The main instrument used in Pontic music is the "kemenche" ("lyra" in modern Greek), a bottle-shaped, 3-stringed fiddle played in the upright position. Traditionally, other instruments used are the "tulum" (a double chanter bagpipe with no drone that is also played in other parts of Eastern Turkey and Georgia); the "davul" (a double-headed drum); and occasionally, the "zurna" (double reed oboe) and more rarely a flute. Modern Pontic bands use keyboards, guitar, drums and sometimes clarinet and violin - but always the lyra as well.

Most of the music is based around the dance; but there are also songs that are sung or played in the "epitrapezio" free rhythm style.

The oldest known Pontic dance is probably the "serra" or "pyrrikheos", a pyrrhic dance that is described by Xenophon in the 4th century B.C. A mens' war dance, it is sometimes danced with knives or short swords similar to the Caucasian kinjal.

Both the instrumental and vocal styles are heavily ornamented and in many cases instruments will try to mimic other instrumental styles e.g. kemenche playing in tulum style. The melodic range of many of the songs, especially the older ones, is a fifth or less. The music is played around shifting centres, the most common being {I, III, II, VII, I} {I, IV, VII, I} {I, VI, VII, I}. Some of the older melodies will centre on the second and the seventh below only hitting the tonic on the last note of the verse or occasionally, never resolving to the tonic but constantly switching between second and seventh.

The older style singing is very glottal Caucasus and Persian influenced. Some dances such as Shairanitsa, Kots, Sarigouz, and Lechina are unique in that they have only one melody. Others are imported such as the Russian "Kazaska" and "Tash" a 6/8 dance from the Caucasus, a variant of the originially Daghestani but now pan Caucasian dance Lezginka.

Pontic music - with ancient rhythms and sung in Pontic Greek (a mixture of Ancient and Byzantine Greek, Ottoman Turkish, as well as some Persian and Caucasian words) - has influenced and been influenced by other cultures of the area. For example, the music of the Caucasian Laz peoples in Turkey is very similar with the same instruments . In comparison, the old style Laz kemenche is slightly thinner than the newer Pontic instrument and is sometimes called "zil kemence" by Pontic musicians. This thin kemenche was also the only one played by Pontic Greeks before 1922, the thicker version that is played now was created in Greece after the Exchange .

There are variations in musical style and instrumentation within the Pontic area. The kemenche and tulum are prevalent in the Eastern regions around Trabzon, Of, Surmene and Giresun while Western Pontos especially Ak Dag Maden is stylistically closer to local Turkish music with violin and the Halay being common. Kars, in the east is known for clarinet and accordian styles.

As well, there is the "kemane", a sort of large kemenche with four main and four sympathetic strings, similar but with fewer strings than that played in the Cappadocia region of Turkey by the Karamanli Christians.

There is a relationship between Pontic music and that of Iran, the Caucasus and Central Asia. For example, the Kochari melody can be found in the Caucasus, in Iranian and Kurdish areas and as far east as Pakistan and Afghanistan. In many of these areas, even the name is the same. As well several of the rhythms and melodies of other Pontic songs and dances are found in Afghanistan (especially the North) and Uzbekistan and Central Asia in general. Numerous other 5/8 and 7/8 melodies played by Pontic musicians can also be found in Iranian areas.





Dipat   Image and Music © Kara Sevda Publishing 2002

Leigh Cline & Nikos Michailidis © Scimitar Records

The dance that traditionally opens is the dipat or two step and is one of the oldest dance forms. The Byzantine Akritas Songs are in this rhythm.


Kochari © Kara Sevda Publishing 2002

Grigoris Tsalgatidis © Kara Sevda Publishing

A high speed dance that is also danced by Kurds, Armenians and Iranians


Serra © Mihalis Kaliontzidis 1998

Mihalis Kaliontzidis © Mihalis Kaliontzidis

The Pontic version of the ancient "pyrrhic dance" it starts in 7/4 and accelerates to 7/16. Sometimes danced with knives.


Tik Image  and Music © Kara Sevda Publishing 2002

Leigh Cline, Mihalis Kaliontzidis & Polios Papagiannidis &copy Scimitar Records

The most common Pontic dance. Similar music & rhythm also found in Iran.


Tik Tromakhton Image and Music  © Kara Sevda Publishing 2002

Kostikas Tsakalidis © Kara Sevda Publishing

"Jumping" Tik sometimes called Tik Serviko "Serbian Tik"


Mono Omal Image and Music  © Mihalis Kaliontzidis 1998

Mihalis Kaliontzidis © Mihalis Kaliontzidis

Single Omal. Omal means smooth


Diplo Omal © Kara Sevda Publishing 2002

Leigh Cline/Mihalis Kaliontzidis © Kara Sevda Publishing

Double Omal. This dance is sometimes mixed with Dipat so that while the dancers keep doing the same dance the melody shifts half a bar forward and back


Lakhana © Mihalis Kaliontzidis 1998

Mikhalis Kaliontzidis © Mihalis Kaliontzidis

Sometimes called Karshilidiko Omal or Omal from Kerasounta (Giresun)

Other dances include: Kalon Korits, Kotsangel, SariKiz, Kots, Lechina, Lechi, Tash, Miteritsa, Halay, Moskhof, Trigona

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