Tracklist 01 Thessaliko Berati – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Thessaly, Greece
02 Mia oraia, ksopiso tis ki ego – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Armenia
03 Karagkouna – Introduction – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Thessaly, Greece
04 Karagkouna – Composition – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Thessaly, Greece
05 Se afto to aloni – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Thrace 06 Aptaliko – Introduction – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Asia Minor, Turkey 07 Aptaliko – Composition – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Asia Minor, Turkey
08 Anazitisi – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Asia Minor, Turkey
09 Kavo Ntoro – Introduction – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Evia, Greece
10 Kavo Ntoro – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Evia, Greece
11 Kata Koron – Improvisations on a Traditional Theme from Smyrna, Turkey
The histories of ancient Greece and ancient India are two rivers that for a long period flowed as one stream. Along the banks of which grew a rich syncretic culture part Mediterranean, part Punjabi, part pagan, part Buddhist. Afghanistan as well as large parts of Pakistan were the territory where this civilisation flowered brilliantly around 200 BCE.
“There was a succession of more than thirty Hellenistic kings, often in conflict with each other, from 180 BC to around 10 CE. This era is known as the Indo-Greek kingdom in the pages of history. The kingdom was founded when the Greco-Bactrian King Demetrius invaded India in 180 BCE, ultimately creating an entity which seceded from the powerful Greco-Bactrian kingdom centred in Bactria (today’s northern Afghanistan). Since the term “Indo-Greek Kingdom” loosely described a number of various dynastic polities, it had several capitals, but the city of Taxila in modern Pakistan was probably among the earliest seats of local Hellenic rulers, though cities like Pushkalavati and Sagala (apparently the largest of such residences) would house a number of dynasties in their times.
During the two centuries of their rule, the Indo-Greek kings combined the Greek and Indian languages and symbols, as seen on their coins, and blended ancient Greek, Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, as seen in the archaeological remains of their cities and in the indications of their support of Buddhism. The Indo-Greek kings seem to have achieved a level of cultural syncretism with no equivalent in history, the consequences of which are still felt today, particularly through the diffusion and influence of Greco-Buddhist art.
According to Indian sources, Greek (“Yavana“) troops seem to have assisted Chandragupta Maurya in toppling the Nanda Dynasty and founding the Mauryan Empire. By around 312 BCE Chandragupta had established his rule in large parts of the north-western Indian territories as well.
In 303 BCE, Seleucus I led an army to the Indus, where he encountered Chandragupta. Chandragupta and Seleucus finally concluded an alliance. Seleucus gave him his daughter in marriage, ceded the territories of Arachosia (modern Kandahar), Herat, Kabul and Makran. He in turn received from Chandragupta 500 war elephant which he used decisively at the Battle of Ipsus.
The peace treaty, and “an intermarriage agreement” (Epigamia, Greek: Επιγαμια), meaning either a dynastic marriage or an agreement for intermarriage between Indians and Greeks was a remarkable first feat in this campaign.”
The picture that heads this post is of the Indo-Greek king Menander, who reigned from Sagala (modern Sialkot, Pakistan).
According to the Milindapanha, Milinda/ Menander, indentified as Menander I, embraced the Buddhist faith. He is described as constantly accompanied by a guard of 500 Greek (“Yonaka“) soldiers, and two of his counselors are named Demetrius and Antiochus.
In the Milindanpanha, Menander is introduced as the “[k]ing of the city of Sāgala in India, Milinda by name, learned, eloquent, wise, and able”. Buddhist tradition relates that, following his discussions with Nāgasena, Menander adopted the Buddhist faith “as long as life shall last” and then handed over his kingdom to his son to retire from the world. It is described that he attained enlightenment afterwards. [Wikipedia]
In more recent times Greeks have been enamoured of Indian music–particularly from the Hindi film industry. I wrote an article about this a few years back for Scroll.in which you can find HERE.
In the late 90s and first few years of the new millennium a group of Greek and Indian musicians came together to record a series of albums called simply Greeks and Indians. From India the group included Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri), Daya Shankar (shenai), Shubhankar Bannerjee (tabla), Rabindra Goswami (sitar) and Devashish Dey (vocals). Representing Greece were: Grigoris Kapsalis (clarinet & vocals) and Petroloukas Chalkias (clarinet). Ross Daly an Irishman resident in Crete contributed on the Cretan lyre.
Improvising on their instruments, the group explored that co-mingled river of sound where Hindustani light classical and Greek folk music meet. As I listen to these CDs I am blown away by the ways in which these two traditions can meld together so beautifully, whether the duetting of shenai and clarinet or the Greek and Indian voices. Gorgeous stuff.
These albums are difficult to get hold of and things like album cover art and track lists are contradictory but I’ve done the best I can.
A reader has been good enough to bring to my attention that MANY links to recent posts are no longer working. This may take a few days to sort out so please be patient. But I will do my best to fix them. Thank you.