Onur Şentürk

Keywords: music,Black Sea,tradition,immigration,performance,fiddle,kemenche


The kemenche (Black Sea fiddle or Pontic lyra) is a bottle-shaped stringed instrument originated from the Black Sea region of Turkey. It is one of the most important figures of Black Sea music tradition as it has an original playing style and repertoire that differentiates this instrument from other bowed instruments. Today, kemenche is being performed not only in the Black Sea region of Turkey but also in Greece, where the Pontic Greeks have immigrated from the Black Sea region of Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to that, kemenche remains as the most significant and symbolic musical instrument for both communities of Greek (Pontus people) and Turkish (Black Sea people). When the playing styles of these two groups are considered, it is possible to observe both similarities as well as differences. While similarities stem from similar origins shared by the two communities, the reasons for differences can be traced back to the changes of the cultural environment by one community, i.e. Pontic Greeks, through immigration and population exchanges. In the last ten-fifteen years, Black Sea traditional music gained great popularity and it had the opportunity to reach a wider audience. This popularity increased the number of people who wanted to engage in Black Sea music. Due to this fact, today there are many kemenche performers among the young generations compared to the past. Consequently, with the increase in the usage of Internet and cable system networks of mass communication, the cultural bonds between the Black Sea communities of Turkish and Greek heritage had the opportunity to interact with each other. Specifically, this cultural interaction valuably increased between the young generation kemenche players of both communities. For instance, among the Turkish kemenche players, the different kemenche playing style that is played in Greece has recently become popular and the Turkish kemenche players defined this new style as Greek style - "Rum tavrı". In this paper, I aim to analyze the traditional performance of kemenche based on the data gathered from the field research I conducted in Greece between the years of 2016-2018, and it also discusses the playing techniques, repertoire, and evolution process of kemenche performing practice through the question "What is the Greek style- Rum tavrı?".