7. Music culture in Lesbos


The ghlendi of Karpathos is a socially unique and culturally unparalleled phenomenon in the entire Aegean Sea region. Its uniqueness is intertwined with its distinctiveness. What is distinctive about the Karpathos ghlendi is its symbolic nature. The ghlendi constitutes both the topos (space) and the tropos (mode) of a dialogical and reflexive condition of being-in-the world. The culmination of the ghlendi process is marked by the emergence of paroussia, a dialogical modality, in the context of which, experience, expression, and communication acquire new perspective and orientation. Although the Karpathos ghlendi is a unique cultural phenomenon and as such it is only encountered on Karpathos island and in the communities of the Karpathian diaspora, other cultural expressions of the ghlendi aspect of dialogical singing abound in the Aegean Sea region. The corresponding cultures differ radically from the Karpathos culture of the ghlendi, most notably in their perceptions and expressions of communality and reflexivity. This is not to say that the other cultures are not communal or reflexive in their own dialogical and symbolic expressions of their own ghlendi experiences. In Karpathos, the dialogic and the symbolic constitute a unity of perception and expression --expressed as a complex modality of dialogical symbolism and, at the same time, a symbolic dialogics--, whereas in other cultures the two qualities are not necessarily united; as a result, they constitute other formations, based on the priority of either the dialogic or the symbolic.

Café scene; Ayia Paraskevi (Lesbos), early twentieth century. (Dionysopoulos 1997: 12)

Another form of dialogical singing is encountered in the ghlendi culture of Lesbos [16]. Attempting to conceptualize the Lesbos ghlendi from the perspective of its communal and reflexive dialogism, one comes across a pervasive realization. The musical culture of Lesbos is much more diversified and heterogeneous than the musical culture of Karpathos. There is a strong urban component in the music of Lesbos, which is mainly associated with the city music of Smyrna [17]. This music, dating from the early-mid nineteenth century to the early 1920s, is quite heterogeneous and diverse.


Its complexity and plurality is perhaps best manifested in the coexistence of European classical music and its popularized expressions (e.g. French and Italian operettas), on the one hand,  and, on the other, Ottoman classical music and the various musics, traditional or not, of the ethnic cultures that comprised the cosmopolitan nexus of the city.



Ghlendi; Aghiassos (Lesbos), early twentieth century.  (Dionysopoulos ibid: 33)

Of special importance to Lesbos music has been the Greek part of the music of Smyrna, which was quite heterogeneous, incorporating diverse ethnic elements from the musics of the insular and coastal societies of the eastern Mediterranean. [18]

The close relation of Lesbos music to the music of Smyrna is evident in the tradition of manes (amanes, pl. amanedes).  

Manes is a slow, rhythmically free, song that is improvised to the accompaniment of a musical instrument.



(mp3 file)

The poetic structure of the Greek manes usually conforms with the structure of the mandinadha. The singing of manes, however, differs completely from the singing of mandinadhes, constituting a culturally distinct genre by itself. Although manedhes are sung occasionally in the context of the ghlendi, it is the singing of mandinadhes that defines the performative dynamics of the ghlendi in Lesbos, exactly as it happens in Karpathos. The most significant expression of communal and dialogical singing is found in the district of Plomari.

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