The Best of Greek Folk Music: Instrumental Edition

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

A comprehensive collection of the best Greek folk music, featuring tracks from some of the most popular Greek musicians.

Introduction to Greek Folk Music

Greece is a country with a long and rich history, and its folk music reflects that. Greek folk music is often based on the pentatonic scale, which gives it a unique sound. Greek folk music is often very upbeat and lively, and it often features special instruments like the bouzouki.

What is Greek Folk Music?

Greek folk music (Greek: Ελληνική λαϊκή μουσική) includes a variety of styles influenced by the music of Greece. Greek folk music has a long tradition, being evolving since antiquity. It has significant influence on music south-eastern Europe and even parts of Asia and Africa.

In modern times, Greek folk music is played by bands which blend instruments including the lute (laouto), violin, classical guitar and mandolin. Other instruments include the santouri (a hammered dulcimer), baglama (a fretless long-necked lute), zither, Recorder, drum and bouzouki (a stringed instrument related to the lute).

The History of Greek Folk Music

Greek folk music (also known as demotika) is the traditional music of Greece. This articles gives an introduction to the history, instruments and regional styles of Greek folk music.

Greek folk music has its roots in the music of ancient Greece. In addition to being the basis for the development of Western art music, ancient Greek music was popular in its own right and influenced the development of other traditions of folk music around the world.

Greek folk music is characterised by a wide variety of instruments, including the lute (laouto), mandolin (mandolino), bagpipe (gaida), tambourine (toubaki) and accordion (pandeiro). The musical tradition of Greece is also strongly influenced by the East, with elements from Turkish and Arabic music often appearing in Greek folk songs.

Greek folk music is often divided into three regional styles: Cretan, Dodecanese and Macedonian. Each style has its own distinctive characteristics, but all share a common love of catchy melodies and close harmonies.

Cretan music is perhaps the best-known type of Greek folk music outside Greece, thanks in large part to the work of legendary musician Psarandonis. Cretan musicians are known for their use of improvisation and extended ornamentation, which gives their playing a highly expressive quality.

Dodecanese music also features heavily ornamented melodies, but tends to be more rhythmically driving than Cretan music. Macedonian folk music is distinguished by its use of odd time signatures and unusual modulations, which give it a distinctly original sound.

The Best Greek Folk Songs

Greece is a country with a long, rich history and culture. Music is an important part of that culture, and Greek folk music is some of the most beautiful and evocative in the world. This album features some of the best-known and best-loved Greek folk songs, performed on a variety of traditional instruments.


Syrtos is a family of popular Greek dances. They are danced in a circle, with the dancers holding hands. The different syrtos have different patterns, but all share a common structure: an opening figure in which the dancers join hands and circle around, followed by a variety of figures in which the dancers criss-cross, turn individually or in pairs, or form lines and rows. The syrtos is one of the most popular dances in Greece, and can be seen performed at weddings, festivals, and other celebrations.


Tsamiko is a type of Greek folk music that is often performed on the island of Crete. It is characterized by its fast tempo and distinctive dance style. The tsamiko dance is usually done in pairs, with the woman holding a handkerchief or scarf in each hand. The man typically leads the dance, while the woman follows behind him.


“Kalamatianos” is a Greek folk song from the region of Kalamata in the Peloponnese. It is a slow, haunting melody that is often played on the lute (laouto) or other stringed instruments. The lyrics usually tell a tragic story, such as that of a young maiden who is forced to marry an old man.

The Best Greek Folk Musicians

Greece is a country with a rich culture and history, and its music is no exception. Greek folk music is some of the oldest in the world, and is still enjoyed by many today. Greek folk music is often based on the pentatonic scale, and is characterised by its use of drones and unusual sounds. Greek folk music often has a strong rhythm, and is very danceable.

Vassilis Tsitsanis

Arguably the most important Greek Folk musician of all time, Vassilis Tsitsanis is a towering figure in Greek music. A self-taught musician, he was one of the first to bring Greek Folk music to the mainstream, and his influence can still be felt today. His compositions are some of the most beloved in Greece, and his distinctive style has been imitated by many subsequent musicians. If you want to get a taste of real Greek Folk music, there is no better place to start than with the work of Vassilis Tsitsanis.

Markos Vamvakaris

Markos Vamvakaris was a singer, songwriter and bouzouki player. He is considered to be the “patriarch” of rebetiko, a subgenre of Greek folk music. He was born in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire (now İzmir, Turkey) in 1905 and died in 1972.

Vamvakaris learned to play the bouzouki when he was a teenager. He quickly became a master of the instrument and began playing in nightclubs and cafés in Smyrna. In 1925, he moved to Athens, Greece. There he continued to play music and soon became one of the most famous bouzouki players in Greece.

Vamvakaris is credited with popularizing the bouzouki and helping to make it the national instrument of Greece. He also helped to develop the rebetiko genre of music, which combines elements of Greek folk music with blues and jazz influences.

Vamvakaris’ musical style was unique and influential. His recordings are still popular today and he is considered one of the greatest Greek musicians of all time.

Roza Eskenazi

Few singers in history have been as controversial and polarizing as Roza Eskenazi. Born circa 1890 in the port city of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) to Greek Pontian parents, she grew up singing rebetika songs in the teahouses of her native city and made her recorded debut in 1922. During the next four decades, she would come to be revered as the “Queen of Rembetika” for her interpretations of theSmoke Songs, a unique blend of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, and Jewish influences that developed in the urban ghettos and prisons of Asia Minor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rebétiko rapidly became associated with crime and vice, and Eskenazi’s smoky voice and often outdated clothing (she was known to perform in a dingy veil) further added to her notoriety.


Instrumental Greek folk music is characterized by a wide variety of instruments and styles. The most common instruments are the lute (laouto), mandolin (mandolinaki), fiddle (violi), clarinet (klarino), and zither (tzouras). Other instruments include the Bouzouki, Cretan lyra, violin, guitar, and accordion. The music is often accompanied by singing and dancing.

The instrumentation and style of Greek folk music vary widely from region to region. The island of Crete has its own distinctive style of music, as do the Dodecanese Islands, Epirus, Macedonia, Thessaly, Peloponnese, and Cyprus. In general, however, Greek folk music is based on a few simple modes or scales and features a strong rhythm section.

Similar Posts