Traditional Cypriot music reflects the island’s long history of occupation and other neighboring countries. It is typically accompanied by traditional dances. Greek Cypriot folk music is heavily influenced by Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire and the Greek islands.
Music is based on tropos which is a sequence of notes which have certain and characteristic intervals constituting a scale. The instruments used are the kamanche (violin), bouzouki (a lower pitched mandolin), accordion, laouto (lute), and the outi (similar to the lute). These instruments are accompanied by the enchanting sounds of the flute or tampoutsia – an instrument made out of goat’s skin. Traditional musical instruments are also often incorporated in modern Cypriot music.
Traditional music in Cyprus was mainly spread through social events and religious ceremonies. Ornamental patterns were passed on by oral tradition and are added according to the player’s style. Popular folk songs are still very popular amongst the islanders. Lyrics of these songs have a heavy romantic element. Its Aphrodite’s island after all! Old folk songs mainly either speak of love of its heartbreak. Other songs relate an event or a legend. Some of the most well-known songs are still played at social events and weddings. Famous Greek Cypriot folk singers include Yiannis Delfinogamis and Nasia Trachonitou.
In Turkish Occupied North Cyprus folk music accompanied with traditional dances are even more popular. North Cypriot folk music is characterised by being monophonic, that is, there are about 24 unequal intervals and numberless modes. Fasil, the Turkish classical music, is also very much loved by the Turkish Cypriots. Fasil is a form of Ottoman court music, where various makams (scales) are formed into a piece of music.
The zurna is a popular traditional instrument used to accompany folk songs. It is a reed instrument with a Middle Eastern sound. The darbuka and dayyul are also traditionally played and are two types of drums. The darbuka is played with both hands, while the dayyul is beaten with a stick. As in South Cyprus, a violin, an accordion and a mandolin are usually present.
The Turkish Occupied North Cyprus has started to host a number of cultural events over the last couple of years. For a long time, the picturesque Bellapais Abbey in Kyrenia has created a romantic backdrop for the singing of old folk songs but nowadays you can also attend modern and classical music concerts here. In Spring, in the months of April and May, various renowned artists flock to Bellapais Abbey to perform. Cultural activities and music festivals are also famously held in the historic sites of Salamis in Famagusta and Kourion in Limassol.