I was fooling around at iTunes and found this “Greek folk songs and dances” album. The album contains traditional music mostly from the mainland.
There is only a single review by a customer who wrote that: “This album is terrible and does not contain any of the folk songs that I imagined it to have.” Obviously this person expected to find bouzouki music, because this is what non-Greeks think that “traditional Greek songs” are about. While I have written about it once more in my old blog, I will have to rewrite it: the answer is that ‘bouzouki music’ is NOT traditional to main Greece. It arrived to Greece just in 1922 after the East Minor (ethnic Greek) inhabitants were forced to move to Greece in the exchange of population agreement between Greece and Turkey. Some of these exiled people decided to move to Europe and USA instead of settling in the very poor Greece. And when they were asked what they are, they said “Greek”. And so when they made their music known to Europeans and Americans, they passed it as “Greek”, although bouzouki music was never traditional to the mainland and island side of Greece. In the meantime, bouzouki music was starting to become popular in Greece as well, but only amongst most youngsters, in the cities. Eventually, bouzouki music became the “popular/pop” music of Greece, but never replaced real traditional music.
Of course, I can’t say that bouzouki music is not entirely traditional to Greece, because these East Minor inhabitants were Greek, but it was only a local kind of music at only one part of Turkey and it definitely didn’t represent the whole. In fact, bouzouki music was forbidden in Greece in the ’30s (dictatorship times — crazy laws, but it gives you an idea of how “alien” that music was to mainland Greece at the time).
The traditional Greek music, depending on the region, uses the clarinet, violin, lute, oblong folk drum, lyra etc. It sounds a lot like the rest of the traditional Slav music in the region. The most well-known song from my own region is Karagouna, which is included in that iTunes album. The song is about a woman so beautiful that a poor shepherd is willing to sell off his livestock in order to buy her jewelry. Personally, I am not a fan of Greek traditional music, but I prefer it over bouzouki music.