Kleftika, folksongs of Greece

kleftika-greek-folklore“Kleftika”, means kleft-songs. “Kleft” means thief, and refers to the brave men that lived in the mountains during the Ottoman occupation, fighting their oppressors.
These songs originate from Parnassos, the south Peloponnese and Pindos and were youthful ones about fighting back, bravity, the klefts lonlieness and the solitude of shepherds.

To this day, just as then, the songs are sung “kathista”, sitting around a table and they have certain rules:

• Each musical turn represents a textline and a half
• The beginning of the second textline is thus repeated twice eg. “The young lad was yearning freedom, and he said, let’s get together”
• Meaningless sounds and consonants are added in the lyrics
eg. lelele, dididamdamdididididam

kleftikaThe Kleftika songs as a distinct genre of epic folk songs of Greece got their name from the content of their lyrics. As far as Greece is concerned, those folk songs are creations of a specific period of the Ottoman Empire after the 16th century and in their subjects appears the revolutionary action of the Kleftes and the Armatoloi is evident.

The lyrics praise their life, achievements, victorious battle or their glorious death. Although they refer to historical events, they do not involve accurate narration, nor attention to specific persons. Here the heroes, unlike the “Akritika” songs, do not have supernatural abilities and are mere mortals.In the short verses, without explanations and descriptions of incidents, the transition from one image to another is fast. In almost everything there is a lively dialogue between persons, while sometimes, when there is no second person, the creator introduces a conventional image, a bird with a human cry, a daughter, in order to produce the dialogue.

The Kleftika songs capture moments from the action of these revolutionary groups. These are mainly incidents of armed confrontation of kleftes groups with the armatolikia, but also aspects of their lives in general. In addition, they promote values, attitudes and cultural practices that are particularly developed in rural areas and the mountains. In this sense, stealing is a cultural production of a historically and socially determined social reality: of the mountainous rural and pastoral communities of the mainland of the southern Balkans during the 18th century.

However, these armed groups were surrounded by a mythological dimension and reduced to national myths, as evidence for the constant resistance of the Greek nation against the Ottomans. Therefore, the folklore analyzes of the kleftiko song and its prominent place in the edifice of Greek folklore, do not draw any evidence either from the textual analysis or from other relevant historical evidence. It is understood that since the written word was the means of expression and communication of the ruling classes and the legal society, then the social body that produced the Kleftika songs was the Kleftes, (ie the bandits) and became a vehicle for the expression of ideologies of the specific era .