Cretan Instruments


It is a type of wooden flute with a side cut part where the player blows and it is sealed with the "piro" or souro", a type of plug with a thin slot in order to leave the air pass. On the roll and where the "piros" finishes, a usually square hole is opened and then further down six holes on the front part and one behind that are useful for the melody. The habioli, mostly a pastoral instrument, it is usually played by its own. Today it is unfortunately an instrument that is played from only a few on Crete even if it is considered to be one of the most Traditional Cretan Musical Instruments.


The lute comes from the outi, where it also takes its name (arabic al oynt = the timber). The lute has four double series of strings, that tune up in la-re-sol-nto. The Cretan lute usually accompanies the lyre and not the violin, and it tunes up one fourth lower, that is mi-la-re-sol. Because of the lower tuning the whole instrument has grown longer.

The lute of Asia Minor appears that it existed before the lute of the Hellenic land, and it is presented in the end of the last century (the lute that is reffered in "Erotokritos" was rather the European renaissance lute, that appeared to have too few resemblances with the current Greek lute). In Crete more specifically, even today it is used many times as the main instrument of melody even if mainly it is met in teams with lyre and violin.



The reports of bibliography in this holy instrument begin from the "Epic of Digeni Akrita" around the 11th Century a. C. The form of the lyre was not as it is today even if it is not known how it really was. The only thing sure is that its manufacture is owed to the will of the people to maintain for more time the sound that was produced by a string.
This was achieved with the manufacture of a bow, as since then, the sound was produced by the touch of fingers on the strings. The "Homeland" of the lyre, that is the place that it first appeared, is Asia. According to W. Bachmann, in Asia was found the oldest and less questionable pictorial document that is dated around the 9th century a.C.
The Lyre is distinguished in Pear-shaped and Bottle-shaped. The Pear-shaped is mainly presented in the islands of Greece and Crete while the Bottle-shaped presents in Pontos and Kappadokia.

Distinguished musicologist Lampros Liavas locates the first depiction of a Pear-shaped lyra in a mural of the 17th/18th century a.C. in the St Grigorios Abbey of Agion Oros. The older lyre saved, is of the same season(1743). One of the oldest musical instruments today in Europe, that is called "diva" is exhibited in the museum of traditional instruments (collection of Fivos Anogiannakis). The lyre is influenced a lot by the violin and thus progressively we see that a lot of efforts of reconstruction have been made, so as to remind the violin. A classic example is the manufacture of the viololyra or lyraviola as it is said around 1960, on the island of Crete.

The accompanying musical instrument for lyre on Crete is the lute. Most times the lute keeps the rhythm for lyre except certain cases where in Central and Western Crete the lute plays precisely the same melody as the lyre. In Eastern Crete the accompanying instruments for the lyre is the guitar, as well as the ntaoulaki. It's worth saying that in the beginning of the 20th Century in Rethimno the accompanying instrument for lyre was the Mpoulgari, master of which was St. Foustalierakis (Foustalieris). The three strings of the lyre are La, Re, Sol. The materials of its manufacture are mainly the beech, the mulberry tree, the ivy, wild pear tree, walnut tree, as well as the maple tree.


Instrument of European origin, is met in all the coasts of the Mediterranean. It is played almost all over Crete and is widely known amongst its residents. Its appearance is dated by the age of the Venetian domination on the island. It had a big impression on the residents, it was used in different variants (e.g. mantola), as an instrument to accompany the lyre, the violin and the lute. Stelios Foustalierakis has said that the mandolin and the mpougari were accompanying the lyre in the beginning of the 20th century in the city of Rethimno. There are also reports that the mandolin was mostly a woman's musical instrument as it was the only one that the women of the island were playing.

Nowadays it is played mainly by its own, in musical teams, as well as in personal and family events of residents of Crete.


Violin-look alike lyre, that was created around 1920-25 as an effort the lyre to obtain the sound and the technical possibilities of the violin. It was particularly used in the prefecture of Heraklion where even today it is still met in certain regions.