CHAPTER 5: Dulcimers in other countries since 1800 > Eastern Europe

Greece - 3 of 9: Dimitris B. Kofterós, Santouri of Lesbos, 1997

Historical Evolution in Greece

Information about the history of the santouri in Greece, how the psaltrio evolved to become the trapezoid shaped santouri, is almost nonexistent. The oldest written record of its existence is by the traveler Edward Daniel Clark, who heard it in Athens in 1802.

It was first mentioned in Smyrna in 1850, as being of western origin (of the Franks).

The popular songs of Smyrna, sung during folk festivals, in Music-Cafe shops, and at every other opportunity, were almost always accompanied by violin and santouri. After the Asia Minor disaster in 1922, the refugees transported their musical tradition to the mainland and continued to feast to the sounds of violin and santouri. As a consequence the santouri spread all over Greece.

Soon, due to its fascinating expressiveness and musical flexibility it became an indispensable instrument in every musical ensemble. It was used for traditional folk songs, on the islands as well as the mainland, in popular songs, art songs and even for sound effects in movies and documentaries.

In spite of its great potential, it did not evolve as expected. Several facts hindered its spread, especially after 1950:

These are some of the reasons why the santouri did not spread as it should have.

DK: I have separated the first part of Dimitris Kofterós description, of santouri history outside of Greece, and given it on a page of its own here, since it reflects an older view which builds on vague references which are of doubtful relevance to a history of the dulcimer: my own account, based on several hundred sources, starts here

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