BiographyA native of Syros, Vamvakaris emerged from the impoverished depths of this Greek island's notorious opium and hashish underworld to forever change both Rembetica and his instrument of choice, the bouzouki. Like a toy in his hands, he could play anything he wanted on the lute-like instrument, embellishing plucked solos with slides and rich ornamentation. In the early 1930s he released the first album to feature the bouzouki. On that album, his astounding playing accompanies lyrics depicting the seedy world of Syros. This music has a rhythmic, syncopated feel, especially when accompanied by spoons and the deep, dry-sounding toumbeleki drum which spurred Vamvakaris into intense improvisations akin to those of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Thankfully, many of the recordings Vamvakaris made in the '30s are still available. No single musician has had a greater impact on Greek culture and music.
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