The Art in Kythera

The Kytherean people have established a close link between their daily life and arts. Kythera has a rich musical tradition in both songs and dances.  Influences from Crete and Heptanese have forged the island's traditions. Erotic verses, pleasant melodies and lively dances have provided a breath of happiness and love.  In the area of painting the frescoes that adorn Byzantine churches are the most significant example. Lithographer Vassilis Charos and painter Manolis Charos are among the contemporary artists Kythera can be proud of.  The area of literature has seen the emergence of figures such as Emmanouïl Staes, Iossif Kaloutsis, Georgios Mormoris and others, drawing their inspiration primarily from the Heptanesian School of the 19th century. Pannos Fyllis, a contemporary Kytherean poet, collects everything that happens on the island, both good and bad, while schoolmaster P. Kasimatis has recorded the entire ethnology of Kythera in his books.

Music in Kythera

Kytherean music is based on metric verses and is closely related to religion, Byzantine music, as well as influences from Venice and Crete. Most songs have a 2/4 or 3/4 meter. Instruments used in Kytherean music include the violin and the laouto (a sort of lute). The repertory includes many songs with a wide variety of melodies and themes, covering almost the entire spectrum of Greek folk music.  Yet what is lacking is the historical song, very frequent in Heptanese.  We also find some border songs such as Ai Giorgis, religious songs such as the Apolytikion of the Virgin of Myrtidiotissa, as well as a dirge called Simera mavros ouranos (today the sky is black). There is also a very famous folk song called Erotocritos that came to the island from Crete. Rhymes with satirical verses of 15 syllables are very common and originate from Crete. There are also cantatas from the island of Zakynthos. Lastly, a very large number of songs with two or four verses speak of love and exile.

Dancing in Kythera

Kytherean dances are cheerful, lively and melodic. Movements are smooth with many figures and varieties.  They usually start quietly with slow rhythms and gradually become faster with more lively movements.  These are romantic dances with smooth steps.  A number of dances are balos (couple dances) that are very much like the Cretan balos. There are also dances of a type called syrtos (circle dancing) such as Ai Giorgis – the most representative dance of Kythera, likewise in Corfu –, bourdaris, pentozalis, panayotaina and kalamatianos. Traditional outfits are called vraka for men and spaleto for women. In Kythera people also dance European and international dances such as fox-trot, waltz and tango.

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  • “Opposite to the general poorness of the land, the island is full of churches…” John Galt, English Sightseer 19th Century