Jack White, frontman and singer of the famed White Stripes, released a 2-disc collection called “Why the Mountains are Black”, which is a compilation of “primeval Greek village music” throughout the years.
The collection includes 28 tracks that trace the lineage of ‘demotika’ through the mountains and across the sea, covering the timespan of 1907-1960. The man who curated the collection, Chris King, is a music enthusiast and collector of older, obscure music most Americans have never heard.
The album has a very melancholic tune, because as King explains:
“The central purpose of many of the sides collected here is not to be understood as simple entertainment but rather as profoundly existential — the function of music among the countryside dwelling Greeks was both to ameliorate an often short, hard and somewhat isolated life but also to protect against….the times of crisis, danger, uncertainty, pain, longing and death that faced rural Greeks for millennia.”
It is an interesting look into Greek culture and tradition from an outside, yet also very smart and knowledgeable, perspective. When Pitchfork recently reviewed the album, they seemed to appreciate and grasp the environment in which such music was created. They state “When times are tough, Greeks break out the booze, sing louder, and dance more fervently. And it shows in the music.”
The album was released through Jack White’s Third Man Records label; you can hear a sample on their website.