Serenitsa Pontic Ancient Dance

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 "kemenche" as well.

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

The most commonly used mode is the Phrygian/Ushak type, although Hijaz is also used and recently the Western minor scale is being played in many songs. 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 but this is being lost. 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 - same instruments and styles, but with not as many dance forms and much less decorated ornaments. In comparison, the Laz kemenche is slightly thinner than the 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 .

As well, there is the “kemane”, a sort of large kemenche with four main and four sympathetic strings, played in the Cappadocia region of Turkey by the Karamanli Christians. Some of the Karamanli fought against being transferred to Greece in 1923, saying although they were Orthodox Christians they were not of Greek lineage but descended from the pre-Byzantine indigenous population. They speak their own language, Karamanlidika, written with Greek characters but loosely based on Turkish, yet when they were transferred to Greece they were settled within the Pontic community.

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. Several Dipat rhythm melodies can be found in Bektashi/Alevi communities in Turkey.

Pontian Musical Instruments

LYRA
The main instruments of that the pontians use.
Made out of wood. Has three strings and is played with a bow.Unlike a Violin it is played vertically, allowing it to sit in your lap or free in the air.

TOULOUM
Another traditional Pontian Instrument. Made of Goat skin and wood.
Has 2 reeds and the flutes to suit. Not played in all areas of Pontos.

NDAOUL
Traditional drum found in many parts of the world, mainly Asia Minor and the Balkans.
Differs in size from place to place. The pontians mainly played a small size drum.

GAVAL
A flute which in aspects is the same as a recorder. A very sweet southing sound.

ZOURNA
A wooden clarinet like instrument. A very loud instrument, it was very popular

Pondic Dances

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

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

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

Tik Tromakhton
“Jumping” Tik sometimes called Tik Serviko “Serbian Tik”

Mono Omal or Mono Omalo
Single Omal. Omal means smooth

Diplo Omal or Diplo Omalo
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
Sometimes called Karshilidiko Omal or Omal from Kerasounta (Giresun)

Some more popular dances many times mentioned are: Kalon Korits, Kotsangel, Sari Gouz, Kots, Lechina, Lechi, Tash, Miteritsa, Patoula, Tamzara, Halay, Moskof, Trigona.

References:

?Pan Network - History of Pontic Dance.
?Pontian net by Stephanos Eleftheriadis - Pontian Musical Instruments.