The Greek Zeybek Rhythms and Dances - Panagiotis Agiakatsikas



The Zeybek Rhythms and Dances of Greece and Lesvos Island


by Panagiotis Agiakatsikas


The Greek Zeybek dances (Zeybekika) derive directly from the Zeybeks of Minor Asia. Their dances spread to the Greek Islands of the Aegean coast, and then, later, after the Greeks left Asia Minor, to the rest of Greece. As it was an exclusively male dance it became a trademark for the males to dance and show their dancing abilities in public. In the ’70s it became acceptable for women to dance it too. When the phonograph recording units were available in Athens older musicians from Smyrni started to record traditional dances on record, while as a popular dance they started to record new Zeybek dances from the ’30s. Even today new Zeybek dances are written by the newer generation of composers and are danced in clubs by the younger generation.


Rhythm Patterns

The Zeybek rhythm pattern types fall into two categories - 9/4 Zeybekika and the 9/8 Zeybekika. And these are divided into the Zeybek dances of the 9/4 Zeybekika and the 9/8, which include the faster Karsilamas, Aptalikos Karsilamas and the Kamilierikos.


The Zeybekika of 9/4

These are called varia Zeybekika (heavy or very slow) or vrakadika[1] (because they were danced by the old men in Lesvos who wore “vraka” breeches). The vast majority of Zeybekika dances have a rhythm pattern of 2+2+2+3, but some Zeybekika have a pattern of 3+2+2+2.


Zeybekika of 9/4

These are divided into the plain Zeybekiko and the “Kofto”, Often these are called the old and new Zeybekiko but actually both are old Zeybek rhythms. For ease we will demonstrate the 9/4 as 9/8.


The “old Zeybekiko” or plain Zeybekiko


Ayvaliotikos (trad.of  Asia Minor)

Nihtose Horis Feggari – Apostolos Kaldaras

Prin To Harama – Giannis Papaioanou


The “kofto Zeybekiko” or new Zeybekiko



Ematha Pos Eise Magas (trad. of Asia Minor)

Known also as Zeybekiko of Izmir or in Turkey as Agir Aydin Zeybek Havasi (Slow Zeybekiko of Aydin)


Zeybekiko of 3+2+2+2

Very rarely found, this is only an example of a song played in Lesvos Island.




Adramitiano Zeybekiko (trad.of  Asia Minor) note that Adramiti is now Edremit a city on the Turkish coasts across Lesvos Island

Pergamos (trad.of  Asia Minor), city also 50km from Aybali (Ayvalik). A slightly different version is played in Turkey of the same title “Bergama”.




This has the following rhythm pattern:


It looks very much like the Zeybekiko, but it is played at the high speed of the metronome

 = 150




To Vapori Apo Ti Persia – Vasilis Tsitsanis,

Ego Then Eho Paei Sto Sholeio – Giorgos Mouflouzelis,

Ta Limania – Vasilis Tsitsanis.


Karsilamas (Antikristos) 9/8


Karsilamas is incorporated even today in many taverna songs, but only a few dancers can dance it, unless they have been taught in a dancing group. It has a rhythm pattern of 2+2+2+3 and a normal time signature of 9/8. Especially in Lesvos it is the trademark dance of the island; they are able to dance the normal 2+2+2+3 Karsilima, the Aptaliko Karsilama 3+2+2+2 and the Aidiniko Karsilama (fast Karsilama) 2+2+2+3. The Karsilamas pattern has the same pattern as the Zeybekiko, but it is played in a faster mode.


It is the following in the basic rhythm pattern we have the plain basic:



This is the traditional form



Dodeka Hronon Koritsi (trad. of Asia Minor),

Aneveno Skalopatia (or Komita trad. of Asia Minor),

Vale Me Stin Agkalia Sou – Vaggelis Papazoglou,

San Ta Marmara Tis Polis (trad. of Asia Minor)


Aptalikos Karsilamas


This is a more “happy” Zeybek dance that is from Asia Minor. The songs played in a regular taverna repertoire may include one or two such songs. Few people know how to dance it properly. Its rhythm pattern is 3+2+2+2 and sometimes, like the Karsilama, it is unknown to musicians. It is an extremely popular dance in Lesvos.





Aptalikos (trad. of Asia Minor) from which it probably it took its name, the most popular of all,

Pino Kai Metho – Spiros Peristeris,

Sto Faliro Pou Plenese – Markos Vamvakaris.

In Lesvos Island the Aptalikos trademark song is the Pingi

It Turkey the variation of the Aptalikos is the Apatilikos Havasi or the Zeybek Gordon.


Aidikikos or Petahtos Karsilamas (jumping)


This Karsilamas dance it the fastest of all and is danced in Lesvos Island

Examples: Ayse (Traditional) also a very popular among the young generation of Lesvos who learn Karsilama with addition of a chair. This song is also known because of the use of the chair (karekla) as “Kareklatos”
In Turkey the variation of Ayse is called Iskender Bogazi Karsilama




Dimitris Kofteros, Mytilinio Santouri – Songs and dances from Lesvos, 1995.

Kostas Koukoulinis, I laiki kithara kai I tehniki tis, Fagoto Editions 1997.





[1] Dimitris Kofteros – Mytilinio Santouri “Songs and dances of Lesvos”

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