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Greek Music

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Music

Greek music owes its diversity to the influences of the Eastern and Western cultures of Asia and Europe. There are several main styles that are found all over Greece, and examples of all them, as well as local Corfiot tunes, can be found in any of the record shops in Corfu Town.

Folk Music dates back as far as the 9th century and the Byzantine Empire. However, the newer klephtic style originated between the end of the Byzantine period and the start of the Greek Revolution that led to the Greek Independence in 1821. It comprises of love songs, wedding songs, songs of exile, songs of freedom, death and sorrow, and expresses an important, bloody part of the history and the life of the Greeks. Musical instruments used in Greek folk songs are the lira and laouto (lute), the tambouras and gaida (bagpipe), the zoumas (shawm), the daouli (drum), the dachares (tambourine), the ziyia (paired groups) and the violi (violin).

Cantades originated in Kephalonia and date back to the beginning of the 19th century. They are romantic serenades, sung by three male voices in chorus, accompanied by guitar or mandolin. They have a distinct Italian influence and are popular in the Ionian Islands.

Nisiotika are songs from the Greek islands in the Aegean. Every island has its own nissiotiko and its own way of dancing it. Violin, lira, clarinet and guitar accompany the high-pitched women voices or the low voice of a single man.

Rebetiko was born in the hashish dens and the tekedes, the Turkish style underground cafes in Piraeus and Thessaloniki and is associated with the two million refugees who arrived from Asia Minor, after the destruction of Smirna by the Turks. Homesick and rejected by the Greek population, those Greeks who had never lived in Greece and who had lost everything sang about their surroundings, poverty, pain, hunger, prison, police oppression, drug addiction, betrayal and hashish. Rebetiko was the forbidden music of the outcast, the Greek urban blues. Rebetiko slowly emerged from the underground and started to be played in the nightclubs of Athens, where it became very popular. The principal instruments of rebetiko are the bouzouki, an eight string oval-shape instrument, the baglama, which looks like a miniature bouzouki, and the guitar, accompanied by the ziyia and the ntefi, a small leather tambourine.

Music in Corfu

In Corfu there is a long musical tradition going back to the time when the Seven Islands were under Venetian domination. The Venetians introduced opera to Corfu. During the British Protectorate, the musical tradition was carried on by Nikolaos Chalikiopoulos-Mantzaros who founded the first modern school of music on Greek soil and was the composer of the Greek National Anthem. The house where Mantzaros lived still stands on St. Basil street in Corfu Town. Another distinguished Corfiot composer was Spyros Samaras. He is considered one of the founders of the contemporary School of Italian opera and wrote nine operas. He composed the Olympic Hymn to lines by the poet Kostis Palamas. The Hymn was first performed at the Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens.

The first music institution in Corfu and in the whole Greece was founded in 1840 under the name of the Philharmonic Society of Corfu. The society was established during the British Protectorate and the band made its first appearance at the procession of St. Spiridon in November 1841. The Philharmonic Society of Corfu is called the "Old Philharmonic" to distinguish it from a more recent one founded in 1890 and called the "Mantzaros Philharmonic Society". A third Philharmonic Society under the name "Capodistrias Philharmonic Union" was founded in 1980 in Corfu Town. Also several villages on the island set up their own brass bands. The bands participate in parades in Corfu to celebrate festivals such as Independence Day, Ochi Day, Easter and St. Spyridon Day. The musicians wear very elaborate band uniforms.


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