Posted on: 06/03/2024 12:03:00

Cretan Music & Musicians

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The music of Crete (Greek: Κρητική μουσική), also called kritika (Greek: κρητικά), refers to traditional forms of Greek folk music prevalent on the island of Crete in Greece and if you compare cretan music with Greek music, absolutely you will hear a significant difference.

Cretan traditional music includes instrumental music (generally also involving singing), a capella songs known as the rizitika, "Erotokritos," Cretan urban songs (tabachaniotika), as well as other miscellaneous songs and folk genres (lullabies, ritual laments, etc.).

Historically, there have been significant variations in the music across the island (more violin than lyra in far Eastern and Western Crete, a preference for the syrtos in Western Crete and kondylies in Eastern Crete). Some of this variation continues today and in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries has received greater attention by scholars and the mass media.

Nonetheless, over the course of the twentieth-century, the sense of a single, island-wide Cretan musical tradition emerged. Although much Cretan music remains consciously close to its folk roots and an integral part of the fabric of many Cretans' everyday lives, it is also a vibrant and evolving modern, popular tradition that involves many professional and semi-professional musicians, numerous regional record companies and professional distributors, professional luthiers (especially of Cretan lyras and Cretan lutes), and Cretan kentra (clubs for dancing to live Cretan music).

The unique Nikos Xylouris is one of the most famous musicians in the history of Greece, not just for his musical talent but because he was a rebel. Nicknamed psaronikos, Xylouris was born in Anogia. His voice was considered unique, therefore the nickname of Archangel of Crete, and his music is loved throughout the country and especially in Crete

Antonis Xylouris, the younger brother of Nikos Xylouris, nicknamed psarantonis, also reached fame as one of the most famous musicians of Crete. What set Antonis apart was his voice which had a unique timbre. He also adopted a beautiful way to play the traditional lyre, an instrument he started playing at 13 years old. Antonis Xylouris (Psarantonis) came to the world in 1942, destined to become a living legend of music, enriching the cretan, mediterranean and world music with unprecedented sounds, with exquisite musics and incomparable and unique performances.

Yiannis Xylouris is the younger brother of Nikos and Antonis. Psaroyiannis is a great talent of playing some traditional Cretan instruments, like mandolin, the lute and the lyre. 

Thanassis Skordalos (10 December 1920 – 23 April 1998) is known for his incredible talents playing the tradtional lyra. Skordalos impressive music career led him to perform in front of audiences across the world including in the United States, Australia, Canada and throughout Africa.

Kostas Mountakis (10 February 1926 – 31 January 1991) gave traditional Cretan music a boost when he introduced his special way of expressing his music with the lyra. Hailing from Sfakia, he also came from a family of musicians. His village was under German occupation as a teenager and he practiced his lyra at the local coffee shops. Later on, he’d be a big name in the industry and recorded beautiful songs that are much loved by Cretans.

Chainides is known for singing lyrics that feature words from the traditional Cretan dialect.