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Folk instruments of Greece
Folk instruments: a vessel in time
The Folk instruments of Greece, constructed from a mere piece of wood, a tortoise shell or the bone of an animal by the magic hands of a skillfull crafstman, are like vessels in time. Objects of art, relics of the past and at the same time a living organism conveying timeless feelings and images.
Enigmatic beings, their origins fading in the depths of time and their shapes changing throughout so many interactions, combining the beauty of shape with functionality, functionality with rhythm and melody.
Discovering the beauty of Greece's traditional music instruments
I have always loved music. I have played music for almost all my life. Only during recent years though, did I discover the charm of folk instruments of my own country. I had to make my way through a dark forest of fiestas and carnivals and navigate on oceans of fake and decadence before hearing their pure sound. Then they became my love, my passion, my fairytale camvas, a dream and a vision.
I have searched a lot. The more I searched the more doors were opening. Towards East, towards West, through history. It's such an amazing discovery how much history a single musical instrument can carry.
A crossroad between east and west
Greece, being the crossroad between East and West, therefore between two very different cultural currents, has received and assimilated creatively various influences.
The musical instruments that have been played in Greece through time represent those influences. Some of them originate in Ancient Greece itself, have made a whole journey through other countries, and maybe continents to come back to Greece slightly transformed in name and in shape. Some others have been imported from other countries to acquire a new personality by the greek melodic patterns.
The man whose meticulous research and study has given Greek Folk Music the value that it worths is Fivos Anogianakis. He dedicated more than 40 years of his life in research, he studied it "in situ", he recorded and promoted it.
In 1978 he donated to the Greek State his private collection of more than 1000 greek instruments dating from the 18th century to nowadays. Under his supervision, the Museum of Greek Folk Instruments - centre of Ethnomusicology was founded in Athens.
His book "GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS" published by "MELISSA" has been my source of information and inspiration. So have been the CDs ON GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS BY PETROS TABOURIS
Division and classification of greek folk instruments
According to the system of E.von Hornbostel- C.Sachs, accepted by most ethnomusicologists, instruments are classified in four major
- Chordophones (string instruments)
- Aerophones (wind instruments)
- Membranophones (instruments with a membrane)
- Idiophones (those whose sound comes from the material that they are made of).
Aerophones or wind instruments
- shepherd's flute (floghera)
- Tsabouna (gaida)
The shepherd's flute (floghera)
Among the memories of my early childhood dominates the sound of the pastoral flute. The full moon, the absolute stillness and then suddenly as if the wind started to blow and thousands of moon rays started to dance, the melody of a flute was spraying from the slope of the mountain. In a little while, like an answer to an invisible command hundreds of bells accompanied the melodical line, while the nocturnal symphony was completed with the bleating of the sheep....READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE GREEK SHEPHERD'S FLUTE
Greek chordophones or string instruments
The mystical sound of the oud, like an invisible companion, leads me secretly to the fascinating world of the Thousand and One nights. Dreams and visions of palaces with interior patios; water fountains streaming among orange trees full of fragrant blossoms. tiny windows carved with exquisite... . MORE ON THE OUD
The origins of this fascinating instrument are found in Asia, many centuries before the Classical Greek Era. It was then known by the name of PSALTIRION. However, it is believed that KANONAKI owes its name to Pythagoras, the great Greek Mathematician who was a musician as well, and who observed, as it is said, the harmony of stars. As an experiment, he produced a basic musical instrument, a monochord (only one string), which he divided into seven spaces..... MORE INFORMATION ON THE KANONAKI INSTRUMENT AND VIDEOS WITH MUSICIANS PLAYING IT
There are two versions for the origins of the name sandour or sandouri. It either comes from the word "psaltery", that reminds the byzantine intsrument similar to kanonaki. Psaltery became sandir and then sandouri. A different version is that the name comes from the persian words "san tar" which mean a hundred strings......READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE SANDOURI
The Lyras: Politiki (lyra of Konstantinople) - Cretan - Pontian (kemence)
The three daughters of the King
........and the king had three beautiful daughters whose voices competed those of the nightingales. One day they left the palace to travel to foreing countries. The first one went to READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE GREEK LYRAS
Politiki lyra (Lyra of Konstantinople)
Pontian Lyra (Kemence)
Membranophones or percussion instruments
- Defi or dahires
CDs with Greek Folk Instruments
A series of finely played traditional Greek instruments. An assembly of pieces of music which would have been lost in oblivion had they not been collected and interpreted by skillful musicians. They are introduced with a thorough presentation of the morphology, playing technique and origins of the instruments they are played with.
TO BE CONTINUED
There are many more instruments to be presented. I will provide information about them too in due time. Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy the ones already described here. Please do enter the web pages dedicated to each one of them to discover the beauty of the traditional greek instruments, played by skillfull musicians.