In the area around Heraklion and throughout Eastern Crete, folk song is best represented by the mantinada (plural mantinades), a perfectly rhyming distich consisting of two decapentasyllables (fifteen-syllable lines). Fine mantinades are original in content, expressive and able to stand the test of time through constant revision.

The main impetus for rhyming verse on the island was Venetian poetry; before its arrival, only a few examples existed in Byzantine church hymnography. Rhyme soon won over the Cretans, who developed and tailored it perfectly to their music.

Mantinades are always sung rhythmically, accompanied by music and dance. The 'versifier' (mantinadologos), most often folk poet and singer in one, improvises in song as the festivities unfold, either uninterruptedly or in riposte to versified teasing from others present.

Wedding celebrations in the village of Venerato, Heraklion, 1939 (Yiannis Harkoutsis)
Cretans singing mantinades in the village streets, accompanied by the lyra and the lute (Gergeri, Heraklion)
Cretan musicians and mantinada singers, 1926 (Nelly's, Benaki Museum, Athens)
Mandolin players at a Cretan get-together (Heraklion)
Mantinades being sung to the accompaniment of the mandolin and the violin
The lyra and the mandolin, always used to accompany the Cretan mantinada, 1928 (Ioannis M. Tzanis Collection)