Hypatia Vourloumis

Hypatia Vourloumis received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University. She is a lecturer at the International Centre of Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies and Drury University Centre in Greece and has recently edited an anthology on contemporary Indonesian performance. Her teaching and research interests include modern Greek and postcolonial SE Asian cultural production.



"Bad Athena: Crises, Syntheses and Sounds of a European Other"

Athens, Greece. June, 2011: The central square’s impromptu general assembly has scattered. Barely visible through the teargas a protestor stays put, eyes clenched tight, fingers plucking a familiar rebetiko tune on his guitar. This paper, hearing the sounds of Athens past and present thinks through how an analysis of popular Greek music, primarily through the lens of rebetika, can shed light on the deeper workings of Greece’s current crises. Rebetika, an urban musical phenomenon historically criminalized due to its associations with Asia Minor and an unruly underclass informs the sounds and structures of Greek pop music today. The ubiquity of these sounds spilling out of all kinds of private and public spaces begs the following questions: If the popular music of a city begins and develops as an unwanted bad matter vilified as the ‘oriental’ sounds of a subcultural other what are the ramifications of its survival and eventual mainstream popularity within the affective urban sphere? How do these sounds’ affiliations with the East, migration, refugeedom, and resistance to categorization gesture to Greece’s marginalized and ambivalent positioning within a chastising and increasingly xenophobic Europe?

This presentation addresses these questions by focusing on some of the differing contemporary translocal manifestations of rebetika sonically crisscrossing the city. These include rebetika’s amalgamations with electronic music (rebetronika), reggae (reggaetika), and the collaborations of the massively popular Athenian group Imam Baildi with the hip-hop stylings of African-Greek immigrant MC’s and East LA’s Delinquent Habits.