Lyre Lyre Dance on Fire
Updated: Apr 14
La lira or lyre the instrument equated with ancient gods and cherubs is also common in a folk music formation, particularly in the tradition of the Calabrese tarantella.
It is a bow shaped, string instrument with three strings that is played upright (typically supported on the knee). It is crafted out of wood (olive, cherry, walnut or elder) and played with the left hand strumming laterally on the strings and the right hand moving the bow. It can be played on its own or accompanied by the tamburello. It is perhaps the most unknown of all the tarantella instruments but probably the most romantic of them all as it is also often used in a serenading fashion.
It was an instrument that was played mainly during the Christmas season and carnival as well as weddings and baptisms.
Although it’s use in the tradition of tarantella music dates back to 1908 the lira had become a historical relic until the early 1980’s when a group of musical historians in Cantanzaro reintroduced and promoted its use. Since then the lira has seen a resurgence thanks to modern folk artist like Mimmo Cavallaro and its harmonious strumming has been celebrated since 2010 in the town of Spilinga (also very well-known for a Calabrese delicacy known as nduja) with an International lira festival.
The lira provides that unmistakable fiddle-type strum that makes you just want to jump and kick your heels up in a jig or shall I say tarantella.