Cretans are by nature both poetically inclined and fond of song. Through an unrivalled tradition of folk song, they have long expressed love, pain and thirst for freedom.

The island's poetry varies from place to place, with roots deep in the past. The mantinada is the most characteristic form, but further categories of folk song abound, such as those about legendary border lords (akritika), rhyming narrative songs (rimes), ballads (paraloges), religious songs (thriskeftika), wedding songs (gamilia), funeral laments or dirges (miroloyia) and lullabies (nanourismata).

Wedding celebrations, 1953 (Ioannis M. Tzanis Collection)
Detail from a vase showing harvesters at work singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments, 1650 - 1450 (Heraklion Archaeological Museum)
Clay figurine of a lyre player, 800 - 650 (Heraklion Archaeological Museum)
A well-known early 20th century lyra player (centre) with a group of villagers (Archanes, Heraklion)
Cretan mandolin player, early 20th century (Archanes, Heraklion)
Cretans singing to the accompaniment of the lyra in a village outside Heraklion