Last night I listened to a pair of musicians playing traditional Greek songs – the usual sad tales of emigration, loss and homesickness. They are repetitive and predictable but undeniably powerful:
Πήρες τον μεγάλο δρόμο
για να πας στα ξένα
άφησες σε μένα
And then I thought of Udo Jürgens’s “Griechischer Wein”, which sees the 1970s Greek Gastarbeiter through sympathetic German eyes. (Jürgens is quite cheesy, but he was a musician to his fingertips; he could adopt any popular style. When I first heard him he seemed like a disco Brel. Again, powerful. “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”)
Und dann erzählten sie mir von grünen Hügeln, Meer und Wind,
Von alten Häusern und jungen Frauen die alleine sind und von dem Kind,
Dass seinen Vater noch nie sah.
And now so many young Greeks are leaving their country once again, although Skype and cheap flights perhaps don’t make it as poignant as in earlier times
Today I visited the archaeological museum, which was better than I had expected. (Patronising of me.) There was too much to take in: I should pay more attention to all those brown signs by the roadside pointing to obscure archaeological digs. I learned that after the defeat of the revolting Messinian helots in the Second Messinian War 685-667 BC, many survivors fled to Sicily – hence Messina.
The other thing I noted was the proto-globalisation of Roman rule. There were fragments of a Roman-era mosaic of, I think, Dionysos, which reminded me of the less-sophisticated mosaic in the Leeds City Museum.