Music in Prison

Love, Freedom, Solidarity is the theme of an exhibition Carrara. The town in northern Italy is known for its wonderful marble – and its revolutionary traditions since the 1890s.  In 1968 Carrara saw the foundation of the International Federation of Anarchists (IFA).

Our contribution consists of Gabriele’s watercolor painting and Gerald’s poem about Greek prisoners that escape suppression and loneliness with the help of music and and an arghile (hookah). The text bears references to rembetiko, originally a genre of underground music, heavily influenced by Arabic/Turkish and Sephardic traditions. Rembetiko songs deal with (lost) love, drugs, lack of money, crime and an all-but-settled way of life.

Every authoritarian or dictatorial government in Greece since the 1930s tried to suppress the subculture. Music cafes were closed down and opened in other places. Instruments were smashed by police officers, and new ones were built. Musicians were incarcerated, and continued to make music inside the prisons.

A famous song about the prison of Yedi Koule (turkish: seven towers) in Thessaloniki starts with these lines:

Πέντε χρόνια δικασμένος
μέσα στο Γεντί Κουλέ. (2)
Από το πολύ σεκλέτι
το ‘ριξα στον αργιλε.

Five years convicted
in the prison of Yedi Koule. (2)
All the sadness
made me start (to smoke) the hookah.

Listen to the song in Greek…

…and in Turkish.

Published by Marius van der Graaf

artist, musician, write & traveler

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