From time to time, Saturday night in Constitution Hall, Goerges Kokinos and Yussuf Allie would set down their guitars and pick up their bouzoukis, and some thing strange began to happen to the nice, quiet, middle-aged Greek lady who was sitting next to me. It began in her shoulders, a slow, rhythmic motion, picking up strength and speed as the bouzouki rhythms accelerated and grew louder; then the rhythmic clapping began, and suddenly the seat next to mine - and my own seat, too, and the whole row, as far as I could see, was vibrating with a strength that threatened to pull the screws out of the floor and everyone was clapping, clapping, clapping with the music, and I looked down from the height of my music-critic's detachment and discovered that a pair of percussion instruments had materialized, too, at the end of my wrists.
The bouzouki - the long, thin-decked, high-voiced Greek instrument that looks like a poor relative of the guitar and sounds like a poor relative of the guitar and sounds like nothing else on earth - can do that to you, even when it doesn't have the voice of Nana Mouskouri to give its music depth and nuance. Saturday night, Mouskouri was there, too , and the only thing wrong with the event was that it was happening in Constitution Hall. For this kind of music, you need a small place, outdoors, shaded by vine leaves, with small tables where you can sip retsina and get up once in a while to dance.
Not that the program was limited to upbeat Greek music; these pieces were the higlights, but she sang as much in French and English as in Greek, and there was a nice balance and contrast, slow thoughtful numbers alternating with the wild dance tunes. She did it all beautifully: "Plaisir d'Amour" and "Bridge over Troubled Waters" and "Cucurucucu Paloma" and even that dumb song about Jimmy Brown and the bells with her five instrumentalists going "bong, bong, bong" in the background. But the Greek music is what I will remember longest.