Monday, December 29, 2014

Polyphony in Southern Albania and Greek Epirus

Polyphonia:  "Two shepherds in the Albanian mountains, Arif, a Muslim, and Anastas, an orthodox Christian, have been friends for years in spite of religious barriers."

I first discovered the polyphony of the Southern Balkans at an Orthodox commemoration ceremony for my husband's paternal grandmother in 2003.  Here, the liturgical chant was sung in four voiced polyphony at the small Orthodox Church in the village of Avgerinos, Kozani, Greece.  This village happens to be on the border with the Greek province of Epiros (Epirus).   About a hundred miles south can be found the monasteries of Meteora.

The Kozani liturgical chanting is different from the strongly ison dominated Meteora chanting.  I've unfortunately never found a recording of it.  It is, however, close to four voiced Southern Albanian polyphonic chanting.   The film clip (above) has some short informal non-religious examples of multi voiced polyphony.

The polyphonia of Southern Albania and Greek Epirus have many styles and forms. Perhaps the extreme isolation of this region over the millennia has permitted the survival of this ancient tradition.


Marinela Mahoney, An Investigation of the Polyphonic Music of Southern Albania
(pdf Link)

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