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The principal instruments of the rembetiko are the bouzouki, an eight-string oval-shape instrument, the baglama, which looks like a miniature bouzouki, and the guitar as well as, for accompaniment, the ziyia, and the ntefi, a leather small tambourine with little metallic plates circling it.
Some of the greatest and most famous players and singers are Vassilis Tsitsanis, Markos Vamvakaris, Marika Ninou, and Sotiria Bellou.
It can be divided into two musical movements: the akritic and the klephtic.
The akritic style dates from the 9th century AD and it was created to express the life and struggles of the frontier guards of the Byzantine Empire, the "akrites".
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Rembetiko music was spread by the two million Greek refugees coming from Asia Minor in 1922, after the destruction of Smyrna by the Turks.
Homesick and rejected by the Greek population, those Greeks who had never lived in Greece and who had lost everything, sang about their surroundings, poverty, pain, hunger, prison, police oppression, drug addiction, betrayal, and hashish.
The rebetiko slowly in the 1950s came out of the underground world and started to be played in the nightclubs of Athens, where it became very popular, even if it was despised by the Greek people because they saw it as outcast music.
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Music in Greece is of unbelievable diversity due to the creative Greek assimilation of different influences of the Eastern and Western cultures of Asia and Europe.