Kantades (Serenades) are the characteristic songs of the Ionian island region, which have been influenced by Italian music and are sung by men with deep voices using Greek lyrics. Its name comes from the word “cadare” which means “sing” in Italian. In the oldest usage, which survives in informal form to the present day, a serenade is a musical greeting performed for a lover, friend, person of rank or other person to be honored, typically performed outdoors and in the evening. The classic serenade usage would be from a lover to his lady love through a window.
The music of Kantades is based on the rule of primo-secondo-bass since it is performed by several singers at the same time usually accompanied by guitars or mandolins. The Kantades songs usually speak of the islands, comparing one to another in a most comical way, and have been passed on from generation to generation ever since Venetian rule. Each of the Ionian Islands has maintained its own Kantades up to a certain degree and they cherish them in their own way. However Kefalonia and Zakynthos seem to have kept them alive and to continue their tradition in a slightly more passionate manner.
It is more than interesting to listen to Kantades and try to find why it was written. For example, the song titled “Se ena paporo mesa” (In a boat) is a very well known song in Greece, which seems cheerful, it was written though and sang by the rebels during the British Occupation of the Ionian Islands while they would be transferred to prison or to get executed (the song lyrics are about the beauty of each island of Ionio).