by HAJI MAJI
The estudiantina was a typical ensemble found in Smyrna and Constantinople in the early days of recording. Rather than the instrumentation of bouzouki and guitar that’s usually associated with rebetiko, the estudiantina was more of a mandolin ensemble, often including santouri, violin, and in this case, accordion. This beautiful sousta (a couples dance from Crete and other island traditions, as well as Istanbul) was recorded in 1907.
Here’s a violin and Santouri led estudiantina from Smyrna, the culturally vibrant port city on the Aegean coast of Turkey. The city was destroyed in 1922, resulting in a huge influx of immigrants into Athens, and to some extent, setting the stage for the formulation of rebetiko. The singer here is Yannis Tsanakas, a well-known vocalist who recorded with the Smyrna-based ensemble led by Yiangos Vlachos. Tsanakas died in 1914 or 1915. The manes is a form of modal vocal improvisation equivalent to an instrumental taxim.