Polyphonic song of Epirus

Iso - polyphony is a name for a folk singing style, which is located in the historical region of Epirus in southern Albania and northwestern Greece and is maintained, particularly in the southern Albanian regions Toskeria and Labëria. It is a special kind of polyphony ( polyphony of voices independently managed ) in folk music.

The style is maintained by all ethnic groups living in the region, including Albanians, Greeks, Slav Macedonians and Vlachs.


When iso- polyphonic singing, there are usually two or three voices, which are sung by soloists and are also accompanied by a deep drone, from which also the prefix iso- stems. The voices are largely independent of each other but are closely interrelated. The drone is usually sung by a choir. It is not complied with a precisely tuned pitch, but sung in a narrow range around a tonal center, giving the impression, the choir sing in that pitch. Overall, the harmony of voices results in a monotonous sound impression.

Most made ​​the vocal ensemble of male singers, isolated, however, also take part in singers. Some of the songs are also accompanied by instruments. There are also purely instrumental iso- polyphonic ensembles.

In southern Albania various genres of Albanian folk songs are sung isopolyphon. So the Bejte is a humorous piece of simple verses that occurs throughout Albania, but is sung only in southern Albania isopolyphon. The Borrohite contrast, is a dirge sung by shepherds Labërias.


Probably the oldest known iso- polyphonic singing is the e qara me messenger, me grike is described from the region of Gjirokastra, which goes back to an old dead ritual, and a fragment from a " folkloric tragedy." It probably goes back to a collective lament.

The style has evolved over the centuries, with several composers and performers are known by name since the 19th century.

Regional characteristics

The main difference between the sung in Toskeria and Laberia style is to run the drone. While in Toskeria the drone is continuously sung using staggered breathing on the vowel e, in Laberia also the drone to the rhythm of the lyrics is sung.

There are several regional sub- styles that are labeled with the names of the respective region or locality, for example Devolliçe from the Devoll or Dropullitçe region Dropull. Some of them have specific characteristics such as the two-part dy vetçe Dukatçe from the village of Dukat, in which the voices very close to one another and the most thematize death.

Music business

In most villages of southern Albania, there are at least a vocal ensemble, in which the vocal style is maintained. The ensembles occur in social events such as weddings, harvest festivals and funerals.

The Albanian polyphonic music is promoted by the Albanian Music Council through various activities. Furthermore, a program will be implemented to protect this tradition for the award by the UNESCO, with the support of the Japanese government.

Since 2001, a national festival for iso- polyphonic music will be held in Vlora. On other Albanian folklore festivals - for example at the National Folklore Festival of Gjirokastra - the music is presented.

Reception and musicological research

The vocal style was registered in 2005 in the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

The Albanian composer and ethnomusicologist Vasil S. Tole, the scientific mainly deals with the folk music of his homeland, published since 1999 books and articles about this music form. He created from 2006 with the help of the Embassy of the United States an encyclopedia about the Albanian polyphony.