Rebetiko music – Hasapiko, Tsifteteli, Zeibekiko – Greek


There are many famous Rebetiko tunes associated with the dance Hasapiko (Vari Hasapiko, Argo Hasapiko, Slow Hasapiko).  Among the most popular today seem to be

Hasapiko Politiko, also known as Hasapiko of Piraeus, by Giannis (Yannis) Papaioannou (Γιάννης Παπαϊωάννου 1913-1972
Another famous Hasapiko tune is Fragosyriani witten by Markos Vamvakaris  There are many YouTubes, this shows English lyrics.
One of my favorites is Sakena, here performed by one of the greats, Giorgios Zampetas

and the sheet music

Çiftetelli (Turkish) Tsifteteli (Greek)

The çiftetelli appears in many variations in the folk music of Western and Central Turkey. The different compositions based on this popular rhythm each have their own name. In Turkey çiftetelli has been relegated to wedding music, where Roma and Greeks have adopted the upbeat folk rhythms into oriental dancing.

Romani often served as purveyors of music to Turks, and their women (and boys) were recruited (others being Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and Albanians) to become belly dancers. The boy dancers were called köçek, from which we get the word čoček, the name known throughout the Balkans for a very similar dance.

Drummers tend to have fun filling in the end of the rhythm in various, sometimes unexpected, ways. It is sometimes used to accompany a taaqasiim (melodic improvisation). Egyptians tend to play a simpler version of çiftetelli than you might find in Turkey and call it “waaHida taaqasiim” or maybe “waaHida kabiir”.

Tsifteteli (Greek), is a Turkish musicians’ expression meaning “a pair of strings”; it originally referred to a technique of playing the violin in which the fiddler put the second string in the same groove on the bridge as the first string and tuned them either to the same octave or an octave apart. A tsifteteli  melody was played in a long drawn out and wavering style, and hence any instrument mimicking this style was said to be playing tsifteteli.

Early recording of Tsifteteli music. Violin Dimitris Semsis.
Add a vocal using the same style – a mournful combination suited to the suffering of Greeks displaced from their Anatolian homeland. Marika Politissa “A Secret Plan” 1931 only a few years after the Greek expulsion from Anatolia.

Though the playing technique is rarely used today, the style of music and dance it accompanied are still called tsifteteli or çiftetelli. The rhythm in Greece is considered a 4/4, with a stress on the first and (surprisingly) on the fourth count, however the more common version of stressing the first and third count is also quite familiar to the Greeks. It can be simple or filled in with many variations, syncopations etc…


A series of 5 old recordings of the dance Zeibekiko or Zeybek. Three recordings by Greek immigrants in America from the 1920s and two Turkish recordings. All instrumental pieces. 1. 0:00 Baloukaisariano- Harilaos Evangitis (violin), Markos Melkon (Laouto). 2. 2:00 Zeybek Havasi- Odeon Saz Heyeti. 3. 4:03 Bourdousaina- Tom Vrouvas, recorded NYC Dec 1926. 4. 6:06 Zeybek Havasi- Zurnaci Emin. 5. 8:00 Aptal Havasi- Adonios Sakellariou (clarinet & orchestra). Note the similarities between 1 & 2; 3, 4, & 5.
Taxim Zeibekiko – Márkos Vamvakáris, 1937. When at 1:40 Vamvakáris breaks into a regular rhythm, it’s a standard zeibekiko slow 9 (4+5) thus: 1, 2& 3, 4, 1, 2& 3, 4, 5.
A late (1966) film of Átakti composer Markos Vamvakáris 1905-1972 (far left) playing and singing.
Sotiria Bellou sings San apókliros gyrízo Written by Vassilis Tsitsánis 9 slow beats (4+5) thus: 1, 2& 3, 4, 1, 2& 3, 4, 5
Sotiria Bellou sings Káne ligáki ipomoní Written by Vassilis Tsitsánis
9 (4+5) thus: 1, 2, 3, 4&, 1, 2, 3, 4&, 5& , 1948.
Legendary Sofia Vembo in a Manos Hadjidakis‘ song. The scene is from the classic film “Stella” with Melina Mercouri. The YouTube is included here mostly to show the transformation of the status of zeibekiko music and dance. From scorned “outsider’ culture in 1925 to hip popular culture by 1955.

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