The Pontiac lyra

The Pontiac lyra or kementzes in the Turkish dialect of the Pontiac Greeks, is the pre-eminent folk instrument of the people of the Pontiac land throughout the coastal region of the Black Sea and on the mainland as far as the depths of Cappadocia, to the east of Paphlagonia, an area that today belongs under the jurisdiction of Turkey. From the period of King Mithridates to the late Byzantine era and until 1923 and the mandatory exchange with the Treaty of Lausanne, the area was inhabited by Greek Christians and Muslims creating a wonderful and special fusion of culture!

The Pontiac lyra belongs to the category of stringed bowed musical instruments, i.e., the sound is produced with a bow. It has three strings and is usually tuned in sharp fourths with Β-E-A notes. It consists of a total of eleven (11) parts, each of which has a characteristic Pontiac name, while it is a wooden peg with a total length of up to 61 centimeters and a width of 11 centimeters. It nominally consists of the following parts:
Kifal’ (head)
Otia (ears, strings, three in number, as many as the strings)
Goula (throat)
Tongue or sparrel’ or spaler’
Trypia (holes, 4 on the lid, 2 on the top and 2 below, right and left of the strings)
Magoula (cheeks, they have two holes, one at the top and one at the bottom)
Kapak’ (lid)
Rachia (spine)
Donkey (the strings rest on it)
Chordas (strings). Initially they were dried animal intestines, then they became silk and from 1920 metal
Rothonia or skolekia (nostrils or worms)
Pallikar’, which is used to fasten the strings

Stoular’ is the wood inside the lyra’s vessel. On one side it rests on the back and on the other on the lid, on the right sides, as we see the lyra, just below the “donkey” and next to the right “nostril”, usually in the middle, so as to distinguish the small voices from the low ones (zil-kapan) (Η Ποντιακή Λύρα, 2022).

The Pontiac lyra is one of the few self-accompanied musical instruments. The main characteristics of its sounds are: the intervals of the 4th and 5th clear, accompanied by trills. The intervals are harmonic and, in some cases, melodic. It is the only of all kinds of lyras, that is played with the fingertips and not with the fingernail like the Cretan, the Thracian, the one that is played in the Greek islands etc. Kementze is usually played alone and indoors. In the open air, two or more kementzes could play together, sometimes using the daouli as an accompanying instrument.

Photos and information are courtesy of the musician and traditional Pontiac instrument player Giorgos Avgitidis.

Η Ποντιακή Λύρα (2022). Retrieved December 10, 2022 from