The Cretan Lyra belongs to the category of bow-tied instruments and has its roots in the East. It is a three-string arched instrument that holds an important place in the traditional music of Crete and other Aegean islands and the Dodecanese.

There are two types of Lyra in Crete:

  • the lyraki, which has a sharp and piercing sound
  • the brontolyra, larger in size

From the combination of the two lyres came the modern common lyre.

Lyra Construction:

It is made of one-piece wood of some age, usually 10 years old and usually, the types of wood used are Acer, walnut, mulberry, etc. The vessel is the hollow body of the lyre, which is carved and otherwise called kauka. The most important part of the instrument is the cap (front), as it is the one that affects its sound. Ideal material for the lid is the bell, a material that comes from antique beams and is over 300 years old.

In the past, the strings were made of animal gut and the bow made of horse tail hair. The bow was usually adorned by a series of spherical bells, called hawks.

According to the period when arched strings appeared in Crete, there are four different views as to its origin.

  • The Byzantine lyre was introduced after 961 AD, during the Byzantine Empire after the Arab occupation, with military intervention by Nikephoros Fokas. At that time families of aristocrats from Constantinople settled in Crete to strengthen the Greek element and thus adopted Byzantine traditions from Constantinople.
  • The lyre was introduced to the island from the Dodecanese, beginning to spread from Sitia as it was closer to the islands of Kasos and Karpathos. This was probably the case in the 12th century.
  • The lyre was gradually introduced into the island’s traditions as a popular element of Byzantine music tradition, as it was similarly introduced elsewhere.
  • According to local tradition, the lyre developed in Crete. It is probably an evolution of the ancient rampage that reached the island by the sea at some point in the early Middle Ages.

During the Venetian occupation, the violin significantly influenced the music of Crete, playing significant changes in the organism, the lyrics, the timing, the musical language and the practical performance of the works, expanding and enriching their collection. In 1920, local instrument makers created the violin to give the sound and technical capabilities of the violin to the old Byzantine lyre. Twenty years later, a new combination of violin and raspberry resulted in the creation of the common lyre.

In 1990, Irish-born Ross Dale, a lover of Cretan music and the island, designed a new kind of Cretan lyre incorporating elements of the lyre, Byzantine lyre, and Indian sārangī. The result was a lyre with three strings, 29cm in length, and 18 auxiliary strings attached to Indian cut Jawari bridges.

Much information about the Cretan lyre was taken from Wikipedia.

Categories: Traditions