Cretan lyre

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Cretan lyre
The lyre player Psarandonis

The Cretan lyre ( Greek κρητική λύρα ) is a pear-shaped, bow- struck bowl-neck lute in Greek folk music.

The lyre is particularly widespread on the islands of the Dodecanese and on Crete and is one of the traditional instruments of folklore there, along with the laouto . It is usually played by the singer himself, who often uses it improvising in ritornelles and interludes and is accompanied by the laouto . The ensemble consisting of lyre and laouto is almost exclusively a male domain.

The lyre is played like a violin with a bow, but held vertically with the gripping hand and supported on the knee or thigh. It has three strings tuned to fifths, and there are no frets on the neck. The bulbous body of the lyre of Crete and the Aegean Islands resembles that of a mandolin . The instrument was associated with rock music when Greek musician Georgia Dagaki used it at Eric Burdon's concerts .

The Cretan lyra is related to several southern and southeastern European sounds, such as the Calabrian lira, the gadulka in Bulgaria and the fasıl kemençesi played in classical Turkish music . The presumed origin of the crossed bowl-neck lute shows the image of a Byzantine lira from the 10th century.

It is not related to the Pontic lyre or kementzes (Greek κεμεντζές) from Asia Minor, which is built narrow and bottle-shaped. Their shape corresponds to the Turkish karadeniz kemençesi . The Pontic lyre has two variants, the lower tuned kapan and the higher tuned zil (Turkish word for " cymbal " and "high string").

For the origin and distribution of this type of instrument in the region, see: Husle .


  • Kevin Dawe: The Engendered lyra: Music, Poetry and Manhood in Crete. In: British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 5. 1996, pp. 93-112
  • Arn Strohmeyer: The lyre sings, dances and laughs. About the magic of Cretan music. (Sedones, Volume 18) Verlag Dr. Thomas Balistier, Mähringen 2013, ISBN 978-3937108308

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