Ikaria means culture! Music, Ikariotikos dance, festivals and life, are the key features of the culture of Ikaria! Throughout the year, many cultural events are organised, such as theatrical performances, concerts, festivals and exhibitions in all parts of the island, which are very popular among locals and visitors. Various types of folk art, are exhibited at the Folklore Museum of Agios Kirykos and at different folklore collections in various villages, highlighting the Ikarian culture!
The musical tradition of the island, is one of the key features of the culture developed on the island. There were many factors that influenced and made known its unique characteristics all over the world, as an integral part of Greek folk culture. Significant influence has received from Asia Minor, which seems mainly to some very old songs, some of which are heard even nowadays. Few have significant influence and sounds and musical instruments, that existed in nearby mainly islands. Of course, an important factor in the evolution of musical tradition, was the life of Ikarians through the centuries, the economic difficulties of the people, the migration, the lifestyle and the emotional attachment of the people. Music is the identity of Ikaria! Today, Ikarian music has retained much of its original features, nevertheless heavily influenced by the pace of modern life. A traditional Ikarian song is 'the ampelokoutsoura' which is very popular in every festival or event. Ikaria has currently an organized Philharmonic Orchestra, which teaches to young people the traditional songs of the island, organizes musical events, preserves and transmits the genuine musical tradition of Ikaria in the next generations.
Traditional instruments of Ikaria was the lyre and tsampounofylaka, which were used exclusively in the fairs and in all the feasts of Ikarian people. The tsampounofylaka is a body made from goatskin, in which they put wooden tubes to produce the sound. These tubes are connected to two external wooden tubes also. One of them used to be blowing through the musician (who, usually, was the instrument manufacturer) and produce the air that will be used by the internal tubes for making music and the other outer tube has several holes along, but also the edge of the hole is used to play notes. The lyre, of which the construction was done by local people has remained in history as Ikarian lyre and even hosted and Folk Art Museum of Athens. After time, lyra and tsampounofylaka stopped as being the main instruments, used in festivals and dances and replaced by the violin and the lute and much later the bouzouki, which was originally part in akompaniarisma. In addition to the bodies found and which kept guitar and holds a dominant role in akompaniarisma. Moreover sometimes the orchestra used toumperleki or tampourlo, instead of drums and harmonium. The traditional musicians in Ikaria were usually self-taught in the past and cultivated their talent and love for music from their family and their environment.
The musical tradition requires mainly island songs, while a leading place in the festivals, is held by Ikariotikos dance. The Ikariotikos dance has many variations, depending on the village in which it was played, but mostly by musicians, each of whom left his own stamp on the song. Of course, there are the central lyrics, which are played up until today in all the festivals and dances, but even nowadays variants do not leave anyone unmoved and are used to play as an extension of the central object.
The Ikariotikos dance is one of the few dances, if not the only one, which will be heard many times during a fair, a dancing party or a celebration in general, because the tradition wants Ikariotikos to be the only song that is played in a feast and as a break we can listen to other songs. Authentic Ikariotikos is wordless and slow. The most famous variations is Tsamourikos, the Ikariotikos Lyristikos, which is played exclusively with lyre, also Peramaritikos, Ikariotikos pidihtos and Ikariotikos Tsampounofylaka . Variations were introduced in different regions and artists. Ikariotikos is a dance empirically learned and transmitted from generation to generation , but in Ikaria we find a traditional school named ‘Lyceum of Greek Women’, which keeps intact the knowledge and learning of Ikariotikos and all traditional dances, showcasing, thus, the Ikarian culture around the world .
The traditional feasts are the identity of Ikaria! All visitors of the island, must visit at least one traditional festival. Ikaria has managed to keep the fairs in the same traditional way like the old time, so as to remain unchanged with time and adapted some features of the modern era. They are organized throughout the year, although most are held during the summer, for a bigger participation and always on a religious feast day, usually the patron saint of each village. Many villages can organize the same day festival, but never the neighboring villages. Also, today, a festival can be held on a different date, than that celebrates the patron saint of the village. Some festivals start in the morning or noon and some in the evening.
The very old days, men and women in Ikaria, wore almost the same clothes, i.e. linen woven skirts for women and kilts for men. The women wore long skirts to the ankle and not rigid dress, of crimson color or white. Over the skirt, they were wearing a white shirt with black embroidered bustier tightly tied. Sometimes, others wore skirts for weekdays and on other skirt for festive days. On their head, wore a headscarf white or colored to match the skirt. Men used to wear knickers and later, woven pants, shirt or blouse that women wove in the loom. In modern times, men were wearing a suit for formal occasions. The elderly put a cap or straw hat and berets for sailors in their head. Everyday shoes for men and women, were of straw, while for formal occasions, wore black closed patent leather shoes for women and scarpinia shoes for men. Samples of traditional Ikarian costumes are kept in the Foklore Museum in Agios Kirykos.
Arts - Letters
Poetry is an integral part of the cultural heritage of Ikaria. The ‘rives’, are the main feature of Ikarian poetry. They are small written multiverse poems in rhyme, usually in a humorous way and are plucked from everyday life. Written by ordinary people, called, "poiitarades" or "rivatzides". They have exactly the same function as the couplets (‘mantinades’) in Crete, because rives are written and it is not always known who wrote them.
Ikaria born and raised great actors and filmmakers of Greek and foreign productions. Every year, contemporary and traditional theatrical works are presented outdoors from both Ikarian amateur actors and theatrical groups from all over Greece. Ikaria is a place where they were born, brought up and inspired many intellectuals, such as Aristides Foutridis, John Zelepos or Tselepis , George Lomvardas and Christodoulos Mavrogiorgos - Tsarganis. These people, each one in his own way, illuminated and projected education in Ikaria, by setting a firm foundation for modern Ikarian scientists and residents, to continue the work started. It should be noted that, in recent years, near the village Arethousa, is operating 'an Ikarian Center’, under a private initiative which undertakes to teach the Greek language and culture to foreign visitors. The Centre was established in 1995 in Ikaria and was working about ten years, during the summertime, learning the Greek language to foreigners, organizing cultural activities and seminars, aimed at promoting linguistic and intercultural skills. Qualified teaching staff contributed to teaching and researching. Today, the center continues its work in Ikaria, Thessaloniki, oubroad and e-learning.
Ikaria, has a tradition in sculpture, wood carving and painting. An important statue with wings of Icarus, is located in the port of Agios Kyrikos, envisioned by sculptor Icarus. Today, during the summertime, several art exhibitions are organized by Ikarian artists, who exhibit their works in specially designated areas.
Ikaria have today, five athletic clubs. These associations are mainly engaged in learning various sports at Ikarians of all ages. Ikaria has the basic sports infrastructures such as football stadium, gymnasium, two outdoor basketball courts and a football pitch.
Every year, games are organized, from schools or amateurs, at local or regional level. Most known are Panikarioi athletics, swimming and regatta. Football matches and athletics are also organized by the youth of the island. Every summer, a beach volley, tournament is taking part at various beaches. Substantial is the involvement of local martial arts, which is organized by the association Panikaria martial arts, which makes each unique summer shows for friends of martial arts.
In Agios Kyrikos, there is also a Chess Club, which organizes each summer the International Chess Tournament " Icarus ", with participants from all over the world and people who come to Ikaria, to play in this fight.