It is the latest version of the very old “askavlos”. It is constituted by leather skin that is useful as space for air, the wooden valv (sometimes also made of reed or bone), through which the instrumentalist blows the air, and the appliance of production of sound, which includes an fluted trough that leads to a crucible and two pipes, like a type of clarinet with a single reed and usually 5 holes. Askompantoura is usually played in the open air, sometimes by its own or with the escort of lute or small ntaoulaki, or even with other extempore rhythmical instruments. This instrument was very widespread in the old times on Crete but unfortunately today it tends to disappear. A big instrumentalist of the askompantoura is M. Grillos from Heraklion.


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

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.



Mpantoura or mantoura, a wind instrument made of a thin cane (sealed in an end with a knot and open from the other end), it belongs in the same category as the klarinet, it has a percussion reed on the side of the sealed end, which with the blowing of the mouth produces the sound. Its size usually varies from 20 until 30 cm, while sometimes it is being made of two pieces of cane: one of them has the holes for the fingers and the other one, the smallest, has the reed. This allows to the musician to replace only this part if the reed of body is destroyed.

Its sound is delicate, more acute than the sound of the hampioli, because the cane is thinner. Its possibilities are limited in certain musical phrases and impromptus.

The mpantouras were manufactured off-handedly by the children in the villages with their pocketknives and played simple melodies from the few things they knew. Two mpantouras together, make a twin mpantoura, or a double mpantoura. Usually the one of the two mpantouras, has only a hole, mr. Anogiannakis however reports a twin mpantoura with all of its the holes in both of its parts from the region of Prine, at Milopotamos in Rethymnon. Over the last years of the middle war there is a slight enforcement of its sound: instead of one mpantoura, they played two together.

In this instrument, when the two mpantouras won’t sound as one, they used various ways to tune the two mantouras: they were scratching it with a knife, so as to make one of the two reeds thinner, or, in the one of the two mantouras they were placing under its reed a thin spinner or they were wrapping three to four times the base of the reed with a thin spinner, which after that, they would tied up in a knot. Both ways were influencing the palmic move of the reed, and consequently the tone of the sound. Some times they would also open or close using a little with wax, whichever from the holes would not co-ordinate soundly with the corresponding hole of the other mantoura.



Mpoulgari is a type of tampoura that is found on Crete and Turkey. The Sumerian name pan-tour (small arrow) appears to be even today the prevailing one for this instrument. Mpouzouki belongs in this family of instruments. On Crete its main representative is considered to be Stelios Foustalierakis (1911-1992) from Rethimno, with “the tampahaniotika” that was the cause to introduce mpoulgari into discography.



7060_10714209437It is a small ntaouli that is played with two sticks, the “ntaouloxyla”, and accompanies the lyre or the violin. In the old days it was very widely known, especially on the Eastern Crete, while today it has almost disappearred. Nikolaos Panagiotakis reports testimonies from the times of the Venetian Domination, where the ntaoulaki is one of the instruments that were used in the popular feasts of the countryside at that time.


7060_10714209433An instrument with a world wide impression, that exists for 400 years in his current form. On Crete it is met before the years of the Venetian domination. There is a gravure, since 1260, that it depicts a Cretan man playing the violin in some other form of course, as there are handscripts in the Rumanian Academy that contain pictures of Erotokritos with musicians of that season that play the violin.

The violin was the most popular instrument in the prefectures of Lasithi, Heraklion and Chania until 1940. In the prefecture of Heraklion receded after the civil war. However in the prefectures of Lasithi and particularly in Chania it still plays a fundamental role. As a four-stringed instrument with notes Mi La Re Sol, it has for sure, more possibilities than the lyre. The most basic melodies of Cretan music have been first played and composed on the steps of the violin.

Kontilies, Sirtos, Pentozali, Pirrihios, Ortses, Apanomeritis, Zervodexos and Pidiktoi (Stiakos and Kastrinos): With unique virtuosity these melodies are played on the violin and surely the steps and the turnings cannot be made with the lyra.

Stratis Kalogeridis, Dermitzogiannis, Avissinos, Vekios, Mparintantonakis, Perakis, Kotsakis, are certainly from the greatest virtuosos that flourished or still continue this tradition on Eastern Crete.

Stef. Triantafillakis(Kioros), Matzouranas, Mpalampos, konstantine Mpoultadakis (Kanarinis), G. Marianos, Harhalis, Felesogiannis, N. Saridakis (Mauros), K. Papadakis (Nautis), Mih. Kounelis, F. Katrakis, are some of the violinists that acted or still continue their work on Western Crete.

We realize that the violin fell into the hands of many and big musicians that marked the Cretan musical tradition. The violin therefore, was unfairly removed from the musical stage of Crete since 1950 and afterwards, despite the history and the tradition that for centuries is kept live until our days and indisputably proves the value of this misjudged musical instrument.



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.