Greece’s Rebetiko and the Blues ‘Meet’ in New NYU Course

Photo: Lia Koniari © Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The history of Greece’s rebetiko genre of music and its link to the American blues will be taught in a new class at New York University (NYU) starting in spring.

NYU and the Greek foreign
ministry recently announced that humanities and social studies students would
have the option to choose the new course – “Songs of the Underdog: American
Blues Meets Greek Rebetiko” – for the spring 2020 semester.

The course, to run with the support of the Consulate General of Greece in New York City, will be taught by Athens-born composer and performer Pericles Kanaris, under NYU’s Alexander S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies and with the backing of the Steinhardt School of Music.

Pericles Kanaris in Concert. Photo Source: @Pericles Kanaris Music

Kanaris was awarded a B.E.S.T.
scholarship from Berklee College of Music and is Boston University graduate in mass
communication. Besides his musical compositions, Kanaris produced “Music of
Greece”, the first compilation of Greek music ever released by New York’s
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The course “is a trip back to
the roots of my two countries’ folk songs. It is a great honor and equally a
great responsibility,” said Kanaris.

UNESCO included the rebetiko music genre – known as the Greek blues – on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2017 citing the fact that “the rebetiko songs contain invaluable references to the customs, practices and traditions of a particular way of life, but above all the practice is a living musical tradition with a strong symbolic, ideological and artistic character”.

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