Museum of Greek folk instruments: blurry

By: | Post date: July 2, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Greece, Music

As you go down into the museum basement, you see a box by the side that is unlabelled, but instantly recognisable, for anyone that has watched a Grecollywood film.

Well… I thought I’d captured it. I also thought that my instantané photography was charming and spontaneous, which it is, when it isn’t completely blurry and unintelligible.

What is in the corner of the museum is a laterna, a barrel piano, the tinklier counterpart to the barrel organ. In the Anglosphere, the barrel organ is now a joke, which needs a performing monkey to be intelligible. In the Grecosphere, the laterna is an instrument of enduring nostalgia and affection, although you only rarely see it in use any more. (I did catch sight of one once in Plaka.)


The Greek queer cant Kaliarda was nihilistic and equal-opportunity in its contempt of ethnicities; the one ethnicity around Greece it takes it easy on are the Roma—possibly out of some awareness that the language itself is Roma-based. The one reference to the Roma in the cant is the name for tambourines, tsinganoromvia.

Tsinganos, of course, is “Gypsy”.

Romvia is a Greek misreading of POMBIA (in Latin characters) as ΡΟΜΒΙΑ (in Greek characters). And Pombia was a barrel organ manufacturer in Barcelona.

So in Kaliarda, the tambourine is a “Gypsy barrel organ”; both tambourine and barrel organ constituting welcome musical backing.

Leave a Reply

  • July 2023
    M T W T F S S
  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

%d bloggers like this: