In Greece, the presence of the mandolin – as a musical instrument of expression of local musical tradition – is located in the late 19th century and is linked to four different music traditions (Cretan dances, Heptanesian serenade, Smyrnean songs, Athenian song) originating in four different regions: Crete, Ionian islands, Asia Minor, Athens-Patra.
In Crete, the mandolin appeared from the time of Venetian rule. In the early 20th century, the mandolin appears as the main accompanying instrument of the Cretan lyre along with bulgari. Through the years, the mandolin increasingly strengthened its position in the Cretan musical tradition. From an accompaniment musical instrument of the lyre, with the Cretan lute to nowadays where the mandolin has a significant role as a melody instrument. Moreover, an increasing number of composers of modern Cretan music are now using mandolin in their compositions. The use of mandolin has been enshrined significantly over time and has shown its leading role in the Cretan music tradition.
Regarding the repertoire of the mandolin, in the music tradition of the Ionian Islands, it seems that the mandolin is used mainly in Heptanesian serenades. The Heptanesian serenade is integral to the history of Greek songs, as a sort of urban folk song, which was born in the Ionian Islands and seems to have passed into mainland Greece after the union of the Ionian Islands in 1863. The musical style of the serenade music betrays that of the Ionian Islands music which was directly influenced by neighbouring Italy. The musical instruments that accompany the Heptanesian serenades are the guitar and the mandolin.
A completely different kind of repertoire for the mandolin is to be found in Smyrna songs (1922-1932). The Smyrna song, i.e. all the popular songs of Smyrna, is the result of the creative combination of multiple effects as Smyrna was a meeting point of different cultures. The prosperity of Smyrna song, placed in the 19th century and in the first two decades of the 20th century, coincides with the economic, social and cultural prosperity of the Greek community of Smyrna. The melodies are characterized by the coexistence of two different musical systems: tropical and tonic. The mandolin played an important role in Smyrna Estoudiantina which usually consisted of mandolins, guitars, kanun, tabor, lute and violin.
Finally, the tradition of the mandolin in Athens seems to have begun at the end of the 19th century with the establishment of the Athenian mandolin orchestra. The repertoire of this tradition consists of Athenian serenades, Athenian songs, operettas and music for theater. This tradition continues until today, with the mandolin playing an important role in the works of most modern Greek composers, giving a particular colour and style to their songs.
The purpose of this project is to explore, document and record the repertoire; to look at historical events that influenced the mandolin’s music; to provide a comprehensive and clear description of these traditions. Fieldwork will provide a better overview of the repertoire and insights about the geographical and stylistic characteristics.