (Explicit)
10. Dance From Pyrgi
11. A Cunt up in the Cherry-Tree (Explicit)
12. Full Forty Cunts Encircled Me (Explicit)
13. What Am I, Poor Wretch, to Do
14. If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit)
15. A Braggart of a Cunt (Explicit)
16. Kangeli Dance From Livanates
17. Now List, Good Man (Explicit)
18. An Old Man Was Approaching (Explicit)
19. Old Grandfather Rangavelas (Explicit)
20. On the Final Days of Carnival (Explicit)
21. I Have Grown Old, Goddam It
22. How Do They Grind the Pepper (Explicit)
23. Dance From Kavodoro
24. He's Dead Is Master Meat
- Production: Domna Samiou Greek Folk Music Association
- Year of release: 1994
- Type: CD
- Sponsors: Yannis C. Lyras , Alexander Kedros
The selection and presentation of this particular type of Carnival song should not be considered arbitrary or misleading: the singing of the ribald songs of this genre also had a specific, prescribed time and function, quite separate from the countless other songs, satirical and otherwise, which were sung during the Carnival period. We believe that the density and vitality of this recording may approximate more vividly to the intensity and aesthetic energy of the limited time allotted to these songs, helping to create the kind of special atmosphere of social, cultural and sexual freedom and relaxation brought about by the orgiastic celebrations of the last days of Carnival and which the strictly ordered traditional societies were wise enough to foresee and condone.
In the terminology of worship, an effigy of the male member made of fig wood, clay, leather or dough is called the phallus, a word deriving from the Indo-European root bhel-: to inflate, swell (its female counterpart is the Greek ‘phallaina’ = Lat. ballaena = whale). Worship of the phallus as a symbol of potency constituted an inseparable part of the fertility rites, which aimed at ensuring fecundity and abundance. At these fertility events (festival like the Rural Dionysia, Thesmophoria, etc.), but also in the rites of the mystery cults, the participants were offered cakes in the shape of a pubis or phallus. Divinities of the first rank, such as Hermes and Dionysus, were often portrayed with erect phalluses. As a rule so were Priapus, Pan, Androgyne and other minor gods, who usually had meaningful names, as well as the extremely ancient daemons of germination and fruitfulness: the Tityri, Satyrs and Sileni.
The phallus was also used as a talisman or good luck charm to ward off harmful spirits from children, households, businesses and whole cities and to pluck out the evil eye. Even on graves, phallic depictions are not rare; the phallus connotes the bliss of the afterlife, safeguards the tranquility of the dead person and augurs future rebirth or even resurrection from the dead. The phallus is frequently represented as winged, with eyes, or in human or animal form. The divine personification of the phallus is Phales, Dionysus’s fellow-reveller and night-roaming cohort (Aristophanes, Acharnenses 263 ff.)
From a passage by Minucius Felix (Octavius 9, 4) it appears that the phallus was not foreign even to Christian worship, at least during its early phases. Furthermore, even as late as the 18th century in certain regions the devout would dedicate wax phalluses to the doctor saints, Cosmas and Damianos.
The procession formed an important part of the ancient worship of the phallus. Sometimes those who carried it were girdled with a belt from which dangled or protruded a leather phallus. Plutarch gives us a rough description of one such procession (Moralia 1098 b), which must have belonged to the rites of either the Rural Dionysia festivals or a similar Boeotian celebration: the leader of the parade held an amphora, the next in line a vine branch, the third dragged a goat for the sacrifice, the fourth carried a hamper filled with dried figs, while last but not least followed the phallus. Naive, charming country happenings. In other cases, the phallus was displayed in a cradle, on a cart, or a ship with wheels, sometimes even as a puppet. The improvised or traditional chants of the phallus-bearers were called phallica and were set to a special metre.
The principal function of the poetry was not entertainment, but the worship of the divinity. The hymn, supplicating or giving thanks to the god, and the incantation, i.e. the magic song that seduces or compels the recalcitrant divinity, are the oldest forms of poetry. The song that gives rhythm to work appeared later and, later still, the lyric outburst that expresses sentiments and emotions. The phallica were religious chants and belonged to the genre known as sacred obscenity, which constituted the most effective method of homeopathic magic. We must not forget that at the dawn of civilization, the borders between religion and magic were fluid and, consequently, the ‘profane’ and the violent –of which the bloody sacrifice is the most extreme manifestation– serve the sacred, if they do not in fact make up a great part of it.
Aristotle in his Poetica (1449 a 11) maintains that comedy had its origins in the ‘leaders of the phallica procession’ and adds that even in his day the tradition of these songs survived in many cities. The reliability of Aristotle’s testimony as to the origin of comedy has at times been questioned, but today it is generally accepted that certain songs of the parabasis must have been modeled on the phallica.
Of the merry poetry of the phallus procession songs, but a few excerpts have survived. The phallic song chanted by the Athenians in 291 B.C. in welcoming Demetrius Poliorcetes has come down to us intact, but it cannot be considered a representative example, being verse of blatant flattery towards the strong man of the moment. However, one phallus song does seem authentic; it was sung by a chorus of young Athenian men called the Priapics, perhaps during the procession at the City Dionysia festivals.
Freely translated, the jingle goes like this: ‘Back off, make way for the god; the god wants to pass through the middle, erect and robust’. Semos the Delian, an historian of the Hellenistic period, who recorded the poem (FGrHist IIIB, 396 F 24) informs us that the chorus wore the masks of drunkards, women’s clothing (an example of sacred cross-dressing) and crowns, and after they had gone through the portals and arrived in the middle of the orchestra (obviously of some theatre), they turned towards the public and sang their merry little song. The anonymous god who seeks more space is not Dionysus but rather the deified phallus. Not only was the performance daring in terms of spectacle and sound, but the connotations of even the more innocent seeming words were risqué.
In other types of genuine folk poetry (wedding songs, drinking songs, working songs), the erotic element is also present, though skillfully disguised. Thus it is difficult for the uninitiated reader to imagine that in one familiar Greek song about a miller (‘Grind, miller, grind, and Pittacus grinds, who rules in great Mytilene’, PMG 869) or that in the first verse of the Attic drinking song about the Regicides (‘In a myrtle branch I wear the sword’, etc., PMG 447), which was in some way the national anthem of democratic Athens, lurk certain allusions to erotic acts. Yet it is not only the innuendoes that elude us. For us ancient lyric poetry is merely bare words on a printed page. The accompaniments (dance, music, song) have been lost. Thus, for example, all that remains of the following ditty (PMG 852):
- Where are the roses, where are the violets, where the good celery?
- Here are the roses, here the violets, here the good celery.
is for us no more than a cerebral conception of lively colors and subtle aromas. The audience at the live performance, however, would have seen eloquent dance movements, would have smelled scents, and above all would have understood the words differently. A chorus of boys was asking where the flowers of spring were, and a chorus of girls would answer, showing where ‘here’ was. Posies would have adorned their erogenous zones, corresponding to and, on a secondary level, identified semantically with the dark, concealed parts of the body.
Ribald poetry in ancient societies always served a humanitarian purpose: at fertility rites, it assisted the productive forces of nature; in the rites of passage it undertook to guide the inexperienced through the labyrinth of love; in social gatherings it was a unifying bond. However, even the wanton muse of the famous poets had a ‘cathartic’ character; it provided an expressive outlet to instincts that were suppressed by social conventions and, moreover, since ‘the funny is a part of the indecent’ (Aristotle), it provoked liberating laughter.
Christ has conquered! But in Greece the old gods live their own lives hidden deeply within the collective subconscious. Many of them may be found under the wing of magnanimous saints, holy people and prophets. Also, the old initiates of the phallus –the worshippers of Dionysus– still animate their descendants in Elasson and Tyrnavos, in Agiassos and in the villages round Rethymnon, in Kozani and Agia Eleni. The chants of the new phallus-bearers, a form of expression even older than Dionysus, make fertility festivals joyful, proclaiming that as long as the phallus, the accessory to every birth, is potent, then death does not have the last word.
M. Z. Kopidakis (1994)
Translated by Diana Farr-Louis
Deubner L., Attische Feste, Darmstadt, 1966².
Herter H., RE XIX, s.vv. Phallophorie, Phallos.
Nilsson M.P., Geschichte der griechischen Religion, I, 590-594, Munich, 1967³.
Pickard-Cambridge A., The Dramatic Festivals, Oxford, 1968., 43-44.
Sifakis G.M., Parabasis and Animal Choruses, London, 1971, 18-19 and 80-81.
Among customary ceremonies of worship the most durable are those performed at the alarming shifts in the year’s cycle, at the crucial passages in the cycle of human life. And this is natural since their inviolable performance concerns the continuation of life itself, as the supernatural powers, celestial or infernal, are called upon through magical processes to ensure health, fertility and fruitfulness to human beings, their animals and the earth, united and inseparable, consubstantial, precisely as people in rural communities perceive them.
The period when winter ends and the coming of spring with its eagerly anticipated earth-shaking changes could be sensed was always the most crucial turning point in the year. During this time, the followers of a nature-based religion felt the need to perform some ritual which would assist the earth in its regenerative work.
‘It all begins with spring... if Carnival is a success then the rest of the year will be, too’, reasoned one farmer from Sochos near Thessaloniki in 1976, succinctly providing a complete interpretation of these fertility rites (Aikaterinidis).
Thus, in many, totally unrelated, cultures we find festivals and rituals of an obvious pagan agricultural origin which take place mainly during this season of the year for the purpose of proclaiming with a frenetic outburst the annual rebirth of the world as a consequence of the uninterrupted succession of the seasons. To this type of festival belong both the modern Greek rural Carnival (Apokria) and the more widely known Carnival of the Western world.
These pre-spring rites share many common elements in their observance, whose origins and purpose are obviously rooted in magic: disguises with transferral of roles and mimed drama performances, purgative fires, symposia with immense amounts of food and drink and inebriation, orgiastic dances, obscenity, the use of effigies of the genitals, representations of the reproductive act, and so forth, occurring at the same time as events and offerings connected with the worship of the dead. What all these events share and what constitutes the essence of their philosophy is the idea of overthrowing the world order, questioning of values and authority, and the abolition of limits and established laws. It is as if the turning of the seasons on a cosmic level brings with it its overturning on a social level. Another law, the ephemeral and ageless law of Carnival, is imposed, prevailing over any other command and redefining everything from the beginning, upside-down. By surrendering all jurisdiction over the celebration of this festival, with the implacable etiquette of madness, to the people, to the lower classes, to the outcasts, the reversal has already begun. It will be completed through the trickery of the deceptive disguises and through ridicule by means of parodies; it will trumpet the hidden truth through the revealing, daring words of the Carnival songs.
As a rule, the dominant religion expels to the peripheral yet omnipotent realm of magic whatever it cannot appropriate from debased earlier religions. Of the age-old customary religious ceremonies that the Greeks consistently performed within the year’s cycle and which Christian teaching did not manage to uproot, the Church incorporated the majority in its calendar: the holidays of the winter solstice in the Christmas cycle, those of the spring equinox and mid spring in the Easter cycle, those of the summer solstice in the midsummer-night’s festival of St. John the Forerunner, and so forth. Carnival remains the only clearly non-ecclesiastical ritual and recreational festival whose only link with the Christian calendar of feasts is nominal, existing mainly because the Church has woven it into the sanctified Lenten period that follows.
For common folk, Carnival is the chief festival of joy and renewal, a temporary break in the inexorably swift passage of time. If the other great feasts (Christmas, Easter, Assumption Day) are preceded by fasting, Carnival is proclaimed with joyous drumbeats and heralds.
In its current form, acquired for the most part during the Byzantine era, Carnival includes a wide range of extremely old customs of the type mentioned above, with a magical but also particularly recreational character. In other words, it combines the celebration of material pleasures with the worship of the dead, which always coincided with this transitional period, connected also with the myth of eternal return. The Christianized Soul-Saturdays bring back specific familiar dead persons to memory and have their own rituals. But, in the rural Carnival as well, the traditional disguises with their goat masks and sheepskins, blackened faces, bells and crooks, are also thought to represent the souls of the dead, turned into daemonic spirits. The same is true of the mimed drama performances given by the masqueraders; stamped each time with a collective, improvised comic inventiveness and imagination, they nevertheless concentrate on and continually recreate the ‘death-resurrection’ theme in many variations.
The idea of death underlying all the Carnival’s acts of worship –most of which take place in the open air on the seasonally damp ground– enhances the multifaceted symbolism of the earth itself as the recipient of dead bodies but also as the womb and nurturer of every form of life. The identification of its fertility with female fertility provides the basis for a series of mimed performances with plowing-copulation as their ambiguous theme. Plow, ploughshare and phallus, synonymous images, are the leading symbols of the Greek Carnival, both as props for the masqueraders and as subjects of the songs that are sung, offering through the identification of nature with human beings a promise of fertility and eternal life.
‘Death is no more than a relative force which is ultimately vanquished by life... The Carnival gives this event, which is so frightening and irredeemable in our eyes, a joyful and merry aspect, by always linking it with a resurrection... For the dead ‘resemble’ seeds, which are also ‘buried’ in the earth and lie in expectation of a return to life’ (Kiourtsakis).This reconciliation with death gives people the feeling of unrestricted existential freedom, which first of all manifests itself as the questioning of every secular and religious authority. This catalytic viewpoint, adopting the language of laughter through the unrestrained mockery of everything, discloses the inconsistency of the whole social system, reveals the true face but also the ‘relativity of every social structure, every class, every authority’ (Kiourtsakis). By becoming aware of the absurd in every social distinction and of the self-evident nature of human equality, the overthrow appears as a natural and just consequence. It is here that we pass from acts of worship to the social dimension of Carnival.
On a visual level, the overthrow occurs by means of the disguises and events where individuals cannot be categorized by gender, age, or even species; men become women; women, men; the poor, lords; the fools, kings; the crones, young mothers; humans, beasts; and rituals, farces; and it all happens amidst a generally chaotic atmosphere, where madness replaces sobriety; debauchery, the usual frugality; hedonism, abstemiousness; rampant sexuality, strict control; disorder, order. Similarly, the overthrow is consummated at a verbal level, at the level of comic speech, especially of the words of the songs which echo the whole system of ideas, values and representations of the natural world and of society, as seen, however, through the eyes of Carnival i.e. reversed.
Within the context of this reversal of the value system, loose talk, obscenity, the violation of strong taboos, desecration of sanctity, and flagrant sexuality all become legitimized. The absurd becomes rational, the lie contradicts the truth, opposites and rivals meet and are reconciled. People who are not what they seem sing songs that do not mean what they say. Because, by means of their mirthful, light, playful words and comic situations and the misleading confusion between signs and meanings, they seek the ambiguous code which they will use to express their protest against ‘sleeping dogs’, they will demonstrate their resistance to every worldly or otherworldly repressive authority.
Amidst the pandemonium of the end of Carnival, every obstacle and limit is abolished, and not just metaphorically. Inebriated bodies approach, individuals lose themselves in the whole, are mixed up and shuffled like cards in a symbolic deck – like the figures in a real pack of cards. Indeed card-playing too is connected with a corresponding shift of time, namely, New Year’s Eve, the figures reminding us of Carnival with their kings, queens, jokers, and inverted images.
The dances of the last Sunday of Carnival and of Clean Monday –it too a day ‘in disguise’, not what it seems– represent the complete destructuring of society, the hour when its members, aspiring to become daemonic spirits behind their deceptive disguises, celebrate their communion with the eternity of life, and especially their equality before death.
The community will come together again to participate once more in the austere, ceremonial Great Dance of Easter, with the priests in the lead, the men and women in their turn, according to gender and age; the dance that constitutes the perfect portrayal of reestablished class and hierarchy in a recreated Paschal world.
Miranda Terzopoulou (1994)
Translated by Diana Farr-Louis
Aikaterinidis Y., 1979. Τα καρναβάλια του Σοχού Θεσσαλονίκης, Γ΄ Συμπόσιο Λαογραφίας ΒΕ χώρου, Thessaloniki.
Baroja J. C., 1979. Le Carnaval, Paris, Gallimard.
Éliade M., 1949. Le Mythe de l’ éternel retour. Archétypes et répétition, Paris, Gallimard. 1971. Le Sacre et le profane, Paris, Gallimard.
Karagiannis B., 1983. Τα αδιάντροπα. Λεσβιακά Λαογραφικά, Prologue by M. Meraklis, Athens, Filippotis.
Kiourtsakis Y., 1985. Καρναβάλι και Καραγκιόζης. Οι ρίζες και οι μεταμορφώσεις του λαϊκού γέλιου, Athens, Kedros.
Lelekos M., 1974. Δημοτική Ανθολογία, Πριάπεια, Athens.
Loukatos D., 1985. Συμπληρωματικά του χειμώνα και της άνοιξης, Athens, Filippotis.
Megas Y., 1957, 1979². Ελληνικαί εορταί και έθιμα της λαϊκής λατρείας, Athens.
Nilsson M., 1961. Greek Folk Religion, New York, Harper Torchbooks .
Puchner W., 1989. Λαϊκό θέατρο στην Ελλάδα και στα Βαλκάνια (A comparative study), Athens, Patakis.
For this reason, it is urgent that a documented inventory be carried out while the last genuine participants of this repertoire are still alive, so that this valuable material may be put at the disposal of future generations for inspiration and creation. (The same also holds true for certain other types of folk songs that are linked with customs and ceremonies.) Indeed, more and more these days, we are distancing ourselves from the symbols, values, and cathartic functions of the ‘primitive’ rural Carnival, in preference to the urban Carnival which is often transformed into an organized masquerade, it, too, a part of the consumer game. The traditional symbols are watered down in folkloric representations, while –as Yannis Kiourtsakis notes– ‘the spontaneous folk festival is turned into a performance stage-managed by the leaders and offered by them to the ‘people.’Thus the Carnival symbols are inevitably changed into an institutionalized expression of the given class’.
In what way, then, with what ears can today’s listener approach these songs – in an era where our Carnival has been ‘stolen’ by public leaders, our feast replaced by organized fiestas, and our songs taken over by record marketing and the mass media?
According to what standards can one judge them, at a moment when modern society has been transformed into a ‘society of manners, and where manners are turned against customs?’
How can the Christian and ‘rationally’ moulded bourgeois standards of the West approach, explain and –to some extent, at least– appreciate the symbols and values of an agricultural and pastoral society, traditional in its structure and magico-religious in its perception?
Perhaps the key lies in these quintessential symbols of the earth, of fertility, of spring and of hope that remain common to all mankind, irrespective of time and place. It is sufficient that one approaches them with knowledge and respect, in relation to the special codes and principles that distinguish their functions within the context of the social group in question.
So, what happened –and often still happens even today– when in particularly closed and conservative societies even the women ‘lost their shame’ and used to sing songs running the gamut from satirical to ‘indecent’, songs that often referred to the lower part of the body and to its procreative and natural functions?
And, furthermore, how is it possible that this ‘dissolute’ festival reaches its peak at the same time as the ceremonial offerings to the dead on the Soul-Saturdays, i.e. the two last Saturdays before Lent (Psychosavvata)? How is it possible that the same peasant, who up until noon on Clean Monday danced with mock phalluses to daring obscenities, could then proceed immediately afterwards to the first Vespers of the Lenten period, participating in all the holy chants?
Surely it would be hypocritical if we were to consider these as simple, isolated, ‘picturesque’ acts, titillating and spicy to our bourgeois puritanism. It is essential that we approach them and explain them as inseparable parts of all those symbolic acts and rituals with which the Greek people, even before antiquity, welcomed this crucial period in the annual cycle, which marks the passage from winter-death to spring-life.
These are symbols that have travelled through the ages and have been preserved with admirable continuity and cohesion over the years. It is through these symbols that the Greek expresses his hope for the new season about to commence, invoking fertility and a good harvest, participating (frequently in a ‘homeopathic’ way) in the deep changes taking place in the earth at this time. He invents ‘socially acceptable’ processes that will permit him to communicate with his neighbour in a playful and erotic mood and be ‘rebaptized’ in his own nature.
The Carnival songs and dances which Domna Samiou has selected for this recording, with their content and functional assimilation into the respective customs, vividly capture and condense the primeval force and traditional ethos that set this Greek ‘Rite of spring’ apart.
It is worth looking at the verses of the first song (a leaping dance from Naxos), where festive joy coexists with sorrow over death –in the unique way that has characterized Greek tradition since ancient times– in order to stress even more emphatically the victory of life-spring over decay-winter.
Similar references can be found in the Christmas carols of Thrace (which are related to the songs of the Carnival repertoire, and which also aim at fertility and abundance):
Be happy, let’s enjoy ourselves before Death finds us
and then be sorry!
The Carnival Air recorded in Amorgos by Simon Karas insists on the same poetic motif:
Make merry, let’s enjoy our tender youth,
for the time will come when a stone ’ll cover it.
Let’s dance, lads, and get on with it,
this earth will one day eat us up!
Such verses are the direct descendants of the 1st century A.D. ‘Epitaph of Seicilus’, the most legible example of ancient Greek music that has been preserved. According to research done by Samuel Baud-Bovy it is a folk song, chiselled on a funeral stele discovered at ancient Tralles (Aidini, Asia Minor). It disappeared from Asia Minor during the catastrophic events of 1922 and is now in the Copenhagen Museum:
As long as you live be happy
and don’t ever be sad.
Life is short
and Time demands his share.
In the Carnival songs, we observe a harmonious coexistence between these reflective songs (such as I have grown old, goddam it) and the rest of the repertoire of satirical and ‘obscene’ songs.
Here, moreover, the customary imperative violation of daily rules takes place with the apparent overthrow not only of the social class (by mocking the leaders of the social hierarchy), but also of the natural order of things itself, which however also has, deep down, a didactic character:
A blind man was a-looking for a needle in the haystack,
and a deaf man was telling him: ‘I heard the bang it made!’
The parody of familiar songs also has a similar character; in these cases ‘indecent’ verses are substituted, becoming even funnier because of their associated identification with the personages and situations of the original song (e.g. the song A braggart of a partridge becomes 15. A braggart of a cunt, and so forth).
Parodies of this type can also go so far as daring ridicule of the ecclesiastic class with ‘new versions’ of the psalms, as for example:
I open my mouth
– come near me, my lovely
I’m celebrating merrily
– and I go all around you...
(From the Carnival event, ‘The Dead’, enacted at Mycenae)
This had earlier occurred in Byzantium with ribald parodies of the church service and also in the West, as in the well-known medieval manuscript of Carmina Burana.
The poetic and musical structure of the majority of Carnival songs appears as relatively simple. They usually have a strong rhythmic element, within simple rhythmic patterns (mostly in two/four or seven/eight rhythm), which are linked with the prevailing syllabic character of the melody, giving priority to a rhythmic melodic recitation of the text.
What is exceptionally interesting is the fact that many of the songs (and this demonstrates the extreme age and special nature of the genre) contain verses of eight syllables, not in iambic but rather trochaic metre. Even in ancient times, Aristotle had noted the ‘Dionysiac’ character of this metre (Rhetorica 3, 8), connecting it with the ‘kordax’, the most vulgar dance of ancient comedy.
This trochaic rhythm, as Baud-Bovy notes, is also to be found in children's songs and nursery rhymes (let us not forget that children are the most conservative of beings, and that in their songs and games are preserved a host of elements from ancient tradition). It is, however, above all typical of the ribald Carnival songs –the ‘ugly’ ones as the Rhodians used to call them– to which the men danced to put the bride at ease. In Northern Greece and Bulgaria women also used to sing them, though only the day of ‘women’s’ rule (gynaikokratía).
The trochaic rhythm is what also gives weight to the mimed Carnival dances, such as the well-known How do they grind the pepper, which is danced all over the Balkans. A comparable French dance, Savez-vous planter les choux, has the same poetic structure.
Thus it can be argued that the Carnival songs having the eight-syllable trochaic structure may be considered older than those with fifteen syllables.
Also of interest are the interjected exclamations, shouts and meaningless words (‘bre-bre-bre’; ‘bam-bam-boom’; ‘biyi-biyi-biyirne’, etc.), whose function is not only to round out the metre but also to emphasize the rhythm and accentuate the whole comic character of the song.
The songs of Carnival, particularly the older ‘obscene’ ones, used to be sung without instrumental accompaniment, by two groups of singers (as is still the case today in the Carnival dance around the fire performed at Drymos near Elasson), or begun by a soloist and then repeated by the others. The instruments of the typical mainland troupe (clarinet, violin, lute, and percussion) or of the island duo (violin, lute) represent a more recent addition.
In earlier times, the bagpipe with its ‘Dionysiac’ sound could have been added as an instrumental accompaniment in either of its two forms, the gaida in Thrace and Macedonia and the tsabouna on the islands.
The drum (daouli in mainland Greece, toubi in the islands) was the most important rhythmic instrument, and was also used to announce the start of Carnival, either at the beginning of the three-week period preceding Lent or on other occasions, as for example in Hydra on St. Anthony’s day (January 17). This is why the first week of Carnival was also called ‘profoni’ or ‘profonesimi’, from the word meaning to announce or proclaim.
Furthermore, might not, this ‘announcement’ contain within it the imperative message ‘dance – dance’ and ‘enjoy’, which these songs continue to send us?
They are at once both invitation and provocation to the ‘modern’ big city dweller, urging him to reconnect with the symbols of the Great Mother –the Goddess of Fertility– to return to the Womb of Nature: through contact and communication within the context of the same social group which is conscious of its common bonds and aims; through the ritual of the celebration which refuses to be debased as ‘entertainment’; through a symbolic language as daring as it is old, and for this reason both universal and, ultimately, sanctified.
Because naturalia non sunt turpia - natural things are not shameful.
Lambros Liavas (1994)
Translated by Diana Farr-Louis
Brood the Chicks
Greek National Television (ERT), 1988
When Everything Was so Dear
Greek National Television (ERT), 1988
- Domna Samiou (Research, Collection, Musical supervision),
- Tasia Papanikolaou (Production assistant)
- Kostas Prikopoulos (Sound engineer),
- Yannis Smyrnaios (Sound engineer),
- Yannis Smyrnaios (Sound editing)
- Michalis Kopidakis (Texts and commentaries),
- Lambros Liavas (Texts and commentaries),
- Miranda Terzopoulou (Texts and commentaries),
- John Leatham (English translation),
- Diana Louis (English translation),
- Antigone Philippopoulou (Text Editing),
- Koralia Sotiriadou (Text Editing),
- Lika Florou (Design and layout)
- Domna Samiou (It Is the Custom Every Year, If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat),
- Tzikas Anastasopoulos (Full Forty Cunts Encircled Me (Explicit)),
- Manolis Ballas (I Have Grown Old, Goddam It),
- Vangelis Dimoudis (What Am I, Poor Wretch, to Do),
- Vangelis Dourvas (Old Grandfather Rangavelas (Explicit)),
- Manolis Philippakis (Yannaros Expired (Explicit)),
- Charilaos Tsaktsiras (Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit), Now List, Good Man (Explicit)),
- Women's Group of the Cultural and Educational Association of Drymos (Larissa) (A Cunt up in the Cherry-Tree (Explicit), Here They Call the Fanny Yiota (Explicit), On the Final Days of Carnival (Explicit)),
- Dimitris Zacharias (Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit))
- Choir of the Music Association of Tyrnavos (Larissa) (A Braggart of a Cunt (Explicit), On the Last Days of Carnival (Explicit)),
- Greek Folk Dance Group ‘Eleni Tsaouli’ (It Is the Custom Every Year, How Do They Grind the Pepper (Explicit), I Have Grown Old, Goddam It, An Old Man Was Approaching (Explicit), If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit), Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat),
- Group from 'Phanos Aristotelis' (Old Grandfather Rangavelas (Explicit)),
- Group from 'Phanos Boudanathka' (Full Forty Cunts Encircled Me (Explicit))
- Nikos Philippidis (Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit), How Do They Grind the Pepper (Explicit), I Have Grown Old, Goddam It, If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit), Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat, Kangeli Dance From Livanates)
- Lazaros Efthymiou (I Have Grown Old, Goddam It),
- Yiorgos Marinakis (It Is the Custom Every Year, Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit), How Do They Grind the Pepper (Explicit), If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit), Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat, Kangeli Dance From Livanates),
- Nikos Oikonomidis (Dance From Pyrgi, Dance From Kavodoro, Balos)
- Kostas Philippidis (It Is the Custom Every Year, Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit), How Do They Grind the Pepper (Explicit), I Have Grown Old, Goddam It, An Old Man Was Approaching (Explicit), If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit), Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit), Yannaros Expired (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat, Dance From Pyrgi, Dance From Kavodoro, Balos, Kangeli Dance From Livanates)
- Yiorgos Gevgelis (Dance From Pyrgi, Dance From Kavodoro, Balos),
- Andreas Pappas (It Is the Custom Every Year, Auntie Nikolakaina (Explicit), I Have Grown Old, Goddam It, An Old Man Was Approaching (Explicit), What Am I, Poor Wretch, to Do, If I Could Be Upon the Shore (Explicit), Five and Ten Priests' Wives (Explicit), Together With My Aunt Kontylo (Explicit), He's Dead Is Master Meat, Kangeli Dance From Livanates)