For F. Khaanum and all my Iranian friends: Derti, love and the afflictions of Naipaulian self-loathing…

19 Nov

derdThere’s a radio station in Athens — just got out of a cab — called “Dertia.98.6” — “Love-aches.98.6,” — from the Farsi obviously — dedicated solely to torturous, soul-trampelling, ripped-out-heart, impossibly painful, love songs.

درد  — “dard” is one of those words that entered Greek through Ottoman Turkish (and Turkish pronunciation: “dert”) but has now retained only very specific, cultural and socio-contextual meanings.  It means “pain” in Farsi, but in Greek you would never use it for a head-ache or a bad knee.  It’s only used to mean a broken heart, an unquenched desire, and their attendant sufferings, and then only in the context of a very popular, let’s call it “arabesque”-type music, the listeners of which are usually of my cab-driver’s sociological profile, though in truth Greeks of all classes enjoy it as well — but only as a secret, guilty pleasure that they’re scared is too ghetto to actually own up to.  It’s a great injustice, as much of this music is beautiful.  But such are the self-hating complexes of an insecure and provincial people.

Because there’s an experience I’ve had from South Asian dance parties in the East Village to Greek clubs in Astoria to San Juan to Madrid to Naples to Belgrade to Salonica to Istanbul to Kabul.  You go to a club and all the pretty young things are standing around listening to club-crap, with a drink in their hands and a studied look of coolness that is actually masking profound boredom.  Then like at around 3:00 am, the d.j. relents: the “local” stuff — Paco Ortega or Kaite Garbe or Tarkan — comes on; the hand-clapping which all Spaniards are secret experts at, the hip-shimmying that all Istanbullu — who are really Maraşlı — girls have drunk with their mother’s milk, suddenly explode…and everybody finally allows themselves to have a good time.  It’s pathetic.


Majnun in the Wilderness, from the Shah Tahmasp copy of the Khamsahname by Niz̤āmī. Mid-16th century, painted by Mīrak.

This — by the way — was the song playing in the cab: “​​Φύγε κι άσε με” — “Leave…and let me be…” a 1962 tune, sung by Panos Gavalas and Zoe Panagiotou.  This is part of a particular sub-genre of popular Greek music, that hit its heights from the mid-50s to the early 60s, and that was heavily, and clearly, influenced by the popularity of Bollywood films and music in Greece at the time, (until Greek fascism and racism, including that of Tsitsanes himself, silenced it)…often just complete ripped-off reworkings, or “sampling” in Black hip-hop parlance, which is probably just a completely natural part of music since its the beginnings.  But that’s a whole other post.

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