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The Serenade in Ionian Islands and Athens

The Ionian Islands until the 19th century

The Ionian Islands possess a distinctive culture within the Greek area mainly due to the fact that they did not experience the Ottoman occupation. From 1204 the Republic of Venice controlled Corfu and gradually all the Ionian Islands fell under Venetian rule , , 3 . 50 ( 1844 – 1891) «» , , 3 . 50 ( 1844 – 1891) « » , , 3 . 320 (1822 – 1862) « » . Therefore, Italian influence is evident in Ionian music. The music styles developed in this area follow the rules of western harmonics due to this influence.

The serenade in Ionian Islands

The Cantada (serenade) constitutes a  perfect sample of popular urban song in the Ionian Islands , , 3 . 51 ( 1844 – 1891) « » , , 3 . 45 ( 1811 – 1888) « » , , 3 . 49 ( 1842 – 1909) « » « » – , – ( ) – . Its name originates from the Latin “cantare” meaning “to sing”. It is characterized by western type polyphony, consisting of two or more independent melodic voices as opposed to music with just one voice. Several songs of this type were created by composers of the Ionian Conservatory and the Greek National Conservatory (see section on Greek scholar music), like Dionysios Lavragas  – , «» - , « » – , , while many poets wrote the lyrics, among who was Dionysios Solomos «» - , . However, there are many songs by artists unknown to us.
The songs were usually accompanied by guitars and mandolins, though they were often sang without instrument accompaniment.

The Athenian serenade

It seems that the Ionian serenade spread out to the Greek mainland after the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1863. It became particularly popular in urban areas and gave birth to the Athenian serenade , , 3 . 91 ( 1822 – 1902) « » , , 3 . 348 ( 1867 – 1956) « » , , 3 . 87 (1825-1909) « » « » - , connected to the Athenian romantic poets of the late 19th and early 20th century , , 3, ( 1867 - 1928) « », like  Georgios Drosinis « » – « » - , , Aristotelis Valaoritis « » - , , Ioannis Polemis « » - , , « » - , and others.
The Athenian serenade was created, nurtured and developed parallel to the Athenian song (see relevant section) , , 1 . 211 ( 1837 – 1907) « » , , 3 . 338 (1849-1926) « » , , 3 . 217 (1838-1916) « ». The Athenian serenade, benefited by the romantic trend, continued to be created until the 1930s , , 3 . 332 ( 1849 – 1884) « » , , 1 . 335 ( 1848 – 1913) « ».
The Athenian serenade differs from the Ionian in character; The Ionian had a mainly folk character while the Athenian had more of a scholarly character.

Romantic serenades

The serenade became closely related to young men singing the songs at night under their love one’s balcony in order to express their affection. However, the repertoire used for this purpose did not include strictly serenades but several other types of song.

The Serenade in Ionian Islands and Athens

Unfortunately, there are no websites exclusively or even satisfactorily concerned with serenade ('kan'tada in Greek). Most are sites with tourist information from Greece or abroad, which refer to the beauties of the Ionian Islands and simply mention serenade as one of its old/colorful customs, with no reference to its history, lyrics or form, in a way that could provide a complete view to someone seeking information without having heard one. However, even in more specified websites, the serenade appears only in connection with other modern kinds of music. 

Eptanesian and Athenian kantada

Kantada or cantada, in general, is a type of serenade. There are mainly two types, the kantada from the Ionian Islands, and the kantada of Athens, which are quite distinct. The former's most evident characteristic is being polyphonic (usually in 4 parts) and using (sometimes in a special way) western harmony. The latter is accompanied by guitar and mantolin, and there is a single dominant melodic line accompanied by backing vocals. The lyrics, in both types, refer to Love and the beauties of nature and life.

Unfortunately, there are no web sites that deal exclusively, not even adequately, with kantada. Most of the links below lead to Greek or foreign sites of touristic interest (for the beauties of the Ionian islands), so they simply report "kantada" as one old / picturesque custom, without dealing with its history, lyrics, or form. They do not provide a complete picture of kantada to somebody seeking information on it, without ever having heard one before. But, also in more specialized web sites, kantada is presented only in connection with other, current at that time, types of song.





In bouzouki player's Spiros Skordilis web site there is this page ( / Song History) for Greek songs, kantada included. Even though the text is hardly two paragraphs in length, it is the most informative one can find.

Eptanesian kantada and Athenian song
This is the most informative site on "rembetiko" with references to song species developing at the same time. In the introductory text, there is some history of the beginning of Athenian song and Greek molodrama, when "small or big choirs with mantolins and guitars were formed, and Greek poets wrote lyrics for songs,... [whereas] the Eptanesian kantada -a particular song species from Lixouri of Cefallonia island- had a very important contribution".

Beyond poetry, music
A text by Nikias Lountzi, published in "Periplous" magazine, issue 46/47, pp 107-111, in which he briefly deals with the contribution of the church, of the architecture of squares, of opera and of aristocracy in the formation of the 4-voice eptanesian kantada.

Greek music species of the early twentieth century
A text by the renowed musicologist Phoevos Anoyanakis, «On Rembetiko song», in Epitheorisi Technis [Art Review] 79: . 184-200, 1961. He makes a classification of the different species of Greek folk music (kantada included) at the beginning of the 20th century.

Old Athens
Students' text that mentions with nostalgia the situation in Athens at the turn of the century (19th to 20th). It refers to the numerous tavernas, where the rogues / tough guys of the time used to go for entertainment, and where the Athenian kantada was born.

Instruments of kantada
This article in's web site, has information from the Museum of Popular Instruments, and reports the mandolin and the guitar as "the basic instruments of mantolinata, the ensemble that accompanies urban popular music (Athenian and
Eptanesian kantada) from the end of the nineteenth century".

Kantada in Lesvos
Lyrics and mp3 audio files for two kantades from Lesvos: " " (You are a nice angel), "" (Blondy).


Sites of touristic interest

Ionian Islands
In this webpage it is mentioned that in the Ionian islands flourished a particular species of folk song, the renowned "kantada", with its characteristic melodic structure, distinguishingly different from the musical idiom of the folk songs of the rest of Greece.

In this web page it is reported that Cefallonia island's particularity is "arrieta", a type of song that intensely reminds zakynthian (from Zante) "arekia". It is popular song which is completely different from the known kantada.

Kerkira (Corfu)
Some information on the choir ensembles "Kerkyraikh Kantada" (Kantada of Corfu) and "Chorodia Kerkiras" (Choir of Corfu), both founded in 1954.

Zakynthian kantada (from Zante)
In this web page, kantada is defined as a "4-voices texture with intermediary voices" that "still constitutes a very popular kind of music for locals". Kantades reflect the particular character of Zakynthian soul, being sensitive and romantic. They praise nature and Love and are still being sung, even by younger generations.

Kantada and Zakinthos (Zante)

Zakinthos choir: To fioro tou levante (the flower of the West)
A few things on "arekia", a 4-voice zakynthian folk song.



The Kantada of Sior Dionysios (one from Karagiozis' figures)
Exclusively for english-speaking readers of this web site, some information on Sior Dionysios (a character of Eptanesian origin in Karagiozi shadow theater) and the lyrics of his "leitmotif kantada".