Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma do a great deal to promote playing of Crete’s distinctive, magical-toned instrument, the Cretan lyra. It’s a bowed instrument, played in a vertical position similar to that of the Turkish kemancha, the Serbian gusle or the violoncello. Ross, although born in Ireland, has been living in Crete for more than 30 years, where he has been educating generations of players on this instrument, including Kelly, a native of Piraeus, who became his wife. Before settling in Crete, Ross travelled extensively across the Middle East, Central Asia and India, studying various local musical traditions and collecting musical instruments. Since 1982 he has been organizing music workshops. In 2002 he set up, in the Cretan village of Houdetsi, the centre known as Labyrinth. There takes place not only an extensive series of workshops taught by masters of modal music from across the world, as well as by Ross and Kelly, but also an annual festival, attended by musicians from all over the world, which from small beginnings has through the years grown into an important festival of traditional music and crafts.

In addition to becoming a leading Cretan lyra player, Ross also mastered other string instruments such as Afghan rubab and a modern hybrid instrument called the tarhu, which is partly a combination of the Turkish tambur and Chinese erhu equipped with an innovative internal inverted wooden cone which much increases its volume. In addition, this charismatic musician designed a new type of Cretan lyra, which differs from the traditional instrument since it combines elements of Cretan lyra, Byzantine lyra and the Indian sarangi, having in addition to the original three main strings dozens of additional sympathetic resonance strings. This model used not only by him but now also by many other musicians, including Kelly.

Ross has recorded more than 30 albums, joined by various musicians, during his musical career, and played hundreds of concerts all over Europe and Asia. He labels his work as “contemporary modal music” which, according to him, is a term that links the modal music traditions of different cultures from West Africa through the Mediterranean and as far as western China. Kelly Thoma has long played with Ross in his ensembles, and also recorded under her own name the albums ‘Anamkhara’ (2009), ‘7 Fish’ (2014) and, as a duo with Ross, ‘Lunar’ (2017) which focuses on songs about the moon She has worked with many other top musicians such as drummers Zohar Fresco and Bijan Chemirani, and Spanish multi-instrumentalist Efrén López. The performance by Ross and Kelly at the gala on Saturday, September 15 at the Babylon Studio in Bratislava will definitely be one of those mystical musical experiences that you will remember for a long time.