Sounds of the Avli
 An age-old, half-unwritten conversation between cultures in the Nōema courtyard

“You will hear a meeting place of cultural influences, whispers of old stories reimagined in new ways.”

Music, dance, and performed poetry characterize the Greek way of celebrating, carried from antiquity on a Dionysian current still palpable across society today. Many ancient Greek scholars believed music to be a gift from the heavens, a mathematical expression of something cosmic, a form of therapy, a philosophical subject with a moral role in society. These pioneers of musicology saw their work as a study into the soul, an attempt to calculate the mathematics behind the emotional responses to organized sounds.

Hidden by palms in the middle of Mykonos town, the enclosed open-air courtyard brings ancient and contemporary instruments together, reframing the Cyclades' musical heritage with the latest technology.

Much like food, music is a conduit of culture, a vehicle for stories told through time, and a playground for creative expression. Just as the Nōema team of chefs draw upon their own experiences with food to bring new ideas into the kitchen, the music program in the Avli (the Greek for courtyard) encourages instrumentalists, sound artists, vocalists, DJs, and miscellaneous talents from around the world to learn from one another. Looking behind the music, as with food, helps one to find appreciation in unexpected places outside of the genres and styles that personal taste keeps us gravitating towards. You will hear a meeting place of cultural influences, whispers of old stories reimagined in new ways.

Kurup & Jaçira (seen here and in the headline video) incorporate a number of instruments into their live performances, including a small handmade bird whistle from a village in Brazil's indigenous Kariri-Xocó territories.



In objects, we find stories. Looking to the Cyclades, such is the cultural cross-pollination that the stories of some instruments are “lost in the unwritten history of civilizations” (according to the Santorini Symposion Cultural Center). These stories may be unwritten, but they are not unheard. The tsabouna bagpipe, for example, varies from island to island in the Cyclades, all the way to the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and Asia Minor, with its origins unknown but its place in Cycladic music deep-rooted. This is the case for many folk instruments: coming in families, travelling across borders, and made with natural materials — skin, bone, and horn in the case of the tsabouna — that could be found all across the Eastern Mediterranean.  

At the crossroads of continents and civilizations, Greece has been picking up musical influences from travelling folk since time immemorial. Across its thousands of islands and sprawling mainland, passing sailors, soldiers, pirates, pilgrims, and merrymakers would exchange the poetry and sounds of their homelands, with the Turkish and Arabic systems of melodic modes filtering into Greek folk music through instruments such as the oud and various lutes. 

A pear-shaped body of hollowed-out wood and a neck to stretch out strings: the lute family of instruments includes the Turkish bağlama, the Indian sitar, and the Greek bouzouki, which all make regular appearances in the Avli. Pictured here is a tetrachordo bouzouki, which came over with Greek refugees from Asia Minor in the early 1900s. This intertwining of traditional Greek and Levantine sounds has shaped Greece’s popular music landscape since.

Musicians from all over the world continue to bring sound from every corner — from bamboo flutes that carry the melodies of Hindustani classical music to Brazilian whistles that mimic the birdsongs of the Amazon. Step inside a place where ancient instruments can be heard alongside new sounds made with emerging technologies, all with something to say. In the Avli and on our SoundCloud, one hears a microcosmic echo of this boundless musical heritage.

Salt and sardines, two key components of Nōema’s homemade garum, an umami fish sauce that has played an important role in the Mediterranean’s culinary cultures as far back as Ancient Greek times.