Folk music (Dhimotiká)
Greek folk traditions are said to derive from the music played by ancient Greeks. There are said to be two musical movements in Greek folk music: Acritic songs and Klephtic songs. Akritic music comes from the 9th century akrites, or border guards of the Byzantine Empire. Following the end of the Byzantine period, klephtic music arose before the Greek Revolution, developed among the kleftes, warriors who fought against the Ottoman Empire. Klephtic music is monophonic and uses no harmonic accompaniment. Dhimotika tragoudhia are accompanied by clarinets, guitars, tambourines and violins, and include dance music forms like syrtó, kalamatianó, tsámiko and hasaposérviko, as well as vocal music like kléftiko. Many of the earliest recordings were done by Arvanites like Yiorgia Mittaki and Yiorgios Papasidheris. Instrumentalists include clarinet virtuosos like Petroloukas Halkias, Yiorgos Yevyelis and Yiannis Vassilopoulos, as well as oud and fiddle players like Nikos Saragoudas and Yiorgos Koros.
Greek folk music is found all throughout Greece Cyprus and several regions of Turkey, as well as among communities in countries like the United States, Canada and Australia.The island of Cyprus and several regions of Turkey are home to long-standing communities of Greeks in Turkey with their own unique styles of music.
Nisiotika is a general term denoting folk songs from the Aegean Islands. Among the most popular types of them is Ikariótiko traghoúdhi, “song from Ikaria”.
The lýra is the dominant folk instrument on the island of Crete; it is a three-stringed bowed instrument similar to the Byzantine Lyra. It is often accompanied by the Cretian lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin.
The Cretan music theme Zorba’s dance by Mikis Theodorakis (incorporating elements from the hasapiko dance) which appears in the Hollywood 1964 movie Zorba the Greek remains the most well-known Greek song abroad.
Rebetiko originated in the music of the ports and the larger Greek cities like Patras, Larissa, and Thessaloniki and emerged by the 1920s as the urban folk music of Greek society’s outcasts. The earliest rebetiko, since the middle of the last century, shows the new creation of the Greeks, the city song astiko -Greeks: refugees, musicians, drug-users, criminals and itinerants—were scorned by mainstream society. They sang heartrending tales of drug abuse, prison and violence, usually accompanied by the instrument called bouzouki (pl.: bouzoukia) (a sort of lute derived from the Byzantine tambourás and related to the Greek baglamas.
In 1923, many ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor fled to Greece as a result of the second Greco-Turkish War. They settled in poor neighborhoods in Piraeus, Thessaloniki, and Athens. Many of these immigrants were highly educated, such as songwriter Vangelis Papazoglou, and Panagiotis Tountas, composer and leader of Odeon Records’ Greek subsidiary, who are traditionally considered as the founders of the Smyrna School of Rebetiko.
Drawing on rebetiko’s westernization by Tsitsanis and Chiotis, Éntekhno arose in the late 1950s. Éntekhno (lit. meaning ‘art song’) is orchestral music with elements from Greek folk rhythm and melody; its lyrical themes are often political or based on the work of famous Greek poets. As opposed to other forms of Greek urban folk music, éntekhno concerts would often take place outside a hall or a night club in the open air. Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis were the most popular early composers of éntekhno song cycles. By the 1960s, innovative albums helped éntekhno become close to mainstream, and also led to its appropriation by the film industry for use in soundtracks. A form of éntekhno which is even closer to Western Classical music was introduced during the late 1970s and 1980s by Thanos Mikroutsikos.
Laïkó (‘song of the people’ or ‘urban folk music’), also known today as classic laïkó. It is the urban music of Greece that emerged by the creation of Greek music culture as rebetiko in the 20th century, and has taken many styles over the years. Until the 1930’s the Greek Discography was dominated by two musical genres: the Greek folk music (demotiká), including Smyrneika, and the Elafró tragoudi (literally: “light song”). It was (and is) the Greek version of the international pop music of any time. Classic laïkó as it is known today, was the mainstream popular music of Greece during the 60s and 70s.
Folk singer-songwriters first appeared in the 1960s after Dionysis Savvopoulos’ 1966 breakthrough album Fortighó. Many of these musicians started out playing Néo kýma, “New wave” (not to be confused with New Wave rock), a mixture of éntekhno and chansons from France. Savvopoulos mixed American musicians like Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa with Macedonian folk music and politically incisive lyrics. In his wake came more folk-influenced performers like Arleta, Mariza Koch, and Kostas Hatzis. This music scene flourished in a specific type of boîte de nuit.
A notable musical trend in the 1970s (during the Junta of 1967–1974 and a few years after its end) was the rise in popularity of the topical songs (πολιτικό τραγούδι “political song”). Classic éntekhno composers associated with this movement include Mikis Theodorakis, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Giannis Markopoulos, and Manos Loïzos.