by Raul Rothblatt
from Jumbie Journal, August 2004 Issue
The Kontra is a variation of the classical viola used in Hungarian folk music. It has a flat bridge and three strings, so it only plays chords, or in string parlance, triple-stops. It functions the same as the rhythm guitar in rock-n-roll. Since there are no drums in most Hungarian village traditions, the bass and the viola also function as the rhythm section, and so the kontra ends up playing lots of off-beats.
Unlike the viola or violin, the kontra is held vertically (see the pictures). The reason for this is that kontra players are usually drunk and can't sit up straight... uh, I mean this facilitates playing chords instead of one string at a time. Kontra players also don't like to wipe rosin off their instruments. It's part of the vibe.
(Pictured: Jozsef "Heki" Gartai of Eletfa.)