Monday, February 6, 2017

A Dream of Hawaii - Kostas Bezos & The White Birds

Kostas Bezos and The White Birds, Olvido Records (OLV-002) and Mississippi Records (MRP-098) (2017)
The Hawaiian hype hit all over the the world during the first decades of the 20th century. The sound of the steel guitar and the ukulele as played by native Hawaiian musicians reached and attracted a global audience through records, films and visiting Hawaiian ensembles. The effect of the hype furthermore gave inspiration to local musicians in every country and region to create their own version of 'Hawaiian' music by using the novelty instruments in performance and interpretation of popular music of their own region. This way local musicians the world over supported a dream of Hawaii which  fascinated their audiences, and in many instances records were made documenting the local version of 'Hawaiian' music. An example of such a local ensemble performing music in the Hawaiian style is the Greek steel guitar virtuoso Kostas Bezos and his White Birds which recorded some remarkable 78 rpm discs in Athens during the 1930s. A selection of these recordings has just been reissued in a limited LP and bonus CD edition or as a digital download version, co-released by Olvido Records (OLV-002) and Mississippi Records (MRP-098)
Kostas Bezos (-seated, center left) and his ensemble (photo courtesy Les Cook, SteelGuitarForum)
Kostas Bezos (1905-1943) was from a village near Corinth in Greece. He was a political cartoonist, frequented the 'underground scene' in Athens and performed as a guitarist playing rebetiko songs, but also played excellent steel guitar in Hawaiian style. He recorded several 78 rpm discs for Columbia and His Master’s Voice, both rebetiko and Hawaiian style repertoire.
A HMV 78 rpm disc featuring Kostas Bezos (1931)
The first-ever compilation of Kostas Bezos' Hawaiian influenced music containing 32 recorded and remastered sides including extensive notes, rare photos and lyrics in both Greek and English is now available produced by Gordon Ashworth, Tony Klein and Dimitris Kourtis. You can find more info about this compilation and also have the opportunity to listen to all 32 recordings in streaming audio and purchase online here. - To give you an impression of the music as played by Kostas Bezos and his White Birds ensemble, I'll insert a couple of uploaded audio videos from You Tube.  Here is first the 1936 recording of Ta Aspra Poulia Sta Vouna (The White Birds in the Mountains), also available at the compilation mentioned above

The strange animal imitations at the beginning of this record are superseded by great choir vocal and outstanding lap steel guitar, the atmosphere is not too serious, but rather unrestrained. A similar atmosphere is to be found in the recording of Pame sti Honolulu (Let's Go to Honolulu), here even including yodelling

Let's end this small presentation of Kostas Bezos and his White Birds with the ensemble's version of a song titled The False Kisses of Women in English, here in the You Tube video from the original Columbia 78 rpm


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