08 June 2007

Pontic music

Three years ago I wrote of The fate of the Pontic Greeks, that is, those Greek Orthodox Christians who inhabited the southern shores of the Black Sea for nearly 2 thousand years prior to their treaty-mandated expulsion after 1923. Although I grew up hearing and singing Greek music, especially δημοτικά τραγούδια (folk songs) familiar to generations, it was less than a decade ago that I encountered the distinctive Pontic Greek music via this page maintained by Leigh Cline of Toronto.

As a child I learned to dance the καλαματιανό (kalamatiano), with its distinctive 7/8 time signature. Typical examples follow immediately below:

These are familiar to anyone attending one of the numerous Greek Orthodox church festivals held throughout North America during the summer months. However, one is less likely to see something like this at one of those festivals:

The music of the Pontic region boasts such distinctive instruments as the 3-stringed kemenche, played much like a western viol. It has a close relationship to the music of the surrounding cultures, especially that of the Caucasus, Iran and central Asia, and it may even have ancient Celtic roots. The Pontic Greeks are one of any number of displaced communities around the world who have brought their culture, including their music, with them in an attempt to maintain their distinctiveness in exile.

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