CYPRUS FOLKLORE MUSIC

The cypriot folklore music, besides the dancing genre, has also a variety of singing tunes, as the various ‘Fones’ (voices) are with their variations and a vast of other songs that refer to special occasions, people, things, situations, eras, facts etc.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]

‘Fones’ are called in Cyprus old melodies on which several different two-verse songs were sang and their theme was usually about love. These ‘fones’ are the remains of the ancient greek ‘tropi’ which the Byzantines renamed ‘ihi’ (sounds). Each ‘foni’ took its name from the geographical area from which was originated. So we have: ‘Afkoritissa’ (from the village Avgorou - the voice is also called ‘Nekalisti’ = crying), ‘Karpasitissa’ (from Karpasia area), ‘Pafitiki’ (from Pafos area - also known as ‘isia foni’ = straight voice), ‘Mesaritissa’ (from Mesaoria plain), ‘Piitariki’ (the voice of the poets), ‘Katarameni’ (cursed - from the Polis Crysohous area), ‘Komitissa’, ‘Kiprea’ (the cypriot) etc.
There a lot of themes of the cypriot folklore songs which include songs of love, mourning, religious, historical, new announcements, lullabies, mythical topics, humorous; also several poems of significant cypriot poets.
[ Source: http://mousikovlog.blogspot.com/2014/09/blog-post.html ]
 

As far as the ‘tsiattista’ is concerned, they are one of the living pieces of the cypriot folklore poetic production, since they are improvised, poetic creations of instant inspiration and most of the times formed in a competitive way. The verb ‘tsiattizo’ or ‘tsiatto’ comes from the turkish word çatmak which means I attack, compete. The person who metaphorically ‘tsiattizi’ means, he combines verses with a unified meaning and content in a fifteen syllabi meter. 
An important social event was the “Feast of Cataclysm” (festivities taking place on the Monday of the Holy Spirit - Greek Orthodox Church). Besides the competitive ‘tsiattista’ (called ‘tsiattista tu paliomatu’) there were more kinds of ‘tsiattista’, like subcategories which include themes like love, social, shepherd-related even political. All these improvised poetic creations were also called songs because the poets who recite them did so in a singing way with the accompaniment of music (violin and laouto=lute). The word ‘mylla’ in the cyprus dialect means fat and ‘myllomeno’ means the food that is not allowed during fastening period. The term has also a metaphorical meaning and means the songs that are ‘naughty’, provocative and sometimes imply sex.
[ Source: http://mousikovlog.blogspot.com/2014/09/blog-post.html ]
 

CYPRIOT FOLKLORIC MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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The folkloric instrument used in Cyprus from the old times was primarily the reed recorder (also known as ‘pidkiavlin’); an ancient wind instrument made out of a piece of reed. The recorder (‘avlos’) was not a professional instrument, but was very popular among the amateur performers and the audience. A step forward were the country shepherds, who either because of the life conditions, the life in the countryside, the unlimited free time and the loneliness of a person in the fields, created the ideal circumstances for them to be focused on this instrument and practice for a long period of time.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]

 

 

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Another musical instrument also used from amateurs, that the ancient music-lover cypriots used, was the ‘tampuras’. It was a string instrument in a half pear shape; the shell was very small and had a long neck (‘tastiera’) with three or four strings. The sound of ‘tampuras’ was high pitched, soft and in low volume; was produced by a pick made of a specially treaded eagle’s feather or a vulture’s feather or if needed from a turkey.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]


 

 

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The main professional musical instrument, that has been established as the primary means of expression and performance of the cypriot, folkloric music, especially the folklore dance  tunes till our days, is the violin. 
The old cypriot violin performers were primarily practical, self-taught, who tried different known melodies on their violin, improvising some of their own; just like the ‘pidkiavlin’ performers were doing.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]

 


 

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The cypriot performers were using the violin for improvised melodies, to accompany the voice of the singers and to perform dancing tunes. They soon realized though that the violin was lacking in the area of the dancing tunes and there was a need for ‘reinforcement’. There was need of a percussion instrument to  keep the tempo and the rhythm; ‘tamputsia’ came as the necessity to fulfill that need.
‘Tamputsia’ was in the beginning a kind of agricultural utensil, something like a sieve although smaller than the normal one, which was closed on one side of the tenter with a stretched animal skin. When the ‘tamputsia’ took its place as the ‘partner’ of the violin, the makers of ‘tamputsia’ made sure to give her a more artistic look by decorating the frame with shapes and the outer skin with festive or wedding portrayals with beautiful colors.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]
Today besides ‘tamputsia’, dumbek (‘tumpeleki’ or ‘tumperkeki’) is mainly used as well as other percussion instruments of the same character adn acoustic essence, like the persian / irish bodhran, the persian mizhar and the frame drum (different sizes) which is actually a ‘newer’ version of ‘tamputsia’ with frame and a drumhead (skin or plastic)
[ Alexandros Zographos 2015]



 

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Before the spread of piano in Europe, the lute (‘laouto’) was more used either as a solo or as an accompaniment instrument. The preponderant and more popular type of ‘laouto’ was the ‘steriano’ (the one from the land), the ‘nisiotiko’ (the one from the islands) which had four pair of strings. ‘Laouto’ belongs to the family of string instruments played with a pick just like mandolin, mandola, bouzouki etc. The sound of ‘laouto’ is produced today with a plastic pick; in the older days was produced by a pick made of a specially treaded eagle’s feather or a vulture’s feather.
Right after its import in Cyprus, ‘laouto’ took its place next to the violin, became its inseparable partner in all occasions and there was no performance done without the accompaniment of the ‘laouto’. The reason is because it adds harmony on the violin’s melodic lines, accents the rhythmical parts of the music and keeps the tempo. Because of all these advantages, the ‘laouto’ dislodged ‘tamputsia’ which was part of the group along with the ‘laouto’ and the violin and that was done for several reason but mainly financial.
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]


 

 

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Three other instruments that were used in the cypriot folkloric music were the santur (santūr, santour, santoor, dulcimer), the harmonica - a pre descendant of the today’s accordion and the clarinet. They were considered official popular instruments, although they were mainly used in cities, in big gatherings like festivals and balls, in upper class wedding and at the “cafe santan” where a group of artists (called ‘coumpanies’) were playing there. Usually the performers of these instruments were foreigners that came to Cyprus; either they were passing by the country or at a later stage became permanent residents. These musicians were mainly originated from Asia Minor and the rest of the greek territory. 
[ Source: Αβέρωφ, Γεώργιος: Τα δημοτικά τραγούδια και οι λαϊκοί χοροί της Κύπρου. Λευκωσία, Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, 1989. ]



 

 


 
Today the “cypriot folk band” is consisted by the violin, the ‘laouto’ and a percussion instrument (usually the dumbek); it is enriched with accordion, guitar and if available with santur; also embellished with a recorder or ‘pidkiavlin’. Other instruments are not excluded depending on the occasion and by making sure that a complete and correct arrangement is made.
With the influence of the western music, the harmonic structure of the cypriot tunes, melodies and songs has been upgraded; that offers the listener a more complete acoustical experience without compromising the essence and the origin of the melody itself. Additionally, the technical advancement of the performers on the various folkloric instruments, allows new styles, new musical interpretations and new harmonic arrangements  that have the sole purpose of enhancing the melodic lines.
[ Alexandros Zographos 2015]
 
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