More Musical Travels: Buying a Baglamadaki
I was working in Greece recently — nothing to do with music, I was focused more on their pain and their miserable economic crisis. But I am a fan of Greek music, stretching back to the four and a half years I once lived there. This time, I decided I would actually buy a Greek musical instrument.
Now, what I really wanted was a bazouki. But
a) they are expensive, and
b) bringing such a large instrument home would be enough of a hassle that it deterred me. (For now!)
Instead, I bought a baglamadaki (pronounced baglam-a-thaki and pictured here).
The baglamadaki is a long-necked bowl-lute, usually played in a rembetika ensemble. Rembetika — invariably and irritatingly to some Greeks referred to as ‘the Greek blues’ — is an urban folk music with heavy links to the Greek population exchange of 1923, when Greeks from Anatolia (Turkey) flooded into places like Piraeus. The nearest most people outside the region have got to it is in the film Never On Sunday. Here’s a taste:
Anyway, back to my baglamadaki. I tend to give all my musical instruments names. This one is called Theodora, which means “gift of god,” although not the way I play her. She was made by a luthier called Adonis Chatziperoglou, who runs the Pegasus Music Store and Workshop in central Athens.
As I have suggested, I really have no idea how to play her, but I should manage something.
A baglamadaki has three sets of double strings tuned D-A-D with the bottom-most string tuned an octave lower than its partner, to provide a drone. Perhaps one day I will manage like this guy … but with better singing!