Greece has a long musical tradition, the word for “song” being related to ancient plays. The progression of Greek music took a different monophonic, rhythmic course than Western music, best represented in Byzantine chant, while folk and popular music has an Eastern character common to the Balkans and the former Ottoman Empire.

Popular music exploded in the cities after 1922, with musicians arriving from Asia Minor following the mass, religion-based population exchange. The hard-luck music of the refugees is called rembetika and has been likened to the blues, with a bouzouki player and usually a female vocalist in the ensemble, all seated in a row playing to small audiences.

Greek folk music is played during feasts on instruments such as the bouzouki, oud, baglama, tambouras, and daouli. Dancing is a big part of the event. There’s even a type of rap (mantinada) on the islands of Crete and Amorgos in which performers make up the words as they sing. In towns, you might see and hear roaming street musicians, usually Gypsies, playing popular tunes on the accordion, guitar, violin, and sometimes a clarinet.


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