The island of Crete has a unique musical tradition, with roots buried deep in the beginning of time. Even in ancient times, during the Minoan era, the “Lyra”, a stringed musical instrument played with a fiddle stick was an integral piece of every festivity and celebration. The Cretan Lyra has survived the test of time, and even now it is probably the most distinctive and cherished musical instrument on the island. Not to mention that its name is where the word “Lyrical” comes from!
The Lyra is used to accompany the main Cretan music’s rhythms, songs and dances, such as “pentozali”, “sousta”, “maleviziotis” and “pidichtos”, dances that originated in ancient army traditions in preparation for battle. The dancers stomp their feet forcefully on the ground, to intimidate their opponents and to encourage their co fighters for the oncoming altercation. Even the dancing costumes are old fashioned and based on the fighting gear of old Crete. The typical “vraka”, a fluffy pair of under the knee pants, always belted with a Cretan knife, the tall white boots and the net-like scarf on the hair.
The lyra players, or “lyrarides” sing along the music, the renowned couplets called “mantinades”. These mantinades are either verses of poems praising the feats of great men and warriors, passionate love affairs such as “Erotokritos”, or improvised on the spot, varying on the person they are dedicated to, the present circumstances and events, not to mention the emotional state of the singer himself. Mantinades are the most celebratory expression of the Cretan feelings and emotions, so no party or event that is truly Cretan can be considered complete without at least one.
Are you ready to explore the rhythms and songs of the Cretan music? Are you ready to start dancing like a Cretan? Put on your dancing shoes and follow the Lyra, drink some raki and all your emotions will run free of every care in the world! You are now dancing like a true Cretan!
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