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Crete is an island that is a part of Greece. The lýra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; it is a three-stringed fiddle similar to the Turkish kemençe. It is often accompanied by laoúto, which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. Kosta Moundakis is the most renowned player of the lýra.

The earliest documented music on Crete comes from ancient Greece. For many centuries, Cretan music was primarily influenced by eastern techniques and styles. Following the Crusades, however, the Franks, Venetians and Genoese dominated the island and introduced new dances, insruments and genres. The introduction of the violin was especially important.

By the end of the 14th century, a poetic form called mantinada became popular; it was a rhyming couplet of fifteen syllables.

After the fall of Constantinople, many church musicians fled to Crete, as did numerous Venetians. A French physician in 1547 (Pierre Bellon) reported warrior-like dances on Crete, and Sherley, an English traveller, reported in 1599 of wild dances performed late at night.

The oldest surviving folk songs in all of Greece can be traced to the 17th century, when songs in the rizitika type were recorded by monks at Iviron and Xyropotamos at Mount Athos. Recording secular folk songs was almost certainly forbidden by the monk's code of conduct. However, the connection between music and religion continues in modern Crete; priests are said to be excellent folk singers, including the rizitiko singer Aggelos Psilakis. It was during this period, when modern Cretan folk music was formed, that Francisco Leontaritis was active. Leontaritis is said to be the father of modern Greek music.

After the Turks conquered Crete in 1669, Crete went through a dark period of tyranny and poverty. During the 17th century, the lyre became the national instrument of Crete, though it was much different then than it is now. In the 1810s, Georgios the Cretan helped to revive Byzantine music traditions.

By the early 20th century, the violin was playing a more prominent role in Cretan folk music. A combination of the violin and lyre, the viololyra, was created in 1920. Twenty years later, the modern form of the lyre appeared when a lyraki and vrodolyra were combined by Manolis Stagakis. Replacing the falcon bells which had traditionally been used to keep the rhythm was the boulgari, a smaller stringed instrument that arrived in Greece with refugees from Turkey in 1915.

Modern music

Charalambos Garganourakis from STIGMES, the magazine of Crete http://stigmes.gr/

Some of the earliest popular music stars from Crete were Rodinos, Baxevanis, Koutsourelis, Foustalieris, Kalogeridis, K. Papadakis, Mountakis and Skordalos. Later, in the 1960s, musicians like Nikos Xylouris and Yiannis Markopoulos combined Cretan folk music with classical techniques. Some Cretans felt that this was unpatriotic, and Xylouris especially was criticized relentlessly. Nevertheless, he remained popular, as did similarly-styled performers like Charalambos Garganourakis and Vasilis Skoulas. The film Zorba the Greek also helped to expand the audience for Cretan folk music; popularity peaked from about the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s.

After the 1980s, Cretan folk music steadily declined in mainstream popularity, eventually retreating almost entirely to the underground. Prominent performers include Dimitrios Vakakis, Nectarios Samolis, Georgios Tsantakis, Nikos Alefantinos, Michalis Tzouganakis, Elias Horeftakis, e.t.c.


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