Memories from the land of epics

Marika Papagika (Μαρίκα Παπαγκίκα, 1890 - 1943) was a popular Greek singer in the early 20th century and one of the first female Greek singers to be heard on sound recordings. She was born on the island of Kos on September 1, 1890. In late 1913 or early 1914, she recorded for the Gramophone Company in Alexandria, Egypt. Only one of these recordings has been found so far.

She emigrated to USA through Ellis Island in 1915 with her husband, Constantinos Papagika, a cymbalom player who was also her accompanist. In December 1918, she made her first recording in the States for Victor Records. In July 1919, she also began recording for Columbia Records. By the mid-20s, Marika and her husband Kostas opened a café aman called "Marika's" on W. 34th St near 8th Ave. in New York, likely the first café aman established in the States. Over the next ten years, she recorded more than two hundred performances of café-aman styled songs, including kleftiko demotikο (Greek traditional songs about Klephts, heroic brigands), rebetiko, and light classical pieces, many of them overlapping with her chief rival in Greek music sales in the United States, Koula Antonopoulos (known on her recordings as "Κα Κούλα" or Mme. Coula).

At her club and at recording sessions during the 1920's, Marika was often accompanied by her husband Kostas "Gus" Papagika, cellist Markos Sifnios, violinist Athanasiou Makedonas, and the Epirot violinist Alexis Zoumbas. Marika was a noted exponent of the Smyrnaic style of the rebetiko tragoudi, including old songs about hashish, prison, and street-life. Located on 8th Avenue, "Marika's" wasn't just a café aman, but a speakeasy for Greek people as well as for other Mediterranean immigrants. Marika Papagika recorded her first commercial song, "Smirneiko Minore" for Victor. Along with her rival Κα Κούλα, she introduced Greek music to the Western community. Her early recordings have constantly appeared on compilations and been revived by contemporary singers.

Marika Papagika - The Further The Flame, The Worse It Burns Me

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