Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: A Kostis – ‘The Jail’s a Fine School’

The enigmatic origins of the recordings only add to their allure. Rebetika is a term used today to designate originally disparate kinds of urban Greek music which have come to be grouped together since the so-called rebetika revival, which started in the 1960s and developed further from the early 1970s onwards. Whatever musical dream Bezos was chasing, he did so with passion and great ardour. Satirical song
Facts about his life are elusive but it is clear that at the time Bezos made the Kostis recordings he had also begun a successful career as a steel guitarist, singer and bandleader. It can briefly be described as the urban popular song of the Greeks, especially the poorest, from the late 19th century to the 1950s. The fact that he used the pseudonyms A Kostis and K Kostis for the unique series of 12 recordings on this LP was for many years a source of mystery which long overshadowed interest in the major part of his recorded legacy. He was a man ahead of his time. The lyrics and the singing, which is in the style of a much older man, are more reminiscent of that associated with the tough harbour milieu of Piraeus, the port of Athens, with its hash dens, pickpockets, jailbirds and knife-artists. He was truly an early multimedia artist, working as a journalist, musician, composer, singer, artist and cartoonist who, during the years 1930-1938, deposited a chameleon-like legacy which continues to fascinate to this day. It is possible that along with his several other pursuits, Bezos made use of some studio downtime to record these discs in a clandestine fashion consistent with the unlawful themes of the songs themselves. Perhaps Bezos realised using a pseudonym afforded him the freedom to explore this style which at the time was considered solely the music of the low-lifes who inhabited the area. Constantinos (Kostas) Bezos remains one of the most fascinating and unique figures of Greek popular music of the 1930s. Betweeen 1930 and 1938, Bezos is in fact credited on a grand total of about 120 78 rpm sides of mainly Hawaiian-style versions of popular and satirical songs.