Albanian folk iso-polyphony


Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)

Albanian folk iso-polyphony_300

Traditional Albanian polyphonic music can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Ghegs of northern Albania and the Tosks and Labs living in the southern part of the country. The term iso is related to the ison of Byzantine church music and refers to the drone accompanying polyphonic singing. The drone is performed in two ways: among the Tosks, it is always continuous and sung on the syllable ’e’, using staggered breathing, while among the Labs, the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. Rendered mainly by male singers, the music traditionally accompanies a wide range of social events, such as weddings, funerals, harvest feasts, religious celebrations and festivals such as the well-known Albanian folk festival in Gjirokastra. Albanian iso-polyphony is characterized by songs consisting of two solo parts, a melody and a countermelody with a choral drone. The structure of the solo parts varies according to the different ways of performing the drone, which has a great variety of structures, especially in the popular style adopted by all groups performing this music. Over the last few decades, the modest rise of cultural tourism and the growing interest of the research community in this unique folk tradition have contributed to the revival of Albanian iso-polyphony. However, the tradition is adversely affected by poverty, the absence of legal protection and the lack of financial support for practitioners, threatening the transmission of the vast repertoire of songs and techniques. The rural exodus of young people to the bigger cities and abroad in search of jobs compounds this danger. Given these conditions, at the present time, the transmission of this tradition is maintained through professional folk artists, rather than within the family structure.

Albania joined UNESCO on 16.10.1958

Republic of Albania is situated in South Eastern Europe. To the north it borders with Montenegro and Kosovo -to the northeast. On the east it borders with FYR Macedonia and Greece to the south. It has a coastline on the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the southwest. Its area is 29,176 km ², of which 27,805 km ² land and 1,371 km ² water surface.

National Commission for UNESCO
Président: Mr Myqerem Tafaj
Secrétaire générale: Ms Eni Jucja
Ministère des Affaires étrangères
Bulevard Zhana d’Ark TIRANA ALBANIE
Telephone  (355.4) 364 090 ext. 167
Fax  (355.4) 362 084; (355.4) 362 085
E-mail  ejuca(a) (SG);
Permanent Delegation of Albania to UNESCO
Maison de l’UNESCO
Bureaux S.1.31/S.1.32
1, rue Miollis
75732 PARIS CEDEX 15
Telephone:  ;
E-mail:  dl.albanie(a)

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