The Musical Tradition in Crete

Music and dance are directly woven into the Cretan psyche and their social-life: from the earliest days to the very present.

Traditional music and local dances, with their roots in the mists of time, play a major role not only at festivals and social occasions, but also in the day to day life of the ordinary person.

A characteristic feature of the island’s music-making is the improvisation and making up of mantinades – these rhyming couplets comply with a strict metrical pattern and are a particular part of the Cretan custom. The ease with which these little verses can be adapted to any event is legendary. In the case of the various celebrations and festivals, the musicians are not limited to a formal repetition of the basic musical melody or line but can enrich their performances with improvisations that echo those the dancers are themselves making.

Traditional Songs of Crete

Cretan Traditional Music. Cretan Songs. Mantinades, Rizitika

The traditional music of Crete sometimes incorporates dance tunes, sometimes sticks to that of the song itself. Mantinades are the commonest form of song: each line has fifteen syllables and the pair rhyme. Their chief theme is to do with love: they are the most frequent means of expressing feelings and emotional situations – such as love, separation, pain, serenades etc. A second and contemporary category of song is the rizitika, which is sung in the main around the foothills (rizes) of the White Mountains in the Chania region.

Read more about the Crean Songs

Dances of Crete

Cretan Traditional Music. Dances of Crete. Pentozales, Sirtos

The ancient Greeks believed that the Cretans had discovered a special way of communicating with the Gods through music and dance. The Shield of Achilles was decorated with a portrayal of a feast at the Palace of Knossos, according to Homer. Modern Cretan dances are highly energetic, quick and characterized as ‘warlike’. They are said to reflect in particular aspects of the physical nature of the island: the stormy seas and the wild and craggy mountains.

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Cretan Music. Past & Present

Cretan Traditional Music. History of the Cretan Music. Minoan and Ancient times, Contemporary music

The roots of Cretan traditional music lie in the past – according to the myth in which the birth of Zeus was accompanied by the dances of the Kouretes, who beat their shields to cover up the cries of the new-born godling and so protect him from Kronos. The practice of music in Crete was influenced by Byzantine music, by that of the Venetians and of the Eastern Mediterranean: it continues to live and breathe today by exploring contemporary musical elements.

Read more about Traditional Music in Crete

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