As the World Cup moves into the second round, it’s going to be interesting to see which of the over-performing minnows will continue to impress. Hosts South Africa have already fluffed their audition, finding themselves on the end of a 3-0 spanking by Uruguay, but it remains to be seen how teams like North Korea will hold up. Greece – champions of Europe as recently as 2004, let’s not forget – will be a special case indeed, because right now, they hold the record as the only team ever to play in the World Cup without scoring a single goal. It’s a deeply unwelome record, of course – it remains to be seen whether they will break that duck against Nigeria today or – welp – Argentina next week.
The wunderkind of Greek music is unquestionably Vangelis. For all the movie-score cheese he’s been guilty of (look me in the eye and honestly tell me the theme from “Chariots of Fire” doesn’t make you cringe), he deserves to be regarded alongside Jean Michele-Jarre as one of the lynchpins of a very early form of adult-friendly electronica, and a progenitor of much of the new age and ambient music since. As you probably already know, his crowning achievement is his score for the sci-fi-film-noir epic Blade Runner.
To pick up on Vangelis is a stunning obvious move, though, so let’s look elsewhere….
Like most European countries, Greek has its own fair share of guitar music to call its own. On an international level, it’s probably the names of Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh that carry the most weight, but within Greece it’s more traditional forms of rock – progressive and alternative, mainly – that carry the flame. The temptation is to post something by Aphrodite’s Child – the band Vangelis got his big break in – but the post-punky Τρύπες (that’s Holes in English) have tended to be the ones most often mentioned by Greeks attemping to introduce foreigners to their sound, with their peak period of the late ’80s and early ’90s continuing to draw acclaim.
Yet we couldn’t talk about Greek music – or anything involving Greece, really – without taking in some of Greek’s unbelievable sense of history (one matched perhaps only by the Eypgtians). In fact, every time you talk about music full stop, you’re really referencing Greece – we derive the word from Zeus’ daughters, the Muses, and much of music’s integration into culture as a whole can be traced back to the way the ancient Greeks incorporated music into a vast range of social interactions. The localized forms of folk found then still have a following today, with musicians like Kostas Mountakis attaining a status little short of legendary, and a strong sense of tradition permeates forms like laiko and rebetiko. Stelios Kazantzidis, heard below, is just one of many singers that enjoyed a lengthy career making music in these styles, which also nod to the influence of the Turks and the north Africans the nation has enjoyed trade routes with for centuries.