By Kostas Chartofylis

Among geographically neighbouring areas it is not uncommon to emerge disputes regarding the paternity of traditional cultural elements. Such, are songs, dances, customs, etc. Nisyros is facing a similar case for the "KAMARES" or " SIMA " dance, although there is evidence and compelling testimonies documenting this dance as an accompanying integral of a traditional Nisyrian wedding. Specifically:

1.- The famous Russian-Lithouanian (hellenist) researcher, Charles Flegel, in his book "The island of Nisyros and its Thermae ", edited in Konstantinople in 1899, refers to a visit to Nisyros, (before the publication of the book i.e. pre-1899). While describing the customs of a Nisyrian wedding, as he experienced it, he writes on page 32, "they dance dressed in traditional costumes in the central square of the village, a dance called KAMARES, resembling the quadrille in Europe ... “. This book is found attached on the "Nisyrian Studies Society's" website: (www.nisyriakesmeletes.gr) under "Publications.

2.- Regarding the interest that the Nissyrian musical tradition represents, the Swiss musicologist and professor of Greek language and literature at the University of Geneva Samuel Baud Bovy, left a characteristic testimony in his attempt to capture the traditional music of our islands. He made three visits to the Dodecanese, the years 1930, 1931 and 1933. He visited all the islands that had interesting musical tradition apart from two, as he explains in his two-volume book "SONGS OF DODECANESE» 1935. With regard to one island, he drew valuable material from an existing book with a description of the musical tradition of that island, while on the second island he notes that he wrote some songs by residents of Rhodes, originating in that island (pg. ij of the "INTRODUCTION"). Baud Bovy in recording his impressions, made a special quote on Nisyros (1931), with special reference and praise to the musicians he had met there. For the above-mentioned matter, in pg. 222 of Volume II, the famous musicologist scores the music of "KAMARES" with the title "mantinada", and on pg. 193, referring to dances in Nisyros, he describes in detail how “mantinada” was being danced. On p. 157, he describes the time and the location when the dance takes place during the wedding customs. The instrumentalists-pupils of George Makrigiannis, (John Koulianos, Paul Kourounis and Theo Magriplis somehow enriched "mantinada" and taught it to their pupils (G. Chatzipetros), as the "Nisyrian KAMARES dance."

This book of Baud Bovy was reedited in 1990 by the Cultural Organization of the Municipality of Rhodes, and can be found in the libraries of the island.

3.- It should also be noted that there are conclusive evidences and aknowlements by older generations of islanders from nearby islands, whereby their music tradition was enriched by the famous fiddler George Makrigianni, the so-called "George the Nisyrian", who, as master of the violin, was invited to their feasts and celebrations. Therefore, the nisyrian dancing music (amongst them the "KAMARES"), was transferred to their islands.

4.- Even recently, the non Nisyrian historical researcher, Ch. Koutelakis with a long involvement in the issues of the Dodecanese islands in a relevant article he states, inter alia, "... geographically, slightly in a more advantaged environment, Nisyros as opposed to the other islands, managed to keep track of the development of times by taking it from Kos or Kalymnos or directly from the major cultural centers as Smyrna and Konstantinople and directing it to the neighbouring islands.., other islands, rested in their comparatively fertile land ... secluded themselves, waiting for the light of civilization from neighboring Symi and Nisyros ... ", and, he continues, "So, the mostly populated Nisyros was transformed into a source of commercial and intellectual radiation, which passes its cultural lights to nearby islands." (NISYRIAKA, vol. 9th / 1984, pg. 216 and 226 respectively, also uploaded on the website).

Nisyros thus presents evidences, (some of them even go back to the 1890s), classifying the "KAMARES" dance, between the elements of its musical tradition.

Certainly we do not question anyone the right to dance the "Kamares". On the contrary, it satisfies us because it confirms that indeed it is a beautiful dance. What offends us is the arbitrary and undocumented appropriation of paternity.

  • Youngsters from (the) Nisyrian community in Athens, dancing the "Kamares", during an event celebrating the anniversary of the embodiment of the Dodecanese to Mother Greece.