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Mastika: About the Song


By Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin




Many people believe the folkloric song named "Mastika" is Turkish. It's actually not exclusive to Turkish people. It belongs to both the Greeks and Turks of Asia Minor. People associate it with present-day Izmir and surrounding areas, which was originally known as Kessani (Greek Anatolian Thraki).

"Mastika" is a traditional and very old song. It dates back at least to the early 20th century, and could well be even older than that. Back in the early 20th century, Greek and Turkish people all shared the music. Therefore it would be misleading to refer to the song as only "Greek" or only "Turkish".

The word mastika comes from the Greek root masao, which means "to chew". Mastika therefore became the word for chewing gum, which was made from tree extracts, originating on the Greek island of Chios. Those same tree extracts are also used to make a type of liquor, which is also known as mastika. It has many medicinal purposes.

Among the Greeks of Anatolia (which is part of my heritage), this song was used in a wedding procession, when the groom arrived at the bride's home to escort her to the church. This tradition still continues among some Greek Anatolians.

Lyrics exist for this song in both Greek and Turkish languages. The Greek version of the lyrics references tsifteteli dance (belly dance).

The 9/8 rhythm of the song "Mastika" is not exclusive to Turkish music. Greeks also use this rhythm. Greek 9/8 music can vary widely, depending on which region of Anatolia (where modern-day Turkey lies) or Greece it is found in.




About the Author

This page was contributed by Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, who is happy to share her culture and music she grew up with! Here's how Panayiota describes her background:

I always love engaging with intelligent like-minded people, especially artists. I love sharing anything and everything about my Hellenic culture and upbringing, especially music and dance. A conversation with me will bring you back to America's favorite Greek-American movie by Nia Vardalos called My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I love investigating Greek culture, history, music, and dance. Speaking of investigating, I think I missed my calling, I probably should have been an investigator. Instead, I use those skills to dig and dig and dig tirelessly, often times falling asleep on my laptop... just to find the truth. But, most importantly, accurate truth. For me personally, and other respectable folklorists, my culture and accuracy are very important. Each generation of ethnic born artists has a duty to do the best it can to pass down our traditions as was taught to us. We have been given this artistic gift to be the gatekeepers of our heritage and culture.




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