AMANES and STAFITHIANOS (CRETE)

by HAJI MAJI

Ah, the poor Stafithianos
he never gets old.
And wherever he has a secret love, he makes it known.

I picked up this record years ago and have always loved it, but I’ve never dug up any info on Artemis Roukounis. There was a thriving Greek recording scene in New York after WWII when Mr. Roukounis seems to have put together an eponymous vanity label, featuring his own mandolin playing and singing. I’ve only ever seen this first record in the series (R-101/R-102), and since I’ve come across several copies of it I’m inclined to think that it was the only record the label released. Likewise, the Dionysios Maniatis Greek discography lists only the one issue for the label, dated 1955. Both sides are traditional songs from Crete and his playing, although somewhat, um, idiosyncratic, is basically Cretan in style. The first part is an amanes, an improvised vocal that’s common throughout Greece, Turkey and surrounding regions, while the 2nd part of the recording is a stafithianos (or stafidianos), is a type of Cretan rhythm.

So who was Artemis? I’m assuming he is not related to the great vocalist Kostas Roukounas, who was not from Crete, but from the island of Samos. Was he a successful Cretan merchant in New York who could afford the luxury of a vanity recording? If this internet thing really works I suppose someone will come forward with details.

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