Since ancient times, the cultivation of music in Crete held a special place. From archaeological excavations (Knossos, Phaistos, etc.) and the ancient texts we get valuable information about music and dances in Crete.
Representations (sculpture, ceramics, painting) depicting musicians and dancers which refer to nowadays, that the lyre player plays in the middle and the dancers dance around in circle. In the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion a flute ,with rings of removable cover holes to render the notes, is saved. From extracts of ancient drama we learn that “Minos ordered along with his son, Glaucus, and his flutes to be buried, which he both loved when he was alive.” There are also displays of flutes, double-reed pipes, voukina ( horns), trumpets. The ancient guitar was not popular in Crete, but the ancient lyre was played, as it can be seen by representations in writings, murals, stamps, etc.
Numerous researchers studied ancient Greek music, as well as, the accompanying dances (pirrihis, yporchima). From these scientists come many information about musical instruments and the music of the Minoans and ancient Greeks. There are many that give a basis for the continuation of the Greek musical and dance tradition through the centuries.
Especially for the music, it must be said that, it had a leading role in the life of ancient Greeks and Cretans and accompanied their daily activities with all of its forms: weddings, deaths, celebrations for the worship of gods, war and love.
The instruments used were percussion, wind and stringed musical instruments. Especially in Cretan music, there were older wind instruments ,such as fiampoli, askomantoura and sfyrohabiolo. The stringed instruments were the lyraki and viololyra, the violin, the lyre, the lute and mandolin. The distribution of these traditional musical instruments has not been even throughout the island. So, we have, in eastern and western Crete, the violin with the company of guitar, mandola or mandolin, small drum and lute, respectively, while, the basic zygia lute- lyre, became popular throughout Crete, but in a different style and color depending on the area.
Crete has special musical tradition, from which, undoubtedly stand out the rizitika, songs from the “roots” (= feet) of the White Mountains, which are divided into rizitika of the table and rizitika of the walk. The first are sang without instruments from two antiphonal groups of men singers , while the second are sang by people walking with the company of musical instruments.
At Kissamos province, which was geographically closer to Western Europe, the violin was and is the main musical instrument, along with the lute, creating a unique musical tradition based on the melodies of syrtos. In this area, the presence of wind instruments is not strong due to the uniqueness of the area, that combines sea contact with ,not so intense, contact with the rugged mountains, which did not perhaps give the shepherds, who are the main inventors of askomantoura (from sheep leather) and sfyrohabiolo (from reed) , the opportunity to flourish and make their living, at the expense of the violin. Moreover, the strong influence of the sea is clearly reflected in the music, too. It is no coincidence that, both syrta and syrtos itself as a dance, is faster and more aggressive than the rest of Crete.
The prevalence of the violin, of course, is directly connected with the existence of great violin players in Kissamos, such as Charchalis, Marianos, Naftis, Kounelis.
Basic influence of Kissamos music was the coexistence of the Turkish conquerors with the locals, who created a new class of inhabitants, not only in Kissamos, but throughout the island, and, while most were Christians ,who converted to Islam, they had the experiences and the love for the Cretan music and dance. Typical example, the tune Karagkioules, composed by Mustafa Karagkioule in Kallergiana of Kissamos which is performed until today.
Cretan music and dances you can enjoy all the year in events (panigiri) but mostly in the summer months. Balos Travel can give you useful information about all the events at Kissamos area. From June to November we organize tours that you can participate and discover real Crete.
You can search for a tour for music and dances in alternative tourism website section or at our blog.