Pontian Music refers to the Greek music genre created by the Greeks of Pontus. Pontian Music is also called Pontic Music.
Pontos or Pontus is the land of the frontiersmen of the Greek nation, where a very interesting musical tradition was born and developed thousands of years ago.
The Greek songs of the Pontic people are a living monument of the Greek culture, moving and stimulating the soul of both the creator and the listener. There is no Pontic feast – a Pontic glenti – where songs and music will not be heard.
The culture of people from Pontus has been influenced by the different regions where they lived, such as Trabzon, Kerasounda, Samsunda, Sinopi. In these places people received higher education and the arts managed to flourish, but in other smaller towns and cities where financial life was based on mining and agriculture there was a cultural gap. However, the common ground of all these areas was the Pontic or Pontian Music.
The Birth of Pontian Music
It is generally accepted that Pontian Music retains elements from the Ancient Greek music, folk music and dimotika songs.
The creator of folk songs is a single person who has been the witness of an event and he decides to describe it, using music and lyrics. He creates a song, but then the people adopt it and change it a little, popularizing it.
This is how the Pontian songs were created as well. Their popularization was oral, since people were singing songs in feasts and holidays, or social gatherings.
The music style of Greek music from Pontus is definitely influenced by the Greeks who migrated to other places, as well as by the communication between the several Pontian communities.
There were also many non Greek people who lived on the fringes of the Pontic regions, who helped shape the local music. This is why Eastern Pontian music is much different than the South Pontian music; if you listen at Pontian music enough, you will notice a huge difference between the music of the Caucasus and the music from Anatolia.
History of Pontian Music
The history of the Pontian Music can be divided in three eras and periods.
The Byzantine Era: this period starts from the 10th century with the Acritic Songs from Pontus to the fall of Trabzon from the Turks in 1461 AD. These songs belong to the category of the acritic circle.
The Post Byzantine Era: this period starts from the 15th to the 19th century, with lamenting songs that express the sorrow of the Greeks for the fall of Constantinople and a hidden hope for the restoration of the Great Byzantine Empire.
The modern Era: in this period we can include all the songs of the social life, such as love songs, wedding songs, feast songs, or lullabies that refer to the rich continuation of the Pontic Tradition.
The Context and Topics of Pontian Music
Depending on the period of time and the Era, Pontian Music has different topics and context. In most cases, though, Pontian music celebrates love and the sorrow for the Greek tragedies and losses throughout the centuries.
There are songs about immigration, the expats who live in other places, who left Pontus and went to other countries, about Greeks who left their families to find a better chance somewhere else.
Immigration and exile have always been two main topics in folk music and dimotika songs, and it is the same with Pontian music. The ideas that preoccupy the Greeks of Pontus are similar to the Greeks of the mainland; they create songs about love and death, about life and its beauties, about the happiness and sorrows of life. They also sing the amazing adventures of the Greek nation, its wars and victories, the important historical moments.
The role of the Pontian Songs is important; the people from Pontus sing the life, hopes and passions of their land. The songs become every day companions that encourage them during the hard times and become the perfect expressionists of the Pontic Life. For the generations to come, these songs make the history of their ancestors known understandable and it becomes a part of their own life.
The harsh times of the Greeks in Pontus were one of the main sources of the legendary Pontian songs. The idea of freedom from the non civilized nations has enriched the stories of many singers who represent the numerous incidents of the historical and national life. The singers reminded to the listeners the glories of the past and were giving them inspiration and encouragement on the resurrection of the Greek population.
However, as it happens with all music traditions, younger people bring more ideas and want to modernize it. The basis of this music is still though the Pontic Tradition, which gives the younger composers the ideal start for their music.
The Language of the Pontian Music
The language used in Pontian music is the Pontic dialect, rich in Greek elements, but quite different from the main Greek language.
It is important to denote that the lyrics of the Pontian Songs always refer to the “Ellines” (Greeks) and the Trantellines, the ones who are 30 times Greeks. It seems that the Pontian artists were fully aware of their Greek identity and roots.
The Musical Instruments of the Pontian Music
The main musical instruments used by the people in Pontus are string instruments, such as the Pontian lyra (kementzes), which is the most characteristic instrument of the Pontian Music.
Daouli, fife and flute are also common instruments. Rarely can you also see the clarinet and the violin.
The Pontian music and dances are still very popular among the several different communities of the Greeks from Pontus. Each year, Greeks celebrate their national days with large feasts were their music from Pontus is the focal point.
The Pontian dances are equally important to the Greeks and an indispensable part of their social life and celebrations.