Misirlou

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"Misirlou" (Greek : Μισιρλού< Turkish : Mısırlı 'Egyptian' < Arabic : مصرMiṣr 'Egypt' [1] ) is a folk song from the Eastern Mediterranean region, with origins in the Ottoman Empire. The original author of the folk song is not known, but it was known to Arabic, Greek and Jewish musicians by the 1920s. The earliest known recording of the song is a 1927 Greek rebetiko/tsifteteli composition influenced by Middle Eastern music. There are also Arabic belly dancing, Armenian, Persian, Indian and Turkish versions of the song. This song was popular from the 1920s onwards in the Arab American, Armenian American and Greek American communities who settled in the United States of America as part of the Ottoman diaspora.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Turkish language Turkic language mainly spoken and used in Turkey

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Contents

The song was a hit in 1946 for Jan August, an American pianist and xylophonist nicknamed "the one-man piano duet". It gained worldwide popularity through Dick Dale's 1962 American surf rock version, originally titled "Miserlou", which popularized the song in Western popular culture; Dale's version was influenced by an earlier Arabic folk version played with an oud. Various versions have since been recorded, mostly based on Dale's version, including other surf and rock versions by bands such as the Beach Boys, the Ventures, Consider the Source, and the Trashmen, as well as international orchestral easy listening (exotica) versions by musicians such as Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. Dale's surf rock version later gained renewed popularity when director Quentin Tarantino used it in his 1994 film Pulp Fiction , and again when it was sampled in the Black Eyed Peas song "Pump It" (2006).

Jan August American musician

Jan August was an American pianist and xylophonist. He had a hit with his version of "Misirlou" in 1947 with Carl Frederick Tandberg.

Dick Dale American surf rock guitarist

Richard Anthony Monsour, known professionally as Dick Dale, was an American rock guitarist. He was a pioneer of surf music, drawing on Middle Eastern music scales and experimenting with reverberation. Dale was known as "The King of the Surf Guitar", which was also the title of his second studio album.

The music of the United States reflects the country's pluri-ethnic population through a diverse array of styles. It is a mixture of music influenced by West African, Irish, Scottish and mainland European cultures among others. The country's most internationally renowned genres are jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, rock, rhythm and blues, soul, ragtime, hip hop, doo wop, pop, techno, house, folk music, disco, boogaloo, reggaeton, and salsa. American music is heard around the world. Since the beginning of the 20th century, some forms of American popular music have gained a near-global audience.

History

Name

Misirlou (Μισιρλού), due to the suffix "ou", is the feminine form (in Greek [2] ) of Misirlis (Μισιρλής- a surname) which comes from the Turkish word Mısırlı, which is formed by combining Mısır ("Egypt" in Turkish, borrowed from Arabic مِصر Miṣr) with the Turkish -lı suffix, literally meaning "Egyptian". Therefore, the song is about an Egyptian woman.

Composition

The folk song has origins in the Eastern Mediterranean region of the Ottoman Empire, but the original author of the song is not known. There is evidence that the folk song was known to Arabic musicians, Greek rebetiko musicians and Jewish klezmer musicians by the 1920s. [3]

Eastern Mediterranean countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea

The Eastern Mediterranean denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. Its populations share not only geographic position but also cuisine, certain customs and a long, intertwined history.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Arabic music Music of the Arab World

Arabic music is the music of the Arab World with all its different music styles and genres. Arabic countries have many styles of music and also many dialects; each country has its own traditional music.

The earliest known recording of the song was by the rebetiko musician Theodotos ("Tetos") Demetriades (Greek : Θεόδοτος ("Τέτος") Δημητριάδης) in 1927. Demetriades, an Ottoman Greek, was born in Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, in 1897, and he resided there until he moved to the United States in 1921, [4] during a period when most of the Greek speaking population fled the emerging Turkish state. It is likely that he was familiar with the song as a folk song before he moved to the United States. As with almost all early rebetika songs (a style that originated with the Greek refugees from Asia Minor in Turkey), the song's actual composer has never been identified, and its ownership rested with the band leader. Demetriades named the song "Misirlou" in his original 1927 Columbia recording, which is a Greek assimilated borrowing of the regional pronunciation of "Egyptian" in Turkish ("Mısırlı"), as opposed to the corresponding word for "Egyptian" in Greek, which is Αιγύπτιοι (Aigyptioi). Later, in 1930, Michalis Patrinos, another Ottoman Greek from Izmir, Ottoman Empire, and his rebetiko band recorded a cover version in Athens, Greece. [5]

Rebetiko Greek music genre

Rebetiko, plural rebetika, occasionally transliterated as Rembetiko or Rebetico, is a term used today to designate originally disparate kinds of urban Greek music which have come to be grouped together since the so-called rebetika revival, which started in the 1960s and developed further from the early 1970s onwards. Rebetiko briefly can be described as the urban popular song of the Greeks, especially the poorest, from the late 19th century to the 1950s.

Ottoman Greeks ethnic Greeks, who lived in the Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Greeks were ethnic Greeks who lived in the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923), the Republic of Turkey's predecessor. Ottoman Greeks, who were Greek Orthodox Christians, belonged to the Rum Millet. They were concentrated in what is today modern Greece, eastern Thrace, western Asia Minor, central Anatolia, and northeastern Anatolia. There were also sizeable Greek communities elsewhere in the Ottoman Balkans, Ottoman Armenia, and the Ottoman Caucasus, including in what, between 1878 and 1917, made up the Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast, in which Pontic Greeks, northeastern Anatolian Greeks, and Caucasus Greeks who had collaborated with the Russian Imperial Army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829 were settled in over 70 villages, as part of official Russian policy to re-populate with Orthodox Christians an area that was traditionally made up of Ottoman Muslims and Armenians.

Istanbul Metropolitan municipality in Marmara, Turkey

Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities, ranking as the world's fourth largest city proper and the largest European city. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

The rebetiko version of the song was intended for a Greek tsifteteli dance, at a slower tempo and a different key than the Oriental performances that most are familiar with today. This was the style of recording by Michalis Patrinos in Greece, circa 1930, which was circulated in the United States by the Orthophonic label; another recording was made by Patrinos in New York City in 1931 as well.

The Tsifteteli, is a rhythm and dance of Anatolia and the Balkans with a rhythmic pattern of 2/4. In Turkish the word means "double stringed", taken from the violin playing style that is practiced in this kind of music. There are suggestions that the dance existed in ancient Greece, known as the Aristophanic dance Cordax. Nowadays it is to be found not only in Greece and Turkey, but also in the whole of the Southeastern Mediterranean region.

In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.

In music theory, the key of a piece is the group of pitches, or scale, that forms the basis of a music composition in classical, Western art, and Western pop music.

The song's Oriental melody has been so popular for so long that many people, from Morocco to Iraq, claim it to be a folk song from their own country. In the realm of Middle Eastern music, the song is a very simple one, since it is little more than going up and down the Hijaz Kar or double harmonic scale (E-F-G#-A-B-C-D#). It still remains a well known Greek, Klezmer and Arab folk song.

Later versions

"Miserlou"
Miserlou - Dick Dale single.jpg
Single by Dick Dale
from the album Surfers' Choice
B-side "Eight Till Midnight"
ReleasedApril 21, 1962
Format 7"
Genre Instrumental rock, surf rock
Length2:15
Label Deltone Records
Songwriter(s) Nick Roubanis, Fred Wise, Milton Leeds, Bob Russell

In 1941, Nick Roubanis, a Greek-American music instructor, released a jazz instrumental arrangement of the song, crediting himself as the composer. Since his claim was never legally challenged, he is still officially credited as the composer today worldwide, except in Greece where credit is given to either Roubanis or Patrinos. Subsequently, Bob Russell, Fred Wise and Milton Leeds wrote English lyrics to the song. Roubanis is also credited with fine-tuning the key and the melody, giving it the Oriental sound that it is associated with today. The song soon became an "exotica" standard among the light swing (lounge) bands of the day.[ citation needed ]

Harry James recorded and released Misirlou in 1941 on Columbia 36390, and the song peaked at #22 on the U.S. chart. [6]

In 1946, pianist Jan August recorded a version of the song on Diamond Records (Diamond 2009), which reached #7 on the Billboard Jockey charts in the U.S. [7]

In 1962 Dick Dale rearranged the song as a solo instrumental rock guitar piece. During a performance, Dale was bet by a young fan that he could not play a song on only one string of his guitar. Dale's father and uncles were Lebanese-American musicians, and Dale remembered seeing his uncle play "Misirlou" on one string of the oud. He vastly increased the song's tempo to make it into rock and roll. It was Dale's surf rock version that introduced "Misirlou" to a wider audience in the United States. [8]

The Beach Boys recorded a Dale-inspired "Misirlou" for the 1963 album Surfin' U.S.A. , solidifying "Misirlou" as a staple of American pop culture. [9]

Dance

In 1945, a Pittsburgh women's musical organization asked Professor Brunhilde E. Dorsch to organize an international dance group at Duquesne University to honor America's World War II allies. She contacted Mercine Nesotas, who taught several Greek dances, including Syrtos Haniotikos (from Crete), which she called Kritikos, but for which they had no music. Because Pittsburgh's Greek-American community did not know Cretan music, Pat Mandros Kazalas, a music student, suggested the tune "Misirlou", although slower, might fit the dance.

The dance was first performed at a program to honor America's allies of World War II at Stephen Foster Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh on March 6, 1945. Thereafter, this new dance, which had been created by putting the Syrtos Kritikos to the slower "Misirlou" music, was known as Misirlou and spread among the Greek-American community, as well as among non-Greek U.S. folk-dance enthusiasts.

It has been a staple for decades of dances held at Serbian Orthodox churches across the U.S., performed as a kolo, a circle dance. The dance is also performed to instrumental versions of "Never on Sunday" by Manos Hadjidakis – though in the Serbian-American community, "Never on Sunday" was popularly enjoyed as a couple's dance and actually sung in English. "Never on Sunday" was often one of only two songs performed in English at these dances, the other song being "Spanish Eyes" (formerly "Moon Over Naples") also internationally popular in its time.

The Misirlou dance also found its way into the Armenian-American community who, like the Greeks, were fond of line dancing, and occasionally adopted Greek dances. The first Armenian version of "Misirlou" was recorded by Reuben Sarkisian in Fresno the early 1950s. Sarkisian wrote the Armenian lyrics to "Misirlou" which are still sung today, however he wrote the song as "Akh, Anoushes" ("Ah, My Sweet") while later Armenian singers would change it to "Ah Anoush Yar" ("Ah, Sweet Lover"; Yar meaning sweetheart or lover, from Turkish).

Legacy

In 1994, Dick Dale's version of "Misirlou" was used on the soundtrack of the motion picture Pulp Fiction , prominently featured over the opening titles. [10] The Martin Denny cover also helped the song resurge in popularity, when it was sampled in the Season 2 episode of Mad Men, "The Jet Set".

The song was selected by the Athens 2004 Olympics Organizing Committee as one of the most influential Greek songs of all time, and was heard in venues and at the closing ceremony – performed by Anna Vissi. [11]

In March 2005, Q magazine placed Dale's version at number 89 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. [12]

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References

  1. "Mısırlı". SesliSozluk Online Dictionary. Seslisozluk . Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  2. Wiktionary. "-ού". Wiktionary.org. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  3. Bendix, Regina F.; Hasan-Rokem, Galit (2012). A Companion to Folklore. John Wiley & Sons. p. 475. ISBN   9781444354386.
  4. "Theodotos ("Tetos") Demetriades". Recordingpioneers.com.
  5. "Michalis Patrinos' "Misirlou" (1930) sample of Tetos Demetriades' "Misirlou" (1927)". WhoSampled . Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  6. Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954: The History of American Popular Music . Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. pp. 73, 123, 226–228, 308, 391–393. ISBN   0-89820-083-0.
  7. Joel Whitburn's Pop Hits 1940-1954, Record Research 1994
  8. "Dick Dale, Surf Guitar Legend, Dead At 81". NPR.org.
  9. "Surf Guitar & Dick Dale's Influence to the Genre". GuitarSurf. 2019-05-02.
  10. "Surf Music and Seventies Soul: The Songs of 'Pulp Fiction'". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  11. Aspden, Peter (29 May 2015). "The Life of a Song: 'Misirlou'". Financial Times . Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2017.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. rocklistmusic.co.uk/ Q Magazine - 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever!