The Greeks have always loved music and were one of the first civilisations to write songs and develop musical instruments. In fact, some of the oldest musical instruments in the world are the Greek Kithara, a type of lyre and an aulos, a primitive form of a recorder. They held music to be sacred and it was used a lot in their temples as offerings to their gods. Nowadays, Greek music is quite distinctive and people on Crete holidays search out a Greek taverna where live music is being played, as an integral part of their holiday experience.
Rebetko is the forerunner of modern Greek music. It emerged in the 1920’s as the urban folk music of Greek society’s outcasts. The earliest Rebetko musicians were refugees, drug users and criminals. The songs were heart-rending tales of prison, violence, drug use etc and were usually accompanied on a bouzouki, a type of lute. Laika developed from Rebetiko but remained largely underground until there was a resurgence of interest in the 70s when George Dalaras resurrected the old Rebetiko songs. This coincided with the release of a popular Greek film called ‘ Rebetiko’ about the life story of Marika Ninou, one of the earliest Rebetiko musicians.
After the Second World War, a new type of music also became popular in Greece. Entekhno was orchestral music with elements of Greek folk rhythms and melody. Its lyrics were based either on politics or on the works of famous Greek poets. Entekhno concerts would often take place outside of a club or concert hall, in the open air. Mikis Theodporakis was an early exponent of Entekhno music.Entekhno was in direct contrast to Laika music, which was still seen as the music of the working classes. However. Laika began to get quite a following as more and more Greeks started to buy radios and records. Live music started to happen in the local tavernas. Laika was more easily performed that the grand orchestral works of Entekhno. People who had come on Crete holidays and heard the music went back to their countries and started to buy Greek records to remind them of their holiday. So the 1960s were the golden age of Laika as it started to be played world wide. Greek performers like Poly Panou and Ria Kourti became household names. It is worth noting that during this time, the Beatles came to Greece and sought out George Zambetas who had had a hit with Syko Horepse’. They wanted to learn the rudiments of Greek music and the technique of bouzouki playing. Their song ‘Girl’ is a fine example of a Greek hasapiko song.
In the mid to late 60s, Greek New Age music took off. Inspired by western ballads it became the music of the young Greek intellectuals. Greek songs like ‘Zorba the Greek’ by Mikis Theodorakis and ‘Never On A Sunday’ by Manos Hadzidakis started to be played world wide. The 70s saw a decline in Greek music. Electronic instruments soon replaced the bouzouki and Greek music became lost in mainstream Western music.
The Casa dei Mezzo Music Festival was the brainchild of a Norwegian businessman, Gunnar Stromsholm. Taking place every year in the small village of Makrigialos, in south west Crete, it combines classical music, modern music, Greek poetry and specially commissioned works. Musicians come from all over the world to play in it.This year it takes place from the 23rd to the 28th. June and people are already booking into all inclusive hotels so as not to miss it.