Athens

Athens Portraits [8]: Bouzouki Man

19 Feb 2017

He’s as Greek as you can get – and fiercely proud of it. A creature of the night, you’re unlikely to see Bouzouki Man in his full glory before 1am. If you do spot him during daylight, he’ll be nursing his morning coffee in the kafeneion or sitting outside smoking and clacking his worry beads.
His natural nocturnal habitat is the bouzoukia, a uniquely Greek type of night club named after the stringed instrument that forms the mainstay of its music (see  the Basics, pg 8).
There, Bouzouki Man thinks nothing of shelling out 200 Euros for a bottle of whisky and another 200 for tray after tin-foil tray of carnation flowers to shower the singers churning out a repertoire of Greek hits at full blast.
The ultimate social animal, he’s usually found in large groups in which the Alpha Male establishes his dominance by mounting the stage to perform an intense ‘zeibekiko’ dance that requires a special kind of concentration and endurance as he stoops to the ground, balancing on one foot, before leaping up and switching the legs.
Purists frown on women joining in. It’s considered a fiercely masculine dance - females are only expected kneel in homage, clapping the slow rhythm.
The ladies’ chance to shine comes when they climb onto tables to wiggle and squirm their sparkling evening wear in a way that could make Madonna blush. Even middle-aged matrons sometimes clamber onto the stage to shimmy frantically next to the singer.
The stage gets more crowded as the night wears on, and it’s only by virtue of official flower sweepers that performers don’t slip up on the mountains of flower heads thrown in tribute. But as fast as the brooms clear the stage, shapely young girls weave between the tables selling more carnations to fill it up again.
By 5am, the die-hards are still going strong. Even when the bouzouki players and singers have left the stage, Bouzouki Man and his gang are heading for an all-night restaurant on Syngrou Avenue for a plateful of ‘patsa’ (tripe) to soak up all that whisky.

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