Mantinada is words combined in order to create a couplet with fifteen syllables and rhyming expressing feelings, thoughts or even the everyday life of the Cretans. Mantinades for the Cretans is more than a definition, a habit or a way of entertainment. “Mantinada is the cry of a masculine but sensitive heart: the Cretan heart” said Nikos Kazantzakis explaining the meaning of mantinada for the Cretans.
The lawyer, poet, expert in mantinades, Kostas Kallergis, tried to explain the meaning of mantinada in his book “Mantinades and songs of Crete”. He wrote that “it is the authentic way of the Cretans’ expression, feelings that they live and give generously… and the result of a way of life and the everyday philosophical practice of their views”.
The word “mantinada” is said to be compound and have come from the words “mantevo” (i.e. guess) and “(k)ado” (i.e. sing). So, according to this, mantinada is to sing the prophecies. It is also said that it came from the Venetian word “mantinatta” but it cannot be true as the way of the Cretans’ communication through mantinades had existed before the Venetian Occupation.
Mantinades were evolved during the Venetian Occupation and the Cretans were influenced by the Venetians poets. “Erotokritos” by Vitsentzos Kornaros also influenced the evolution of the small “poems”.
There are also references about the need of the Cretans to express themselves through lyrics from the ancient times. The historians of that era referred to Cretan prophets (Epimenides, Iofon) that gave prophecies through poems.
Mantinades were used also in other places of Greece during the ancient years (and later). There are references of men serenading their beloved by singing mantinades. Mantinades are also found in “Katalogia”. “Katalogia” is in a Byzantine manuscript of the 15th century and in Byzantine popular songs.
People have identified mantinades with Crete as it is the only place where those couplets are still produced. Mantinades show the heart of their writers and the Cretan long-lasting culture.
In the past the majority of the residents of the island could express their happiness, pain, complaint, thoughts through a mantinada. They used Cretan words in order to create a message they wanted to express. There are also many versifiers mostly in the inland that help that art not to be extinct.
Mantinades can be heard in friends’ conversations, feasts (by reciting) and with its favoutite friend, lyre. Mantinada and the lyre are combined in a magical way giving happiness and comfort to the Cretans (and not only them). While mantinada spreads its message, lyre accompanies it in harmony…
“Whatever the Cretan suffers, he did not use words to express it,
he is happy with mantinades and cries with mantinades”