Helen Abadzi

Most people know that Alexander the Great conquered northwest India in 327 CE.  But very few people know that India conquered the heart of Greece around 1960.   Not even Indians know of this remarkable event.[i] 

The invasion started in 1954 and took place on the screens of working-class movie houses.  It was an invasion of spectacular colors, music, dances, songs, and gorgeously dressed actresses.  The generals were Greek importers.  The missiles were about 111 films.  The vanguard was “Aan”, that movie importers renamed “Mangala, the Rose of India”.  Thereafter came “Saqi”, called “Rosana, the Rose of Baghdad”. Then followed a movie on a topic that always moved Greeks, “Sikandar”, Alexander the Great.  With time, the invasion took hold. 

How was this possible?

The economic condition of  Greece was bleak in the early 1950s.  Since its liberation from Turkey in 1827, the country had been a poor agricultural nation with high levels of illiteracy, limited life expectancy, and a low status for women. World War II and a subsequent civil war with communist insurgents had destroyed the countryside and killed many inhabitants.  An atmosphere of depression and mourning prevailed as people tried to rebuild their lives.   One survival tactic was migration to larger cities (such as Athens) and emigration to countries like Germany, which needed cheap labor.  Uneducated orphans and people caring for widowed relatives were forced to leave their homes and become bricklayers or housemaids, living in unhealthy and oppressive circumstances.  It was in that climate of desperation that Hindi movies made an indelible impression.

Fascination with Hindi Films
The years 1945-65 were a golden period in Indian cinema.  Though made with limited means, many of the films produced then became timeless masterpieces.   Most were dramatic love stories set in a background of tangled family relations, poverty, exploitation, and misery.  In a format that became characteristic of Hindi cinema, many songs and dances were included.  Frequently during the movies, actors sang, pondering on problems and situations like a protagonist and a responding chorus in a Greek drama..  Many of the songs, composed by the greatest Indian musicians for the films, have become timeless tunes that every Indian knows.

The plots of the movies resonated with the wounded Greek psyche.  Suffering women, street children who had to drop out of school, jealous sisters-in-law, vengeful mothers-in-law, interdependencies, betrayals, and frequent unhappy ends resonated with the difficult choices of poorly educated Greek people subsisting in large cities. In particular, the characters appealed to poor women.  The maidservants and factory workers saw themselves depicted on the movie screen, hoping for deliverance.  Maybe the rich young man would marry the poor beautiful girl who worked at his house.  Maybe lost relatives would appear to take care of the abandoned street child who sang so beautifully.

Suffering in the movies was combined with spectacle.  There were scenes of palaces, beautiful houses, jungles, elephants, spectacular countrysides, and medieval-period costumes.  Though often depicted as poor and unhappy, the Indian actresses were gracefully modest, with bright clothes and much jewelry.  They enabled the audiences to see people like themselves improving their conditions, but also to be transported to a reverie far from reality.   Thus, India managed to package and export its main problem, poverty, with its main attraction, exoticism.  And Greece at that time was a willing buyer. 

At least 111 movies are known to have been imported in 1954-1968. They were most popular in 1958-1962, when at least one out of the 35 movietheaters of Thessaloniki played one or two Hindi movies in per week[ii].  (For example, Awaara in 1957 played for six weeks in Alkazar, a working class movie theater in Thessaloniki.)   The films were always subtitled in Greek, challenging people with limited education to read.  Their one-word symbolic titles were changed to indicate tragedy:  mothers losing children, social upheaval, and other emotional topics.  Thus, “Ghar sansaar” (“House and world”) became “Tears of a Mother”.  “Mother India” became “Land Drenched in Sweat”, and “Mela” (Fair) became “Love Drenched in Tears”.  The advertisements contained text that accentuated the dramatic aspects of the movies and declared that the newest import was better than Mother India, Awaara, Saqi, Aan or other earlier arrivals. 

These movies were considered working-class fare.  They had much less appeal for the middle class, which looked westward for entertainment, wanted more humor, and was not plagued by the social dilemmas of the poor and the limited solutions available to the heroines.   Nevertheless, the Hindi masterpieces were seen by many.  Mother India premiered without much advertisement in Kotopouli, a downtown theater on a snowy day in February 1960.  The  first few curious spectators were so moved by it, that they stopped strangers on the way out and told them not to miss that “social gospel”.  Four hours later,  a waiting line two city blocks long  had formed, and the movie played in some Greek town or other at least for the next 10 years.

Eventually, Greek producers imitated the Hindi success recipes.  The result was Greek films with 8-12 songs (mainly set in bouzouki night-club scenes) and tragic plots and titles.  To lure the audiences of Hindi films, Greek titles were sometimes almost indistinguishable.

Fascination with Hindi Songs
“Mother India”, “Awaara”, and other movies established Nargis as the great priestess of the family dramas, with Madhubala a close second (Tasoulas 1992).   The ability of these heroines to express pain made the beautiful and haunting songs that they sang instant hits.  It was only natural that the emotions of the poor Greeks would be expressed through those very same melodies. Thus, starting in 1959, Greek-language renditions of many songs appeared. For example:

Sad Nargis!  Where do I come to find you?

with a bitter song you can sing my own pain.

My tortured Nargis, who sings songs and wails

please cry tonight about my own separation.

I am the only one who knows your poor tears

because I have been wounded heavily

and I can’t forget her because I love her so deeply.

(Kis se malum tha ek din – “Saqi” 1952)

The number of songs that were adapted from Hindi movies is considerable.  From the 111 movies known to have come as well as from others whose importation is uncertain, 105 Greek renditions were identified.  Many came from the best known movies, that is from Awaara, Sri 420, Mother India, Ghar Sansaar, Laajwanti, and Aan.   Many Hindi songs engendered duplicates, triplicates, and quadruplicates.  For example, “Pyar hua ikrar hua” (Sri 420) and “Gao tarane man ke” (Aan) have four renditions, “Unchhi, unchhi dunia ki divare~” (Naagin) and “Aajao taRapt hai arma~” (Awaara) have three.   At least 10 others have duplicates.  Of all songs, 57 (55%) have a great similarity with pre-existing songs; 25 (24%) deviate significantly from the originals, 16 (16%) are partial renditions, where other melodies are mixed with Hindi, and 5 (5%) use only some musical bars. 

Most Hindi song copies were temporary hits or remained obscure.  However, 11 were still known among the general public in 1998, about 35 years later.  The best remembered in the 1990s were: “Madhubala” (“Aajao tarapt hai arma~” from Awaara) one of three renditions of this song by Stellios Kazantzidis; “kardia mou kaimeni” (my poor heart – “dunia me ham aaye” from “Mother India”), “auti i nyxta menei” (this night remains – “ulfaT ka saaz chheRo” from the  1953 “Aurat”), “oso axizeis esy” (as much as you are worth – “duniawalon se duur” from “Ujaala”).

The Hindi songs were rendered in an oriental style that was popular with Asia Minor refugees (who fled to Greece after the 1922 massacre) and with residents of remote villages, where older musical traditions were remembered.[iii]  This style of songs was called rembetika before 1959 and “laika” or popular songs (sometimes also “varia”- heavy laika) after that date.  The imitation and inspiration from Hindi created a specific class of songs called to this day “indoprepi” (Hindi-style).  To hellenize the songs, composers often speeded them up, simplified sections where they could not reproduced the trained voices of the Indians, and changed instruments, using the string instrument bouzouki.  Although some songs were hasty improvisations, others were good, some possibly better than the originals.   For example, there are many excellent renditions of “dunia me~ ham aaye hai~”, at different periods, and this song is considered a test of vocal skill.

Since there were practically no Hindi-speaking Greeks at the time and movies did not clearly render the words of the songs, the lyrics of the Hindi and Greeks songs almost never coincided.  Instead, the themes of the indoprepi and other laika songs echoed the concerns of the folkloric composers and their audiences.  The principal concern was migration abroad and subsequent separation from loved ones.   Thus, a large number of the Hindi songs were transformed into emigration dirges, often depicting the lonely dependent mother waiting for a son to return.  One version of ”Gao tarane man ke” became the “bitter letter” which tells the recipient that the beloved will not return. “Pyar hua ikrar hua” (Sri 420), a song well known for its optimism, yielded four Greek versions, each one a sad emigration song.  The best known version starts with the sound of a train and has the following lyrics:

A train, a cursed train, a train will take you away.

It separates us and breaks and tears my poor heart apart.

Tears are rolling in the station, mothers are wailing disconsolately

but I shed no more tears, because my eyes have no tears left.

Such a pain, such a wound, may the enemies never feel,

please write me every day before I die of sorrow.

Other issues echoed in the songs were the dependence of women, jealousy for happy couples, and condemnation of women who were immodest or married for money. When  the Hindi and Greek were both love songs, the lyrics often contrasted the cultural differences in social interactions.  Greece in the 50s still had the customs of dowry and arranged marriages, but there were no castes, access to education made it possible for some poor to marry into rich families, and young people could actually get to know each other (particularly when they were both migrants living away from home).  Therefore, the Greek love songs imply intimate acquaintance and describe joint activities, whereas the Hindi songs often imply that the two lovers see each other from a distance and really have no personal acquaintance.

The Controversy
In the 1960s, many educated Greeks did not look kindly on the Hindi movies and songs.  They saw them as a threat to the country’s drive for modernization.   The middle class admired the West.  Its members associated the indoprepi with refugees from Turkey, poorer people, uncouth villagers, and backwardness in general. Emigration was not a middle-class concern.  Even when the songs echoed more general themes, the words alienated the educated listeners. The same Urdu vocabulary that is considered poetic by Indians (e.g. dunia, zamana, ashik, khabar) was considered Turkish by Greeks, and therefore backward. The words were too emotional, too depressed, too angry.  They often expressed negative attitudes against women (e.g. “I will throw this nagging woman out…”)  as well as male demands for female obedience and virtue.  Students often ridiculed or parodied the laika songs and the tearful movie titles. In particular, young women, who had brighter prospects than their mothers through education and salaried work, wanted to have nothing to do with them. 

The negative middle-class attitudes towards the Hindi imports were expressed through articles such as the following:

Sinking low
The historical moment when Alexander the Great conquered India was fateful.  So fateful and defining that thousands of years later we are paying for the consequences.

This conclusion is completely true.  India conquered Greece in every artistic expression, to the point that we imitate it and follow it slavishly….

The trouble started with the first Hindi movie that was shown.  Its incidental commercial success – that was due to anything but its intrinsic value – resulted in a ton of the saddest Indian concoctions, which set cinematography back for years, to the time of the tear-drenched  melodramas with the shamed mothers and children of sin.  Today the situation is such that the Hindi cinema is the most direct competitor of the Greek cinema.  Hindi movies are everywhere, and tearful Nargis is much more popular than Vouyouklaki.[iv]

The drawn-out and bothersome Indian music which accompanies these sad creations also tends to become our national music.  Many “smart” composers managed to expropriate motifs for Greece and to create “folk” hits, bringing the musical level of our people down to basement night clubs.  So, various Singoalas, Mangalas, Madhubalas, etc., disturb our peace and, most sadly, are broadcast by radio stations, notably the Armed Forces station….  Most modestly speaking, this is sinking low!  It is not permissible, when we fight to stand in the geographical space of Europe to have become a spiritual colony of India..  Except if, as we wrote in the beginning, we are now paying for the consequences of Alexander’s conquests…  But even then, the price is too high (Matsas 1961).

As the above article implies, the transformed songs had a big problem: plagiarism. With few exceptions, the songs appeared as creations of at least 26 Greek musicians.  The copying was systematic.  Some musicians copied some songs on reel tape recorders directly from movie theaters, and in other cases, music companies ordered records from India and distributed them to willing people for copying.  The names of Naushad Ali, Shankar-Jaikishan, and Chitalkar Ramachandra were never heard in Greece.

Clearly, people loved Hindi songs, and profits were large. Copyright laws were lax or non-existent at that time, and the bardic tradition (dating from Homeric times) of adapting existing melodies to suit the conditions of the time was still strong. The folkloric musicians were often poor and poorly educated, and saw a way to make some extra money.  Some people who lacked significant talent became known composers by taking Naushad’s works in their names. [v] The tendency of musicians  to reproduce Hindi songs resulted in humorous episodes, as in the case when three composers went to a studio at the same time to record different versions of the same Hindi song (Tsitsanis 1979).

This scandal could not be hidden for long.  Audiences often did remember the movie originals, and the outcry started a controversy that raged for years.  The notable Greek composer and bouzouki virtuoso, Vasilis Tsitsanis, railed against the plagiarists in articles published in popular magazines.  He considered the Indian composers giants, whose creations were shamelessly expropriated by worthless musicians; he also argued that the copiers adulterated the tastes of the Greek people, habituating them to foreign tunes.  (Habituation to western tunes was clearly not seen as negative.)  In response, composer Apostolos Kaldaras and traditional music teacher Theodoros Derveniotis, clarified that they were not copying Hindi; they were instead composing byzantine music and taking the Greek music back to its roots! (Simirioti 1962, 1967a, 1967b).

During that same period, many Turkish and Arabic songs were also copied and expropriated through acquisition of records and radio programs. (The Turkish and Arabic movies never achieved the prominence of their Hindi counterparts.) Although this tendency was generally known, it was not considered very important; copies from neighboring countries could be explained away as originally Greek or as legitimate heritage of the refugees.  Somehow, India was threatening in a way that Turkey and the Arabic world were not. It used formulas and musical patterns that vaguely sounded byzantine and harked into glorious eras that to Greeks were painful.  Imitating the culture of an extremely poor county was very unsettling to development-minded intellectuals, and westernizing Greek tastes became ever more urgent.

Thus, the fate of the Hindi imports was doomed. The accusations of plagiarism stuck with some folk composers, and Hindi songs became their shame; the sometimes excellent pieces were hidden and forgotten.  The reign of the movies also did not last long.  Although they were imported systematically for about 14 years (1954-1968), their heyday lasted only about four.  The Greek movies that imitated the Indian family dramas, eventually imitated them too well and won over the audience. American and European movies showed faster action along with sex and violence that fascinated young men.   Possibly because Indians had no experience with personal relationships, the love scenes and characters appeared superficial and unrealistic to Greeks who did date (albeit secretly).  Indian producers responded with thrillers that looked quite artificial (such as Chinatown of 1962) and did not win converts.

By the end of the 60s, the economic conditions of Greece greatly improved, and the demand for family dramas and for songs with themes of emigration, poverty, and depression decreased.   As women’s social condition and earning capacity improved, songs about jealousy and girls sacrificing poor lovers for wealth became less relevant.  A defining event was the military junta that ruled Greece in 1968-1973.  The colonels wanted to emphasize the glory of ancient Greece and to repress the years of Turkish occupation.  Therefore, anything that reminded of Turkey was suppressed, and it was forbidden to transmit “heavy” laika songs on the radio.  Finally, contact with western Europe and later membership in the European Union made the country look ever westward and forget the eastern side of its heritage. As more skillful Greek music developed under Hadzidakis and Theodorakis, the oriental-sounding songs became unfashionable for many years. The Greek movie industry was nearly extinguished as western productions supplanted it.   The Hindi movies and laika or indoprepi songs became a distant memory.

But nostalgia in cultures often brings back old productions. The generation born in the 1970s did not find the eastern-sounding songs threatening and made them fashionable, releasing new renditions.  Thus, in 1998, one could hear again on the radio melodies from movies that had been long forgotten in India and Greece, such as  ”Mera naam raju” and “Gao tarane man ke” (“Mangala, the daughter of the maharaja”). At the time the research was undertaken, the Hindi, Arabic, and Turkish songs that had once been copied or imitated were again in full swing.  The resulting book, “Hindi-Style Song Revelations” (Abadzi and Tasoulas 1998), was widely reviewed by the press in the summer and fall of 1998.[vi]  Many articles wrote that in the 1950s Athens and Delhi had had remarkable similarities and the people had very similar concerns (Keza, Bakounakis, Kessopoulos, Zografou, Papadopoulos; 1998).

Forgotten Connections
Did the indomania of the 50s have any historical significance?   Hindi films became popular in many countries the outside indic world, such as Russia, Turkey,  Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda, even Colombia; the plots generally resonated with the concerns of the poor, and the songs were uniformly considered melodious.  Some songs were adapted in many countries, such as “Awaara hou”.  But it appears that Hindi songs were not copied outside South Asia as widely as they were copied in Greece.  Few are known to exist in Turkey and in the Arab world, which have specific musical traditions.  By comparison, at least 26 Greek musicians are known to have adapted Hindi songs.  The systematic Greek acquisitions may be due to commercial ingenuity that found opportunities in a country that was too far to protest.  However, profit alone is not a sufficient explanation.  Perhaps the is an affinity that created this special allure. 

Songs often sound vaguely familiar to Greeks, like the traditional songs of many areas in Greece, including Asia Minor and the islands.  One gets the impression that one once heard a similar tune and forgot it. Musicologists who have studied Indian music have been impressed by certain patterns of similarities and have written about them (Amaryanakis 1985a, 1985b, 1992, 1995, 1996; Daniélou 1967, 1979, 1980).  It was this similarity perhaps that the musicians Apostolos Kaldaras and Theodoros Derveniotis evoked when they stated that they were not copying Hindi songs but instead recreating byzantine music.

Centuries of commerce with various Mediterranean and Asian cities have created a musical tangle, where certain similar patterns are shared by many neighboring countries (e.g. scales, rhythms, musical instruments).  In addition, Greece has strong eastern traditions, dating from the centuries when its cultural center was in Asia Minor.  An additional point of contact has been the dissemination of Greek music in India during the Hellenistic era.  It is known that Greek or Greek-style musicians (Yavana ganika) were sought after during the Maurya dynasty and in subsequent centuries (Varadpande 1981, 1985).   Finally, the Turkish influence on both civilizations (see below) resulted in the dissemination to both countries of musical patterns and instruments. As a result of contacts and common origins, there are several points of similarity between byzantine music (used only in Greek churches) and more traditional Indian music: notes and divisions of the natural scales, use of quarter-tones, characteristics like alaap and tarana (Amaryanakis 1985a, 1985b, 1992, 1995, 1996; Daniélou 1979, 1980).  Certain raagas correspond to the Turkish or Persian maqamat, which Greeks also used. For example, many of the Hindi songs that Greeks adapted were in the bhairawi raag, which corresponds to the maqam “ushak”.  Also, certain instruments are common to both countries: tampura (pandouris in ancient Greek, bouzouki in modern Greek), santur, saaz, and double flute (Amaryanakis 1985).

The older musical traditions were best kept in isolated areas of Greece as well as in the Asia Minor, where they received more reinforcement.  The villages and islands were places of poverty, and the Asia Minor people became refugees, sharing their misery with the poor of mainland Greeks in the crowded and unhealthy conditions of Athens and Thessaloniki. The folkloric singers who in their home areas had best kept the old musical traditions were most likely to watch the movies and be influenced by their stories.  They were most likely to find the song modes familiar and to reproduce them, adapting them to the instruments and modes that made them sound more Greek.

Historical Analogies
Musical relationships are related to cultural and linguistic relationships in the distant past.   There are specific linguistic similarities between ancient Greek (particularly the aeolic dialect) and Sanskrit.  Many old deities have similar names, implying a much closer relationship in the prehistoric indoeuropean past (e.g. Diaus Pitar, Varuna, Surya, Sarameyas, Yavishta, Ushas – Arora 1985).  Attested contacts between Greeks and Indians date at least from the 6th century BCE, when some Asia Minor Greeks and some western Indians were citizens of the Persian empire.  Alexander’s invasion and contacts are well-known, but lasted very little.  Much closer interactions followed during the Hellenistic era, when Seleukid generals succeeded in conquering Afghanistan and Punjab about 256 BCE and setting up the Bactrian and Indogreek kingdoms, whose rulers are mainly known from the thousands of coins they left behind (Bopearachchi 1991, Dani 1991).  The last Indogreek king probably ruled until 50 BCE, when he was overrun by the Kushan.  The Indogreek kings did not leave a lasting imprint in India.  Inclined towards Buddhism and having a tradition of more democratic regimes, they might have helped eventually rid India of the caste system.   Instead, they dissipated their energies fighting among themselves, and the Brahmins who had grudgingly accepted them as debased ksatrias were glad to see them disappear (Velissaropoulos citing the Gargi Samhita, 1995.)

Although of minor importance when seen in the passage of thirty centuries, distinct points of influence can still be traced. In the approximately 200 years of rule and cultural contacts, Buddha acquired the appearance of Apollo through the Gandhara art, and many Greeks (like king Menander) became Buddhists. The Indians learned from the  Greeks astrology, possibly medicine (the Yunani system), and possibly the arts of making coins and golden artifacts.  In turn, the Greeks rather unsuccessfully tried to understand Indian philosophy, but nevertheless received stories and myths that eventually entered the Christian tradition (such as meditation practices of the Sinai monasteries and the story of St. Josaphat – Schulz 1981).  During the Roman empire, commerce and contact continued.  Greeks and Hellenized people continued to travel to Indian ports, receiving and transmitting musical and cultural influences (Thapar 1966).

Relations and influences with India took a strange turn when the eastern part of the Roman empire became a Christian state in the 4th century CE (now known as Byzantium).  The Orthodox church was very intent on combating heresy, and most of the Middle East had accepted doctrines that the clergy in Constantinople considered heretic.  The Byzantine emperors spent much energy combating the heresies and harassing their followers.  When the Arabs arose as Moslems in 622  and started to wage war, the Byzantines did not pay much attention to them until it was too late.  Not only were the populations of the Middle East and North Africa unable to resist the Arab attacks, a number of them converted voluntarily to Islam to escape Orthodox persecutions.  Strengthened by Byzantine conquests, the Arabs conquered Persia in 20 years, and attacked Afghanistan, Sindh, and Punjab in 30 years. The multiple and often warring kingdoms of India were unable to organize and defeat the enemy on time. (Lal 1990).  To some extent, the Islamic conquest of India was a consequence of Byzantine sectarianism.

Eventually, the two countries met a similar fate.  Around 1100 CE, they were invaded by Turks, Moghals in India and Ottomas in Byzantium.  Eventually both countries came under Turkish rulers for about 500 years.  Large segments of the populations were converted to Islam, while the languages, customs, and music were influenced in similar ways.  Having gained independence in 1827, Greece tried to annex Asia Minor in 1922.  The defeat resulted in a massacre, millions of Greek refugees, and finally a population exchange in 1927, while left almost no Greeks in Turkey and no Turks in Greece.  On the eve of its independence from Great Britain in 1947, India split into two countries, with resulting massacres and a population exchange which left almost no Hindus in Pakistan.   Massacres, partition, and population exchanges were repeated in Cyprus in 1974.  The suffering that Hindi movies depicted was often a direct or indirect result of these common historical events and  was well understood by both cultures.  This is one reason why the movies proved so popular.

When one looks at history globally, it becomes evident that the movie craze of the 50s-60s was merely the latest chapter of a dialogue that has lasted at least 3000 years.  The 105 songs adapted by Greeks in the 1960s might be considered an exchange for the astronomy, medicine, sculpture, and minting that the Indians learned from the Greeks in the Hellenistic years.  And the offense that the movies and songs caused to westernized intellectuals may be seen as a just revenge for the sins of Alexander the Great.

Ethnomusicological Search for the Hindi Movies and Songs
Interest in the indoprepi songs started as a hobby for author (a Hindi-speaking Greek educational psychologist), who remembered seeing some Hindi movies as a child.  In partnership with Emmanuel Tasoulas, a dentist in Athens who had a large collection of Hindi-movie posters and pictures, an amateur ethnomusicological research project was carried out in 1996-1997.  The researchers tried to find:

– which Hindi movies were played in Greece;

– the songs of those movies;

– which of the movie songs had engendered Greek songs (through a search of Hindi songs);

– which “suspicious” Greek songs were Hindi (through search of Greek songs);

– Greek musicians willing to discuss their adaptations.

Since musicians often recorded the songs directly from movietheaters, it was hypothesized that if the movies and soundtracks were found, many Greeks songs would be identified. The 111 movies that came to Greece were identified through searches in newspapers (Makedonia, Ethnos, Nea, Bradyni, Akropolis, etc.) and movie trade magazines of the period (Theamata, Astir Kinimatografikos).   Some movies were identified through combinations of actors and plots, but 32 could not be positively identified.   The soundtracks of 23 movies were commercially available, but the rest had had become obscure or totally forgotten. To find the songs, the researchers went to the internet discussion group of Hindi film songs called (RMIM), where several experts frequented.  They asked for which persons had the soundtracks of these movies.   Several collectors of old songs offered their help, most notably  Messrs. Vish Krishnan, Satish Kalra, and Ashok Dhareswar.  The experts sent soundtracks to the researchers, who then sent them to Greece, where two collectors of old Greek songs listened to them and tried to identify copied songs.  In turn, the Greek collectors sent about 15 cassettes of songs to the researchers, who forwarded them to the Indian experts.  Thus, many songs were identified, bringing the total known to 105 in 1998.   Several others are known to exist, but they are forgotten in Greece and/or in India and could not be identified positively. 

The research also brought out some issues of psychomusicology that had not thus far been identified in field research. The listeners of one culture to the songs of the other had to make very complex comparisons, searching their memories for critical features that implied similarity and ignoring others that were irrelevant.  It was easy to identify songs that were very similar to songs that the listeners knew very well, but it was quite difficult to identify others that the listeners had only heard a few times or that had been changed significantly. Changes in rhythm, contour, and in the number of voices (choral to monophonic) were quite confusing, while changes in the singers’ gender were easily overcome.  Some listeners were much better than others in identifying songs, and some truly expert persons could not identify any.  Also the process was tiring.  After listening to a few songs of the other culture, tunes tended to get mixed up, and the listeners got the impression that all songs were somewhat alike. A detailed discussion of these issues is the subject of a separate article.

It was hoped that some of the old composers would agree to discuss what moved them to copy certain songs and not others and why they made certain changes.  However, it proved impossible.  Two of the most prominent ones (Voula Palla and Apostolos Kaldaras) were dead.  Others were still ashamed and defensive.  At the end, there was very little collaboration.

It is unfortunate that the Hindi adaptations were not seen as a positive cultural phenomenon.  The musicians that used them deserve congratulations and praise for the work that they did.  They heard a distant sound of a common cultural past, which they tried to transmit.  In turn, this article transmits it to the readers of the 21st century.


[i] Unless otherwise stated, the material from this article is abstracted from the book “Hindi-Style Songs Revealed”.

[ii] Newspapers in Thessaloniki and Athens were researched for the years 1951-1969.  The frequency and titles of movies were registered.

[iii] Greece became independent of Turkey in 1827.  But the ancestral mainland of Greece included Asia Minor, the coast of Turkey, which had millions of Greeks.  The Greeks tried to regain Asia Minor in 1922, but they were defeated by the Turks.  There was a massacre of Greeks and Armenians, and at least one million refugees came to the mainland in 1922.  There was an official population exchange in 1927, when any Turks living in Greece were exchanged with Greeks living in Turkey (exempting two areas).

[iv].  Aliki Vouyouklaki, who died in 1997, was the most popular Greek film star for several decades.

[v].  Indian composers did not lose revenue as a result of Greek reproductions.  In the 40s and 50s, they typically signed away their mechanical rights to film songs and received a lump sum.  International companies like His Master’s Voice and later Gramophone of India owned and published the songs, keeping most or all the profits.  Many of the Greek companies were subsidiaries of the same multinationals. So, at company level, there was no loss.  Furthermore, even if the Greeks had wanted to share with the Indian composers the modest amounts  earned from these songs, there was no way to do so.  For example, there was an excellent renditionn of all the “Mother India” songs in 1979 by the late Voula Palla. The work was correctly attributed to Naushad Ali and the publicist paid royalties, but His Master’s Voice received the proceeds. Naushad Ali found out about this work from the author in 1996.

 [vi].  Reviews of the book and Hindi imports of the 50s appeared in Vima, Nea, Eleftherotypia, Rizospastis, Makedonia, Difono, Ethikos Kyrix (of New York).


Abadzi, Helen and Emmanuel Tasoulas.  1998.  “Indoprepon Apokalypsi” (Hindi-style Songs Revealed).  Athens: Atrapos.

Amaryanakis, George. 1985a.  “Harmonic affinities”.  In Saryu Doshi (Ed.)  India and Greece: Connections and Parallels. Bombay: Marg Publications.

Amaryanakis, George. 1985β.  “The ancient Greek musical law, the Byzantine sound, and the Indian Raaga”.   Musicologia (Musicology – Greek language periodical publication of music theory and practice),  2, 72-82.

Amaryanakis, George. 1992.  “Introduction to the Greek Folk Music”.  Athens University, Department of Music Studies, spring semester notes.

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