Greek music of Macedonia

Greek music from Macedonia is diverse, rhythmic and very distinctive.

The region of Macedonia in North Greece is one of the richest in music expression and dances. The Greek music of Macedonia belongs to the musical idioms of mainland Greece but also presents an interesting internal diversity, due to the great mass of refugees that Macedonia has absorbed as well as its economic and cultural exchanges with the areas adjacent to it: Epirus, Thessaly, the Aegean Sea and Thrace.

If we consider in addition that the limits of Macedonian Hellenism go beyond the northern borders of contemporary Greece it is not difficult to understand the variety and differences of the musical idioms we find as we move through the provinces of Macedonia.

Greek Music in Eastern Macedonia

Greek Music in Eastern Macedonia includes many asymmetrical rhythms. There are many villages in this area populated by Greek refugees from areas now within the borders of either Turkey or Bulgaria, as well as villages of Vlachs and Sarakatsani inhabitants, whose music is quite different.

macedonian bagpipe
macedonian bagpipe

The music of the eastern regions is characterized by orderly rhythms and harmonious melodies; its musical centers are to be found in the Chalkidhiki peninsula and around Mt Pangaion, where some excellent musicians still live. You will also find many music lovers and merry makers (and thus it is as if the ancient myth that places Orpheus, a god of music, on Mt Pangaion finds its justification in our own time).

Finally, the music of the easternmost area is related to the music idiom of western Thrace, while the coastal regions of Macedonia that used to deal with the Aegean and the sea trade especially the coasts of Chalkidhiki, maintain tunes and airs from both great categories of Greek music, the mainland and he islands traditions, assimilated however into the local idiom.

The Greek Music of South West Macedonia

When referring to the Greek Music of South West Macedonia south-western we usually refer to the Thessalo-Epirotic color, since the music of the plains and of the urban western areas have its own peculiar character.

Traditional instruments in Eastern Macedonia

Traditional instrumental ensembles in this area include three kinds:

  • one consisting of two zournas (zournades, the plural in Greek), and one daouli (resembling a drum)
  • a second with gajda (bagpipe) and frame drum (called daires or dahares), and
  • a third (in the eastern part of the region, around the city of Drama) consisting of the Macedonian lyra (often two together) accompanied by frame drum (dahares).

A similar variety is to be found in the instruments used in the traditional music of Macedonia.

zournas in music from macedonia

In addition to the usual ensemble of violin, clarinet and laouto (long-necked lute), we find combinations of zournas, bagpipes (gaida) with drone and daires (a big tambourine), lyra (pear-shaped fiddle) and drum (used by the refuges from northern Thrace), the lyra of Pontus (Black Sea fiddle) in the settlements of refugees from Pontus (the Black Sea) and also peculiar combinations of brass wind instruments and clarinets in the west.

These instruments are probably a survival from the Turkish military bands that used to be kept in the urban centers of western Macedonia until the beginnings of this century.

There is evidence, also, for other instruments played in Thessaloníki and other cities of western Macedonia, namely kavali (wooden long flute), outi (short-necked lute), kanonaki (psaltery) and, until recently, bowed tambouras.

These instruments facilitated the performance of urban songs, many of which originated in Constantinople (it should be remembered in this connection that for many centuries Thessaloníki used to be the greatest urban centre of Hellenism, second only to Constantinople itself).

1 thought on “Greek music of Macedonia”

  1. Hi – I was wondering if we could open up a musically academic dialogue to discuss the content covered in this website.




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