Blending rebetiko with blues, jazz, and rock: intercultural songwriting and analysis

Polyzoidis, A (2024) Blending rebetiko with blues, jazz, and rock: intercultural songwriting and analysis. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This research explores shared characteristics in approach and conception between two distinct musical styles – Greek rebetiko and Afro-American blues – with the aim of conceiving a creative method for generating intercultural music and lyrics. These traditions both emerged in the late nineteenth century among marginalised communities: blues in the Deep South of the USA; and rebetiko in Greek ports. The study establishes a new language, a palette of rhythms, and instrumentation by identifying tools from the mixture of rebetiko and blues, as well as jazz and rock, leading to experimental cross-genre musical forms, by blending them in new original songs. Jazz has evolved from blues through the adaptation of modality, polyrhythms, complex harmonic structures of jazz, and other melodic elements from Western contemporary music, akin to rebetiko’s diverse vocabulary of modal scales and rhythms. Employing an autoethnographic methodology, this research captures the experimental aspects of creative practice, supported by song transcription, analysis, artist collaboration, interviews, and observation. Elements from established artists, who attempted to fuse rebetiko and blues, namely Pavlos Sidiropoulos and Georges Pilali, and the fingerstyle rebetiko guitar technique (tsibití), that was disentombed by Dimitris Mystakidis, are integrated into my songwriting practice, seen in the accompanying portfolio of eighteen songs. Rebetiko modes (drómoi) are collected, collated, and reimagined from eighteen sources. The songs combine rebetiko drómoi with blues scales and jazz modes, alternating time signatures, employing slang-infused common lyrical themes, and juxtaposing instruments typical of rebetiko, blues and jazz. Unconventional songwriting techniques are mostly used to shape forms, rhythmical structures, and instrumentation with unorthodox playing. In my roles as songwriter, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, engineer, and producer, I have developed a model for blending these genres. The exegesis delves into the underlying thematic elements, acknowledges their different qualities and limitations, and weaves a rich tapestry of connections through this compositional journey.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

Parts of the appendices have been redacted from the digital version of this thesis.

Keywords: Greek rebetiko, blues music, rebetiko and blues, westernisation of rebetiko, intercultural songwriting, drómoi as modes, PhD by Practice
Divisions: Bath School of Music and Performing Arts
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Date Deposited: 21 May 2024 19:24
Last Modified: 24 May 2024 08:51
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