The Near East Collective explores and performs rebetika and traditional music of Asia Minor, Istanbul, the Balkans and the Aegean Sea. Through collaboration with other musicians of similar interests they enrich their performance.


Panagiotis Toundas was the most prominent musical produce of the ‘Smyrna School’. Born in Smyrna in 1886, he travelled across the world playing music for the Greek communities and settled in Athens with the 1922 population exchange. In 1924 he becomes musical director for ODEON label with HIS MASTER’S VOICE following in 1931. Toundas has over 220 songs under his name with dozens of timeless rembetiko hits. He defined the early rembetiko sound of “santuroviolia” and featured great singers like Roza Eskenazi, Rita Abadji and Stelios Perpiniadis and Kostas Roukounas.

Panos Toundas shaped Greek music of the past century and his compositions and arrangements are complex, yet deeply expressive. The dynamism and musicality of his works is still felt today and firmly positions rebetiko within the modal oriental musical systems. In his last years leading to WWII, he adapted his music to more western styles, however his music always retained a smyrniotiko (from Smyrna) feel.

The Near East Collective is delighted to be revisiting his musical works, as they are profoundly influential. Toundas’ original arrangements would be faithfully reproduced with the Collective bringing the sensuality of Ottoman Smyrna and the dark soul of interwar Piraeus to modern day London through his songs.

Dunja Botic – vocals
Sotiris Georgiou-vocals
Michael Iskas – violin
Kostas Glynos – kanun
George Maglaras – lute, oud, lavta
Gizem Altinordu – percussion