| SOTIRIOS TSIANIS |
The fundamental concepts of contemporary Greek folk music are a highly complex synthesis of melody, verse (poetry) an dance. Folk songs are not only a reflection of basic philosophies of village life, regional traditions and beliefs, and social complexities , but they symbolically describes the many beauties of nature, of love, happiness, profound sorrow, and even life and death. The bride1 and bridegroom2 are taken to church with processional songs accompanied by local instrumentalists; and then praised with songs that speak of long life and prosperity. Mothers sing lullabies to their newborn. The deceased are mourned with laments. Among village people, songs and dances truly serve as a means of self – expression and thus constitute an indispensible part of daily life.
Greek folk music has had a long tradition and is related to both ancient Greek music as well as Byzantine ecclesiastic music. Some folk dances and their musical meters, poetic forms, and modes (scales) undoubtedly stem from ancient ones, while melodic styles are largely derived from the rich musical traditions inherent in Byzantine chant. Over the centuries, Greek folk music has been influenced by neighboring cultures and those nations bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In recent years, Western music and musical instruments have manages to penetrate even the most remote villages and islands of Greece. Because different kinds of music developed in the various mainland regions and islands of Greece, it would be erroneous to speak of specific type or style of folk music which can be considered common to the whole of Greece. Greek folk music can, however, be categorized into two main classifications: the music of the mainland and that of the islands. The mainland regions of Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Roumeli, and the Peloponnesus are each considered distinct musical areas set apart from one another by regional customs, dialects, types and categories of folk songs and dances, modes, accompanying rhythms, structural forms of both music and lyrics, poetic and musical meters, and musical instruments. Island folk music, though generally of a “lighter vein”, is quite varied. One of the richest sources of music is found on the island of Crete. Dance music is very lively and the instrumental duo of lyra (a three or four – stringed rebec) and laouto ( a long – necked fretted lute) is highly characteristic. Rhymed couplets, known as kondyliés, are popular in eastern Crete come the songs known as rizítika3. These very ancient songs and their musical forme use the fifteen – syllable (decapentasyllabic) text line and their highly ornate and melismatic melodies are often sung in antiphonal style. Typical of the Ionian Islands , located along the west coast of Greece, is the cantádha or serenade sung in three and four –part harmony and accompanied by violins, guitars and mandolins. Some of the finest examples of instrumental music and folk dances are to be found in the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, and the eastern Aegean islands of Chios, Samos and Lesbos (Mytilene). The Characteristic instrumental ensemble constists of the violin, the laouto, and at times the santoúri (a type of hammered dulcimer). The northern Sporades Islands of Skopelos, Skiathos, Alonissos and Skyros are located north of Euboea and east of Thessaly. Though each of these islands has a distinct repertoire of songs, dances and musical styles, all have an exceptionally rich and varied vocal tradition. As a result of my extensive fieldwork, field recordings, and researches on the island of Skyros, some of the important and unique of this island’s musical tradition are presented.