Polyphonic Caravan, researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song

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© Apiros (Polyphonic Caravan), 2019

The Polyphonic Caravan is a longstanding project aimed at researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song. Performed for centuries, the Epirus polyphonic song is performed by a group of singers with two to four distinctive roles among them, and touches on almost every aspect of life, such as childhood, marriage, death, historical events and pastoral life. In the aftermath of WWII and the ensuing Greek Civil War, the element gradually became sporadic after the inhabitants of Epirus started migrating to large urban centers in Greece and abroad. Eventually, very few experienced performers remained in the villages. In the mid-1990s, a group of young people, internal migrants from Epirus, formed the first polyphonic group, ‘Chaonia’, in Athens. Realizing the threats the element was facing and the need to cultivate fertile ground for it in the new urban environment, they decided to undertake initiatives to safeguard and promote the element. After Chaonia’s first concert in 1997, they founded the non governmental organization ‘Apiros (Polyphonic Caravan)’. Their primary objectives were to raise awareness about the practice, document it through extensive field research, create bridges across generations and geographical boundaries and bring everyone that sings the polyphonic song of Epirus together. These goals remain at the core of the project’s philosophy to this day. Through its twenty-year-long activity, the Polyphonic Caravan has critically contributed to strengthening the viability of the practice and enhancing it in an ever-changing social environment.

Polyphonic Caravan disperses its events in natural places setting outdoor folk festivals, giving life to the villages in its passage. It parallelly encourages the older interpreters to sing again. Ktismata ensemble singing during Caravan’s event in Xirovaltos village, Epirus, Greece
In every village, the members of the Polyphonic Caravan’s Polyphony Workshop apprentice songs directly by the local interpreters. The procedure is recorded enriching the Polyphonic Song Archive. Young fellow travelers learning next to women of Kefalochori (Loupsiko) village, Epirus, Greece
The seasonal Polyphonic Caravans are devoted mainly to the collective field-based recordings. Recording with two emblematic interpreters inside their house in Parakalamos village, Epirus, Greece. The hostess decorated her room with a Caravan’s older poster picturing herself
One of the most wonderful moments at the peak of every polyphony fest is when the younger accompany with their song the dance of those by whom they have learned. Young Polyphonic Caravan’s ensemble singing in Paramythia, Epirus, Greece
Polyphonic Caravan’s events peak with big circular dances. Everyone stands next to each other, as in the polyphonic song itself, like links of the same chain. Event at the threshing floor of a deserted village. Palia Sagiada, Epirus, Greece
Polyphonic Caravan 'uses' ways which draw upon the character of the polyphonic song, turning every meeting into a celebration, deepening the links between its fellow travellers and the experiential interpreters. Celebration during a Caravan’s visit in Polytsani village, Albania
The Polyphonic Caravan took the initiative for the establishment of the 'World Day of Polyphonic Song', with collectively self-organized celebrations in various cities and countries. The second celebration of the 'Day' in front of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
The field-based recordings constantly enrich the Polyphonic Song Archive which in its turn supports the Polyphony Workshops function, thus completing a 'circuit' of Polyphonic Caravan’s action. Audiovisual archival material is being used in Polyphony Workshop’s seminar in Chios island, Greece
At the peak of the Great Polyphonic Song Festivals, the different polyphonic groups join each other by communally singing, feeling members of the same Polyphony Community, which thanks to Polyphonic Caravan constantly develops. Singing all together, Petra Theatre, Athens, Greece
The function of more and more Polyphony Workshops is a main priority for the Polyphonic Caravan. The pioneer among them, the Workshop of 'Fivos Anogianakis' Center of Greek Music, constitutes a permanent point of departure and return for the Caravan
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