By request: Oud Transcription– Marko Melkon’s “The Little Refugee”

Thanks to Mark Marshall from Toronto, who wrote in asking for a transcription of this gem of an old rembetika recording: Markos Melkon‘s “Το Πρόσφυγακι” (To Prosfygáki, “The Little Refugee“).

The following bio is freely adapted from an excellent article in Greek by Constantine Kopanitsános and Giannis Zarías published this month.

Melkon was born Marko Alemsherian in 1895, an Armenian in Ottoman Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey). To avoid being drafted into the Ottoman army, he fled to Athens in 1912 before making his way to New York in 1921. His popularity as an oud player and singer, particularly among the Armenian-American community, grew in the 40’s and 50’s as he toured throughout Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and the Catskills, and through his entire life worked steadily in the “oriental” music scene centered on New York’s 8th Avenue, in clubs like Port Said, Britania, Egyptian Gardens and Grecian Palace Cafe, places that luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Melvin Douglas, Ann Sheridan and Dave Brubeck would frequent.

Melkon was a crowd pleaser, remembering the names of all the regular audience members as well as their favorite songs, adapting his selections to his setting. In reference to Turkish oud virtuoso Udi Hrant from Istanbul, who played for Melkon in his home one time, Melkon commented, “I don’t play that kind of music. I make the people dance.”

Marko Melkon

Melkon spoke and sang in Greek, Armenian and Turkish, and appeared on recordings from numerous Mediterranean musical including Arabic and Sephardic music, and possibly Bulgarian and Albanian as well. He left 56 recordings as a singer and around 200 as an instrumentalist, including 10 solo taxims, all in different eastern modes. His 1937 interpretation of the well known Turkish song “Oğlan Oğlan” was a hit nationwide.

Here you can find an excellent discography in Greek, and some interesting covers of To Prosfygaki on YouTube including one by Soúla Vazoúra and this one by a large Ottoman-style ensemble.

Markos Melkon "To Prosfygaki" Sheet Music

Click for Free Download

At one of his last recording sessions, he cut “Asia Minor“– a Latin-flavored track for oud with Roger K. Mozian’s orchestra, unreleased until the 1996 compilation Marko Melkon. Another compilation worth checking out is Armenians On 8th Avenue (both records from Traditional Crossroads, 1996) featuring 8 of Marko’s tracks alongside his contemporaries.

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

More music transcriptions

    • Δημήτρης
    • February 19th, 2012

    Θέλω να σας ευχαριστήσω για την παρτιτούρα. Το τραγούδι αυτό είναι ανατριχιαστικό, ένας μικρός θησαυρός και ανήκει σε όλους τους Έλληνες. Φαντάζομαι τους ξεριζωμένους στα κουτούκια της Νέας Υόρκης να ακούνε αυτό το τραγούδι…

  1. Hi man,
    the work you did creating a music sheet for this song is astounding! Even more since you grabbed even the non-tempered notes and solo!
    I think i havent come up with an equivalent work on the net.

    And it’s a beautiful song of cultural blending of that era.

    Thanks to this work, i started my first study on the oud, and would be there if it wasnt for you.

    I’m into making 3-string tablatures of old rebetika for some friends that dont ready classical notation (well neither do i except some basics, so i always turn everything to tablature).

    Are in the mood of creating more transcriptions like this one?
    Because there are some more beautiful pieces of oud of that time that would merit more attention than that which they get in today’s Greece (eg

    In particular, i would love if you could transcribe any of this tracks : (long guitar solo) (one of the most beautiful zeybekika played on a -allegedly – fretted to the quarter-tone instrument by Yovan Tsaous, which was -also allegedly, so sad that so much info is lost of that time – one of the greatest virtuosi on the bouzouki before the censorship and ww2)

    I’d be grateful if you could do this, if its easy for you.

    thanks again for Melkon’s song, huge work!

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