Greek folk music

Greek folk music
Music of Greece
General topics
AncientByzantineNéo kýmaPolyphonic song
EntehnoDimotikaHip hopLaïkoPunkRock
Specific forms
Classical • NisiotikaRebetikoSkiladiko
Media and performance
Music awards Arion Awards • MAD Video Music Awards • Pop Corn Music Awards
Music charts Greek Albums Chart • Foreign Albums Chart • Singles Chart
Music festivals Thessaloniki Song Festival
Music media Difono • MAD TV (MAD World, Blue)MTV Greece
National anthem "Hymn to Liberty"
Regional music
Related areas Cyprus
Regional styles Aegean Islands • Arcadia • Argos • Crete • Cyclades • Dodecanese Islands • EpirusIonian Islands • Lesbos • Macedonia • PeloponneseThessalyThrace

Greek folk music includes a variety of Greek styles played by ethnic Greeks in Greece, Cyprus, Australia, the United States and elsewhere. Apart from the common music found all-around Greece, there are distinct types of folk music, sometimes related to the history or simply the taste of the specific places.


Aegean Islands

The Aegean islands of Greece are known for Nisiótika songs; Greek characteristics vary widely. Although the basis of the sound is characteristically secular-Byzantine, the relative isolation of the islands allowed the separate development of island-specific Greek music. Most of the Nisiótika songs are accompanied by lira, clarinet, guitar and violin. Modern stars include Yiannis Parios and the Konitopouloi ; Mariza Koch is credited with reviving the field in the 1970s. Folk dances include the Kalamatianos, ballos, syrtos, sousta, Chiotikos, Kalymniotikos, stavrotos, lerikos, kamara, mihanikos, trata, Panagia, Kalamatiano and Ikariotikos.

Central Greece

In central Greece many of folk songs referred to Rumeli. Rumeli and peloponnese took the lead in Greek war of independence in 1821. The kind of music also, is more closed to the music of the Greek cities. Folk dances in central Greece include: antikrystos, syrtaki - Zorba's dance, rebetiko, Kalamatiano, zeibekiko, chasaposerviko, Kalamatianos, Kamilierikos Choros, Koulouriotikos, syrtos, tsamiko, choros tis tratas, Chatzichristos and syrtokalamatianos.


The Greek islands of Kárpathos, Khálki, Kássos and Crete form an arc where the Cretan lyra is the dominant instrument. Kostas Mountakis is probably the most widely-respected master of the lira, which is often accompanied by the laoúto which resembles a mandolin. Bagpipes are often played on Kárpathos. Crete has a well known folk dance tradition, which comes from ancient Greece and includes swift dances like pentozalis and other like sousta, syrtos, trizali, Katsabadianos, Chaniotikos, siganos, pidichtos Lasithou, Maleviziotikos, tsiniaris, Ierapetrikos and Laziotikos.


Different types of Greek flutes.

In the Aegean Cyclades, the violin is more popular than the Cretan lyra, and has produced several respected musicians, including Nikos Ikonomidhes, Leonidas Klados and Stathis Koukoularis.Folk dances in Cyclades include Kalamatianos, Kalamatiano, lerikos, syrtos, syrtos Serifou, syrtos Naxou, syrtos Kythnou, Amorgos dance and ballos. One of the most famous singers of cycladic music is Domna Samiou.


Cyprus is an independent country, currently contested between the Republic of Cyprus and the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Cyprus' folk traditions include dances like the sousta, syrtos, zeibekikos, and the karsilamades.

Dodecanese Islands

There are prominent elements of Cretan music on the Dodecanese Islands. Dodecanese folk dances include the trata, ballos, syrtos, kremasti, issos, syrtos Rodou, mihanikos and Kalymnikos, with origin from the island of Kalymnos.


In Epirus, folk songs are pentatonic and polyphonic,sung by both male and female singers. Distinctive songs include mirolóyia (mournful tunes) vocals with skáros accompaniment and tis távlas (drinking songs). The clarinet is the most prominent folk instrument in Epirus, used to accompany dances, mostly slow and heavy, like the tsamikos, koftos, menousis, fisouni, podhia, sta dio, sta tria, zagorisios, kentimeni, Metsovitikos, yiatros.

Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands were never under Ottoman control, and their Heptanesian kantádhes (Greek: καντάδες), are based on the popular Italian style of the early 19th century. Greek Kantádhes are performed by three male singers accompanied by mandolin or guitar. These romantic songs developed mainly in Kefallonia in the early 19th century but spread throughout Greece after the liberation of Greece. An Athenian form of kantádhes arose, accompanied by violin, clarinet and laouto. However the style is accepted as uniquely Ionian. The island of Zakynthos has a diverse musical history with influences mainly from Crete. The island's music heritage is celebrated by the Zakynthos School of Music (Heptanesian school, Greek:Επτανησιακή Σχολή), established in 1815. Folk dances include the tsirigotikos, Leukaditikos, ballos, syrtos, Ai Georgis, Kerkyraikos and kato sto yialo.


Folk dances in Macedonia include Makedonia (dance), chasapiko, leventikos, zeibekiko, zonaradiko, endeka Kozanis, Samarinas, stankena, Akritikos, baidouska, Macedonikos antikristos, mikri Eleni, partalos, kleftikos Makedonikos, mpougatsas, Kastorianos, Tromakton, o Nikolos, antikrystos, sirtos Macedonias and Kapitan Louka. In Macedonia, there are also patriotic songs sung by the Greek army and local citizens like: famous Macedonia.


Folk dances from the Peloponnese include the Kalamatianos or Kalamatiano, kariatidon, monodiplos, tsakonikos, syrtos, Ai Georgis, Arachovitikos, Maniatikos and diplos Horos.


Pontian music retains elements of the musical traditions of Ancient Greece, Byzantium, and the Caucasus.The prime instruments in Pontian musical are the lyra, which has origins in Byzantine times and it is related closely with the Byzantine lyra and has similarities with Cretan, Cypriot and Thracian. Counterpartsand other bowed musical instruments of the medieval West, like the Kit violin and Rebec. Also important are other instruments such as the drums the fife a small, high-pitched, transverse lute, askomandoura a type of bagpipe, the davul and the aulos. Folk dances from Pontus include the atsiapat, dipat, tik, tik diplon, tromakton, Pontiaki Serra, ikosiena, trygona, tsestos and zonaradiko.


Folk dance from Thessaly is slow and stately, and includes dances like the Kalamatianos, Thessalikos, koftos, Kalamatiano, Tsamikos, kleistos, kangeli, gaitanaki, Pilioritikos, svarniara, sta tria, karagouna and Galanogalani. Also, every year in Larissa occurs the Phallus Festival before Easter, a pagan fertility festival in honour of the god of Mount Olympus, Dionysus which locates in ancient Greece and is one of the most famous worldwide.

There is also, a long-standing tradition of a cappella music in Thessaly, including in dance music.


Instruments used in ancient Thracian music such as Bagpipes (gaida) and Byzantine lyra are still the ordinary instruments of folk music in Thrace. Folk dances include the tapeinos Horos, tripati, tromakton, Sfarlis, Souflioutouda, zonaradiko, Kastrinos, syngathistos, sousta, mantilatos, baintouska and apadiasteite sto xoro. Traditional Thracian dances are usually swift in tempo and are mostly circle dances in which the men dance at the front of the line. The gaida, a kind of bagpipe, is the most characteristic instrument, but clarinets and toubeleki are also used. The Thracian gaida, also called the avlos, is different than the Macedonian or other Bulgarian bagpipes. It is more high in pitch then the Macedonian gaida but less so than the Bulgarian gaida (or Dura). The Thracian gaida is also still widely used throughout Thrace in northeastern Greece.

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