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Publications Cyprus Traditional Music - Stagnation, decline or new approach ?
Cyprus Traditional Music - Stagnation, decline or new approach ? PDF Print E-mail

  Loukas ZymarasTraditional Music Researcher-Studier

Nations with deep roots like the Greek nation, have maintained their traditional music throughout the centuries or even millenniums.

Cyprus, part of the Greek history and totally affected by it in language, religion, civilization, maintained through the centuries its own music tradition. During the efforts to maintain the tradition, the Cyprus nation had to encounter several conquerors: Persians, Phoenicians, Ptolemies, Romans, Franks, Venetians, Turks, English who never managed to modulate cypriot civilization which was maintained harmless throughout the centuries.


Homer proclaims and avers all the mentioned above, describing song contests among other contests (dance, athletics) which were taking place in worship ceremonies on the name of Aphrodite goddess, named under "Aphrodisia". "Aphrodisia" was organized in Amathus and gathered charismatic dancers, singers and athletes. Nowadays, this festivity is continued in the so called "Cataclysm Day" or "Holy Spirit Day" celebrations,  were "tsiattista" (cyprus traditional poems) contest take place. Before the Turkish invation, in Famagusta the "Cataclysm day" included swimming, oarsmanship etc. as well. Nevertheless, quite a few influences occurred from the referenced conquerors, but Cypriots maintained their Greek character, rejecting foreign elements and more specifically regarding musical instruments. For instance, 'sazi' is sidelined by 'tampouras' existence and 'zournas' and 'toumperlekki' is overlapped by 'pithkiavli' and 'tampoutsia'.


Cyprus traditional music was spread from mouth to mouth, from singing to whistling, from flute to 'thampura' or 'pandourida' through social and religious ceremonies.


Through the centuries, cyprus traditional melody needed to be accompanied by a polyphonic instrument, therefore lute and soloist violin were added as well later on. Unfortunately, due to economic reasons - filling the plate with money - the cypriot traditional orchestra remained poor. Thus, we have 'zygia' (violin-lute) to wonder around in weddings and any held manifestations. 'Pithkiavli', 'tampouras' and 'tampoutsia' were put on the sidelines due to the reason that the plate money would have to be shared to numerous musicians...and the types of musicians vary until nowadays. There exist musicians who tried and learnt a musical instrument, just for bread-meaning purposes and there exist musicians who target to self-projection. However, there exist those musicians who are special and charismatic and passionate with what they do. Cyprus popular tradition rely on those people exactly because their motivation is to serve the Muse with no personal or other benefits. These are the musicians who respect the heritage they received and their goal is its enrichment. We strongly believe that this happened since traditional music's birth of our people as well as any other country's. The enrichment of tradition by dowering artists who know the traditional music better than others comes through their need to contribute to the creation of a traditional orchestra or to make melody better, without escaping from the general music traditional frame.


A very hot subject which is frequently discussed and separates people of traditional music world, is duet, an enrichment element, maybe a reverse element as well, which if it is absent from some music phrases we have the impression that something is missing or the ear does not completely enjoy what it feels. No one can be certain that duets have never existed in tradition due to the fact that the recordings we have in our hands are regarding to the few past decades of 20th century. No one can reject polyphony in traditional music as well.


'Ydravlos', invented by Ktisivos (283-221 BC) as Pieris Zarmas mentions in his book named "Sources of Cyprus Traditional Music", was the initial form of piano and church instrument. When Turks conquered Byzantium and due to stagnation or even the declines of cultural activities of Byzantines, 'ydravlos'  was lent to the West, transforming it to church instrument through the years.


By no means there is no underestimation for the talent and knowledge of Greek nation, even before Jesus Christ regarding music, thus music was one of the core courses in youngsters education.  "Make and work music" was one of the sayings of ancient Greeks (Socrates). The fact that several youngsters have even nowadays started to deal with traditional music, we believe that is due to hearings that have no relation with 'zygia' hearings (one violin and one lute).


With all the clues we own and not the clues we do not have (!), let anyone  lead to their own conclusions. We declare our presence. You can listen to us. We demand from you your opinion and your suggestions, thus Cyprus civilization is not lead to stagnation and decline, Cyprus Tradition not left to the mercy of a few, fortunately, people who like it poor, without abilities for enrichment.


Let a new approach to be done from the ones that "make and work" Cyprus Traditional Music, therefore the young people can come closer to their roots and meet "themselves".


* Published in the cyprus media in September 2009. 


  Document assiduity: Soteris Charalambous