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Music of Crete Jul 16

Crete is an island that is a part of Greece. The traditional folk music of Crete is called κρητικά. The lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island it is a three-stringed fiddle similar to the Pontian kemenche. It is often accompanied by the Cretan lute (laouto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. Thanassis Skordalos and Kostas Moundakis are the most renowned players of the lyra.

The earliest documented music on Crete comes from ancient Greece. For many centuries, Cretan music was primarily influenced by eastern techniques and styles. The Cretan lyre is almost the same as the lyre of Constantinople. Concerning their roots, we have to deal with two different possible versions: 1) The lyre was brought by the Arabs who where coming from Spain and stayed in Crete as conquerors from 823 A.D. to 961 A.D.. During these years the lyre stayed in Crete continuously this means that the Arabic rebab of that period is morphologically the same as the lyre of Byzantium. 2)The lyre ‘arrived’ in Crete from Constantinople, probably through the Dodecanese, and “entered” the island through Sitia, which is the neighbour of Kasos and Karpathos. This must have finished by the 12th century (1101 – 1200 A.D.), since two centuries are more than enough for a musical ‘trip’ from Constantinople to Crete. Following the Crusades, however, the Franks, Venetians and Genoese dominated the island and introduced new instruments and genres. By the end of the 14th century, a poetic form called mantinada became popular it was a rhyming couplet of fifteen syllables. The introduction of the violin by the end of 17th century was especially important.

Modern music of Crete
Some of the earliest popular music stars from Crete were Andreas Rodinos, Yiannis Bernidakis (Baxevanis), Stelios Koutsourelis, Stelios Foustalieris, Efstratios Kalogeridis, Kostas Papadakis, Michalis Kounelis, Kostas Mountakis and Thanassis Skordalos. Later, in the 1960s, musicians like Nikos Xylouris and Yiannis Markopoulos combined Cretan folk music with classical techniques. For the above choices, Nikos Xylouris received the criticism of conservative fans of the Cretan music but he remained popular, as did similarly-styled performers like Charalambos Garganourakis and Vasilis Skoulas.

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Cretan Music Jul 16


People compose music, but when this music becomes particular to a remote geographical location, particularly when such location is historically significant, owing to the actions of its inhabitants through the centuries, then the human factor merges with the location itself.  This is the case with the island of Crete.

On many cultural occasions the terms Crete and Cretans are interchangeable. References to Crete or Cretans, evoke, among other things, Cretan music with its particular notes and characteristic sounds. This music relates the valor and spirit of Cretans through the centuries. It is a cultural artifact in musical form that has long been misunderstood by other Greeks in the mainland. 

Cretan Music

Cretan music encapsulates a code of daily action that befits those brave in spirit and bold in action. It reverberates the harsh and jagged rocky spine of the island, the fresh and free air of the mountains, valleys and gorges. In short, it is a reflection of the Cretan soul that roams free and accepts no limits.

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Category: Cretan Music  | 18 Comments