Damian Mac Con Uladh

Don’t counterfeit the tune! (Μη παραχαράσσετε την μελωδία!)

In Greece, Uncategorized on 15 February 2019 at 12:16 pm

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In January, a video went viral in Greece of an Orthodox priest and his fellow passengers on a bus singing a song containing the words “Don’t counterfeit history, Macedonia is one.”

The bus was on its way to one of the demonstrations against the Prespa deal, which revolved the long-stranding Macedonia naming dispute by renaming the Republic of Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia.

The clip, put to a captivating dance mix and footage of people dancing by Greek satire site Luben, proved an internet hit (clocking up almost two million views in less than a month), both among supporters of the agreement, who saw it as ridiculing its opponents, and, ironically, by opponents of the deal, who found it a catchy way to express their stance against it.

The “Don’t counterfeit history” (“Μην παραχαράσσετε την Ιστορία”) tune had been doing the rounds in the run-up to the demonstrations against the Prespa deal. One version, uploaded on 13 January and accompanied by truly gaudy graphics, attributes the “lyrics/music” to a Marigo Mpouri, who claims she wrote it as a teenager “30 years ago” in a church-run camping facility outside the village of Proti, in the northern Greek prefecture of Florina.

However, in recent days, some Greek sites have cast doubt on the melody’s “Greek” character, claiming that the tune is, in fact, Slavic in origin, which would be highly ironic considering its recent Greek use against what is seen as Slavic appropriation of Greek history.

Unfortunately, this “Slavic” version now doing the rounds, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2013, fails to mention the name of the performer or the title of the song, whose “Slavic” character is somewhat undermined by the unmistakable sound of a didgeridoo in the track, among others.

[Update: On Twitter, @xoriskanape points out that the above song is by Russian group Reelroad (more on them here) and is entitled Венгерская (Vengerskaja, literally “Hungarian”), from the group’s first album (2001). On its website, Reelroad states (my working of a Google translation):

In fact, the origin of this melody it is not known for certain; one option is that it is native to Ukraine but in our performance it is more similar to the Breton.

They also say that Spiritual Seasons and US group Caliban do a version. So, that at least identifies the creator of the “Slavic Folk Music” in the other video.]

Back to the “Slavic Folk Music” video: Deep down in the comments, which are overwhelmingly positive towards this “Slavic” song, there are some clues as to the melody’s origins, though. In 2017, one commenter wrote: “Sorry, but that is an Irish dance. I don’t exactly know its name in English, but in Russian it is called Кастарват. Google it.”

Irish? A rabbit hole beckoned and down I went, losing a few hours of work in the hunt for “Kastarvat” videos. The earliest video on YouTube with that word in its title dates from 22 October 2010. This song is played by a Ukrainian band called Дзень (which Google tells me means “Zen”), who identify it as a “Hungarian dance”, adding even more confusion.

Another clue, this time pointing to a Breton origin, surfaced in a clip from 2011 showing people dancing to Кастарват. The video’s description says the music is from a song called “Fransozig” by Breton band Tri Yann.

And, indeed, a 2007 performance by Tri Yann of the song (the video has over a million hits) does sound remarkably familiar to the “Slavic” tune that has been popularised by Ukrainian and Russian “folk” bands and the Greek “Macedonian” song that rails against Slavic historical and cultural appropriation.

Other Kastarvat videos – the song seems to be quite popular among “Celtic” folk bands in Russia and Ukraine – provide the original name of the song as Kost ar c’hoat, which French Wikipedia says is a “Breton dance”.

So there we have it: a traditional Breton song, often mistaken as Irish (pan-Celticism), which was picked up by eastern European “trad” bands only to become “Slavic” in the ears of many pan-Slavists and, most recently, by Greeks, to denounce Slavic appropriation of Greek history, becoming a new panhellenic anthem in the process.

How ironic that it ends up as the tune to a song containing the words “Don’t counterfeit”.

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Liberation of Corinth, October 1944

In Corinth, Greek history on 10 October 2016 at 12:15 am

Today (9 October) I attended an historical walking tour of Athens, excellently guided by Menelaos Haralabidis, of sites and buildings in central Athens connected to the wartime occupation of the Greek capital from 1941 to 1944 and the resistance of the Greeks against the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupiers and their Greek collaborators.

Athens was liberated on 12 October 1944, an event that is only now being marked, largely due to  the efforts of Haralabidis and other historians. 2015 saw the first official commemoration of the city’s liberation.

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Women wave from the offices of the National Liberation Front (EAM) in Corinth during the city’s liberation in October 1944 (Screengrab: British Pathé)

I was aware that a few days earlier in October 1944, the Germans evacuated my adopted city of Corinth. The wonders of Google led me to a fascinating report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 16 October 1944, filed by Terry Southwell-Keely, the paper’s war correspondent in Greece. I’m posting it here in full below as, whatever the average Athenian remembers about the liberation of their city in 1944, the average Corinthian knows even less about the liberation of theirs.

Accounts differ as to when Corinth was liberated: some say 7 October 1944 but Southwell-Keely suggests it was three days later.

His report describes the destruction and privation the Germans left in their wake and the euphoria of the population that they were finally rid of the Nazis. Here’s his report:

Mariam’s story: one Syrian girl’s journey to Europe

In Greece on 5 May 2015 at 6:31 pm
Mariam in Athens, December 2014

Mariam in Athens, December 2014

I met and befriended Mariam (who was then 9 years old) and her father, Mohammed (40), on Syntagma Square, Athens, in November 2014 during the weeks-long protest by Syrian refugees for better treatment from Greece and the European Union. They had left Damascus two years before after their home was destroyed in a bombing, in which Mariam’s mother lost her life. After a two year odyssey that took them through Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and just over the border into Bulgaria, they made their first attempt to cross from the Turkish coast to a Greek island, nearly drowning on the way. Later, they were beaten by the cold trying to walk through forests at night in the Republic of Macedonia. Mariam, who insists on her rights as a child to life, health and education, was keen that her story be recorded. The text was written by her father and translated from the Arabic by @HanaaAbusedu, Gaza, Palestine.


This is the story of Mariam, who’s now ten years’ old, who is looking for a life or, to put it simply, to avoid experiencing the same pain and suffering for the second time.

When Mariam was in the first grade at school, she was creative, pleasing and an excellent pupil, who used her academic superiority to appear older. She was best in her class at reading in English and Arabic; learning to read and write in both Arabic and English came naturally to her.

All that time, she and I (her father) were trying to overcome and pretend to forget the catastrophic events, which had started to besiege Damascus, where we lived.

She finished the first grade and moved up to the second, but the flames were approaching our area of Yarmouk in Damascus. It was as if it was raining fire on the area, and our biggest loss was when a bomb hit our house. That was a disaster that cannot be forgotten.

Nevertheless, Mariam and I were outside the house. Events began to overtake us until eventually all Yarmouk’s residents were forced to leave it after rebel forces entered it and regime aircraft started to bomb the district, sparking a mass exodus. Sometimes abbreviation is necessary, not in an attempt to exclude certain events, but to avoid painful memories.