Music of Greece

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Music of Greece
General topics
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music awards
Music charts
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem"Hymn to Liberty"
Regional music
Related areas Cyprus, Pontus, Constantinople, South Italy
Regional styles

The music of Greece is as diverse and celebrated as its history. Greek music separates into two parts: Greek traditional music and Byzantine music, with more eastern sounds. [1] These compositions have existed for millennia: they originated in the Byzantine period and Greek antiquity; there is a continuous development which appears in the language, the rhythm, the structure and the melody. [2] Music is a significant aspect of Hellenic culture, both within Greece and in the diaspora.

History of Greece history of Greece

The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern nation state of Greece as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they inhabited and ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied throughout the ages and as a result the history of Greece is similarly elastic in what it includes. Generally, the history of Greece is divided into the following periods:

Greek folk music

Greek folk music includes a variety of Greek styles played by ethnic Greeks in Greece, Cyprus, Australia, the United States and elsewhere. Apart from the common music found all-around Greece, there are distinct types of folk music, sometimes related to the history or simply the taste of the specific places.

Byzantine music Music in the tradition of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantine music is the music of the Byzantine Empire. Originally it consisted of songs and hymns composed to Greek texts used for courtly ceremonials, during festivals, or as paraliturgical and liturgical music. The ecclesiastical forms of Byzantine music are the best known forms today, because different Orthodox traditions still identify with the heritage of Byzantine music, when their cantors sing monodic chant out of the traditional chant books such as sticherarion, which in fact consisted of five books, and the heirmologion. Byzantine music did not disappear after the fall of Constantinople. Its traditions continued under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 was granted administrative responsibilities over all Orthodox Christians. During the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, burgeoning splinter nations in the Balkans declared autonomy or "autocephaly" against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The new self-declared patriarchates were independent nations defined by their religion. In this context, Christian religious chant practiced in the Ottoman empire, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece among other nations, was based on the historical roots of the art tracing back to the Byzantine Empire, while the music of the Patriarchate created during the Ottoman period was often regarded as "post-Byzantine". This explains why Byzantine music refers to several Orthodox Christian chant traditions of the Mediterranean and of the Caucasus practiced in recent history and even today, and this article cannot be limited to the music culture of the Byzantine past.


Greek musical history

Greek musical history extends far back into ancient Greece, since music was a major part of ancient Greek theater. Later influences from the Roman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire changed the form and style of Greek music. In the 19th century, opera composers, like Nikolaos Mantzaros (1795–1872), Spyridon Xyndas (1812–1896) and Spyridon Samaras (1861–1917) and symphonists, like Dimitris Lialios and Dionysios Rodotheatos revitalized Greek art music. However, the diverse history of art music in Greece, which extends from the Cretan Renaissance and reaches modern times, exceeds the aims of the present article, which is, in general, limited to the presentation of the musical forms that have become synonymous to 'Greek music' during the last few decades; that is, the 'Greek song' or the 'song in Greek verse'

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided into a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. "Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, men usually performed choruses for entertainment, celebration, and spiritual reasons. Instruments included the double-reed aulos and the plucked string instrument (like pandura), the kanonaki, the lyre, especially the special kind called a kithara.

Aulos ancient Greek wind musical instrument

An aulos or tibia (Latin) was an ancient Greek wind instrument, depicted often in art and also attested by archaeology.

String instrument musical instrument that generates tones by one or more strings stretched between two points

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.


The pandura or pandore, an ancient string instrument, belonged in the broad class of the lute and guitar instruments. Akkadians played similar instruments from the 3rd millennium BC. Ancient Greek artwork depicts such lutes from the 3rd or 4th century BC onward.

Music was an important part of education in ancient Greece, and boys were taught music starting at age six. Greek musical literacy created a flowering of development; Greek music theory included the Greek musical modes, eventually became the basis for Eastern and Western religious music and classical music.

Music theory Considers the practices and possibilities of music

Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. The Oxford Companion to Music describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory":

The first is what is otherwise called "rudiments", currently taught as the elements of notation, of key signatures, of time signatures, of rhythmic notation, and so on. [...] The second is the study of writings about music from ancient times onwards. [...] The third is an area of current musicological study that seeks to define processes and general principles in music—a sphere of research that can be distinguished from analysis in that it takes as its starting-point not the individual work or performance but the fundamental materials from which it is built.

Religious music music genre

Religious music is music performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence. Ritual music is music, sacred or not, performed or composed for or as ritual.

Greece in the Roman Empire

Due to Rome's reverence for Greek culture, the Romans borrowed the Greek method [3] of 'enchiriadic notation' (marks which indicated the general shape of the tune but not the exact notes or rhythms) to record their music, if they used any notation at all.

Byzantine era

The tradition of eastern liturgical chant, encompassing the Greek-speaking world, developed in the Byzantine Empire from the establishment of its capital, Constantinople, in 330 until its fall in 1453. It is undeniably of composite origin, drawing on the artistic and technical productions of the classical Greek age, on Jewish music, and inspired by the monophonic vocal music that evolved in the early (Greek) Christian cities of Alexandria, Antioch and Ephesus (see also Early Christian music). In his lexicographical discussion of instruments, the Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911) cited the lūrā (bowed lyra) as a typical instrument of the Byzantines along with the urghun (organ), shilyani (probably a type of harp or lyre), and the salandj (probably a bagpipe). [4] Other instruments used were Kanonaki, oud, laouto, sandouri and other instruments that are still played in post-Byzantine regions today.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and of the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). In 1923 the capital of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to Ankara and the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. The city is located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul. The city is still referred to as Constantinople in Greek-speaking sources.

Fall of Constantinople 1453 capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire

The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital city of the Byzantine Empire by an invading Ottoman army on the Sunday of Pentecost, 29 May 1453. The attackers were commanded by the 21-year-old Sultan Mehmed II, who defeated an army commanded by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos and took control of the imperial capital, ending a 53-day siege that had begun on 6 April 1453. After conquering the city, Sultan Mehmed transferred the capital of the Ottoman State from Edirne to Constantinople and established his court there.

Greek playing tambouras, 18th-century painting Vrakoforos Tabouras.jpg
Greek playing tambouras, 18th-century painting

Greece in the Ottoman Empire

The Greeks were familiar, in a period that stretched from the 15th century to the time of Greek war of independence, with Greek folk music and dances from Byzantine music and more specifically, with hymns: Church music. [5] These genres have certainly reached a high degree of evolution. They were forms of a mono music that had many elements of ancient Greek origin but also, they had nothing to do with Western polyphonic music. [6] By the beginning of the 20th century, music-cafés (καφέ-σαντάν) were popular in Greek cities like Constantinople and Smyrna, where small groups of musicians from Greece played. The bands were typically led by a female vocalist and included a violin. The improvised songs typically exclaimed amán amán, which led to the name amanédhes (αμανέδες amanédes, singular αμανές amanés) or café-aman (καφέ-αμάν). Greek musicians of this period included Marika Papagika, Rosa Eskenazi and Rita Abatzi. This period also brought in the Rebetiko movement, which had local Smyrnaic and Byzantine influences.

Folk music (dhimotiká or demotic)

Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949) drew his influences from both the classical repertoire and the Greek folk tradition. Skalkottas.png
Nikos Skalkottas (1904–1949) drew his influences from both the classical repertoire and the Greek folk tradition.
Different types of laouto Laghouto.jpg
Different types of laouto

Greek folk traditions are said to derive from the music played by ancient Greeks. There are said to be two musical movements in Greek folk music (παραδοσιακή μουσική): Acritic songs and Klephtic songs. Akritic music comes from the 9th century akrites , or border guards of the Byzantine Empire. Following the end of the Byzantine period, klephtic music arose before the Greek Revolution, developed among the kleftes , warriors who fought against the Ottoman Empire. Klephtic music is monophonic and uses no harmonic accompaniment.

Dhimotika tragoudhia are accompanied by clarinets, guitars, tambourines and violins, and include dance music forms like syrtó, kalamatianó, tsámiko and hasaposérviko, as well as vocal music like kléftiko. Many of the earliest recordings were done by Arvanites like Georgia Mittaki and Yiorgios Papasideris.[ citation needed ] Instrumentalists include clarinet virtuosos like Petroloukas Halkias, Yiorgos Yevyelis and Yiannis Vassilopoulos, as well as oud and fiddle players like Nikos Saragoudas and Yiorgos Koros.

Greek folk music is found all throughout Greece Cyprus and several regions of Turkey, as well as among communities in countries like the United States, Canada and Australia.The island of Cyprus and several regions of Turkey are home to long-standing communities of Greeks in Turkey with their own unique styles of music.


Nisiotika is a general term denoting folk songs from the Greek islands, especially the Aegean Islands. Among the most popular types of them is Ikariótiko traghoúdhi, "song from Ikaria".


Ikariótikos is a traditional type of dance, and also the name of its accompanying type of singing, originating in the Aegean island of Ikaria. At first it was a very slow dance, but today Ikariotikos is a very quick dance. Some specialists say that the traditional Ikariotikos was slow and the quick "version" of it is in fact Ballos. Music and dancing are major forms of entertainment in Ikaria. Throughout the year Ikarians host baptisms, weddings, parties and religious festivals where one can listen and dance to live traditional Ikarian Music.

Modern nisiótika

Singer Mariza Koch was largely responsible for the revival of interest in Nisiótika in the 1970s and 1980s. [7] During the 1990s and 2000s, artists such as Yiannis Parios, Stella Konitopoulou, and the Mythos Band helped this music gain occasional mainstream popularity.

Cretan music

Cretan lyras Cretan lyre.jpg
Cretan lyras

The Cretan lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; it is a three-stringed bowed instrument similar to the Byzantine Lyra. It is often accompanied with laouto (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a lute. Nikos Xylouris, Psarantonis (Antonis Xylouris), Thanassis Skordalos, Kostas Moundakis, Ross Daly, Nikos Zoidakis and Vasilis Skoulas are among the most renowned players of the lýra. The violin is used also in Cretan music. The most renowned player of the violin is the Antonis Martsakis which is also a dancer. Mandolin is also used in Cretan music. Loudovikos ton Anogeion (Λουδοβίκος των Ανωγείων) is a well-known mandolin player from Crete. The bass in that music coming from the laouto. Giannis Haroulis and Michalis Tzouganakis are notable artists of the instrument.

Cretan music in media

The Cretan music theme Zorba's dance by Mikis Theodorakis (incorporating elements from the hasapiko dance) which appears in the Hollywood 1964 movie Zorba the Greek remains the best-known Greek song abroad.

Other folk traditions

Other major regional musical traditions of Greece include:

Classical music

Ionian School

Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfu, the first theatre and opera house of modern Greece and the place where the first Greek opera, Spyridon Xyndas' "The Parliamentary Candidate" based on an exclusively Greek libretto was performed. Corfu Town Hall R01.jpg
Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfù, the first theatre and opera house of modern Greece and the place where the first Greek opera, Spyridon Xyndas' "The Parliamentary Candidate" based on an exclusively Greek libretto was performed.

It was through the Ionian islands (which were under Venetian rule and influence) that all the major advances of the western European classical music were introduced to mainland Greeks. The region is notable for the birth of the first School of modern Greek classical music (Heptanesian or Ionian School; Greek: Επτανησιακή Σχολή), established in 1815. Prominent representatives of this genre include Nikolaos Mantzaros, Spyridon Xyndas, Spyridon Samaras, Dionysius Rodotheatos and Pavlos Carrer. [8]

The Church music (Byzantine) of the islands is also different from the rest of Greece, with significant western and Catholic influences on the Orthodox rite.

Greek National School

Manolis Kalomiris (1883–1962) was the founder of the Greek National School of Music. Born in Smyrna, he attended school in Constantinople and studied piano and composition in Vienna. His work drew influences also from the Greek folk music, poetry (he was an admirer of Kostis Palamas) and myth, aiming to combine the German Romanticism with Greek motives. In 1919 he founded the Hellenic Conservatory and in 1926 the National Conservatoire. Representatives are also Nikos Skalkottas, who drew his influences also from Greek folk tradition, Emilios Riadis and the conductor Dimitris Mitropoulos. [9]

Spyridon Samaras (1861-1917) Spyros Samaras.jpg
Spyridon Samaras (1861–1917)
Sofia Vembo Sofia Vempo.jpg
Sofia Vembo

The Heptanesean kantádhes (καντάδες 'serenades'; sing.: καντάδα) are based on the popular Italian music of the early 19th century and became the forerunners of the Greek modern song, influencing its development to a considerable degree. For the first part of the next century, several Greek composers continued to borrow elements from the Heptanesean style.

The most successful songs during the period 1870–1930 were the so-called Athenian serenades (Αθηναϊκές καντάδες), and the songs performed on stage (επιθεωρησιακά τραγούδια 'theatrical revue songs') in revues, musical comedies, operettas and nocturnes that were dominating Athens' theatre scene. [10] [11] Notable composers of operettas or nocturnes were Spyridon Samaras, Kostas Giannidis, Spyridon Kaisaris, Dionysios Lavrangas, Nikos Hatziapostolou, while Theophrastos Sakellaridis' The Godson remains probably the most popular operetta. Despite the fact that the Athenian songs were not autonomous artistic creations (in contrast with the serenades) and despite their original connection with mainly dramatic forms of Art, they eventually became hits as independent songs. Notable actors of Greek operettas, who made also a series of melodies and songs popular at that time, include Orestis Makris, Kalouta sisters, Petros Epitropakis, Vasilis Avlonitis, Afroditi Laoutari, Rena Vlahopoulou, Eleni Papadaki, Aris Maliagros, Marika Nezer, Marika Krevata and others. Italian opera had also a great influence on the musical aesthetics of the modern Greeks. Some popular operettas include:

After 1930, wavering among American and European musical influences as well as the Greek musical tradition, Greek composers begin to write music using the tunes of the tango, samba, waltz, swing, bolero, foxtrot, some times combined with melodies in the style of Athenian serenades' repertory. Nikos Gounaris was probably the most renowned composer and singer of the time (often called "Mr. Greece"). Giorgos Mouzakis was a prominent virtuoso trumpeter (borrowed latin jazz elements), while Attik and Michalis Souyioul were also among the most succeeded and popular composers. Notable singers of this style include also Fotis Polymeris, Sofia Vembo (a star of the era), Mary Lo, Danaë Stratigopoulou, Stella Greca and Tony Maroudas.

Notable artists



Smyrna-style rebetiko trio: Dimitrios Semsis, Agapios Tomboulis, Roza Eskenazi (Athens 1932) Semsis Eskenazi Tomboulis.jpg
Smyrna-style rebetiko trio: Dimitrios Semsis, Agapios Tomboulis, Roza Eskenazi (Athens 1932)

Rebetiko was initially associated with the lower and poor classes, but later reached greater general acceptance as the rough edges of its overt subcultural character were softened and polished. Rebetiko probably originated in the music of the larger Greek cities, most of them coastal, in today's Greece and Asia Minor. Emerged by the 1920s as the urban folk music of Greek society's outcasts. The earliest Greek rebetiko singers (refugees, drug-users, criminals and itinerants) were scorned by mainstream society. They sang heartrending tales of drug abuse, prison and violence, usually accompanied by the bouzouki.

In 1923, after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, many ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor fled to Greece as a result of the Greco-Turkish War. They settled in poor neighborhoods in Piraeus, Thessaloniki, and Athens. Many of these immigrants were highly educated, such as songwriter Vangelis Papazoglou, and Panagiotis Toundas, composer and leader of Odeon Records' Greek subsidiary, who are traditionally considered as the founders of the Smyrna School of Rebetiko. Another tradition from Smyrna that came along with the Greek refugees was the tekés (τεκές) 'opium den', or hashish dens. Groups of men would sit in a circle, smoke hashish from a hookah, and improvise music of various kinds.

With the coming of the Metaxas dictatorship, rebetiko was suppressed due to the uncompromising lyrics. Hashish dens, baglamas and bouzouki were banned, or at least playing in the eastern-style manner and scales.

Some of the earliest legends of Greek music, such as the quartet of Anestis Delias, Markos Vamvakaris, Stratos Payioumtzis and Yiorgos Batis came out of this music scene. Vamvakaris became perhaps the first renowned rebetiko musician after the beginning of his solo career. Other popular rebetiko songwriters and singers of this period (1940s) include: Dimitris Gogos (better known as Bayandéras), Stelios Perpiniadis, Spyros Peristeris, Giannis Papaioannou, and Apostolos Hatzichristos.

The scene was soon popularized further by stars like Vassilis Tsitsanis. His song Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή - Synnefiasméni Kyriakí became an anthem for the oppressed Greeks when it was composed in 1943 (during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II), despite the fact that it was not recorded until 1948. He was followed by female singers like Marika Ninou, Ioanna Yiorgakopoulou, and Sotiria Bellou. In 1953, Manolis Chiotis added a fourth pair of strings to the bouzouki, which allowed it to be played as a guitar and set the stage for the future 'electrification' of rebetiko. This final era of rebetiko (mid 1940s–1953) also featured the emergence of night clubs (κέντρα διασκεδάσεως) as a means of popularizing music.By the late 1950s, rebetiko had declined; it only survived in the form of archontorebetiko (αρχοντορεμπέτικο "posh rebetiko"), a refined style of rebetiko that was far more accepted by the upper class than the traditional form of the genre. The mainstream popularity of archontorebetiko paved the way for éntekhno and laïkó. In the 1960s Manolis Chiotis popularized the eight-string bouzouki and set the stage for the future 'electrification' of rebetiko.

Rebetiko in its original form was revived during the Junta of 1967–1974, when the Regime of the Colonels banned it. After the end of the Junta, many revival groups (and solo artists) appeared. The most notable of them include Opisthodhromiki Kompania, Rembetiki Kompania, Babis Tsertos, Agathonas Iakovidis and others.


Mikis Theodorakis Mikis Theodorakis Fabrik 070004.jpg
Mikis Theodorakis

Drawing on rebetiko's westernization by Tsitsanis and Chiotis, éntekhno arose in the late 1950s. Éntekhno (lit. meaning 'art song') is orchestral music with elements from Greek folk rhythm and melody; its lyrical themes are often based on the work of famous Greek poets. As opposed to other forms of Greek urban folk music, éntekhno concerts would often take place outside a hall or a night club in the open air. Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis were the most popular early composers of éntekhno song cycles. They were both educated in Classical music and -among other reasons- the lacking of a wide public for this kind of music in Greece, drove them to the invention of Éntekhno, in which they transferred some values of Western art music. [12] Other significant Greek songwriters included Stavros Kouyoumtzis, Manos Loïzos, and Dimos Moutsis. Significant lyricists of this genre are Nikos Gatsos, Manos Eleftheriou and poet Tasos Livaditis. By the 1960s, innovative albums helped éntekhno become close to mainstream, and also led to its appropriation by the film industry for use in soundtracks.

A specific form of éntekhno was the so called "political song"; songs with political message, of the Left, which arose during the military junta and became very popular after its fall in the late '70s. Manos Loizos, guitarist Panos Tzavellas, Maria Dimitriadi and Maria Farantouri were some representatives. Thanos Mikroutsikos released an album featuring Greek partisan songs of the Greek resistance, with his own orchestration. A form of éntekhno which is even closer to western classical music was introduced during the late 1970s by Mikroutsikos. (See the section 'Other popular trends' below for further information on Néo Kýma and contemporary éntekhno.)

Notable éntekhno works include:

Notable artists


A modern four-course bouzouki Bouzouki 001.jpg
A modern four-course bouzouki

Laïkó (λαϊκό τραγούδι 'song of the people' / 'popular song' or αστική λαϊκή μουσική 'urban folk music'), is a Greek music genre that is composed in Greek language in accordance with the tradition of the Greek people. Laïkó followed after the commercialization of rebetiko music. Until the 1930s the Greek discography was dominated by two musical genres: the Greek folk music (demotiká) and the Elafró tragoudi (literally: "light song"). The latter was the Greek version of the international urban music of the era. Classic laïkó (κλασικό/παλιό λαϊκό) as it is known today, was the mainstream popular music of Greece during the 1960s and 1970s. It was dominated by singers such as Grigoris Bithikotsis, Marinella, Stelios Kazantzidis, Panos Gavalas and others. Among the most significant songwriters and lyricists of this period are considered George Zambetas, Manolis Hiotis and Vassilis Tsitsanis; of course the big names of this kind are still in Greek business. The more cheerful version of laïkó, called elafró laïkó (ελαφρολαϊκό, elafrolaïkó 'light laïkó') and it was often used in musicals during the Golden Age of Greek cinema. Contemporary laïkó (σύγχρονο λαϊκό), also called modern laïkó, is currently Greece's mainstream music genre. Some of the strongest Greek dances and rhythms of today's Greek music culture laïká are Nisiotika, Syrta, Hasapika, Kalamatiana, zeibekiko, syrtaki and Greek belly dance and the most of them are set to music by the Greek instrumental bouzouki. Thus, on the one hand there is the homogenized Greek popular song, with all the idioms of traditional Greek folk music, and on the other, the peculiar musical trends of the urban rebetiko (song of the cities) known also in Greece as αστικό. [13]

Other significant songwriters and lyricists of this category are considered George Zambetas, Akis Panou, Apostolos Kaldaras, Giorgos Mitsakis, Stavros Kouyioumtzis, Lefteris Papadopoulos and Eftichia Papagianopoulos. Many artists have combined the traditions of éntekhno and laïkó with considerable success, such as the composers Mimis Plessas and Stavros Xarchakos.

During the same era, there was also another kind of soft music (ελαφρά μουσική, also called ελαφρό, elafró 'soft (song)', literally 'light') which became fashionable; it was represented by ensembles of singers/musicians such as the Katsamba Brothers duo, the Trio Kitara, the Trio Belcanto, the Trio Atene and others. The genre's sound was an imitation of the then contemporary Cuban and Mexican folk music, [14] but also had elements from the early Athenian popular songs.

Notable artists

Modern laïká

Modern laïká (μοντέρνα λαϊκά)—also contemporary laïkó/laïká (σύγχρονο λαϊκό/σύγχρονα λαϊκά) or laïko-pop (λαϊκο-πόπ)—is currently Greece's mainstream music along with some pop recordings.

Modern laïká emerged as a style in the early 1980s. An indispensable part of the contemporary laïká culture is the písta (πίστα; pl.: πίστες) "dance floor/venue". Night clubs at which the DJs play only contemporary laïká where colloquially known on the 1990s as ellinádhika. Over the years until today, the aim of Greek music scene is only one: quality. Virtuoso musicians and expressive singers take every season, with more professionalism and love for what they do to entertain the Greek audience, to lure and to make it dance with the songs and music that everyone loves. All this music effort take place in Europe and internationally. Greek-American music includes styles like Entechno, rebetiko and Greek folk music. The Greek music culture exists as a serious aspect of Hellenic culture, both within Greece and in the diaspora.

Renowned songwriters of modern laïká include Alekos Chrysovergis, Nikos Karvelas, Phoebus, Nikos Terzis and Christos Dantis. Renowned lyricists include Giorgos Theofanous, Evi Droutsa and Natalia Germanou.


In the 2010s, several new artists emerged. Artists, such as Kostas Martakis, Panos Kalidis, Ioakim Fokas, Stella Kali, Stan, Katerina Stikoudi, Demy and X-Factor contestants such as Konstantinos Argyros, Eleftheria Eleftheriou and Ivi Adamou. Several artists sometimes incorporated dance-pop elements in their laïko-pop recordings.


In effect, there is no single name for modern laïká in the Greek language, but it is often formally referred to as σύγχρονο λαϊκό ( [ˈsiŋxrono laiˈko] ), a term which is however also used for denoting newly composed songs in the tradition of "proper" laïkó; when ambiguity arises, σύγχρονο ('contemporary') λαϊκό or disparagingly λαϊκο-ποπ ('folk-pop', also in the sense of "westernized") is used for the former, while γνήσιο ('genuine') or even καθαρόαιμο ('pureblood') λαϊκό is used for the latter. The choice of contrasting the notions of "westernized" and "genuine" may often be based on ideological and aesthetic grounds. [15]


Despite its popularity, the genre of modern laïká (especially laïkο-pop) has come under scrutiny for "featuring musical clichés, average singing voices and slogan-like lyrics" and for "being a hybrid, neither laïkó, nor pop". [16]


Skyládiko (Greek pronunciation:  [sciˈlaðiko] ; pl.: Skyládika; Greek : Σκυλάδικο, meaning "doghouse") is a derogatory term to describe some branches of laïkó music and some of the current nightclubs in Greece in which a form of popular Greek music is performed. It is performed with electric bouzouki and guitars. It is associated with mass entertainment of lower quality and until the 1970s was marginal, but gained popularity after the 1980s. Critics of this genre relate it with modern laïká, mentioning the low quality and the indispensable common part of the pista (πίστα, pl.: πίστες) "dance floor/venue". [17]

Dionysis Savvopoulos Dionysis Savvopoulos 2008 Heraklion concert.jpg
Dionysis Savvopoulos

New Wave (Néo Kýma)

Folk singer-songwriters (τραγουδοποιοί) first appeared in the 1960s after Dionysis Savvopoulos' 1966 breakthrough album Fortighó. Many of these musicians started out playing Néo Kýma , "New wave" (not to be confused with new wave rock), a mixture of éntekhno and chansons from France. Savvopoulos mixed American musicians like Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa with Macedonian folk music and politically incisive lyrics. In his wake came more folk-influenced performers like Arleta, Mariza Koch, Mihalis Violaris, Kostas Hatzis and the composer Giannis Spanos. This music scene flourished in a specific type of boîte de nuit . [18]

Political song

A notable musical trend in the 1970s (during the Junta of 1967–1974 and a few years after its end) was the rise in popularity of the topical songs (πολιτικό τραγούδι "political song"). Classic éntekhno composers associated with this movement include Mikis Theodorakis, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Giannis Markopoulos, and Manos Loïzos. [19]


Nikos Xydakis, one of Savvopoulos' pupils, was among the people who revolutionized laïkó by using orientalized instrumentation. His most successful album was 1987's Kondá sti Dhóxa miá Stigmí, recorded with Eleftheria Arvanitaki.

Thanasis Polykandriotis, laïkó composer and classically trained bouzouki player, became renowned for his mixture of rebetiko and orchestral music (as in his 1996 composition "Concert for Bouzouki and Orchestra No. 1").

A popular trend since the late 1980s has been the fusion of éntekhno (urban folk ballads with artistic lyrics) with pop / soft rock music (έντεχνο ποπ-ροκ). [20] Moreover, certain composers, such as Dimitris Papadimitriou have been inspired by elements of the classic éntekhno tradition and written songs cycles for singers of contemporary éntekhno music, such as Fotini Darra. The most renowned contemporary éntekhno (σύγχρονο έντεχνο) lyricist is Lina Nikolakopoulou.

Vangelis Papathanassiou (Vangelis) VangelisElGrecopremiereDE2.jpg
Vangelis Papathanassiou (Vangelis)

There are however other composers of instrumental and incidental music (including filmscores and music for the stage), whose work cannot be easily classified, such as Stamatis Spanoudakis, Giannis Spanos, Giorgos Hatzinasios, Giorgos Tsangaris, Nikos Kypourgos, Nikos Mamangakis, Eleni Karaindrou, and Evanthia Remboutsika. Vangelis and Yanni were also Greek instrumental composers who became internationally renowned.

Even though it has always had a considerable number of listeners supporting it throughout the history of the post 1960s Greek music, it is only very recently (late 2000s) that pop-oriented music has reached the popularity of laïkó/laïká, and there is a tendency among many urban folk artists to turn to more pop-oriented sounds. [21]


The following classification is conventional and categories may occasionally overlap with each other. Each artist is entried under the genre designation that the Greek musical press usually classifies him or her.

Néo Kýma


Classic pop

1960s–1970s(songs from this period of Greek pop were mainly influenced by the western music scene including rock ballads, the hippie movement and ItalianFrench-style pop ballads)

Contemporary éntekhno
Haris Alexiou Haris Alexiou 2080202.JPG
Haris Alexiou

1980s–2010s(partial overlap with contemporary laïkó and éntekhno pop)

Éntekhno pop/rock


Pop and contemporary laïkó


Teen pop


Pop rock / soft rock




Mainstream hip hop / pop rap

1990s–2010s crews

Independent music scenes

Rotting Christ on stage Rotting ChristRockwave2015.jpg
Rotting Christ on stage

Since the late 1970s various independent scenes of "marginal" musical genres have appeared in Greece (mainly in Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki). Most of them were short-lived and never gained mainstream popularity but the most prominent artists/bands of these scenes are critically acclaimed today and are considered among the pioneers of independent Greek music (each one in their own genre).


See also


  1. "Greek Traditional Music": Ινστιτούτο έρευνας μουσικής και ακουστικής - Institute for research on music and acoustics.
  2. Samuel Baud-Bovy, Δοκίμιο για το Ελληνικό Δημοτικό Τραγούδι, 3rd edition, Πελοποννησιακό Λαογραφικό Ίδρυμα, Ναύπλιο: 1966, pp. 1–13. (Υπάρχει μια συνεχής εξέλιξη από την αρχαία Ελληνική μουσική έως και το δημοτικό τραγούδι, η οποία μαρτυρείται, εκτός από τη γλώσσα, στο ρυθμό, τη δομή και τη μελωδία).
  3. Ulrich 1963 , p. 25
  4. Kartomi 1990 , p. 124
  5. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  6. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2007 - "Byzantine music"
  7. "Home - Program in Hellenic Studies" (PDF). Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  8. Xepapadakou, Avra (2013). "Pavlos Carrer [Paolo Karrer]". Grove Music Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. Ioannis Foulias, “The composer Dimitri Mitropoulos and his relation to the Greek National School of Music”, Contribution to the Conference "The National Element in Music", Athens Concert Hall, 18–20 January 2013. Organization: Faculty of Music Studies of the University of Athens, Music Library of Greece "Lilian Voudouri".
  10. Administrator. "music-art - ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ" . Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  11. "Κυρίαρχη αισθητική και μουσικό γούστο" - article on 'Kathimerini' Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "When Progress Fails, Try Greekness: From Manolis Kalomiris to Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis": Paris Konstantinidis, When Progress Fails, Try Greekness: From Manolis Kalomiris to Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis, in Nikos Maliaras (ed.), "The National Element in Music" (Conference proceedings, Athens, 18–20 January 2013), University of Athens, Athens 2014. pp. 314–320.
  13. - "Ο ορος λαικοι χοροι " Archived 2009-08-30 at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Music, Greece, Greek music and songs" . Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  15. "Οι εφτά ψυχές του λαϊκού τραγουδιού - ΑΡΧΕΙΟ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΜΟΥ - Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ". Archived from the original on 1 November 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  16. Τάσος Π. Καραντής. "Ποιο είναι το λαϊκό τραγούδι σήμερα; - Με άποψη στη μουσική και στο τραγούδι" . Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  17. "Το έτυμον της λέξεως "σκυλάδικο" - Απόψεις - Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ" . Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  18. Takis Kalogeropoulos: "Neo Kyma" in Lexiko tis Ellinikis mousikis, Athens 1998–99. ISBN   960-7555-39-2 (online version).
  19. "Πολιτικό Τραγούδι - Ελληνική Μουσική Πύλη" . Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  20. In contemporary use though, the terms έντεχνο ποπ, and έντεχνο ροκ may be ambiguously used to denote, respectively, Grecophone indie pop and alternative rock, not necessarily having the typical characteristics of éntekhno.
  21. Τα Νέα Οnline (23 September 2009). "Εξορίζουν το λαϊκό για να μας κάνουν ποπ". Τα Νέα Οnline. Retrieved 23 December 2015.

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